☞ The question of authenticity in Django Unchained again. This time, it’s not to do with the profuse use of profanities or with the use of the N-word, but with Mandingo fighting. The controversy here reminds one of the debate on the authenticity of the Russian roulette sequences in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978). Again, the question is how true should a movie be to history? Couldn’t a movie take liberties with facts in order to make the narrative more interesting?
“A key plot point of Quentin Tarantino’s western-blaxploitation-revenge movie is the supposed sport of Mandingo fighting, in which two (black) slaves fight in a bare-knuckle death match, for no reason other than the (white) slaveowners’ enjoyment. The search for the perfect Mandingo, or wrestler, is the vehicle Tarantino (who, of course, wrote and directed the film) builds the rest of his movie around. But a bevy of historians say it probably never happened.
One expert tells Slate (which says that “no slavery historian we spoke with had ever come across anything that closely resembled this human version of cockfighting”) that the very notion that Southerners would send off their slaves to die is logically flawed. Given the entire structure of slavery was based on economic expedience, it just doesn’t make much sense that a slaveowner would be willing to lose one of his strongest and healthiest men to death for sport.”
From HuffPost Entertainment: read more…
☞ Narrative plays a very important part in the selection of the best, or negatively in this case, the over-rated movies of the year. The other aspects of filmmaking, such as cinematography, editing, format etc. are subservient to narrative. These other aspects should contribute to the narrative, and they do not count in the overall assessment of the movie if the narrative falters.
The Dark Knight Rises: “The story is a complete mess, spending the first half of the picture setting up an arc only to send you back to square one and reset said arc. The action is mostly uninspired and the plot feels like a cobbling of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Rocky III. It’s not a case of nitpicking plot holes but rather that the movie lumbers for so much of its running time that you have time to pick the film apart. The alleged political content is so arbitrary and of little consequence (it theoretically shows the underclass embracing terrorism against the upper class yet considers poverty a virtue) that it almost feels like exploitation. I didn’t expect a film as good as The Dark Knight or Batman Begins. I merely wanted a third Batman film superior to Batman Forever.”
Django Unchained: “Take away the fact that it’s a western about a slave that takes place during the height of American slavery, and this is actually a pretty generic revenge story. The plot doesn’t so much twist as unfolded in a relatively expected fashion, right up to the theoretical finale that takes place a punishing 45 minutes before the film actually ends.”
Les misérables: “The acting is so good (especially by Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Eddie Redmayne), and the camera stays so close, that many of the songs become emotionally redundant. The second and third acts fly by with barely a moment to establish time and place. The show/film attempts to invest us in a love story that occurs in the blink of an eye, at the expense of the first act’s powerful social/political critique. Thin characterization, inappropriate comic relief, and irksome plot holes that didn’t quite register on stage come to the forefront onscreen, not only hurting the film but marring the legacy of the show as well.”
Skyfall: “Sam Mendes borrows from the Chris Nolan school of intimate big-scale blockbusters even as the pieces don’t quite fit. Most importantly, James Bond is forced to defend his relevance by repeatedly failing at every single major task handed to him, a deluge of incompetence that somehow amounts to a spiritual cleansing and a reaffirmation of 007’s worth in a post-9/11 world. The story doesn’t make sense and thus the film doesn’t quite work.”
☞ Oh yes… If Spielberg makes use of foul language in Lincoln, one can’t expect the language of Tarantino’s Django Unchained to be clean…
“Quentin Tarantino has never been one to shy away from controversial subjects in his film, be it via graphic violence or explicit language. His latest film, Django Unchained, characteristically, showcases both, but it’s the latter that has enflamed debate.
With the ‘N-word’ being used prolifically in the film, the detractors have been quick to air their political and ethical grievances. Spike Lee, talking to Vibe.com, said, “I am not going to see it (the film). I am not seeing it. It would be disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film.” He added in a post on his Twitter.com page, “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a Holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honour them.””
☞ There does seem to be a concern with truth and authenticity in responses to more recent films. The following is a discussion of this issue in Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Next month marks the 35th anniversary of Roots, the 1977 miniseries that brought the subject of slavery to the water cooler for Black and White discussion in a major way during the post-Civil Rights era. Starting Friday night, BET will air all six episodes of Roots over the entire weekend. Two days after Roots: Part 6 fades to black, director Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated slavery-era action flick Django Unchained opens nationwide Christmas Day. As these two competing slave narratives vie for attention (a White filmmaker’s romanticized version vs. an iconic Black writer’s ancestral history), now might be a good time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
First of all, Django Unchained could’ve gone horribly wrong. However brilliant a director, Quentin Tarantino is famous amongst people of color for fetishizing African-American culture, and his liberal use of the N-word in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown still rankles folks 15 years after the fact. Tarantino injecting a Blaxploitation-style baadassss freed slave into his vision of the antebellum South could’ve been disastrous. The director’s recent comments about Roots, which he has described as “inauthentic” also raised the eyebrows of many filmgoers who were already nervous about what his slavery narrative would bring. Any crass, gratuitous depiction of Whites raping actress Kerry Washington in a popcorn movie, and Django Unchained would’ve been a wrap.