Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 452 - Django Unchained (and Norm Greenbaum)

So, I actually hadn't planned to write anything, but sometimes you just have to.  And Django Unchained was as good a movie to write about as anything.
I still remember reading Film Threat back in college, and they had been raving about Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs for months before it actually came out.  Then I got to see it in the theater with my buddy Greg, and when the film was over, we had a discussion about whether or not we thought Harvey Keitel pulled the trigger at the end or not (I thought he did, he thought he didn't).  Regardless, I knew after seeing that film, I was more than ready to watch whatever he wanted to make.
The newly Academy Award winning Django Unchained is Tarantino's newest effort.  And while it may not be his best, it might be his most fun.  It captures the feel of a 70's exploitation film, along with a Robert Altman-esque western vibe (which, is to say, it looks like McCabe and Mrs. Miller), as well as that ever-important (and clever) dialogue that is Tarantino's signature.
Set two years before the Civil War, bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (portrayed masterfully by Christoph Waltz - in a performance that is as charming as his Inglorious' role was nasty) teams up with Django (Jamie Foxx - clearly enjoying himself) to both collect some bounties and eventually free Django's wife, Broomhilda, from the vile clutches of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio - having the time of his life).  Much bloodshed ensues.
Much has been said about the violence in the film.  But you've got to know, going into the film, that it's a Tarantino movie.  Caveat emptor.  But what seems to be overlooked is that it feels incredibly 70's.  The blood gushes out in arterial sprays that have no semblance of realism attached to them.  His visual flourishes are a statement as much as his musical cues (which, as always, seem spot on).  We're watching Tarantino's filmic reality, and in his world, this is what would happen.
As for the neverending use of the "n" word, there are no apologies.  For some of the characters, it's a way to ingratiate themselves with others, for some it's simply because they don't know any other way, and for others it's because they're racist.  And those racist ones - yeah, they get what's coming to them.  Because the film doesn't seem like it has a racist agenda at all.  King Schultz is one of the most progressive characters in the film, and slavery is something that he does not like.  Putting a bullet in the chest of a wanted man doesn't make him bat an eyelash.  But seeing a black man (or woman) with whip lashes on their back, shakes him to his core.  As well it should.
Fun, loud, smart, well-acted, overlong - completely Tarantino.  ****

And when I was driving home after the movie, Norm Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" came on the radio.  At Christmastime, my uncle asked me what my favorite song was.  My reply was "Grey Matter" by Oingo Boingo.  And it is, but the incredibly close number two would have to be "Spirit in the Sky."  The first time the song really impacted me was during the opening credits of Miami Blues (starring Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh).  The credits are the only thing on the screen, and all you hear is the song.  It's a great opening, and it immediately sucks you into the film.  I remember watching it in the student lounge on a Monday night.  (man, that was a long time ago).  Years later, I bought the soundtrack to A Perfect World on cassette for a buck because the song was on it, and I could then listen to it in my car whenever I wanted.  And after that, I had my buddy Brian make me a CD of my own specially picked songs, and the first one on that CD...duh.  It's a great song to sing along to, and it's a great song to drive to.  Music is always so subjective, but when a song can conjure up memories or inspire joy, then I think it's worth writing about (or at least listening to).
(Of course, now I want to watch Miami Blues again.)

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