Thursday, January 10, 2013

The movie review I almost didn't write...


Have you seen Django Unchained? I have been waiting for quite some time for Quentin Tarantino to make a western, and so I wanted to see it almost as soon as I heard it was coming out. I went to see it this weekend, and I hesitated to write this review because I've seen the virulent opposition to this film by a number of writers and reviewers. If you know nothing else about it, let me just say that it's about a former slave who, with the help of a German bounty hunter, becomes a bounty hunter himself and loves it, but also resolves to find and free his wife. Additionally, Leonardo DiCaprio is getting pretty good at being a bad guy in his old age, and in this film he is a very bad guy with very bad teeth and a possible incestuous relationship with his sister. The movie was good. It was really good. But that being said, let me throw a few caveats up in there.

It was violent. 
So violent. As in, violent and bloody even by Quentin Tarantino standards. Far beyond like that scene in Kill Bill with the Crazy 88, which was bloody to the extreme but almost silly. I have a high tolerance for that sort of thing, but I still had to look away from the screen so many times I lost count (not only to people die, animals die too. But if you stay for the credits, it does say that no horses were harmed, which settled my stomach a little). Some scenes were particularly hard to watch because, unlike some bloody movies, this one had an emotional component.

It was long. 
Hubs and I thought we would be ok without snacks or popcorn, even though we went to an 11:40 am showing. By the time I got out of the theater (at almost 3) I was starving. I was clearly not adequately prepared.

It might have been racist. I'm not sure. 
As a standard, nondescript white person, I don't know what makes African American moviegoers particularly uncomfortable, but I can guess super-violent movies about cruel slave owners might be something that tends toward that end of the spectrum. Some things, such as rap music playing during a shootout, struck me as a little too racist, but then again, I'm not 100% sure. I know that some of it was probably intentional on Taratino's part as a filmmaker, to make the viewer uncomfortable as an effect of the movie-going experience. 

It was unrealistic. 
The first question I had, not 10 minutes into the movie, was whether or not the filmmakers consulted ballistics experts to ascertain what would have been the explosions, splatter patterns, noise levels, etc. caused by pre-Civil War-era guns and ammo. I doubt that they did, and I suppose shooting someone and having the person go flying 10 feet backwards through a doorway was just for dramatic effect. Also, I have a feeling that in the lawless southern areas of the country (which by my accounts are pretty similar today), the good doctor and the freed slave would not have been met with the "kind" reception that they received. There were a ton of things I wanted to research for accuracy as soon as I left the theater, but as my sister always tells me, it's just a movie. So it doesn't have to be realistic. 

All that being said, it was funny too. I laughed a lot, but sometimes I felt almost guilty laughing (the scene with the hoods that no one could see through? Kind of funny, if you forget what they're for). And I mean really, if the body count isn't taken into consideration, it ends on such a happy note, and the two lovebirds are reunited in the end. I liked it because it is a western, and I especially like the new westerns especially when they feel like the old, late 60's early 70's Sergio Leone westerns, which this does at times. Also, this was the only Quentin Tarantino movie that I've ever left the theater and thought, well I enjoyed that movie. Usually I hate them the first time I see them and I have to watch a few more times before they grow on me (which they always do). But while this one was very good initially, I don't know that I'd like to sit through it again. Some scenes were just too much, like the one in which a man is eaten alive by dogs. That's almost enough to haunt a person. 

I've read a few reviews from people who say things like "I don't think that this movie should have ever been made" and the like, because of the violent, almost callous way it deals with the subject of slavery. By that token, I'm sure that there are a ton of movies that should never have been made. But they were. It's art, but it's also entertainment. If we are to exist in a supposedly post-racial society, these things all need to be put on the table. If racial tension or violence (both of which are par for the course in Quentin Tarantino films) make you uncomfortable in the first place, this is clearly not a movie for you, and you aren't going to get anything out of it anyway. Additionally, this is clearly not a documentary. It didn't all happen this way. But you have to expect the cruelty. It's not like they glossed over the "slaveholders were bad" part of history class...maybe they did, I don't know where you went to school, but you know that they aren't going to be holding hands and skipping stones with slaves. I think that most of the opposition to this film comes from people who just don't want to think that things were ever that bad. But they were. Also, while slavery is a huge part of the film and definitely an underlying layer, it's not the whole film. It's kind of a love story in a way. It's also somewhat a story of redemption. But in most of the reviews I read, I think people are focusing too much on the wrong sort of things.

At any rate, I liked the movie. But I wouldn't bring kids, or my mom. And I don't think I'll be seeing it again any time soon.

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