A Few Words About A few words about...™ Django Unchained -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 3, 2013.

  1. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    This question as to what a 'main' plot is is often confused--and can be, to non-writers, confusing. If the primary motivation of the main character--or a primary character--is revenge, and this motivation drives the narrative, then, by definition, it can (and probably should) be called a 'revenge story/movie'. (Although that is a pretty loose term.) Django's narrative is driven completely by revenge; nothing else sets the story into motion. (And, in my opinion, that is basically as far as it ever goes. It is what made the movie feel pretty thin to me, narratively speaking. It seemed to be 'about' little else, in regards to characters' motivation, and even this revenge plot isn't very well supported in the movie. We're told more about the transgressions that he wants to avenge than is shown or supported.)

    I am consistently amused and intrigued by the defensive often nearly apologetic and myopic defence of Tarantino's work, particularly by young filmmakers/students. (I teach screenwriting at a major university.) For some reason--maybe his own grandstanding has something to do with it--it seems compulsory to review Tarantino and his work in the realm of the extraordinary--which I find odd in light of his actual output. I find that I like his work much more when removing the 'genius' lens and when judging the work on its own merits, for what it actually is: skilled, yet very derivative 'B' movie entertainment.

    Not knocking his work, really--I love 'B' movies--Pulp Fiction is fantastic (and even features an old friend and writing partner of mine back when I lived and worked in Hollywood in a pretty great role) and I love Reservoir Dogs. Both are examples of someone with a fresh voice, who knows how to drive and pace an engaging narrative, etc. But I'm not sure I'm going to use these or any of Tarantino's work to be compared with likes of Ford's work as his trashing of him seems to want to force.
     
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  2. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

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    If every movie were judged on the issue of pure originality, there would only be 2 or 3 meaningful movies issued per year. 'Genius' is a word tossed about loosely, but there are sparks of remarkable storytelling technique (maybe style is a better word) in "Django" and other Tarantino movies. Should we say that every travel movie is a ripoff of Homer or romance a Shakespeare retread? Of course not.

    QT undeniably has an ear for great dialogue, proven IMO by the fact that his movies are a pleasure to read as well as watch. His style may be to take from and build upon the work of others, but no one does it better.

    I absolutely love the bits of detail in Django, like the giant tooth on Cristoph Waltz's wagon or Candie's obsessive interest in phrenology. For me, these things make characters real, in addition to motivation and story structure. The running time for Django is long, but the time flew for me, because the characters are interesting.

    I can feel QT's love for movies in every frame he films and that makes experiencing them even more fun for me. The violence is there, but so amped up and stylized (as in spaghetti westerns) as to be laughable. Had there been no violence in THIS movie, it would have been as boring as watching paint dry. It's all about context and rarely do I find Tarantino getting that part wrong. As an homage to the westerns of the 60s, Django works beautifully. As a study in character, it works. It may not be for everyone's tastes and sensibilities (what is?), but for those who enjoy the genre, home run.
     
  3. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    Thing is, Quentin always starts out to make a film-geek homage pastiche, and then sort of...wanders off the subject, and ends up doing some "Minority revenge" fantasy that only a starry-eyed kissing-up white-guilt outsider WOULD write.

    And then all the other studios and B-video companies are too fooled by the title and ads, and think he was still doing the film-geek homage.
    Remember all those "Grindhouse double features" we got thinking Grindhouse would be about 70's B-movies, the Bo Svenson "Inglorious Bastards" (with an A) being re-released for fans of tough-squad war movies (and not Jewish-revenge babes)?--And now every company is trying to dig up old Franco Nero Django Italian spaghetti-westerns from the 60's, thinking it was going to be about, y'know, Django, not how many times he could mention "Mandingo" in the script.
    Hate to say it, but think they've got a more focused idea of Quentin's movies than Quentin does.
     
  4. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    That's not really accurate. Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for helping him track down the Brittle brothers. I'm sure Django has no problem with that since it will likely result in their deaths but freedom is what drives his decision and not revenge. Once the bounty is collected, Schultz decides to help Django get his wife back. Even then, they want to accomplish that through subterfuge and not a massacre. It's only after Schultz is dead and his wife is in immediate danger that he starts killing a ton of people in revenge.
     
  5. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    True enough. The revenge motivation doesn't actually start the narrative, it's a bounty. Which, to my eyes, is roughly, narratively speaking, the same thing: character going after another character to vanquish them and be 'rewarded'.

    On the other hand, your point is well taken.

    Still don't love 'Django...' though. :)
     
  6. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Thank you for the link. I stopped reading when I finished QT's tirade against John Ford. I'm sure the rebuttal is fine, but the attack is all I needed to know. QT is a profoundly ignorant person for saying those things about John Ford. I've completely lost respect for him now. His brain doesn't have the tools to interpret John Ford's films. There is not one word of truth in anything he said. With regard to Native Americans, he should try reading a history book before making value judgments on how white people treated Indians, starting with this one:

    ScalpDance.jpg

    He knows absolutely nothing about it.

    Ford was a highly developed dramatist, a master of visual metaphor, a poet of imagery. QT doesn't seem to understand visual storytelling. There is very little visual storytelling in his films. QT tells his stories through dialogue. He films people talking. Endless chit-chat. Ford's mind was filled with a life of experience and observation; QT's mind is filled with movie trivia. Ford's film are artistic masterpieces that will endure like the great paintings and literature. QT's films are trivial.
     
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  7. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    I completely agree with you. This would be silly, at best. However, most modern movies are not wholesale allusions to other works--as much of Tarantino's work so gleefully is.

    The thing is, Tarantino's raison d'être seems to be letting you know, aggressively, what work or genre he's riffing on.

    Personally, I don't mind it and have, on balance, had a great time watching Tarantino's movies. As I've said before, I look at his work for what it is, and to me, it feels like fun entertainment--but not much beyond that. I have trouble talking about it in the same breath of, say, David Lean, Billy Wilder, or even Spielberg--and definitely Ford. (And, really, all of this begins to border on the good vs great argument which is, at its foundation, useless and undefinable.)

    But, in the end, I can't help but wondering what I did when I left the theatre after Django: "What could Tarantino do with a completely original story, free from allusion, parody, and tribute?" My money is on some pretty great work that would actually earn the praise--his own included--that he seems to court.
     
  8. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    The good vs great argument is useful and definable, I assure you, in situations like this. QT's intellect is all movie trivia. If it weren't for movie trivia, he'd be illiterate, and his films reflect his illiteracy.

    Your question -- "what would Tarantino do with a completely original story, free of allusion, parody, and tribute?" -- is answered, in a way, in JACKIE BROWN (1997). QT adapts the highly regarded crime novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard:

    http://www.amazon.com/Rum-Punch-Elmore-Leonard/dp/038530143X/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1367873738&sr=1-9

    The story is original in the sense that it's not derived from other people's movies. But there are dimensions in Leonard's prose that QT doesn't perceive. Subtleties are done away with or exposited in dialogue. Instead of character interaction based on emoting, Qt provides endless discussions. I like this film very much, however, because it is dramatically viable even though the adaptation is more narrow than it needs to be. It has more substance and intellect than QT's "original" screenplays. As the story unfolds the bail bondsman Max Cherry (played by Robert Forster) finds himself falling in love with flight attendant Jackie Brown (played by Pam Grier). Forster expresses this very clearly, although there is nothing in the script to support it. Either Jackie doesn't realize how he feels, or she's not interested. There is one purely visual moment in the film that comes at the very end when Jackie walks away. She's not just leaving, she's walking away forever, out of his life. Forster wants to say something to stop her, but instead he just watches her leave. QT holds on Forster's face as he tries to speak, but he knows it's hopeless. Fade-out. It's a poignant scene, and there's no other visual moment like it anywhere in QT's films. I think the actors must have made it happen.

    I like JACKIE BROWN because it's atypical of QT's work. And yet it's very typical. He was so proud of himself he published the script:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0786883499/sr=1-1/qid=1367873738/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1367873738&seller=&sr=1-1

    But it was Elmore Leonard who wrote the story.
     
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  9. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    It's refreshing to hear this (unvarnished) point of view on Tarantino's work.

    And I have to agree with you on Jackie Brown. I remember comparing Tarantino's work on Jackie Brown to Robin Willams (a strange comparison, I know but hear me out)--both are at their best when their work is 'hemmed in', governed. Tarantino was obviously tethered, to a large degree, to the Leonard novel, keeping his feet, loosely, perhaps, on terra firma. (Same with Williams--he's a brilliant actor with a wide range and subtlety when directed by someone with authority that can override his silliness--check him out in The World According to Garp, directed by George Roy Hill. An amazingly sympathetic and layered portrayal that puts his comic gifts to good dramatic use.)

    Tarantino, still--and I thought this way back, when Reservoir Dogs came out--makes me want to see what he can do when he 'grows up'.
     
  10. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

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    I agree that it would be fascinating to see a Tarantino movie that's completely original. Not sure we ever will, since I'd wager it's well out of his comfort zone and that of the studios, given his track record.
     
  11. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned

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    I put Quentin Tarantino into the same category as Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, and John Landis since the 90's:Directors who are such well-schooled encyclopedic pop-movie authorities offstage, you would want to see or hear them do anything to demonstrate their knowledge of American pop movie history EXCEPT make one of their own movies. If only they could direct where their mouths are. :(
     
  12. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    I wouldn't underestimate Peter Bogdanovich. Like so many fine directors who are no longer young, if he didn't have such a hard time getting financed he'd be delivering films as good as The Last Picture Show on a regular basis. Meanwhile, there is no disgrace in earn a living by doing bread & butter work.


    Wasn't Death Proof (2007) a complete original?
     
  13. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Yes but I guess it depends on your POV. If someone thinks that, say, Ingloruious Basterds is a rip-off because it's a WWII-men-on-a-mission movie then they'd also probably say that Death Proof owes a debt to 70's car chase/crash movies and even slasher movies.
     
  14. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    Technically... maybe. As TravisR stated, it feels like a riff on '70s 'B' car movies. (Like Vanishing Point--which it references directly).

    And, really, it's a pretty weak effort, structurally and narratively speaking.
     
  15. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    The thing I don't understand is all the criticism 'Death Proof' received. So many people complained that it was too dull, didn't have much of a story etc. Well as part of the Grindhouse feature I feel Tarantino nailed it. It was meant to emulate those B movies from the 70's, and watching so many of those types of films I can say the vibe, and spirit of the film is spot on.
     
  16. Number 6

    Number 6 Agent

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    It definitely nailed the vibe and the spirit of those movies, but, in my opinion, the thing that made a lot of those pictures work were the flat-out action and clean--maybe they could be called 'simple'--narratives/plots that worked on clear character motivations/goals. Death Proof didn't have that element. It felt like it was too self-aware of its influences, just riffing on them like some long (and at times boring) jam session--with, admittedly, some fine scenes that acted as 'punctuation' of a sort, but these were too few to keep it afloat.
     
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  17. moviebuff75

    moviebuff75 Supporting Actor

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    This was a blind buy for me. OMG, I'm in love with this movie! I know it is an homage to the genre, and that's the intent, but I was really struck by how old school the entire production was. I felt like I was back at the drive-in in the 1970s. Great, old-fashioned, yet modern filmmaking. I have hope now.
     
  18. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    You were struck by how old school the production was?

    Perhaps that's the only thing I like about Django Unchained.

    The snowy weather was CGI, so that's new school. The language is more L.A. slang than period, so that's new. The whole mind-set of the thing is contemporary.

    The western locations in California were put to better use in the popular Love Comes Softly films, a series of female-lead westerns made-for-cable and DVD. They are also old-school productions, and much better made films all around -- better directed, better written, infinitely better photographed, but not cool exploitive or nihilistic like QT's film. With the exception of Candyland which I'm sure had to be built, if only as a partial , QT found his locations by looking over the Love Comes Softly films. Go down the list of sites and compare the shots, and it's exactly the same. QT doesn't even change the camera angles.

    Love-1.jpg Love-2.jpg

    41o45xXoNjL.jpg

    Django Unchained has no connection or continuity with the Django films made in Italy and Spain in the 1960s and 1970s. I've seen them all. It's as if QT liked the sound of the name, Django, so he took it, and then offered a cameo to the actor who had played him, but where's the trademark coffin that Django carries around, with the Gatling gun concealed inside? Where's the funereal imagery? The premise of the original Django (1966), the plot in all its generalities and specifics, the characterization -- QT's film has nothing in common to justify the use of the name. No matter what QT claims and his defenders believe, Django Unchained is not a homage to the Django films, nor to spaghetti westerns. QT's source -- I refuse to dignify what he's done with "inspiration" or "influence" -- is actually black exploitation films made in the USA, namely The Legend of N----r Charley (1972), The Soul of N----r Charley (1973), Mandingo (1975) and Drum (1976). It follows, then, that he changes the race of Django from white to black in continuity with the rebellious slave who heads west played by Fred Williamson, as well as the slave played by Ken Norton. Once you realize where the story comes from, the use of the name Django and the cameo for the actor who originated the role seems like a sleight-of-hand to distract us from an act of plagiarism:

    .
    In the 1970s, QT would have been sued for plagiarism. But attitudes change. Today, when he profiteers off other people's creative work and intellectual property, everybody calls it an homage. That is truly bizarre.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Well, I guess Django Unchained has its many supporters and a few detractors too. Business as usual around here. :)
     
  20. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    Apologies if I came on too strong, Robert. I will soften the post if you want me to.
     

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