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

A Few Words About

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#41 of 65 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted May 07 2013 - 01:31 PM

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

Nooooo, just noting that every film has its fans and then some non-fans.  The other week, somebody criticized Shane and I said to myself, if Shane which helped set the standard for the modern western can get criticized then so can every other film.  I'm sure Casablanca, Citizen Kane and The Wild Bunch has their share of both too.


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#42 of 65 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted May 07 2013 - 01:58 PM

Ford fans, incensed by Tarantino's recent comments, will thoroughly enjoy this erudite rebuttal by Kent Jones.


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#43 of 65 OFFLINE   Ejanss

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Posted May 07 2013 - 03:29 PM

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.

 

So, pretty much like "Inglorious Basterds", then after Brad Pitt's tough WWII squad pretty much disappeared after the first half hour of the movie, and he set out to make the theater-girl Jewish-revenge fantasy instead?

 

Basically, my take on Quentin?:  I remember when people thought Pulp Fiction was some mindblowing new stylistic take on retro-action, with its mix of styles, cribbed movie-homage glowing suitcases, and non-linear storylines hyperactively jumping around everywhere to 70's cameos and songs.

Bad news?--That wasn't "style".  That's how he THINKS.



#44 of 65 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted May 07 2013 - 05:33 PM

To Richard--W,

The snowy weather was not CGI. My friend's nephew worked on this as a PA and they moved the production to "chase" the snow, so to speak, because Quentin wanted natural snowy weather. Perhaps there was some later CGI augmentation, but they went out of their way to film real, natural snowy locations.

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#45 of 65 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted May 07 2013 - 05:34 PM

I haven't seen this yet, but it's on my list. Among my film watching friends (funnily enough, that does not include all my friends as several of them watch, on average, one film every 5 years or so), opinions on Tarantino are rather split. They either enjoy his movies or hate them. I'm in the former camp, not because I find him brilliant in any absolute sense as a filmmaker (I reserve such praise for Hitchcock, Ford, Welles, Lean, Kubrick and a few others) but because his films entertain me--and that is the first obligation of 99% of films as far as I'm concerned. Tarantino films, to me, are a lot like fast food, but with an extra bit of flair (think of a good diner rather than a chain). Tasty but not overly substantial.


Edited by PaulDA, May 07 2013 - 05:36 PM.

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#46 of 65 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted May 08 2013 - 06:18 AM

I have been really enjoying this thread/discussion.

 

I am not schooled in the intricacies of film history as many here and it is interesting to read much of what has been written here.

 

I really enjoy Tarantino's films and Django Unchained was no exception.  The cartoonish violence intrigues me as I thought it distracted from the rest of the film (the rapid-fire dialogue, non-stop plot twists, etc.).  But it is what it is. 

 

I agree wholeheartedly with what PaulDA says above my post:

 

Among my film watching friends (funnily enough, that does not include all my friends as several of them watch, on average, one film every 5 years or so), opinions on Tarantino are rather split. They either enjoy his movies or hate them. I'm in the former camp, not because I find him brilliant in any absolute sense as a filmmaker (I reserve such praise for Hitchcock, Ford, Welles, Lean, Kubrick and a few others) but because his films entertain me--and that is the first obligation of 99% of films as far as I'm concerned. Tarantino films, to me, are a lot like fast food, but with an extra bit of flair (think of a good diner rather than a chain). Tasty but not overly substantial.


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#47 of 65 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted May 08 2013 - 07:28 AM

A claim made (and debunked) in another thread about opinion being offered as fact seems appropriate here as I see that fence being tested.

I'll offer another opinion, not my own, but rather that of an intriguing and knowledgable film historian, David Bordwell. Though this peice is a discussion of Tarantino for his previous film, Inglorious Basterds, as the conversation in this thread has encompassed the man's fill career, it seems fitting.

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#48 of 65 OFFLINE   JoshZ

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Posted May 08 2013 - 11:27 AM

 

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:

 

I take it that his is the first Tarantino movie you've ever seen? This is what the man does. He mixes and matches pop culture references into a big jumbled stew of whatever the hell is going on in his head.

 

If it's not for you, then it's not for you. But if you went into this expecting it to be an actual sequel to the old Django movies, that's nobody's fault but your own.


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#49 of 65 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 08 2013 - 12:12 PM

I didn't say I expected this to be an actual sequel. You're the only one who's brought that up.

 

Your assumptions are incorrect. Since you make a point of it, I've seen Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Sin City, Death Proof, Kill Bill 1 and 2, and Django Unchained. In the movies, on the big screen, when they were first released, and again on home video. If you'd been paying attention to the thread, you'd have seen my references to Jackie Brown and Death Proof indicating that I'd seen them. The only film of his I haven't seen is Inglorious Basterds.

 

As for my expectations, Django Unchained is called Django Unchained. That suggests a Django film in plain English. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a movie with the name Django in the title is going to be about Django as defined in the well-kknown film franchise of that name. So I went into it expecting to see a Django reboot, or some kind of a Django film. That's a perfectly reasonable expectation. Since the original Django films were a disconnected mess, and mediocrities by any standard, with the sequels inconsistent in concept and story, my mind was open to just about any approach to Django. Then I find that there is no Django except in name. Not only that, there is no acknowledgement to the source. The accepted standard of credit is "suggested by" or "inspired by" or "based on" or "in acknowledgement to." One cannot copyright a name or a title, so it appears QT just took a franchise that he liked for his own self-aggrandizement.

 

Now, if QT had called the film N----r Charlie Unchained, it would be an honest title because he has essentially rebooted the Fred Williamson films (without the professional, legal and ethically mandated acknowledgement). I would have welcomed that just as much, and paid to see it.

 

My interest in QT is dwindling. He's trendy now, but his dramatic range is shallow, and his storytelling skills extremely narrow and limited. Self-evidently so. His films are without artistic merit. The entertainment value isn't much either. It just never ceases to amaze me how he gets away with blatantly dishonest practices that any other filmmaker would be sued over. Industry insiders seem willing to look the other way because, I suppose, he's gets the financing and makes tons of money when better and more deserving directors with good track records (like David Lynch, Francis Ford Copolla and Peter Bogdanovich) can't get the financing. It's as if he were made of Teflon. The old joke "underneath all that tinsel is real tinsel" applies here. There seems to be no limit to the excuses and rationalizations his fans (David Bordwell, etc) make for him.


Edited by Richard--W, May 08 2013 - 12:39 PM.


#50 of 65 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted May 08 2013 - 12:32 PM

Then I find that there is no Django except in name. Not only that, there is no acknowledgement to the source. The accepted standard of credit is "suggested by" or "inspired by" or "based on" or "in acknowledgement to." One cannot copyright a name or a title, so it appears QT just took a franchise that he liked for his own self-aggrandizement.

The same name means that they should give some kind of credit to another unrelated movie?

 

Does George Lucas owe the same credit for his Jango Fett character? Lucas dropped the "D" but clearly the name Jango came from Django.



#51 of 65 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted May 08 2013 - 12:43 PM

Come on, Travis. Django is a copyrighted intellectual property. QT is exploiting the name and title for his own self-aggrandizement whether he used the content or not. Using the name and title of the Django franchise is reason enough to acknowledge it, since the franchise is still current in the home video market. It follows then that using the content of the N---er Charley films, which are also a copyrighted intellectual property, should have been acknowledged whether QT used the title or not.

 

I wouldn't assume that regarding Lucas.


Edited by Richard--W, May 08 2013 - 12:53 PM.


#52 of 65 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted May 08 2013 - 01:18 PM

I don't think it's really accurate to say that Django is a franchise though. My understanding is that Django came out, was popular and then a bunch of other spaghetti westerns- with no connection to the Sergio Corbucci/Franco Nero movie- just used the name Django in their titles to cash-in. At that point, I don't consider Django and Django Unchained to be any more connected than I would the 1931 Dracula and a Hammer Dracula picture or Bram Stoker's Dracula.


Edited by TravisR, May 08 2013 - 01:19 PM.


#53 of 65 OFFLINE   Ejanss

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Posted May 08 2013 - 01:39 PM

As for my expectations, Django Unchained is called Django Unchained. That suggests a Django film in plain English. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a movie with the name Django in the title is going to be about Django as defined in the well-kknown film franchise of that name. So I went into it expecting to see a Django reboot, or some kind of a Django film.

Now, if QT had called the film N----r Charlie Unchained, it would be an honest title because he has essentially rebooted the Fred Williamson films (without the professional, legal and ethically mandated acknowledgement). I would have welcomed that just as much, and paid to see it.

 

My interest in QT is dwindling. He's trendy now, but his dramatic range is shallow, and his storytelling skills extremely narrow and limited. Self-evidently so. His films are without artistic merit. The entertainment value isn't much either. It just never ceases to amaze me how he gets away with blatantly dishonest practices that any other filmmaker would be sued over. Industry insiders seem willing to look the other way because, I suppose, he's gets the financing and makes tons of money when better and more deserving directors with good track records (like David Lynch, Francis Ford Copolla and Peter Bogdanovich) can't get the financing. It's as if he were made of Teflon. The old joke "underneath all that tinsel is real tinsel" applies here. There seems to be no limit to the excuses and rationalizations his fans (David Bordwell, etc) make for him.

 

There's an old story about QT working on Kill Bill that sums up his entire approach to filmmaking:

In the scene where she was in a coma, Uma Thurman reportedly objected to having to play the scene with her eyes open--Has anyone ever seen a coma patient with their eyes open?  According to the story, Quentin responded, "But that's how they did it in 'Patrick'!"

 

:lol:

That just captures my view of QT's "originality":

Like Woody Allen's film-specific plagiarisms of Bergman and Fellini started to impress us less once we all got VCR's and started to watch the classics too, it's more creative for a director to make his own classic cult movies, and not everyone else's.  Is it that we're supposed to have SEEN LoNC, Kiss Me Deadly and Lady Snowblood, and show rock-concert solidarity that someone else loved them enough too to pay tribute to them, or is he just trying to get away with it while he has the chance?  And if we have seen them, well...we'd just go watch those, instead.  They're on disk.

If his video-clerk past wants us to all go see Legend of N****r Charley for our own cult-film education, he should just do a running bit on Trailers From Hell.com, like John Landis and Joe Dante do, and save the theater space.  (Or Patrick, but think that one's been done already.)


Edited by Ejanss, May 08 2013 - 01:45 PM.


#54 of 65 OFFLINE   JoshZ

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Posted May 09 2013 - 07:35 AM

Like Woody Allen's film-specific plagiarisms of Bergman and Fellini started to impress us less once we all got VCR's and started to watch the classics too, it's more creative for a director to make his own classic cult movies, and not everyone else's.  Is it that we're supposed to have SEEN LoNC, Kiss Me Deadly and Lady Snowblood, and show rock-concert solidarity that someone else loved them enough too to pay tribute to them, or is he just trying to get away with it while he has the chance?  And if we have seen them, well...we'd just go watch those, instead.  They're on disk.

If his video-clerk past wants us to all go see Legend of N****r Charley for our own cult-film education, he should just do a running bit on Trailers From Hell.com, like John Landis and Joe Dante do, and save the theater space.  (Or Patrick, but think that one's been done already.)

 

I don't love all of Tarantino's films. Frankly, I was so bored with Inglourious Basterds that I didn't even bother to finish it. However, you're mispresenting (or misunderstanding) what he's doing.

 

Tarantino recognizes that the cult movies he loves often contain a great idea or a few great scenes, but altogether usually aren't very good. It's very rare to find a cult movie that is thoroughly good from beginning to end in every area – story, direction, writing, acting, production values, etc. For his own films, Tarantino strives to assemble that one great movie from all the elements he's picked up elsewhere whose original artists just couldn't make them work as a whole.

 

Tarantino's movies are basically a collage of stuff that he likes. He wants to compile the ultimate cult film using specific bits and pieces that worked in other, less successful movies. Sometimes he succeeds at this, and sometimes he doesn't, but you'll note the he very rarely references popular movies or major cinematic touchstones, like the way Brian De Palma used to ape Hitchcock. He doesn't see the point of that. Those movies already work fine. He's more interested in extracting and highlighting the one point of greatness in an otherwise crappy B-movie.

 

Also, he freely acknowledges his influences, and encourages people to see the originals and love the things that he loves.


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#55 of 65 OFFLINE   Number 6

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Posted May 09 2013 - 04:02 PM

Great thread. Happy to be part of this discussion. It's been illuminating to hear the different opinions on Q.T. And, on that level, good for Tarantino's work--it gets people talking about movies and story. And, on balance, I'd like to believe that there's plenty of room for all kinds of movies, even Tarantino's, so the more, the merrier.

 

But still.

 

While, on one level, I can live with the certainty that Tarantino is, right now, somewhere in the world spouting off to someone about how he's a gift to the moviegoing public, I can't get behind the kind of blanket apology given towards him as is found in the previous post.

 

Let me get this straight; Tarantino is absolutely absolved of any intellectual or artistic plagiarism--or just plain laziness--because he is, in reality, doing me the favour of cutting out all of the 'crappy bits' from crappy movies for me and, buffet-style, serving me the best parts conveniently recreated, all together, in his own movies?

 

Seriously?

 

I'm just curious, would this practice work or be accepted in other artistic forms? Maybe, if I just took the good bits from, say, Moby Dick, you know, leave out all of the boring bits on whale anatomy, etc., and retold my own madman obsessed with killing a whale story, and called it Moby Unhooked-then went so far as to ruminate on what people will say about my work in a hundred years (as he did during his Academy Award speech). Would that be okay? Or, instead, I take a bit of Picasso and a bit of Van Gogh with a side of Edward Hopper for my next painting? Hell, while I'm at it, I'll just take the 'Nah, na-na-naaa' section, chord progression and all, from "Hey Jude" and slap a beat over it and call it mine, right? "Hey Rube". Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

 

No. This would, appropriately, be considered ridiculous.

 

But, apparently, if I did this with books most people have never heard of, painters that never made it to the major galleries, and music that never left the demo tape stage, this would be okay, even inspired, and certainly 'cool', right? After all, I would be doing everyone a favour by showcasing the odd good bits in these works that, otherwise, would never be known. But, you know, I would still call it mine. That's okay, right?

 

Get real.

 

Call me crazy, but maybe he should come up with a movie's worth of 'bits that work' that are his own.


Edited by Number 6, May 09 2013 - 06:23 PM.


#56 of 65 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted May 09 2013 - 07:24 PM

Let me get this straight; Tarantino is absolutely absolved of any intellectual or artistic plagiarism--or just plain laziness--because he is, in reality, doing me the favour of cutting out all of the 'crappy bits' from crappy movies for me and, buffet-style, serving me the best parts conveniently recreated, all together, in his own movies?.

I don't really agree with that either but I still don't think it's plagarism because while he makes frequent (maybe even obsessive) nods or flat out grabs from other movies, he's making his own movie and not plagarizing those other movies. The light from the suitcase in Pulp Fiction is clearly taken from Kiss Me Deadly but no one would say that Pulp Fiction is copied from that movie. The car from Vanishing Point is in Death Proof but he didn't just cross out the name on the script, write "Quentin Tarantino" on it and film it over again.



#57 of 65 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted May 09 2013 - 07:29 PM

All this discussion about Tarantino got me to purchase this title after it's price drop at Amazon.  I watched this film on Christmas Day, but now I have a return engagement to study this film again.


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Posted May 09 2013 - 10:14 PM

...I still don't think it's plagarism because while he makes frequent (maybe even obsessive) nods or flat out grabs from other movies, he's making his own movie and not plagarizing those other movies. The light from the suitcase in Pulp Fiction is clearly taken from Kiss Me Deadly but no one would say that Pulp Fiction is copied from that movie. The car from Vanishing Point is in Death Proof but he didn't just cross out the name on the script, write "Quentin Tarantino" on it and film it over again.

 

I respect the spirit of your post, but 'flat out grabs' is the very definition of plagiarism. And, by the way, there's no such thing as a 'little' or 'a lot' of plagiarism--it's either your creation or it isn't--there is no requirement to copy a movie wholesale to be considered plagiarized. That's just plain not how plagiarism 'works'. And, trust me, had you been the one that came up with the bits that he 'grabbed', you would definitely see it this way.

 

Worse, for me, is the fact that it's just flat out lazy and, really, a cheat. I mean, seriously, come up with your own stuff. But, really, none of this would get under my skin the way it does if he wasn't so self-aggrandizing. It's one thing to geek out with your film version of a cover band, but it's something else to claim that Pink Floyd song you just played is your own composition.

 

All I'm saying is this: Anyone that does anything creative--be it writing screenplays, painting, building furniture, you name it--knows that creation is  not only difficult, but it's hard work. If Q.T. wants to stand on the shoulders of others to make his movies, fine, he certainly isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last and, really, that's kind of how art works. But be humble, and, better yet, be honest. 


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#59 of 65 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted May 10 2013 - 04:56 AM

I respect the spirit of your post, but 'flat out grabs' is the very definition of plagiarism. And, by the way, there's no such thing as a 'little' or 'a lot' of plagiarism--it's either your creation or it isn't--there is no requirement to copy a movie wholesale to be considered plagiarized. That's just plain not how plagiarism 'works'. And, trust me, had you been the one that came up with the bits that he 'grabbed', you would definitely see it this way.

I think the amount is exactly the problem that people have with Tarantino's homages/thefts/whatever someone wants to call it. If there's no such thing as a little or alot of plagarism then Jaws is plagarized from Vertigo because Spielberg stole the zoom-in/dolly out shot from it and Star Wars is stolen from Flash Gordon and The Hidden Fortress, etc. Tarantino isn't doing anything different from what others have done for decades but he gets called out on it because he does it way more frequently. Plus, I think the fact that Tarantino references far more obscure movies than most filmmakers gives hardcore movie fans the chance to brag about how much they know about movies so they point out his references and then that somehow turns into him being a plagarist.

 

But be humble, and, better yet, be honest. 

Clearly, Tarantino isn't humble (I'd say he's probably an egomaniac) but I've never seen him not acknowledge his source so it's not fair to say that he isn't honest.



#60 of 65 OFFLINE   JoshZ

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Posted May 10 2013 - 06:51 AM

Let me get this straight; Tarantino is absolutely absolved of any intellectual or artistic plagiarism--or just plain laziness--because he is, in reality, doing me the favour of cutting out all of the 'crappy bits' from crappy movies for me and, buffet-style, serving me the best parts conveniently recreated, all together, in his own movies?

 

Seriously?

 

No, that's not what I said. Tarantino's form of art is to create a new work that mixes and matches other, unrelated pieces into a new context of his own. Do you also consider Andy Warhol a plagiarist because he didn't originally design the Campbell's Soup can?

 

I find your accusation of "plagiarism" way off the mark. And I say this as a writer who has been plagiarized and was pretty pissed off about it. There's a difference between homage and plagiarism. The use of homage has been present in all forms of art practically since art was invented. As Travis said above, Tarantino didn't just remake Kiss Me Deadly or Vanishing Point and call them his own. He created a new work that references back to and comments upon other artists, while at the same time reflecting his own specific and unique voice.

 

None of this is to say that you're required to like Tarantino's movies, but what he does is very different from plagiarism.


Edited by JoshZ, May 10 2013 - 06:52 AM.

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