Review of Django Unchained

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What did you think of the movie?

The movie just grabs you right from the start with blowing away a slave trader at close range with a shot gun and goes from there. It definitely has a unique flavor of the old spaghetti western, but from a mythical black hero perspective set in historical restrictions.

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What do you think of Spike Lee’s refusal to see the movie?

He definitely is entitled to not see a movie as it brings a mythical quality to the serious subject of US slavery. I think though you really need to see a movie to honestly judge it or it is prejudicial by definition. Its almost as if Spike wants to live in his own reality and think no white man could possibly do slavery well in a mythical film. Spike Lee’s own words were, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”

How was slavery handled here? Is this a disrespect to slavery?

I really enjoyed how it was depicted as a quite serious, dark angle to the reality of 230 years of slavery. If you never have seen Roots, this film really captures all the types of punishment, degradation and dehumanization of slavery. Tarantino covers a range from prostitution, wrestling slaves to the death like a cock fight, beaten to death, eaten to death and even castration. At the same time it shows the illusion of the slave owners seeing themselves as righteous. I would say that likely the slave owners would in general not have been quite as evil as the character played by Leonardo Dicaprio.

Did the script use the word “nigger” too much?

This is a total assault on your ears with maybe 100 + uses of the word. That being said, historically in that time frame it is likely accurate in its common use as it was a verbal technique at dehumanization to maintain slaves in the system. I think Tarantino could have spared us a bit of the language and just use the historical signs as he did for example with servant clothes. It does do a frontal assault to the fact that this word is white-washed out of any other spaghetti western with minimal display of slavery like it did not exist. Also, another point to make is that you hear that word still today used by racist, so the heavy use gets to the historical impact of the word on US culture even today. I just heard it several times by some racist kid on Call of Duty II, so it is relevant.

Is this the best Tarantino movie?

Well, it definitely is in the top 3 with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Bastards. I think it is a great choice to redefine the spaghetti western in the true brutality of slavery which has been side-stepped in every other Western to-date.

Was there too much violence in the movie?

There definitely has a lot of classic Tarantino slaughter scenes, which directly contrast other high tension and suspense scenes. One of the best scenes is where Jamey Fox’s character rides with Reginald Hudlin as bounty hunters on the way to Candiland ranch. Jamie has to pretend to ignore other slaves plight as he is pretending to be a black slaver, which actually existed in the 1860s. There is a lot of tension with a spectacularly brutal scene of a slave’s death at a pack of dogs.

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What are the surprising roles in the film?

Yes, I loved the portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson as the head house slave. Wow! This just brings a new edge to how slavery was used by house slaves to dehumanize their fellow slaves, so they could enjoy the 2nd class citizenship in the big house.

Another amazing role is by Miriam Glover as Betina, the top prostitute, who cooly watches a fellow slave be fought to death while sipping a cocktail. These roles really get to the clutch of how slavery worked on several levels within society and trade-offs people made to make it up the ladder, so to say as a slave.

Another great angle that Tarantino exposes is the formation of the KKK in the movie. Here we see them struggle to harass the main characters in their first lynch mob. It is a fearful, then hilarious scene. It hits a major nerve.

Do you think Tarantino went too far with the castration scene?

It really encapsulates the key point in the plot, where the whites are avenging the slaughter of their fellow slave owner family. It also is key to see again the great scene with Samuel L. Jackson facing down Django again as the double-faced head house slave that ran the slave mansion system for the master.

 

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