Monday, October 24, 2011

Tarantino at it Again

Part of the problem with the major movie industry is that everyone involved is completely stupid and worthless. Much has already been written about how basically every big release is either a sequel, a reboot, or an adaptation of a TV show, comic book, or foreign film. Of course they're remaking "The Birds", even though the remake of "Psycho" flopped. Of course they're remaking "Footloose", even though the original was a turd sandwich. Hollywood does only what it knows to do, and can do no other. Part of it is because the studios have a better bet financially by backing film fare that already has a built-in audience (and merchandising opportunity) therefore justifying the dreck they put out.

(I'd always wondered why Hollywood always makes profitable corporations look cartoonishly evil in all their films, until I figured this must be because the only corporations they actually deal with--Paramount, Tri-Star, Universal, etc.--are actually cartoonishly evil. Louis B. Mayer notoriously tried to invade Mexico just for kicks, until he realized that MGM didn't have a paramilitary division)

So it's even sadder when one of the industry's more original filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino, stoops to putting out exploitationist drivel like his latest project, "Django Unchained" (a story of a former slave who goes out to get revenge on slaveowners). Let's start with the fact that he's naming his black hero "Django". What, was "Sambo" taken??? Why not add an Italian organ grinder for comic relief, naming him Beppo Pastafazooli??? Interestingly, there actually was a late '60s Italian western called "Django" so who knows, maybe this is some kind of homage.

But while I've seen every Tarantino film released so far, I will likely skip this one for a few reasons. First, rape--I don't care to see it in a film and knowing the director it's likely to be graphic and gratuitous. If I want to be disturbed by a film I'll just watch "Footloose" again. Second, what message are we supposed to get from a simple revenge film? Bad guys do bad thing, hero goes and revenges. But a good revenge film will show additional elements, and make one consider a deeper message--say, that revenge leads to emptyness. Or that in the midst of righteous goals (such as fighting the Nazis) we often do morally indefensible things (like firebombing Dresden). It's one reason the best western films had a good character arc like that, in say "The Searchers" or "For a few dollars more".

But it's hard to imagine Django in this case having moral qualms about what he's doing--after all, what sort of movie will make the slaveowner's point of view sympathetic, or question the motives of a man avenging his servitude? Tarantino could have tried for something more daring--maybe a Vietnam War film from the standpoint of Viet Cong troops, or Jaws retold from the shark's standpoint (which would be "why the hell won't these people just let me eat??"). A slave having his wife raped and unleashing his fury isn't really a story--it's just cheap thrills for an audience's basest instincts.

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