"Django Unchained": Cloudy With a Chance of Spaghetti Western & Meatballs

So I saw Tarantino’s Django Unchained yesterday—out of curiosity, not out of a being any huge Tarantino fan. (At their best, as in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s films are clever and zingy, and at worst—that unwatchable B-movie Grindhouse he made with Robert Rodriguez—just awful. And I’m a B-movie fan.) I have to say I’m surprised Django got nominated for Best Picture. Best picture of the year, really? Who thinks that? It’s kind of fun in the Spaghetti Western way, with villains and good (tough) guys bent on revenge, full of unlikely and completely kid-fantasy violence, but at times it slides into the territory of a Western parody a la Sixties TV shows like F-Troop, which the Coen Brothers’s A Serious Man (a great film, there) makes much good fun of. At times it’s downright laughable, although not always when it means to be. On the plus side, however, are actors in scenery-chewing roles that you just have to see to believe, including Christopher Waltz as King Schultz, Jamie Foxx as Django, Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, and Leo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. All of these actors/roles are terrific, and worth the price of admission. I couldn’t take any of the slavery depiction seriously, as it’s such an inside-joke film, but you do root for Django to slay and punish the wicked, that’s for sure. Tarantino apparently just got into a huff while refusing to answer questions about the violence during a TV interview. So I’ll take the question: Does it glorify violence? Of course it does. As do countless other films, so what else is new. That doesn’t mean we should scapegoat films and refuse to apply some common sense to gun control laws. I’m teaching a class in Westerns right now, and Django is a good example of the Revisionist Western, so if you like those, you’ll probably love it. But the best Revisionist Westerns are still novels from the mid-Eighties: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985) and Pete Dexter’s Deadwood (1986)

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