Django Unchained: Mini Review In A Nutshell


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133 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    An interesting take here, perhaps applicable to the difference-in-reaction between Parker and yourself…

    Note: I have not yet seen it.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

      I stoutly resist seeing any QT films until I can get into a situation where I can turn them off. He’s a pornographer of violence. He consistently writes worthless dialogue. I’m not much on his cinematography or the people who work with him, either. How does Excitable Andy put it? Hathos. I sorta check up on QT, as B.Dot Miller observed in his tweet, “It’s defined by cultural experience” It’s clear to me QT is Just Visiting.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Sure, he’s Just Visiting… but he’s Just Visiting someplace where a lot of people just wouldn’t go otherwise.

        I don’t know that Roots would have the same ratings today (or the same demographic breakdown of viewers, for that matter).

        Folks will see Django. The same folks who wouldn’t watch Roots will watch Django.

        And I don’t know what to think about that.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          This isn’t unique to QT. We often don’t take interest in aspects of the “black experience”* until they are presented by a white person.

          * I don’t particularly like the phrase but wasn’t really sure of a better one. If anyone feels it necessary to criticize me for it, feel free, but please know any insult was a function of limited vocabulary and not intended.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

          American slavery, for all the scars it left on America’s back, has never been given a decent literary treatment, much less a film. America pats itself on the back and praises itself to the point where her shoulder damned near comes out of joint, all that bullshit about living in the Land of the Free. Harrumph, harrumph.

          The descendants of slaves haven’t picked up their end of the stick to fill in the need for such a treatment. There were some interesting and important gestures, early on, Frederick Douglass was one. Black culture has become a contradiction in terms: the closest we’ve ever come as a nation to seeing the souls of black folk is in musical terms. Perhaps cuisine as well, but we’ve been sublimating this mess for long enough to have done better by it, both black and white.

          Given my druthers, I’d make a dark film about the Uncle Remus stories, a return to Song of the South, without all the happy critters prancing around and singing Zip a Dee Doo Dah. The Uncle Remus stories are one of the few genuine artifacts of African culture left to us: they are genuine West African stories, you know. We’ve had endless treatments of the Holocaust but none about American slavery worth a bucket of warm piss. Assholes like QT are not helping things along.Report

          • Glyph in reply to BlaiseP says:

            the need for such a treatment. There were some interesting and important gestures, early on, Frederick Douglass was one.

            OT, but did anyone catch “30 Rock” this week?

            This Liz Lemon line killed me:

            “I played Frederick Douglass in a one-woman show the University of Maryland Diamondback called “Too confusing to be offensive.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Blaise, I don’t know what that would look like, though. A big screen treatment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin? It looks like the last time Americans did one was 1987 and it was made for television.

            You say that QT isn’t helping things along and, hey, maybe he isn’t. But it isn’t obvious to me that things are moving along.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

              We have plenty of writing from the period of slavery to know how people felt about it. It was a world spiced with fear: the owners truly feared the power of their slaves. These days, we tend to forget the world ran on human power but the combination of slaves and machines was truly horrible. Slavery at its worst came early in the Industrial Revolution and reached a climax of inhumanity when the cotton gin and the sugar mill arrived on the scene.

              Before the cotton gin and sugar mill, slaves mostly tended to ordinary farms and the cash crops of the day, tobacco and the like. Though the work was hard, a slave was considered an investment, for a slave in his working prime cost as much as two good horses. The sugar mill made it profitable enough to work such a slave to death and the cotton gin created such a market for human slaves such as had never been seen since the mines of the Roman Empire.

              It’s not hard to imagine such a world. Sci-fi has traversed the theme many times, though never in context.

              No horror is so complete, no night so dark but what a little firelight is not seen in the darkness. The slaves did have lives, such as they were. The Uncle Remus stories contain insights into the society of slaves. They were human beings, they loved each other, they remembered the world from which they came.

              I don’t like Alex Haley and the TV show Roots was a badly-told sermon. A properly-told story of slavery would show the slaves to be human beings, not mere signposts in a landscape.Report

              • Abdulcat in reply to BlaiseP says:

                > A properly-told story of slavery would show the slaves to be human beings, not mere signposts in a landscape.

                Maybe you should watch the movie…Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Abdulcat says:

                Erm, yeah. I did. Love that Kunta Kinte guy. Love how Alex Haley completely got African slavery wrong. Those wicked old slavers didn’t go out into the bush and round up Negroes. They were already for sale in the markets along the coast, sold by Africans, thank you so much. Tuaregs to be precise. Just finished up an essay on it for the front page. Maybe you should read that.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                (I’m 99% certain he was talking about Django Unchained.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Glad to know we have the foremost expert on African slavery in our midst.Report

          • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Slavery, as a historical fact and a psychological strain on us individually and culturally, has always been something people wanted to forget. White people wanted to forget it because it was an evil they perpetrated, and their reaction to it looks a lot like the French reaction to their role in the Holocaust: silence. Black people, it seems, wanted to forget about it so that they could move on, and begin to establish themselves socially, culturally, and financially in a world that remained hostile to them. Plus, they immediately found themselves in a world that they had to spend much of their time and energy thinking about: the apartheid of the Jim Crow south. It’s not surprising to me that much of the black literature from after the war focused on the post-slavery lives of black people, because there were so many immediate problems that looking back and trying to understand and evaluate the experience of slavery was a luxury they couldn’t afford. And white people were happy to let them worry about the here-and-now and ignore what white people had done to them back then, because hey, that means we don’t have to think about it either.

            There is Roots, though. That it comes less than a decade after the effective end of the Civil Rights movement is probably telling: things were getting better, enough at least that someone could begin to think about something other than the here-and-now, and begin to try to sort out the facts and feelings of a time even more horrific, but now too remote to be within living memory. This delay had the added benefit for white people that those of us who watched Roots hadn’t been the actual slave-owners. We were sufficiently removed from it to be able to watch it without feeling indicted ourselves.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

              +1. Or something. Agreement. That sort of thing.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

              The French did react to the legacy of Nazism. Camus, Sartre, Althusser, Robbe-Grillet, Malraux, the list is very long. France couldn’t stop vomiting up reaction to its connivance with Nazism.

              The American South never did. Not even Faulkner got it right and he came as close as anyone. Mark Twain was too close to it, though he did give it a good stab with Huck Finn and later in life, we see a bit of his dark anger in Captain Stormfield. But not one Confederate ever repented of his sins.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Eh, can you point me to some of their writing on French complicity in the Holocaust? What I see of post-war Malraux is just political, Sartre justifying his own writings during the war (basically, “I really was part of the resistance, I promise! Look at ‘No Exit!'”), and Camus I know wrote about the Nazis, but I don’t know that I’ve read anything on French complicity in the capture, imprisonment, and ultimately exportation of Jews to concentration and death camps. But I’d love to read it if they did write on the subject. I’m an admirer of all three, generally.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                The French twisted like snakes in the fire for fifty years. Malraux fought in the Maquis: try Les Noyers des Altenbourg. We would have more of Malraux if the Nazis hadn’t destroyed the rest of that book. From Antimémoires:

                Il n’est pas nécessaire de modifier les faits : le coupable est sauvé non parce qu’il impose un mensonge, mais parce que le domaine de l’art dépasse celui de la vie. L’orgueilleuse honte de Rousseau ne détruit pas la pitoyable honte de Jean-Jacques, mais elle lui apporte une promesse d’immortalité. Cette métamorphose, l’une des plus profondes que puisse créer l’homme, c’est celle d’un destin subi en destin dominé.

                “You don’t have to change the facts: the guilty man isn’t rescued by lies but because the realm of art surpasses that of life. Rousseau’s shameful haughtiness never wiped out the pitiful shame of [the real] Jean-Jacques but it did bring the promise of immortality. That transformation, one of man’s most powerful creations, is the substitution of a submissive fate for a dominant fate.” – translation mine.

                Malraux was a great man, considerably more than a political commentator. For my money, and for many years, Malraux was the conscience of France.

                Sartre is the wriggliest of all those burning snakes. But where do we see his equivalent in the Reconstruction literature of the South? I’ve looked for it. Maybe you can point me to some. Faulkner doesn’t appear until the 1920s.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I mean that Marlaux became a political writer and figure after the war, when he became a rabid Gaullist. Before the war, he was awesome. I love The Conquerors, Man’s Fate, and Man’s Hope.

                I still can’t think of anything he, or Sartre, wrote about French complicity in the Holocaust, though. If I’m not mistaken, Camus didn’t really write about the Holocaust directly at all.

                Instead, I’m thinking of things like the censorship of Night and Fog in part because it showed French guards at a detention center. The French involvement in the Holocaust was pretty much pushed under the rug. That’s kinda what we did with slavery here, at least culturally.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                There is a profound difference between the French response to its treacherous alliance with the Nazis and America’s whitewashed tomb of the Confederacy. Most of Europe had treated its Jews with contempt for centuries: that the Reich would find willing accomplices in France should come as no surprise to anyone. Léon Blum had been consistently and virulently attacked from the French right. The Dreyfus Affair shows how thinly the French ideals of Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood were spread.

                To compare post-WW2 France to America during Reconstruction is a big stretch. America’s got a huge blind spot about the legacy of slavery, the total war strategy of winning the Civil War and the remainder of America’s evil history of racism. Our core doctrine, Manifest Destiny, starts with demonising, then destroying, then justifying that destruction, then reducing the native American people to caricatures. We are surely the most dishonest people on the face of the Earth. By contrast, France and even Germany have owned up to their legacy in ways we’ll never see in the USA. Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                My only comparison, which I think is pretty apt, is in our inability, even our avoidance, of talking about it. I don’t think the situations were the same, I think the silence was: it makes us look bad, so we’re not going to deal with it culturally.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                Which brings us around, at long last, to Quentin Tarantino. With Inglourious Basterds and now Django Unchained, we’ve reached that Marxian terminus of first as tragedy, second as farce. QT’s unhinged violence is a pornographic farce, the tragedy long ignored.Report

            • Roger in reply to Chris says:

              “Slavery, as a historical fact and a psychological strain on us individually and culturally, has always been something people wanted to forget. White people wanted to forget it because it was an evil they perpetrated, and their reaction to it looks a lot like the French reaction to their role in the Holocaust: silence. Black people, it seems, wanted to forget about it so that they could move on, and begin to establish themselves socially, culturally, and financially in a world that remained hostile to them.”

              I’m having trouble coming to grips with the odd strain of genetic determinism (or is it genetic responsibility?) implied by this paragraph. Our ancestors were good and bad, and did good and bad things. I don’t feel pride or shame in things one branch of our ancestors did. I feel only disgust or appreciation.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

            “We’ve had endless treatments of the Holocaust but none about American slavery worth a bucket of warm piss.”

            It surprises you that in a country that has far more ancestors of victims of the Holocaust than perpetrators would make movies about that BUT, in that same country, which has far more ancestors of perpetrators (or beneficiaries) of slavery than victims would not make movies about that? Really?Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

              This is a country which has consistently glorified the Confederacy and the legacy of slavery, segregation. Considering how numerous black people are, it’s always amazed me that they didn’t just rise up and give meaning to the threat they’d always posed to White Culture.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

      FWIW, I’m pretty sure (having sat in on the conversation in question) that Parker was using the word ‘brutal’ with approbation. He really liked the movie.

      (Which doesn’t contradict the very worthwhile post you linked to, of course.)Report

  2. Chris says:

    I thought the performances by Fox, Waltz, DiCaprio, and Jackson were excellent, and I do think it’s a shame that Jackson didn’t get nominated. Tarantino knows how to get actors to do monologues, and he definitely knows how to do table scenes. I was thinking to myself, after the movie, that the 3 best scenes in Inglorious Basterds were all at tables: the opening, the strudel, and the showdown in the basement: “You don’t got to be Stonewall Jackson to know you don’t want to fight in a basement.”

    (A few sort of spoilers in this comment.)

    First, I think that much of this movie, even the more uncomfortable parts, is entertaining. This, I think, is one of the things that Tarantino has been trying to say to us for years: look, we’re entertained by shit that should make us uncomfortable, and in some cases does make us uncomfortable even as we’re entertained by it. This, for example, was a big part of Inglorious Basterds, but it’s even more on display here. Second, while I know that Tarantino’s thing is constant allusions to movies he likes (mostly from the 70s), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that was so filled with direct references (including scenes directly taken from) past films, including the original Django, but also a bunch of other blackspoitation films. Like Tarantino, I’m a blackploitation film fan (if you are too, and you haven’t seen Black Dynamite, you should), so having seen most of the movies Tarantino’s directly referencing made the movie even more entertaining to me.

    All of that said, there were parts of this film that were difficult for me to watch: the “Mandingo” fighting scene (another blacksploitation reference) in particular, but others as well. DiCaprio’s Candie is one of the most morally fucked up characters I’ve ever seen in mainstream film, and pretty much every scene from the time he first appears (that horrible fighting scene) to his death, is rough. And that doesn’t even get into the women, or Samuel L. Jackson’s character, which was… I don’t even know what to say.

    Anyway, there are much better discussions of the movie than I can offer here:

    If you’ve seen the film, and are still thinking about it, I recommend listening to it.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

      RE: IB, I thought it was the first time QT danced around saying something – as you say, “we’re entertained by shit that should make us uncomfortable, and in some cases does make us uncomfortable even as we’re entertained by it” – we wanna see Nazis get shot, and Nazis wanna see Allies get shot, and on and on and on though the looking glass we fall.

      I guess the other thing is, why does it HAVE to say anything, to be worthwhile? Isn’t technical excellence it’s own reward, so long as we are entertained and the film’s heart pumps? I mean, Scorsese is a technical master, and a clear QT idol/predecessor; but I personally am not convinced that Scorsese’s most iconic films (like Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull) “say” anything more than QT’s. I mean, sure, you can give me some film-critic BS about “the confusion and displaced rage of men who have no clear role to fill in society” or some such nonsense, but the real reason we remember those films is “You talkin’ to me?”

      RE: BD: “Fiendish Dr. Wu, your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!”


      “Ha-HA!!! I threw that s**t before I walked in the room!”

      If you haven’t seen the animated series on Adult Swim yet, it’s worth a look too. It’s uneven – I wish they’d made the eps. 15 min instead of 30 – but there are some good jokes in there, and the animation style is pretty stunning actually.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Dude, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder watching a movie than I laughed in two scenes in BD: the scene when he walks into the apartment, and the soundtrack begins singing what he’s doing, as he does it, and the M&Ms scene. But in order for those two scenes to be as funny as they were to me, you have to have watched a lot of blacksploitation movies.

        Also, I don’t think movies have to say something, but if you’re going to make this movie, Django Unchained, you better have something in mind, because making slavery violence porn for slavery violence porn’s sake is, well, more than a little bit sick. Also, if you listen to the Postbourgie podcast that I’ve already linked twice and am tempted to link again (oh, fuck it), I think the point about Tarantino’s own death in the film is a pretty interesting one.

        Honestly, I don’t think there’s much in Tarantino’s last two films that isn’t making a point.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          Sorry, I should have been clear, I haven’t seen Django yet.

          I have seen a fair amount of Blacksploitation films (obviously your Shafts/Superflys, Dolemite & Dolemite II: The Human Tornado, as well as Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law).

          Black Dynamite (the movie and series) are both pretty damn funny. I am really surprised by what they get away with on the animated series. It’s pretty raunchy/offensive.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

            Also, the fact that BD (the film) is so completely dedicated to re-creating the feel of those films that you see the boom mike dip in the top of the frame every once in a while just killed me.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

      The 10 second stretch during which I was most uncomfortable was the scene in which Leo was talking about his daddy getting a shave on the front porch. The question he asked, similar to the question asked in Inglourious Basterds, was one that I didn’t like having raised in mixed company.

      It’s a *VERY* interesting question, mind… but asking it, under those circumstances, seems very much like an abdication.Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    Holy crap, Quentin Tarantino has extraordinary talent. I wish he had something to say.

    Exactly my thought on John Barth.

    Anyway, IB left me with no deep thoughts, just “This is too long and mostly pretty boring.” (The end had a weird resemblance to Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny, but since they were being created at the same time, and I don’t think they travel in the same circles, that’s almost certainly coincidence.) I don’t see any reason to think DU would be any different.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I actually think Tarantino has something to say, and I think that Jay actually points to it a bit in his post. I’m just not sure it always needs to be said, which is where I struggle with this movie.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Aw man, I kinda like Barth – I read “The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor” when I was working in Germany and pretty lonely, and I liked it quite a bit. I also read “Floating Opera” and “End of the Road” at the behest of / on loan from a girl; maybe that was why I thought those were decent too. 🙂Report

    • North in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I hated IB deeply, and I imagine if I actually was Jewish I’d have hated it even more.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to North says:

        I’m poorly qualified to comment, because the only Tarantino movie I’ve seen was Pulp Fiction, but your take is probably what mine would have been.

        There might be some value in “making a movie about movies about….” in the same sense that there’s some inside-baseball value to historians’ “writing a history about histories about….” But the story qua story is lost on me. Not that it’s bad (and as I said, I haven’t seen it), just not my thing.Report

  4. Stillwater says:

    Holy crap, Quentin Tarantino has extraordinary talent. I wish he had something to say.

    Nothing to say? I think he said a lot. It was entertaining, paradigm shifting, challenging. What more is he supposed to say?

    I’d feel like criticizing QT for making a movie like this one… except, of course, he’s the only one who is making movies like this one.

    Oh! Well, there’s that, too.Report

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    IB was brilliant, start to finish. You could write a book just about the scenes in the movie theater. First off, we’re given the sight of Nazis delighting in the brutal deaths of Americans in a movie – in the same way he caused us to be delighted by the brutal deaths of Nazis earlier in the movie. Second, two of the Jewish heroes are given the role of suicide bombers. Third, our heroes only win because the most evil character in the film decided to switch teams when he saw the writing on the wall. I could go on. IB is a movie that entertains us with violence, while at the same time throwing that entertainment back in our face.

    And as a coup de grace, the three most riveting, tense scenes in the books are composed of people talking to each other across a table.

    It’s amazing.Report

    • Chris in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      I agree. I think it’s Tarantino’s best film hands down, and it is one of my favorite films of all time. I watched it, walked out of the theater, bought another ticket, and watched it again. I’ve never done that before. I think I may watch it again tonight.

      Did you read the New Yorker piece that discusses why Russians hate it, though?

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        I went into IB with the wrong attitude due to a simple paragraph in an “about this movie being made!” article that still sticks in my head. Some of the actors talked about how great it was that they were finally doing this.

        I remembered thinking “Doing *WHAT*? Exactly what are people doing that they’re pleased about?”

        They’re not fighting anti-Semitism, they’re not fighting the Nazis. They’re not doing anything but making a movie in which Hitler was killed by good guys as opposed to a movie in which Hitler committed suicide in a bunker somewhere. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Downfall!)

        In the same way, it doesn’t feel like anything is being taken on in this movie either.

        The things that the movie is saying is saying them about me rather than saying them about the movies it’s a movie about. If you know what I mean.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          I guess the question is:

          Did QT make a movie about Jews killing Nazis/Hitler because people wanted to see a movie about Jews killing Nazis/Hitler
          Did QT make a movie about Jews killing Nazis/Hitler BECAUSE people wanted to see a movie about Jews killing Nazis/Hitler?

          Somehow, I trust JB (and probably JB alone) will get exactly what I’m saying.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            I dig what you’re saying but I think it that he didn’t do either. He made a movie about movies about WWII and, in doing so, a movie about the people who watch WWII movies.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              That might be so. I haven’t seen enough/don’t know enough about WWII movies to comment either way.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

              Everyone keeps saying QT made a movie about movies about WWII, but did nobody else notice that IB was a Western? QT made a cowboy movie about Nazis.

              The opening scene was a dead giveaway–the lone house out on the “prairie” with someone chopping wood for the fire, and the long view across the “prairie” as the stranger on the horse/motorcycle road up? And the bar scene was an invocation of all the bar fights in westerns, complete with card game and beautiful dancing/acting girl. As well as the heroes–the IB–being morally ambiguous folk, ala Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name.

              And I agree with Chris and and Alex above, the three best scenes from the movie were the non-action, non-violence scenes, just people talking across tables. (And wasn’t Melanie Laurent awesome in that scene, without ever saying a word?)Report

    • North in reply to Alex Knapp says:

      I must have viewed it too shallowly because I loathed IB. The scene with the Jewish “Basterds” interrogating their captured nazi patrol in particular made my skin crawl. Perhaps I don’t have the right background or didn’t pick up the nuance but it felt to me like a movie where Tarantino had Jews running around acting like Nazis… oddly that didn’t elevate anything to me, it just felt like it was trying to drag the victims of nazzism down into the muck with them.Report

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Ugh, in the movie, not the books.Report

  7. Rufus F. says:

    I’m accustomed to us having vastly different takes on things around here. So, what I’ll say is I’m pretty much convinced at this point that Tarantino is a great filmmaker who will never make a great film. I’m sure I’ll watch this one on DVD, but not in much of a hurry to see if a well-crafted slavery exploitation flick changes my mind on his body of work thus far.Report

  8. b-psycho says:

    All I’ll say about Django Unchained is this:

    The scenes of slaver violence against blacks are *supposed* to be disturbing and almost unwatchable, as that’s the shit they were really doing, and it was frickin evil. The scenes of the slavers getting blasted in contrast were *supposed* to be cartoony and satisfying, because dammit those f*ckers deserved it.

    The point of the film is crude entertainment, but in a way that subverts what most films before it use as fuel for such. The usual archetype of the revenge film and/or western was emphatically Not A Black Dude, let alone Not A Black Dude That Had Been Enslaved. If there is statement to be made, it’s in giving the role of Walking Ball of Vengeance to someone who history suggests deserves to be that pissed off for once.

    IMO, if you have a problem with the film (beyond simple film critic stuff), your problem isn’t with the film.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    I’ve seen it written, here and elsewhere, that QT makes/has made a movie that other folks aren’t willing to make.

    Is it possible that, with DU, he made a movie that people, black people specifically, didn’t want made? Or weren’t yet properly positioned to make as they saw fit?Report

    • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      QT will be remembered as the greatest and most influential film makers of our generation. RD, KB, IB, DU and of course PF are among the greatest films ever made in many different ways. Best dialogue. Best action. And most importantly, most introspectively memorable at the micro and macro level.

      A movie where the Jews violently win WWII? A movie where the fastest gun in the West is an ex-slave who single handedly destroys plantations? What could be better?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:


        I haven’t see enough of QT, nor know enough about film, to properly judge his skill or impact. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of his work but am just not a movie aficionado.

        But people like QT often get credit for doing something that other people supposedly don’t have the balls or the brains to do. Sometimes, I wonder, if that means they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing. Maybe a white guy shouldn’t be making a slave payback movie that drops the N-word 50+ times. I dunno; I’m clearly not the best person to judge. And maybe there are black directors and writers out there who would and could make this movie, perhaps even better, but because they don’t have QT’s brand, they won’t get the opportunity.

        I suppose I’m saying we should be considering WHY QT does/is able to make films that others can’t/won’t/haven’t.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

          Thinking more about it, I think people sometimes assume that because QT is apparently brilliant from a technical and artistic standpoint, than what he is saying must necessarily always be brilliant. Isn’t it possible that he directs an amazing movie but tells a story that is deeply, deeply wrong?Report

          • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:


            One thing I like about Tarantino is that he makes people talk about movies and what the movies are about in a way and to an extent that you don’t usually see with movies that everyone sees. I mean, I’ve been to movies that make people talk this much, but they’re movies in art house theaters that no one sees (and that, to be honest, I didn’t really want to see in most case; I’m not a real film lover). Making a movie that everyone sees that makes people talk this much is not really the sort of thing many, if any, directors and screenwriters do these days.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

            I think you may have QT confused with Ken Burns. 😉

            What I mean is, as I think QT has pointed out time and again, and as Roger and I allude in these threads, he’s interested in making films that entertain, amuse and arouse. He’s usually not saying much, other than “isn’t this 2 hours of fantasy in the dark exciting?”

            How much social responsibility or historical fidelity or sensitivity do we expect of (an exceptionally talented) rollercoaster manufacturer?Report

            • Roger in reply to Glyph says:

              Glyph says it better than I ever could. I would just add (or is it subtract?) that a great artist can take us up to that line which really makes us think why it is we have the lines we do.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

              To quote JB in the OP:

              “I’d feel like criticizing QT for making a movie like this one… except, of course, he’s the only one who is making movies like this one.”

              What is a “movie like this one”? Is it the violence? The editing? The camera angles? The dialogue? Or the subject matter? If it is the subject matter, than clearly QT is saying something with that, no? And if the subject matter is secondary to some broader, meta, societal conversation/commentary, than why does he so often choose the subject matter that he does?Report

              • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                I have no idea…

                I will say that i find his dialogue, his action and his subject matter to be at a completely different level from any other film maker alive. I go to see his movies for action and end up being unable to get dialogue about burgers, or superman or the nature of storytelling out of my head.

                The most disturbing thing about revenge in both volumes of Kill Bill is the story about the master who wipes out an entire monastery because of the a possible social oversight. Beatrice graphically dismembers the crazy 88s, and I can’t stop thinking about the fireside flute story about where spiritual man kills others for the most insignificant sleight to his honor.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                Let’s focus solely on subject matter for a second and consider specifically IB and DU (and I will note I have not seen the latter). Both films are historical re-imagined revenge tales, one dealing with Jews going after Hitler and the Nazis and the other dealing with an African slave going after slave owners and other whites. QT is neither Jewish nor of African ancestry. Yet he attempts to tackle two deeply complicated subjects. And you, if I understand you correctly, applaud him in part because he is taking on a complicated subject matter that no one else will take on.

                But maybe the subject matter SHOULDN’T be taken on. Or not in the way that QT has. “Different” and “unprecedented” does not necessarily entail better. I’ve read a number of reviews of DU written by African-Americans, many of whim were miffed by the content, upset with the choice of language, and bothered by the whole undertaking. We can’t ignore that.

                And, as I mentioned earlier, QT is uniquely positioned to make films like this. What black filmmaker could have gotten IB greenlit? If DU was a story that needed to be told and no black filmmaker could have gotten it done, then maybe QT is serving a purpose. But is DU a story that needs to be told? Right now and in the manner which QT did?

                Please note that I’m not saying QT should, in any way, be prevented from making these films. He is free to make whatever movie he wants. But we shouldn’t mistake “can” with “should”.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’d say its actually a lot easier for people to watch an ahistorical revenge fantasy with tons of QT style then realistic telling of slavery. If there is a “should” it would be that we should understand our history better. But who would want to see a flick that shows Lost Cause BS for the BS it was, that shows southern racism and violence in all its horror, or northern racism or the abandonment of blacks by ending Reconstruction.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

                I dunno… black folks, maybe? How much of our current disregard for the legacy of slavery is a function of a complete lack of knowledge of all that slavery and post-slavery life was for blacks?

                I’m not saying definitively, but I could imagine there being a segment of black Americans that would love to see a movie like that made. Of course, the number of white folks who’d see it would probably be nil. Because, ya know, it didn’t have Leo dropping the N-word.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well, that’s for JB to say, not me. And, I haven’t seen DU but I believe I have seen the rest of his films; and the only constant I see (aside from violence, and ornate dialogue) is that QT makes movies that he himself would like to sit in the dark next to you watching, with a big tub of popcorn, elbowing each other in the ribs and saying “holy crap, did you just see/hear that?!? That is so COOL!”*

                He’s a geek filmmaker; he’s an enthusiast of trash/pop culture; he’s an entertainer. He’s not a historian (well, other than film), or a social critic, or a polemicist.

                * With the exception of “Basterds”, where I do feel he was obliquely alluding to the way that we utilize film violence as catharsis; but even there, he was either careful or careless enough (I waver on this) to muddle his metaphors just sufficiently to discourage any completely unambiguous or easily-articulated reading. As his Clarence monologue shows, QT is far more interested in heart (not in a romantic way, but in a blood-pumping way) than he is head (analysis or meaning or metaphor or “message”).

                In this respect, and contrary to my description of him as largely an entertainer alone, he IS producing art – something that largely bypasses the higher brain to speak directly to our more primal bits.

                Which of course brings us right back to, “is he actually producing *pornography* of one sort or another”, since porn (including the pornography of violence, or something that is designed to inflame racial prejudices) ALSO bypasses the higher brain to speak directly to our more primal bits.

                Which of course leads QT and those who enjoy his films to yell “quit yammerin’ on about ‘art vs. pornography’ in the back of the theater, you’re making it so I CAN’T HEAR THE ENTERTAINMENT!!!”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “QT makes movies that he himself would like to sit in the dark next to you watching, with a big tub of popcorn, elbowing each other in the ribs and saying “holy crap, did you just see/hear that?!? That is so COOL!”*”

                So why is it that QT wants to watch a black slave kill white guys dropping the N-word? Why does he want to watch Jews kill Nazis?

                Why does he make DU and IB? Why doesn’t he make “Taken” but 100x better?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                So why is it that QT wants to watch a black slave kill white guys dropping the N-word? Why does he want to watch Jews kill Nazis?

                Why does he make DU and IB? Why doesn’t he make “Taken” but 100x better?

                Because “Taken” already gets made every 100x every year? Because to him, this is such an obvious story idea (a Jew gets revenge on Nazis; a slave gets revenge on slavers) that he can’t believe it hasn’t been done already?

                QT is a huge fan of all kinds of “low” culture films – gangster; western; revenge; kung-fu; blaxsploitation. The blaxploitation movies in particular were very much fantasies about “sticking it to the man” and getting revenge against the black community’s oppressors – if the low-level villains in these flicks might be drug dealers poisoning the neighborhoods, it’s very much convention for there to be a white puppetmaster higher up the criminal chain, who eventually gets his comeuppance at the hands of the hero.

                The problem is, most of those movies were, for all their energy, pretty shoddily-made, and weren’t all that widely-seen outside of black America and enthusiasts of the genre. This is of course because the subject matter was something that major studios didn’t want to touch, so money and good actors and good directors and good technical people/equipment were all in short supply; and the movies obviously weren’t blockbusters, so that cycle never got broken.

                I’d say QT sees an opportunity to make the kinds of movies he enjoys, and get them to a larger audience than they ever would have otherwise (you are right to note that maybe only QT can get such a film made – but if that’s an indictment, it’s not one of QT) and QT’s a shameless magpie, and a joker, and not one to take half-measures; so if he’s going to make a “revenge” movie, or a “blaxploitation” movie, why would we be surprised that he goes all-in, and straight over the top?

                Isn’t “The Bear Jew” just the Jewish “Shaft”?

                If the question is, “why doesn’t he step aside and wait for a ‘native’ to make such a film?”, or “why does QT like what he likes?”, I must admit that these questions don’t make much sense to me. He likes to tell stories; he likes certain kinds of stories; the raw materials are sitting right there; and he has the resources to make the film happen. So he makes it. Questions of “authenticity” get particularly dodgy around this most artifice-friendly of artforms.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “Because “Taken” already gets made every 100x every year? Because to him, this is such an obvious story idea (a Jew gets revenge on Nazis; a slave gets revenge on slavers) that he can’t believe it hasn’t been done already?”

                Maybe it hasn’t been done for a reason.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                I know little about blaxspoitation films… were they largely made by blacks or whites? As you note, they were primarily seen within the black community. My hunch is they served a certain purpose to members of that community. Do you think DU will serve that same purpose, or a similar purpose, when taking that sort of film to the masses?

                I’m purely speculating, but based on what you’ve said, my guess it that blaxpoitation films served as somewhat of a fantasy escape for blacks. They couldn’t REALLY go out and “take it to the man” but they could vicariously live through characters like Shaft.

                So, let’s say DU is intended to take this same purpose to the masses, with the masses being largely white. White folks shouldn’t be watching DU and saying, “Fuck yea, JFoxx! Take it to the man!” They should be thinking, “Holy fuck. I am “the man”. What the fuck have I/we been doing? Thank goodness this is just fantasy!”

                Are they? Or are white folks walking out thinking, “That was dope! Can’t believe he killed that guy that way. How awesome!”?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                In my view, that “reason” is progress; up until now, the movie wouldn’t have been welcomed by white audiences, so studios wouldn’t have funded it (and again, that’s all an indictment, but not of QT).

                Isn’t it progress that white audiences now will welcome a movie in which the black man is the hero and the white man is the villain? Even if it’s coated in po-mo irony, isn’t it still good to see that bitter pill swallowed?

                Wouldn’t it have been progress if Germans after WWII had made movies in which Nazis were the villain? Wouldn’t we see that as them coming to terms in some way with the reality of the situation?

                I must not be following the question, I think.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                No, you are following it. And progress is indeed important.

                But couldn’t QT have done that without appropriating the blaxpoitation genre*? And if his goal was “progress”, why do it in a way that has deeply offended so many African-Americans?

                *Again, if these films were primarily made by whites before, that might change things… can you enlighten me here?Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                Most of the conversations I’ve had about this film outside of this forum have been with black people, and I have seen several different views (also, I’ll say it again, listen to the podcast I linked yesterday). The views are generally this:

                1.) I won’t see the film. This is my girlfriend’s view, and the view of several of her friends. They have had issues with Tarantino on race since the 90s, and they tend to avoid his films generally, but the idea of him making a movie about slavery crosses a line for them.
                2.) Saw the film, and were offended or just generally though it shouldn’t have been made. I’ve only talked to a couple people like this, and they generally make arguments similar to the ones you’re making here, Kazzy.
                3.) Saw the film and loved it. Most of the people (mostly men, I should note) I’ve talked to loved it. I think some of them might be a little uncomfortable with some of the subject matter, but the kick-assness, and who’s doing the ass-kicking, trumped their concerns.

                To me, then, the question is, whose opinion do we consider when determining whether Tarantino, or anyone, should make a movie like this (or like IB, or whatever)?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                I don’t see why the color of the storytellers then, or now, matters much when we are evaluating the morality of the tales (but yes, the blaxploitation filmmakers were black). I mean, if DU was presenting the slave as the villain and the slaver as the hero, then sure, QT’s pigmentation or background might have some explanatory power (though it wouldn’t determine the morality of the fiction) but I gather that’s not the case here.

                And I don’t think QT’s goal is progress, it’s to entertain. The world has progressed in such a way that he can tell this particular story in so doing.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

                Well, I think that part of QT’s thing is that he’s making movies about the movies that he loves. If you haven’t seen some Blaxploitation films, you’re really missing out. There are some really, really, really good ones out there.

                Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is FREAKIN AWESOME. Superfly was really, really, really good as well. Shaft was groundbreaking but… well… you’ve seen everything that Shaft did in more recent movies and seeing the protagonist be a black dude rather than a white dude was really groundbreaking in 1972… but I don’t know that watching it with 2013 eyes will communicate how ground breaking it was. You already swim in the ocean of cliches this movie brought to the culture. (It’s worth it just for the soundtrack, though.)

                Make a movie night out of it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, one issue related to the race of the filmmaker: if a black director had made a movie about a black ex-slave killing a bunch of white dudes for money and vengeance, a whole different set of people would be offended by it.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Glyph says:

                This one is pretty amazing. It was pulled from circulation at the prompting of the FBI.

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                The race of the storyteller matters because the story belongs to certain people and not to other people.

                I definitely should check out some blaxpoitation stuff. As noted, I’m not much of a film buff, so am probably lacking in a number of things I should have seen but haven’t.

                Re: your last point, who is entertained? If a large swath of African-Americans are offend by not only his movie, but the idea of him even making the movie, does that matter?

                White folks enjoying a movie made by a white guy in which a bunch of popular white actors say the N-word… hmm…. maybe it is a fantasy of sorts for them. Even if those popular white actors get their come-uppance in the end.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Chris, in yr hypo wouldn’t it be silly that they were offended, since A.). Fiction, you know, B.). “Revenge” is one of the most common character motivations in fiction there is (I leave aside any discussion of its morality IRL), and C.). Now, here in 2013 America, isn’t it generally accepted that an ex-slave would have the moral high ground anyway?

                Maybe it would help if I understood what your black interlocutors’ past issues with QT movies were…is it mostly the use of the n-word in his scripts? Because I just can’t imagine why it’s in any way offensive to construct a fiction in which the historical underdog gets to kick oppressor ass, even if it is made by a descendant of the oppressor (again, I’d understand howling if QT was saying, “you know, those slavers had a point.”)

                I think QT genuinely loves the culture, so I guess if I were black, I feel like I’d see him and such a film as annoying at worst, but nothing more serious than that (actually, even as a white person I suspect I’d find QT in person annoying, but that’s just due to his general hyperactive motormouthedness).

                I know this isn’t exactly a tight analogy, but if I loved Thai food, and I had the money to go to Thailand and study cooking, and come home and open a Thai restaurant (and maybe the bank loans me, a white native, more than it did the Thai immigrant owner of the frankly mediocre Thai restaurant in my town), and I open my restaraunt serving truly delicious Thai food (or heck, even if my food sucks) – what have I, personally, done wrong? How have I disrespected, rather than attempted to honor by imitation, Thais and Thai culture?Report

              • Roger in reply to Glyph says:

                I find the concept of suggesting that art should not be made because some may not like it…. Intolerant. The appropriate response is to suggest those not appreciating it not go.

                Intolerance should be tolerated, but discouraged.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                Cultural appropriation is a real and problematic thing.

                Many hear have said that QT makes movies no one else makes. But then you’ve also said that QT is paying homage/borrowing from/whatevering blaxpoitation films, which means he is making movies that HAVE been made. But because he’s white/QT/whatever, a whole new audience goes to see them and thinks, “Holy shit! Ground breaking!” And all those black directors and creators of blaxpoitation are forgotten/ignored.


                I’m not suggesting he simply shouldn’t make them because people are offended. But if his point, as some seem to have argued, is to provoke a meaningful discussion on depictions of slavery, he should probably seek to make a film that is a better depiction of slavery than those he is critiquing, and the opinions of black folks should be very highly valued in determining if he has done so.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “Chris, in yr hypo wouldn’t it be silly that they were offended, since A.). Fiction, you know, B.). “Revenge” is one of the most common character motivations in fiction there is (I leave aside any discussion of its morality IRL), and C.). Now, here in 2013 America, isn’t it generally accepted that an ex-slave would have the moral high ground anyway?”

                You underestimate the ability of white people to play victim. You don’t think that the black director of that movie immediately gets the ABM label?Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                “the story belongs to certain people and not to other people.”

                That’s not how stories and songs work, and I don’t think we want them to.

                “does that matter?”

                Some segment of people will be offended no matter what you do; unless someone can clearly articulate to me why it’s offensive in nature, well…people were offended by “Passion of the Christ” too. And the color of the chef has little to do with the flavor of the stew.Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, I’m not sure I can do the argument that Tarantino has some race issues justice. It’s more than just his use of the n-word. It’s about characters, where places himself, etc. I’ll see if I can talk my girlfriend into saying something about it here, but given that she’s been uninterested in commenting here in the past, I’m not confident I can pull it off.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “That’s not how stories and songs work, and I don’t think we want them to.”

                Will all due respect, that is what I’d expect someone who hasn’t had his people’s stories stolen for generations to say.

                What would the response be if a non-American filmmaker wanted to make a 9/11 film?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                “…but given that she’s been uninterested in commenting here in the past, I’m not confident I can pull it off.”

                I’d be curious to hear why, but of course respect if you/her would rather not elaborate.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

                Just going to chime in for a second… I think the extent to which I am concerned about the African-American response to this depends on how widespread that view is. This strikes me as the sort of thing that could produce a huge disconnect between African-Americans who write about this and those who like “kickass movies.” But it also strikes me as the kind of thing that just makes them generally uncomfortable period. It’d be nice to know which it is, though I suppose that’s impossible.

                T0 answer Kazzy’s question about a non-American making a movie about 9-11, it would depend a great deal on what the thesis was. If it was an IB-style revenge flick, I’d love to see it made and would greatly enjoy it. BUT, that actually doesn’t say a whole lot about how I would feel about DU if I were a black person. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a counterpart for the most part. At least, of whites (American whites, etc.) generally. That in and of itself is significant.

                (I can say that I do get a kick out of representations of the US when I watch anime – even when that portrayal is really, really negative. But again, not comparable.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                Kaz, she doesn’t read or comment on blogs much in general. And she once wondered why I was crawling in the mud with pigs here, during one of our more contentious discussions on race (she meant the entire discussion, but also one person in particular, who’s still on the masthead).Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Gots to drop for dinner, but a few points –

                “But because he’s white/QT/whatever, a whole new audience goes to see them and thinks, “Holy shit! Ground breaking!” And all those black directors and creators of blaxpoitation are forgotten/ignored.”

                Again, that’s not QT’s fault; if anything, he is bringing his predecessors to the fore of the public consciousness, by referencing them in his films and talking about them in interviews. The best way to be forgotten is for no one to remember or pay tribute to you. QT does both. Before the Stones, only a few black people knew who Howlin’ Wolf was; afterwards, many, many people of many races knew who HW was. This can only be a net positive for the predecessors’ legacy and bank accounts (if they are still alive to enjoy it).

                The hypo’s black director being called an “ABM” – so what? Let people call him an ABM, because A.) Maybe he is, B.) Maybe he has real reason to be, and C.) The designation didn’t seem to hurt Spike Lee’s career.

                Also, I said “Passion of the Christ” when I meant “Last Temptation of Christ”.

                RE: “stolen” stories, maybe we are talking about two different things – if you mean the real history of slaves that was purposely obscured or just plain ignored, that is a different thing from a plainly fictional enterprise (AFAIK, “DU” does not begin with a title card indicating “Based on a True Story”) and attempting to compare the two concepts is very, very tricky, at best.

                Anyway, I may not get a chance to check back tonight, but will try after the kids go down. Long day and I am beat.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                That gets at what I keep asking: What was QT’s thesis? Everyone seems to have a different answer which they are unwilling to commit to when challenged.

                In sum, I’ve heard primarily two:

                1.) He’s not offering commentary but simply making a kickass movie. Okay… if that’s the case, why choose the subject matter that he chose? He didn’t do so by accident.
                2.) He’s commenting on depictions of and conversations about slavery.
                Okay, if that’s the case, what is his comment? What does he think about depictions of and conversations about slavery? What was DU say about either?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                Sounds like a smart lady.


                My hunch is that the conversation will have long passed us by by the time you return. Godspeed. I appreciated your perspective here and hope you recognize any criticisms I might have sent your way were more directed at a broader abstract “you” than you-you. If that makes sense.Report

              • Roger in reply to Glyph says:


                I suggest you go see the movie and see where your thoughts go. I totally disagree that a realistic portrayal of slavery is necessary to get us thinking about the nature of revenge, or subservience, or human indecency. In fact, I suggest it often limits the insights.

                I don’t think I learned anything about gangsters in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, nor was I supposed to. But the stories are great rides, and they make me think about the human condition. Consider, for example the three “roles” Travolta plays in PF. The protagonist, the quirky supporting actor or the disposable, piece of shit bad guy.

                Two hours of gangsters and criminals talking about mayonnaise, Hawaiian burgers, foot massages, divine intervention, torturing techniques, lovey-dovey nick names, tummy fat (or is it pregnancy?) milk shakes, heirlooms, being cool and household cleaning supplies. The perfect movie.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Roger –

                Consider, for example the three “roles” Travolta plays in PF. The protagonist, the quirky supporting actor or the disposable, piece of shit bad guy.

                I never noticed that, at all; I just paid attention to the nonlinear structure. Now I want to see the film again.

                tummy fat (or is it pregnancy?)

                Nor did I catch that.

                There may be more “there” there than I was giving QT credit for. And I say that as someone who has seen the movie quite a few times.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                Cause he got beat up as a kid? I dunno, but we’re definitely into “QT makes films where violence is justified”, the way americans justify violence — against Bad People (TM).

                Think Glyph’s right about QT being a relentless magpie, always after shiny things, and always pulling some nugget out of whatever’s crazy.

                At least he’s not Anno-sempai, whose notes for his latest movie said: “I’m so sick of these characters! Let’s make it more like Star Trek…”

                (Evangelion. Now “more like Star Trek”. ayiyi).

                I remember one comedy from Japan that had INCESSANT references to every anime/manga the author could remember. We’re talking “release notes” that were multiple pages of pdfs to explain the references… Tarantino reminds me of that guy.

                Blazing Saddles had Points to Make. Tarantino just sets out to have a crazy good time.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                A movie that people go to see and then argue about such things as depictions of: WWII, Slavery, violence, etc.

                I mean, if you go watch Live Free Or Die Hard (seriously, go watch it. It’s awesome), you’ll be laughing at the absurdity, cheering at the ninja chick beating the ever-living shit out of John McClane as his SUV dangles in the elevator shaft, and you’ll marvel at how he gets shot so many g-darn times that you’ll not even notice when he shoots himself.

                And you won’t really have much of a conversation about violence afterwards. Maybe a conversation about physics.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                “A movie that people go to see and then argue about such things as depictions of: WWII, Slavery, violence, etc.”

                So people aren’t arguing about WWII, slavery, or violence… they’re arguing about the depictions of such. Do I have that right?

                Included in that argument should be QT’s own work, no? Which I guess is what I’m trying to do. And it seems there is some resistance to that, which appears to me to signal a short-circuit in the loop. QT can’t simultaneously start a conversation and be exempt from the conversation. So, if he is starting the conversation, surely he must be contributing something beyond the starting point. So, what is he attempting to contribute to a conversation about the depiction of slavery?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Included in that argument should be QT’s own work, no?

                As well as all of the movies he’s making references to in Django Unchained (and there are a lot of them).

                QT can’t simultaneously start a conversation and be exempt from the conversation.

                I’m not suggesting (is anybody?) that QT be exempt from the conversation. I do think that making DU about QT is to make DU about one of the least interesting things we could make DU about. (No offense to QT.)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                It feels like some folks here are saying, “Don’t look for anything in it. It’s just XYZ.” Those are the people to whom I’m primarily addressing.

                And I think there is a fascinating conversation to be had around DU and why this/why now/why you (QT). It is already happening within certain segments of the black community.Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, I think it’s good to look. Tarantino may have not meant to start the conversation, and your psychoanalyzing might tell more about yourself than him (as always, neh?)… but it’s good to look, to think a bit deeper.
                Even if Tarantino’s shallow enough to not be worth looking at.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Roger says:

        QT’s “philosophy” on film and storytelling was laid out for all to see through Clarence Worley’s lips in the “True Romance” script (heretically, my favorite of all “QT’s” films – the high-gloss bodywork that director Tony Scott drapes over the rumbling engine of a QT script makes it singular, and endlessly rewatchable):

        OK, sorry, Lee. I just wanna tell you “Coming Home in a Body Bag” is one
        of my favorite movies. After “Apocalypse Now” I think it’s the best
        Vietnam movie ever.

        Thank you very much, Clarence.

        You know, most movies that win a lot of Oscars, I can’t stand. “Sophie’s
        Choice”, “Ordinary People”, “Kramer vs. Kramer”, “Gandhi”. All that
        stuff is safe, geriatric, coffee-table dog shit.

        I hear you talkin’ Clarence. We park our cars in the same garage.

        Like that Merchant-Ivory clap-trap. All those assholes make are
        unwatchable movies from unreadable books.

        Boris starts placing clear-glass coffee cups in front of everybody and fills
        everybody’s cup from a fancy coffee pot that he handles like an expert.

        Clarence, there might be somebody somewhere that agrees with you more
        than I do, but I wouldn’t count on it.

        Clarence is on a roll and he knows it.

        They ain’t plays, they ain’t books, they certainly ain’t movies, they’re films.
        And do you know what films are? They’re for people who don’t like
        movies. “Mad Max”, that’s a movie. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”,
        that’s a movie. “Rio Bravo”, that’s a movie. “Rumble Fish”, that’s a
        fuckin’ movie. And, “Coming Home in a Body Bag”, that’s a movie. It was
        the first movie with balls to win a lot of Oscars since the “The Deer


        • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

          What’s this one called anyway?

          It’s a sequel to Body Bag.


          We don’t have a title yet.

          What does Joe like?

          Uh, Body Bags II.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

            In the interest of good “taste”, I won’t append the next line of dialogue ;-).Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

              I talked to Maribou yesterday about “what’s QT going to do next?” and she said “probably a Vietnam movie.”

              We might finally see Coming Home in a Body Bag.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                He seems to be going backwards through history, so I’m thinkin’ the French and Indian War.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Also, the Thirty Years War seems ripe for a movie with Tarantino-level bloodiness.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                That would be a documentary.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris says:

                Man, imagine the amount of screeching by Catholics.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

                OK, so I thought of a truly tasteless subject for QT’s next revenge flick, based on recent news events. I’m not even gonna name it, except to say that it would be even more over the top than DU or IB and we – everyone here – should at least *theoretically* gain catharsis from seeing the evil SOBs get theirs at the end; but in fact I am sure that we’d all howl in outrage that such a film was grossly insensitive; that the pain of real people’s experiences shouldn’t necessarily just be treated as grist for a cool action movie or mindless entertainment.

                And what it all boils to is the concept of “tragedy + time = comedy” (AKA the “Too Soon!” rule). This would be an argument against DU (or IB, or some hypothetical IB-style revenge flick with Bin Ladin as villain) that would make sense to me (especially with IB; with DU, no one is living today who either enslaved, or was enslaved – and anyway, no one seemed to get all riled up over “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” which seems like it at least theoretically could receive a similar charge of insensitivity to the topic of slavery, and is probably only slightly less historically accurate than DU).

                In short, if the argument I make above is what people really mean, then I get that. But I do think it would be better to come out and say that, rather than just saying, “it’s offensive” – because a lot of ppl like me will say, “huh? How? Don’t you wanna see the bad guys get theirs?”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                Most of the reviews/essays I read that were bothered by it did go into detail about what they found bothersome about the movie. It wasn’t simply a bunch of Tweets shouting “OFFENSIVE!” or “RACISM!”. They were thoughtful objections to the film on a number of levels. That doesn’t necessarily mean those people are right, but they are voices that certainly should be listened to in evaluating the merit and value of the film. I’ll see if I can dig up some links.Report

              • Zach in reply to Glyph says:

                “And what it all boils to is the concept of “tragedy + time = comedy” (AKA the “Too Soon!” rule).”

                (the followup in) Crimes and Misdemeanors: “If it bends, it’s funny, if it breaks, it isn’t.”

                “This would be an argument against DU (or IB, or some hypothetical IB-style revenge flick with Bin Ladin as villain) that would make sense to me”

                Tarantino can always adapt Frank Miller’s Holy Terror! graphic novel.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                I will try to read them, but I should probably try to see the movie first for fear of spoilers (and also, to avoid priming my opinions/expectations any more).

                Which points to a meta-problem in these discussions – probably, people who haven’t seen a work shouldn’t get really involved in discussions of that work (but hey, that’s not how people or the internet work.) So these discussions often go –

                Person A who has seen the work: “Detailed and thoughtful opinion!”

                Person B who hasn’t, but gives A’s opinion weight: “Repeats a thumbnail summary of A’s conclusion to C, which summary may or may not clearly reflect the argument or the nuance in its conclusion!”

                Person C who also hasn’t, but didn’t see or understand A’s total argument and therefore can’t see how they came to that conclusion: “A & B are all wet!” (I am not saying you are either A or B, but I could easily be C here, is what I am getting at).

                Person C to Person D: “A & B are all wet!” (I’m not saying you’re all wet, but you get my drift – the point just keeps getting further distorted).

                And so on and so forth, the cultural “Telephone” game.

                Also, something that occurred to me over breakfast is this: Are we having category problems with QT and DU? Tarantino occupies a weird spot. On the one hand, he’s a respected filmmaker; critical plaudits, associated with Miramax which in large part brought arthouse to the masses, Godard acolyte, etc. On the other hand, he is an avowed proponent of trash culture: rockabilly, and all the genre flicks I mentioned; in some ways still the video store geek he started as. So I think part of the issue is that we just don’t know how to categorize him. Is he a serious filmmaker trying to tell us serious stuff? Or is he an exceptionally technically gifted joker? And when we don’t know how to categorize something, it’s not uncommon for it to be upsetting and argument-starting.

                Which leads into, “how do we categorize his work”? When I think of his work, the first thing I often think of is violence; but a close second, is comedy. Tarantino’s films are really, really funny (sometimes cartoonishly, if blackly so – “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face!”)

                We let a *lot* slide in comedy – take Mel Brooks – though I am not able to give specific examples right now because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen his films (weirdly, I am not a big fan of his, though his influence is undeniably titanic), it wouldn’t surprise me if in his films he has used racial material (maybe even slavery-related) every bit as insensitive as anything QT’s ever done (I am thinking “History of the World” and “Blazing Saddles” might be good places to look).

                Were there discussions of what racial jokes Brooks should/shouldn’t have made? If DU is, on some level, a comedy – and I’d argue that violent action films and comedies are a lot alike, for supporting evidence see: every Road Runner or Bugs Bunny or Three Stooges short ever made – then shouldn’t it get more leeway?

                Which brings me back around to my original point (tragedy + time = comedy, AKA “Too Soon!”) The beauty of the “Too Soon!” argument is that everyone intuitively understands the argument (because for each living person, there will always be some topic for which it is always “too soon!” to make a joke); but the problem is that no one will *ever* agree on the appropriate waiting period (and for some, that period may be “never”).

                There was a great Simpsons joke back in the day: (from memory) a blimp explodes at a football game, and Brockman or someone says “Oh, the humanity!” (referencing the Hindenberg) and Grampa Simpson yells from the back “Too Soon!”

                So we are laughing because we recognize the reference; we are laughing because Abe is revealed as actually old enough to remember the original event; and we are laughing because it seems ridiculous that it could be “too soon!” to make a joke about this (to us) ancient tragedy.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

                Tarantino can always adapt Frank Miller’s Holy Terror! graphic novel.

                The QT superhero movie. Oh my goodness.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


                In case I didn’t make clear, I have not seen the film. And the position I was taking here was more questioning than critical, or at least I intended it to be so. As I’ve said, I am not a film buff, a QT expert, or particularly well-versed in the performing arts. So a lot of people will talk about the technical merit of a QT film and that’s just sort of lost on me, because I don’t really know what to look for or what it means or what is hard or what is easy. But I do accept that most people in the know seem to think he is uniquely brilliant, so I have little reason to object to that classification.

                And I think you accurately point to a classification problem. What I found somewhat frustrating was that people up above (perhaps even you, I don’t really remember) seemed to hop from category to category depending on what was convenient. In summary, it felt like this at times…

                “Part of Tarantino’s brilliance is his willingness to take on subject matter others won’t.”
                “So let’s examine why that subject matter has gone unexamined and how well/appropriately QT actually handles it.”
                “Ah, man, you’re thinking too much. It’s just violence porn! It’s not meant to be that deep!”
                “Okay. So, given that the subject matter is less important than the style, why did he choose that particular content? Why not choose other content that would have lent itself just as well to the style?”
                “Because he wanted to tell that story! No one is telling that story!”

                Round and round. See what I’m getting at? I am okay with either categorization for QT. I’m fine with different people categorizing him differently. I struggle with the same person using whatever definition is convenient. And I think neither categorization makes him immune from discussion about the subject matter. And that is all I’m seeking… a discussion, with the concessions being that I am not an ideal person to lead or have that conversation as I am neither Jewish (IB), female (KB), or black (DU). I can participate, but in a different way than people who are one or more of those identifiers.

                I’m not and never meant to say that QT absolutely should not have made DU. Rather, I’m wondering if he should have, what motivated him to, what his intentions were with the film, and how well he met his goals.Report