Django Unchained

djangoIt’s not like I didn’t know what to expect.

Just the name Tarantino is usually enough to let you know what you’re in for. His name has practically become an adjective. (“The tarantino effect was in full force as the spatters of red wine reached every corner of the kitchen.”) Since he burst onto the scene in 1992 with the extremely bloody Reservoir Dogs, his films have become synonymous with over-the-top violence. He stays pretty true to form in his latest, Django Unchained.

The movie follows the adventures of a bounty hunter named King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who teams up with a slave (Jamie Foxx). King buys Django and frees him, and together they hunt down a variety of criminals, all the while looking for Django’s wife, Broomhilde, who was sold to another plantation. Tarantino likes to mix up his styles, so the film pays homage to spaghetti westerns with a number of anachronistic, contemporary touches thrown in as well. I’m not sure if “homage” is the right word here, because to me if seemed like a really violent remake of Blazing Saddles. With the duo of Foxx/Waltz as a stand-in for Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, the mixed race duo encounter overt racism and over-the-top bad guys. Even the comedy is slapstick, as a group of KKK members ride to lynch Django but have to abort the mission because they can’t see out of the eye holes of their hoods. I would have sworn that the voice coming out of one of the masked Klansman was Slim Pickens, who was in Blazing Saddles but died about 30 years ago. Broomhilde even speaks German, a plot point that figures into her rescue, although at no point is she as tired as Madeline Kahn. Continue reading

Zero Dark Thirty

zero-dark-thirty-poster1Certain phrases of military slang already exist in the lexicon; for instance, we have the popular SNAFU or FUBAR, both of which are acronyms for a state of general fucked-up-ness. (As in: Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj have really FUBAR-ed American Idol.) Now we have a new cool phrase that we can all throw around to try to look as badass as Navy Seals about to take down a terrorist—­Zero Dark Thirty. This phrase is also used in my house to describe the time in the dead of night when one of the cats dips her paw in my bedside water-glass and, after drinking her fill, successfully pushes it off the nightstand where it explodes like a bomb on the floor. We call this Zero Dark Thirsty. (rimshot!) Continue reading

Lincoln/Argo

lincoln-poster_743x1100“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” wrote philosopher George Santayana. (No, those are not the lyrics to “Smooth”; that was a different Santana.) It’s a good thing we have movies to help us remember history, since most students are probably texting in class and completely forgetting what they weren’t paying attention to in the first place. But lest you think that history is boring, might I suggest you shut off your phone and immerse yourself in two different films that will not only educate you but make you stand up and cheer for filmmaking at its’ best.

Lincoln is an astonishing portrait of the man during a two-month period in the second term of our 16th president; with the end of the bloody Civil War finally in sight, he knows that the chances of abolishing slavery for good hinge on the passage of the 13th Amendment – but it must be done before the peace is achieved. The parallels to our modern politics are astonishing — apparently our present day Congress learned everything they know about lying, bribery and dealing from this group of senators in 1865. The film is a fascinating insight into how laws are passed, most of them notably absent of what might be right or noble but more about who benefits the most. Continue reading