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Django Unchained ’s Bleak Racial Vision

In an interview years before he made Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino said, “[I want] to do movies that deal with America’s horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like Spaghetti Westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they’re genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it’s ashamed of it, and other countries don’t really deal with because they don’t feel they have the right to.”

Tarantino called this new genre the “Southern,” as opposed to the “Western.” And just as the Spaghetti Westerns from the Sixties (Westerns made by Italian directors) were often quite violent (at least, for the time) to portray the rugged realities of the Old West, Tarantino could bring his signature style of violence to this new genre in a way that displayed the awful exploitation and racial hierarchy that was the nexus of the Antebellum South.

This is Part 2 in an ongoing series analyzing Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. For Part 1 on Inglourious Basterds click here.

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Fantasies

I like Quentin Tarantino. His films, often laced with profanity and brutal violence, have witty dialogue, interesting characters, and can make mundane events such as dinner at a diner endlessly entertaining. It was for this reason that I decided to watch Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino’s gory revenge thriller about a fictional group of Jews that succeed in an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

Why I Choose Star Wars Over “Real” Life

Recently I had to choose which movie I was going to see. There was a variety of choices—war, a sex scandal, a generic action movie. Let me tell you what I seek from art: an experience of the ideal, a feeling of spiritual replenishment through the sight of human greatness. Now you know why I chose Star Wars. I will elaborate, quickly mentioning that, throughout this article, I’m drawing heavily on the aesthetic philosophy of Ayn Rand.

I do not seek out characters I can “relate to”, but I do seek out characters I understand, with the heroes’ greatness or the evil they vanquish on full, naked display. I do not seek out the everyday world, I see that every day. What I seek is Romanticism.

Do not tell me that the art of something like Star Wars is silly because “real life isn’t like that”. What Star Warsrepresents is real life, in essence. Star Wars represents the essential differences between good and evil, and does it with great consistency through each aspect of the film: in terms of the characters’ goals and actions, in terms of the characters’ looks, in terms of the characters’ dialogue, in terms of the music. Notice the colours of the villains: black suits and masks, fiery red lightsabers, the sterile uniformity of the stormtroopers or the lifeless grey of the Starkiller base. Notice the colours of the heroes: beautiful people wearing brighter and varicoloured clothing, blue lightsabers, their base amidst a lush forest. This is not a blind resort to a cliché; it is a subconscious pull towards one of the most important functions of art: to present the essentials of existence through a recreation of reality.

The Confused Reparations Politics of Frozen 2

On New Years’ Eve, I went with some friends to see Frozen 2. I liked the first Frozen well enough. I thought the story was creative and engaging, though I thought the music was completely overrated (why they thought a song like “For the First Time in Forever” was fit for production is completely beyond me). Frozen 2 was also entertaining, and often very funny, though I think the songs this time were even more bland and forgettable than the last movie. 

But what really made this movie stand out from its predecessor was the really bizarre political angle that the story attempted to take.

Marvel and Disney Vs. Martin Scorsese: How the Modern Studio System Is Impoverishing Cinema

This ongoing superhero movie debate isn’t about superhero movies. 

Before I continue, let me say I’m a fan of Marvel films. I think they’re fun to watch, moving, and well-made. I also think it’s entirely reasonable for us to have different categories of film. It would be off-base, for instance, for us to compare Endgame with Citizen Kane. They’re two entirely different styles of film, two entirely different cultural products. (I borrowed this metric from the late film critic Roger Ebert.) 

I don’t think this debate will die down anytime soon. I don’t think it should.

Why A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life are the Same Story

Every December, I make it a point to watch Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Clive Donner’s version of A Christmas Carol. In my opinion, they are the two greatest Christmas movies ever made. But after watching them this past year, I realized something; both movies are telling the exact same story, inverted from each other. 

 

In Defense of The Mandalorian

Disney’s new live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian is taking a little heavy fire. Indiewire calls it a “$100 million show about nothing”. Robert Arrington here at Liberty Island dismissed it as a “a series of action sequences” taking place on megacity and desert planets, praising Downton Abbey as a better viewing choice.

But perhaps Mr. Arrington should have given The Mandalorian more of a chance – there has now been a lush green forest planet (though the mix of traditional subsistence farming and droid technology was more than a little unbelievable) and one episode set entirely in space. Six episodes in, this old-school Star Wars fan is pretty excited about what’s going on, and there are some good reasons for that.

Why Downton Abbey beats the The Mandalorian

Thanksgiving weekend brought, interspersed with the food, family visits and football games, my first round of holiday season film watching. In addition to the usual offerings from the Hallmark Channel, Netflix, and Amazon (which vary from quite good to stupid and silly), I began with a couple of films that are not exactly season-oriented, but that I’d been waiting to watch.

The first was not a feature film but a new TV show. We don’t have Disney Plus, but there has been a big buzz about The Mandalorian, the new Star Wars series centered around a bounty hunter from the planet Mandalore. So, when we visited my sister Audrey’s family for Thanksgiving morning breakfast, and they wanted me to watch the first episode, I readily agreed.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: The Mayflower Compact Goes West

In his National Review piece Kyle Smith notes that this movie is most famous for its cynicism of the press, and the puncturing of Old West mythology; its most famous line being “This is the West, Sir.  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” In this view, the film was pioneer postmodern.  There should not be an abundance of joy in the destruction of myth. As Jordan Peterson often reminds us, shared mythology is part of the cultural cement that holds us together, just as the Arthurian legends instructed actual knights on the meaning of chivalry.

Disney Learns: Live by the Woke, Die by the Woke

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the slew of live-action Disney remakes that the company has been producing over the past few years. It’s not that I hate them, I just don’t find them worth my money. Every once and awhile, one of them would pop up on Netflix, or one of my friends would be playing them in the background, and I’d sit down and give them a watch. They’re… okay. Not terrible, not amazing, just okay. It just seems to me to be a way for Disney to make some easy money. 

One aspect of these live action remakes that some have commented on is their newfound “wokeness.” Whether this is making Le Fou from Beauty and the Beast an open homosexual, giving an animal-rights slant to Dumbo, or even giving a subplot to the new Aladdin where Jasmine wants to be the next Sultan, apparently Disney feels like its old properties are in need of some good old self-criticism. 

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