Django Unchained

Rating:

UNCHAINED MELODY

Main Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Star is Born Pictures continues to gather steam as we forge ahead with my new musical masterpiece for Steven Spielberg, a celebration of all his movies, only with more singing, dancing, and sequins.  The credits sequence for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom shows that dear Stevie Pooh has the cinematic skill to introduce a new generation to the glories of tap dance, with me as the star, he’s certain to add another golden statuette to his mantle and there’s likely to be one for me as best actress.  We’ve finally come up with the perfect name for my character, Indiana’s love interest as he pursues various villains, extra-terrestrials, dinosaurs, and World War II soldiers across a lavish landscape of Busby Berkleyesque production numbers.  Darling Steven wanted to make sure it was something that would bring in the younger demographic so we turned to that heroine of the young people, Hannah Montana as the inspiration.  I’m to be called Flo Idaho and we’re going to style her after the incredibly popular Flo from all those lovely Progressive Insurance commercials.

Sequined dress by Mauro Biuzzi

Flo Idaho approves of these sequins!

I’ve absolutely fallen in love with my delicious operatic finds, the two Coreys and we plan a major publicity build up for them.  Madame Rose, my publicist called People, US, OK and Hello! With exclusives about them.  Our strategy to have them absolutely everywhere is working as we were able to cleverly insert them into Katy Perry’s little Superbowl show last week.  The boys went over to Arizona with the Bruce the Shark costume (which Mary Gee and Kim Dee had the foresight to make in duplicate) and absolutely stole their scene from the surfboard, the beach ball and even the chanteuse.  I generally am not fond of background upstaging a diva (and never let it happen to me) but am willing to make an exception in this case for the positive publicity this will engender for our little project.  I am, however, going to have to have left shark Corey do some remedial work with Lulu Pigg, my tap therapist.  He has to learn it’s one two three, chasee, chasee, pas de bouree, and not the other way around.

Normy and Steven have been working together on some brilliant new musical numbers for the second half of the film.  Steven wants very much to use some famous songs to sort of jazz up the score.  I suggested Smoke Gets In Your Eyes as a grand solo for me as Indiana Jones pilots a plane into a forest fire in pursuit of a wayward pterodactyl but Steven said he’d already done that so we’re going to use Disco Inferno instead with chorines tapping up and down the wings of the plane.

I left them to it and headed off to the home theater and the Netflix, searching for a film that uses old pop songs for maximum effect.   My researches turned up one of Quentin Tarantino’s more recent films, Django Unchained, from 2012, his mash-up of Spaghetti Westerns and antebellum Mandingo-esque tales.  I have found some of Tarantino’s previous efforts brilliant in nature and decided this one might be worth a look.   Besides which, Quentin took home an Oscar for the screenplay.

As the film opens, we meet Django (Jamie Foxx), a shackled slave being driven along with several others by a couple of despicable brothers (James Russo and James Remar) to a Texas plantation when they run across a traveling dentist, King Schultz (Christoph Waltz winning his second Tarantino connected Oscar).  Schultz is not what he appears and soon he and Django are pairing up as bounty hunters and shooting small town sheriffs.  Schultz promises Django his freedom if he helps him track down the infamous Brittle brothers who are hiding out on Big Daddy Bennett’s (Don Johnson) plantation.  Django, for somewhat obscure reasons, dresses himself up as Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’ and proves himself a natural gunslinger, picking off the Brittles one by one.

It turns out that Django has a wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who has been sold into servitude at the plantation Candyland owned by the ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Candie likes nothing better than having his slaves fight each other to the death for the amusement of himself and his Gallic lawyer (Dennis Christopher) and our heroes use this to gain access to the plantation to rescue Broomhilda.  Things, of course, do not go as planned and soon there’s an operatic orgy of violence with exploding bodies, fountains of blood and Samuel J. Jackson in the middle of it all playing a variant on Steppin Fetchit.  Like all good spaghetti westerns, our hero eventually triumphs, but not without cost, and we’re left with wide open sequel possibilities and I would not be in the least bit surprised to see For a Few Djangos More or The Good, the Bad, and the Django appear at the Cineplex or direct to cable at some point.

The film follows Tarantino formula.  The plot is a synthesis of tropes from half remembered old films of a specific B movie genre (spaghetti westerns).  It has an over the top operatic visual style.  The cast is filled with down on their luck movie actors whom we haven’t seen for some years.  There are a number of gruesome orgies of violence where blood flows freely and bodies explode in gouts of red liquid and sinew and everything looks like the finale of Hamlet with bodies littering the scene.   Scenes are accompanied by strangely appropriate forgotten pop music.  It’s not to everyone’s taste but the fanboys eat it up.  My major issue with it is that it has become formula.  The exterior trappings change but Django Unchained is in many ways the same movie as Inglourious Basterds or even Jackie Brown.  There is craft in its creation but the ideas have gone from being fresh to self-parody and not necessarily in a good way.

Jamie Foxx is stalwart in the title role.  He brings a quiet dignity to Django.  We understand his single-minded purpose and his need to rescue Broomhilda and he even pulls off the blue velvet pageboy suit without looking too ridiculous.  Oscar winner Waltz has a mercurial edge and effortlessly steals every scene he’s in as the bounty hunter.   It’s really his film in many ways.  The supporting cast are game, even the ones with ridiculous parts and approach everything, even Tarantino’s farcical elements (such as a hooded vigilante gang having difficulty with their hoods) with gusto.  People like James Remar and Dennis Christopher are old pros.  The only one that seems at sea in the alternate Tarantioverse is Leonardo DiCaprio who is just not menacing enough as the villainous Candie.  I think it’s at least in part his slight stature and his baby face.  Tarantino may intend them for the irony, but it ultimately didn’t work for me.

The film is violent, much more so than necessary, but the constant splatters of blood are a hallmark of the director’s style.  The dialogue is deliberately anachronistic in delivery and peppered with a certain n word that some will find offensive even though it’s being used in a historically accurate way.   There are some clever touches in the visual storytelling and some great shots aided by Robert Richardson’s excellent cinematography which uses the bright colors of sixties films to further the mood and continue our memories of the source material.

Slave shackles.  Slave whipping.  Slave branding.  Target practice.  Mob justice.  Gratuitous Franco Nero.  Gratuitous Russ Tamblyn.  Head shooting.  Chest shooting. Knee shooting. Exploding plantation.  Exploding mine employee.  

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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