Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eric Kohn, Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson
December 26, 2012 10:46 AM
13 Comments
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Critical Consensus: Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson Discuss 'Django Unchained,' 'Les Miserables' and Other Fall Movies

What do you make of Tarantino's current fixation on revisionist approach to history? Is it trivial?

CR: I don't think it's trivial. He didn't know what he wanted to do. It's tough stuff, and his default is to make it comic or violent, but it's very hard. I saw "Mandingo" when it came out, with James Mason yelling about winning a Mandingo warrior, that was so over-the-top --

AT: And sensationalized. That movie is on a totally different planet.

CR: But part of "Django" is on this planet. I think maybe he was having a conversation with movie geeks rather than the real culture, which made me uncomfortable.

AT: But all the actors are really good. I really like this movie. It's a question of whether it could've been better if he had had more time and trimmed some stuff that didn't work. Maybe the music could've been less intrusive. But I have to say that there was an Academy screening recently where it reportedly played really well. At this stage of the Oscar season, apparently, people are so tired of all these grim movies. They found the movie really enjoyable. What we've seen so far are the online fan reviews. This is a pattern now where you read the early online stuff and in the trades first; then the longer and often more thought-out reviews come out closer to the release.

It's difficult to determine the movie's audience since Tarantino seemingly makes movies first and foremost for himself. Is that a valuable motive?

AT: Absolutely. The industry values and envies Tarantino for having the freedom that he has. He has maintained a consistent output that any filmmaker would envy.

CR: I value auteurs and directorial vision, but there's a point where it gets too meta for me where it's like having a conversation with the past for the initiated. I don't think that's a good strategy for inviting people in. I saw "Django" with critics and tastemakers in Philadelphia. It was about 50-50 black-white, racially. There were probably people there who had never seen a Tarantino movie before who didn't get a lot of the references. I was asked when I was walking out, "What did this mean? What did that mean?" This wasn't a Hollywood screening. These were civilians and they weren't getting the references. That's not something I'd write about because I don't review audiences, but it's a potential barrier.
Quentin Tarantino at the Austin Studios for the 10th Texas Film Hall of Fame gala this past March. Eugene Hernandez/IW

AT: On the other hand, black audiences will be thrilled by Jamie Foxx's empowerment and how he comes into his own as an action hero, which is very gratifying as a story trope in this movie.

They might be just as frustrated by white English-language actors playing French people in "Les Miz."

AT: And they're mostly Australians. (laughs) That's where the real men are.  By the way, that's going to be a big hit. I have questioned from the beginning the idea of opening "Django" during the holidays. It just doesn't feel right to me at all.

CR: Well, as you say, they're both feel-bad movies.

AT: "Les Miz" is cathartic in that it's beautiful.

CR: I suppose "Django" is, too, in that it wipes the races off the screen so that the character and his wife can be a couple in a post-Lincoln world. In fact, I think the more apt comparison to "Django" is "Lincoln." Yes, it's Christmas and these are the two Christmas movies, but most people aren't current on what just opened. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are further up my readers' lists. I'm in the fourth-largest city in America and there aren't as many movie geeks per capita here.
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13 Comments

  • reston | December 31, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    Great discussion

  • fred | December 29, 2012 8:50 PMReply

    This movie brinfgs an important message about ourselves. The review compliments it

  • Goodvibe61 | December 29, 2012 5:32 PMReply

    Further more:

    "CR" says, " I saw the movie with critics and tastemakers", and then goes on to say "there were probably people there who had never seen a Tarantino movie before".

    Really? What kind of critics are we talking about here? Evidently ones who don't care much about their work. It's like saying, "I got my degree in 20th Century American Literature, and who are these Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner guys?".

    I don't buy any of it for a second.

    I didn't go see the film with "critics and tastemakers". I saw the film with John Q. Public. And yet, I didn't here a single person on the way out of the screening asking others, "what about this reference? I didn't get it". The audience was completely riveted for 2 3/4 hours, and by the way, the scenes at Candieland, particularly the scenes that ratchet up the tension, carried a feeling of electricity in the theater, you could hear a pin drop in the theater, people on the edge of their seats. The whole concept of Tarantino's films not having anything at risk, that he makes "meta" films that "aren't about anything" is the biggest cop out I consistently see. The characters carry as much if not more weight than the movies of almost any other filmmaker, creating characters that have stood the test of time in popular culture. More people remember Mr. Pink, or Jules Winfield, or Jackie Brown, or The Bride, or Hans Landa, then remember other director's characters. Don't waste your readers time with either out and out B.S. or lazy theory.

  • goodvibe61 | December 29, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    What references are specifically being discussed here? I've seen the movie twice now. I simply cannot imagine what is being said, that people walked out of the theater saying they didn't get the references.

    This is just some made up stuff by somebody who has a preconception of not liking the film.

    I've asked my entire family, "you've gone to see this movie. What part of any of it do you walk out saying, I don't get the refences".

    This is absolute garbage.

  • terence | December 27, 2012 11:40 AMReply

    After watching the movie (twice). I agree with the reviewers. QT manages to mix graphically 1- a horrible fact of our history (the first scene) 2 A mythology that allows the oppressed to punish the oppressors (rest of the film), and 3 Some dark humor to express the moral absurdity of slavery. I believe the reviewer got it right. as black parent of teenage boys we need black heroes

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  • jake | December 26, 2012 1:35 PMReply

    Worst analysis ever. Agreed with all comments already posted. You guys can do better than this..

  • BLOB | December 26, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    This whole article is a head scratcher. Django is a snuff film? Zero Dark Thirty is fascinating? I suppose it is if you enjoy your movies to be devoid of any personality whatsoever. ZDT is nothing but an overly simplified cliff notes version on the hunt for Bin Laden. Thorough it is not. However, to its credit it does continue the well-worn tradition of movies people enjoy in order to feel smarter than they actually are. You're in good company Ann and Carrie!

  • BLOB | December 26, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    This whole article is a head scratcher. Django is a snuff film? Zero Dark Thirty is fascinating? I suppose it is if you enjoy your movies to be devoid of any personality whatsoever. ZDT is nothing but an overly simplified cliff notes version on the hunt for Bin Laden. Thorough it is not. However, to its credit it does continue the well-worn tradition of movies people enjoy in order to feel smarter than they actually are. You're in good company Ann and Carrie!

  • Forrest Cardamenis | December 27, 2012 4:01 AM

    Nothing in the world is more ironic than someone saying people like ZDT because it makes them feel smart if that person is obviously a Tarantino fan and probably worships Pulp Fiction, a film that is presented out of order for the sole purpose of appearing smart despite having no subtext whatsoever (just like the rest of QT's filmography!)

    Anyway, more to Anne: You said a lot of men aren't taken with Zero Dark Thirty being a female-led procedural? Maybe it's a different circles thing, or because I consider myself to be acutely aware of and advocating for feminism in film despite being male, but I haven't noticed men not taking well to Maya. I'm working on a piece about ZDT regarding both the torture argument and, more generally, ZDT's depiction of this era where American Exceptionalism sort of comes to an end, where the country loses its moral compass and is stuck so far in the past that they can't even accept the idea of a woman being good at this kind of a job and picking work over family, and in the end it's sort of the realization of the enormous sacrifice that Americans, women especially, have made in the name of security. It's a very, very complex film, perhaps the only artwork thus far to really capture post-9/11 life in the way it has changed the position and outlook of America within the world. The only thing that really comes close is Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was actually leaked before 9/11 but took on eerie new meaning in the wake of the tragedy.

    Anyway, loved this conversation, though I did not like either Les Mis or Django (didn't hate them either).

  • spassky | December 26, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    As a film lover and Philadelphian, I have to voice my extreme displeasure in Indiewire having included Carrie Rickey in this discussion. Her writing is consistently subpar and her critical approach to films is fundamentally flawed.