Monday, January 7, 2013

Just Awesome Cinema: Django Unchained

Before I plunge into my adoration of the taboo film "Django Unchained", I have somewhat a confession to make: I've always wanted a Catcher Freeman action figure. Basically, he was the legendary ancestor of the Freemans of "The Boondocks" series, a mythical former African-American slave that battles slavehunters in particular, and slavery in general, and was able to bounce bullets off of his manacles. The third season episode he appears is easily my favorite, because as a lover of storytelling and its manifestations in folklore, mythology, and now novels and films...and as an African-American myself, I loved the idea of basically a former slave, attributed with some sort of superhuman aura, battling against the racial institution that had conquered my ancestors.

In "Django Unchained", Calvin Candie(Leonardo Dicapro), in a tension-filled monologue, wonders why an old slave that served his father and grandfather before him never slit his throat while giving either a shave with a straight-razor. Of course, in real life, the answers are numerous, possibly infinite...besides the horrifying retribution his or her owners would visit upon not only the perpetrator but possibly his innocent fellow enslaved, there is also the idea of being thrown into a world without education, acceptance, or knowledge. But I also mention the monologue because from the first mention of this movie months ago, a question similar to Candie came across my mind: why aren't there any more "mythical" African-American Ante-bellum heroes like Catcher Freeman and Django?

It grits my gears to hear prominant black men like Spike Lee hate on the film because of the usage of "nigger" or the subject matter, one of the many dark stains on America's history. Yes, American slavery of Africans was terrible, and even to this day, we are still fighting for basic rights and acceptance. But acting as if the subject itself should be held to some bizarre golden standard, where it cannot be explored in any depth without being extremely sacred, is ludicrous. If Mr. Lee would have come down from his high horse and actually WATCHED the film, he would had realized that the subject matter of slavery was definately not parodied or supported in any way. Mr. Tarentino laid the horror down, raw and naked for all the world to see. He also showed how illogical and bizarre racism is.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

"Django Unchained" wears its genre homages, a Tarentino trademark, proudly, while in mu humble opinion, presenting a new black legend to its audiences. A blending of spagetti western and blaxploitation, the story is about the hero's journey of slave Django(Jamie Foxx) from his purchase and subsequent freedom provided by the German Dr. King Shultz(Christopher Waltz) to becoming "The Fastest Gun In The South" in his quest to locate and rescue his wife, Broomhilda(Kerry Washington) from the clutches of Calvin Candie, plantation owner of Candieland and his sycophantic second-in-command, house slave Stephen(Samuel .L. Jackson).

The movies spares no punches when it comes to gore, and often whiplashes between black comedy and heartwretching drama. But it is also awesome to see the tropes of legend in play, brought to the forefront by Dr. Shultz's telling of the Germantic Brunhilda legend to Django; just like Siegfried, Django has to rescue his beloved from an unescapable place of sorts, and have to overcome many obstacles.

In the end, this movie gets an A+ from me. The story was awesome, the acting was spectacular, and while the subject of slavery is personal for me, it is balanced by a hero who battles and wins against it. I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy, for example, the Brittle Brothers getting their just deserts from Django, including a whipping dispensed by him to one of them...or the astounding fiery climax at Candieland.

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