House Logo
Explore categories +

Django Unchained (#110 of 35)

Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

Comments Comments (...)

Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino
Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

Aiming to confront “the racial frankness in [Quentin] Tarantino’s films and not the man himself,” Adilifu Nama’s new book offers close readings of the writer-director’s eight feature films (and additionally, True Romance) in order to unveil the complexities of racial interest and formation as they occur within the Tarantino oeuvre. Nama takes this charge as a corrective to critics like Armond White who view Tarantino’s films as “pop sleaze without the politics,” or Stanley Crouch, who’s compared Tarantino’s interest in race with novelist Ralph Ellison’s. Nama falls somewhere in the middle, wishing to lift the “hackneyed claims that Tarantino is a racist,” while stopping well short of hagiography, stating “at most [Tarantino’s films] serve as catalysts for discussions around black racial formation across the public sphere.” The latter assertion is well taken, since the totality of Race on the QT provides ample, perceptive examinations, but almost exclusively along narrative and character lines, with little attention paid to form or aesthetics, rendering several of these readings useful, but only up to a point.

Nama’s best insights come in the book’s first chapter with analyses of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, where clever approaches to dialogue and each film’s implicit critiques will make even the most ardent viewer want to revisit them. Nama is particularly on point with Reservoir Dogs, which he deems “a visual analogue of the type of hypermasculinity and extravagant violence rapped about on top of 1970s funk samples.” That is, Nama meticulously mines each of the film’s white characters’ racist views on blackness (of which there are plenty) and positions them in relation to Holdaway (Randy Brooks), the film’s sole black character, since he’s “a formidable tactician and the principle architect for bringing down [the] crime organization.” By recasting Reservoir Dogs as a “racial revenge narrative,” Nama acutely displays the film’s ties with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, films that utilize this kind of narrative far more explicitly. However, Nama’s discussion of these films proves largely unsatisfactory, since here he’s adamant and repetitive in his assertions that Inglourious Basterds is a “science-fiction fantasy” and Django Unchained a “Gothic horror film.” These categorical imperatives detract from Nama’s stated interests in reading for blackness.

Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Picture: Argo
Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Original Screenplay: Amour
Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln
Foreign Language: Amour
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Animated Feature Film: Wreck-It Ralph
Documentary Short: Open Heart
Animated Short: Head Over Heels
Live Action Short: Curfew
Film Editing: Argo
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Score: Life of Pi
Song: “Skyfall,” Skyfall
Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Picture

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Picture

Despite the hysteria, it may not be appropriate yet to call a time of death on the decades and decades’ worth of precedent that will be shattered when Argo wins Best Picture despite very conspicuously not being nominated for its director, not having even remotely close to the year’s highest nomination tally (it trails behind four other films), and not having even a halfway plausible shot at winning more than two other categories aside from this one. After all, there’s still one tradition working in the movie’s favor. It’s going to win the all-important Oscar for Best Editing, some would say for how exhilaratingly it crosscuts between a grim interrogation at a Mehrabad Airport checkpoint, Walter White barking out commands in D.C., and Alan Arkin and John Goodman being humorously cockblocked from answering their telephone by archetypal union (i.e. guild) workers, whereas others would say for how ruthlessly it edits out any historical perspective that doesn’t turn the Iranian populace into swarthy pod people.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Sound Editing

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

Subtlety isn’t a quality that dignifies the nominees in this category; typically, the film endowed with the most clanging, banging, and crashing suitable to shake your theater seat prevails. That probably rules out Django Unchained, which, despite its impressive range for bone-crunching and eye-gouging sound effects, doesn’t offer enough quantity of sound to count it as a legitimate contender. Also a long shot is Argo, whose sonic palette is distinguished by little outside the opening embassy raid scene and airport finale. Then there’s Zero Dark Thirty, which might gain some leverage from its handful of deafening explosions, courtesy of Paul N.J. Ottosson, who picked up both sound categories in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. Alas, Zero Dark Thirty is a more modest effort than The Hurt Locker in terms of sound and can probably be counted out of this year’s race, unless, that is, voters are feeling guilty about completely shutting out Kathryn Bigelow’s film.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Original Screenplay

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

More than in any of the other categories it’s nominated in, the unreal fall from grace suffered by Zero Dark Thirty will be particularly palpable when it inevitably loses here. Though few would deny that it represents this category’s most massive undertaking, and even some of the political blogosphere’s harshest critics still gave Mark Boal’s skill backhanded praise for what they deemed flagrant ethical persuasion, the 24-hour news cycle has plainly turned what was until the nomination announcements the presumptive frontrunner for the prize into, well, something like Peter Staley up against the Academy’s petrified bureaucracies, who are evidently ignoring the film and hoping it will all go away. The Academy’s skittish unwillingness to grapple with the film’s prickly but magnanimous examination of a political situation with no easy answers is going to go down as one of their all-time NAGLs, especially given the two-pronged love letter to God and country (Hollywood and the rest of the U.S., respectively) that’s poised to take Best Picture. But as far as this specific category goes, the controversy swirling around just how much input/propaganda the C.I.A. supplied Boal with may well have killed off its chances to win original screenplay even if the issue of whether his film obliquely or outright endorses “enhanced interrogation techniques” hadn’t already hit the dependably liberal AMPAS right in the balls. Either way, Boal won’t lose this one because his movie failed to discredit Americans’ monstrous thirst for vengeance. He’ll lose it because our current climate also thirsts for clean, unfettered catharsis, something Zero Dark Thirty responsibly elides.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Cinematography

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Cinematography
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

Just as we’d expect from the Academy, there’s no shortage of lushness on display in this year’s nominees for best cinematography, ranging from Seamus McGarvey’s dense visual palette for Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina to Roger Deakins’s colorful shadow plays for Skyfall. Both films boast stunning cinematographic depth and are brashly expressive enough to make them contenders, but Skyfall has the added benefit of Deakins’s Randy Newman-like winless streak as a potential story for voters to latch onto. On the other hand, Robert Richardson’s impeccable melding of naturalistic tones and the warmer oranges and reds of spaghetti westerns’ past for Django Unchained might not play as well with voters who lean toward less subtle visions.

Understanding Screenwriting #105: Django Unchained, Amour, Banjo on My Knee, & More

Comments Comments (...)

Understanding Screenwriting #105: <em>Django Unchained</em>, <em>Amour</em>, <em>Banjo on My Knee</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #105: <em>Django Unchained</em>, <em>Amour</em>, <em>Banjo on My Knee</em>, & More

Coming Up in This Column: Django Unchained, Amour, Banjo on my Knee, Life Begins at Eight-Thirty, Casablanca, Restless, but first…

Fan Mail: One note before you even ask. Yes, I have seen Zero Dark Thirty, but I am collecting information (not via torture, I assure you) about it from various sources that I want to have before I write about it. Rest assured it will dealt with in #106.

On the fan mail front, it was just another day at the office with David E. and me agreeing yet again on something, this time Tony Kushner. Yawn.

Django Unchained (2012. Written by Quentin Tarantino. 165 minutes.)

Lotsa stuff, including our ideas of history, blowed up real good: You may remember from US#32 that I liked Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) a lot. As I said in that column “Like many American screenwriters, who are after all part of the American storytelling tradition, he wants to tell a tale. And as much or more than any other American screenwriter, he wants to tell off-the-wall, wildly entertaining stories.” One thing I liked about Inglourious Basterds is that Tarantino was not just ripping off other movies. In his own freewheeling way, he was taking on history as much as other movies, and he was focusing on characters. He was also finally accepting the fact that violence can hurt people, not only those who are victims of it, but those who perpetrate it. All of those elements are back in Django Unchained, and in a year in which many big-budget movies played it as safe as they could, it is nice to see a movie that plays it anything but safe.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

All right, all right, all right. We should’ve known. As it turned out, Matthew McConaughey’s still supple ass cheeks in Magic Mike were no match for AMPAS’s preference for saggy old balls in this category. And not just old, but used balls. As was pointed out during this year’s overproduced nominations press conference, all five nominees have already won Oscars. And so in the absence of a swimsuit competition, the narrative this go around shifts onto the question of which person do Academy members feel most deserves another trophy, and which of them is the most overdue?