I hardly EVER watch the Academy Awards, now officially "The Oscars", in its entiretity and last night was no exception. Too long, too self-endulging to such a small community of already wealthy and popular people, it's not really my scene. I also don't really like to see a movie after everyone else tells me that I should.
Fortunately for me, I went to see Django Unchained yesterday afternoon before the Oscars and I really am glad that I did. Really glad.
Big names (Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington & Samuel L. Jackson) plus Tarantino blew up the big screen - fantastic soundtrack too!
So much hype about the "n" word (used in this film 110 times), I really wanted to see it. For those Harry Potter fans out there, it's kind of like "He who shall not be named" though everyone knows what the word is (future post coming) but are afraid of saying it or hearing it uttered around 'the wrong people'. Surprisingly, the word seemed to me to be within the historical context of the movie and while I don't think that anyone ought to be using the word, it made sense in this movie. After reading a couple of reviews before seeing the film, I thought that I would be angry at all of the actors for liberally using the "n" word, but I found myself more disturbed and upset by other things.
- The betrayal amongst black men. (Samuel L. Jackson/Stephen - shame on you!)
- The rant by DiCaprio's character, Mr. Candie, about creativity and the black man's skull/brain.
- The violence. I mean, I knew it was a Tarantino movie, but I had to cover my eyes for quite a bit of the bloodshed. I don't get his need to show all of that.
The fear, the ignorance feed into and the pride that keeps us perpetuating strife, distance and disunity, that's on all of us with skin. He totally disarmed me and stripped away the thoughts and feelings that I had planned to view this movie with and replaced it with me just watching it as a person. A woman interested in the buzz and wanting to blog about it. A woman who wanted to know if the film would prompt more of a sense of black pride in the overcoming of my ancestors or would be taken over by the anger that slavery is to evoke in all black people. It's supposed to do that right?
You could go into the film tense and prepared to focus on the power of the white man and the inferiority of the black man, at least that's what I was prepared to do. I'm telling you though, there were enough scenes throughout the film to encourage my disposal of this way of thinking. Let's just say that the film does not show anyone in a really great light (black, white, woman, man, foreign, northern, southern, all characters were with their flaws and contribution to the crazy). The uneducated, backwoods, white man, whew - there were times where I wished that there were subtitles for a couple of the scenes...speak English son. Speaking of talking, Jamie Foxx was to me more believable as Django Unchained than as a bound slave. Could be because most of the film was with him doing his thang and getting revenge as a freedman (well sort of, I mean he was originally bought by somebody from somebody else...anyhoo), but his 'accent' tripped me up throughout the film. There were times throughout the film when I was sure that he'd forgotten he was supposed to be learning to read and was fairly uneducated in the ways of the world and perhaps thought that he was Jamie Foxx hanging out, being told to look tough and shooting folks - a lot of folks. Give me a shout out if you hear what I'm sayin'...
Painful as some of the scenes were (Kerry Washington's character/Broomhilda von Schaft in the hotbox for running away, treatment of runaway slaves and dogs, etc.), I couldn't help but think about how much my Jesus had to go through leading up to and on the cross for me. There were moments in the film that actually made me consider the sacrifice He made to free me from my life of sin and the correlation to the enslavement of black people. It was like watching parallel films/stories; this one and the Passion of the Christ. The beatings, the torture - epic battles. A powerful connection for me, especially when about halfway through the film, I began beaming in the dark theatre because I realized that this was a love story. A man going after his woman and going through anything to get her. Swoon. It's the same as the love of Jesus for you and me. It really, really is.
Though I don't think it was Tarantino's intention to make that particular connection, it has stuck with me. And while this film is not for kids, it is worth the viewing of adults who feel they can handle it and discuss the film on many levels. Having the conversations about the treatment of slaves by their owners or how they treated one another, but also talking about the history of our country, the individual responsibility we all have towards one another - especially as black folks - are we being honest about our care and concern for one another. Hard to recover and move forward, to be free when we are still talking and acting like we're not. See my post about the movie, "Desert Bayou".
I went to see Django Unchained by myself. I will not say that I felt more or less black when watching it, though I did count the number of other black folks in the theatre (five including me) and did feel more justified to laugh at certain parts of the film than others; still trying to figure out why. I can imagine that some folks get a little nervous when they consider the possibility of this film being reality: a black slave free killing white men for money - and being good at it too. Black man loose. Is this what we carry around with us but don't really talk about? Is this a part of the belief and mindset about one another that we hold close to us and allow to determine how we respond to and treat one another and to believe about ourselves?
I did not walk out of the theatre feeling more of a personal responsibility towards others than when I walked in - I'm already bound by the love of Christ and the scriptures that talk about 'loving one another', but I was entertained by the story and intrigued to learn more about black history and slavery in America. (This story takes place two years before the Civil War begins.) I was not embarrassed about being black but absolutely am embarrassed about my knowledge of black history, it is shameful. Maybe as I learn more, it will mean more to me and shape me more than it does now.
Great movie! I applaud Quentin Tarantino for telling this story but wonder why a black man didn't do it. And how different it would've been. There was an interview with Spike Lee about the film - which he refuses to see. Not that Lee is going to call me up and ask me what I think, but wouldn't it have made more sense for him or another black man to step and tell that story? Our story? I'm always watching movies and wondering how it would be different if told from a black person's perspective.
Still black on the outside after seeing the film - I checked - I'm encouraging everyone I know (that is an adult and I think might enjoy it) to consider seeing it; I want to talk about it with lots of people. Let's talk about whether there was a need for this film, what that need was, if any, and how it might possibly bring about change in the way we view movies and its influence in our society's interactions with each other. Let's talk about "how far we've come" from the cruelties and division and assess it.
No name calling. Besides, the "D is silent."