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December 28, 2012

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Eddie Carmel

Wow. Reading that ESQUIRE piece made me not just want to avoid DJANGO but also stay as far away as possible. (Well, that and QT's mostly idiotic interview with Henry Louis Gates where he calls John Ford not just a racist but also a evil person, though pointedly does not mention how he stole Ford's SEARCHERS shot for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.)

Asher

I think slant kind of said the same thing, but in a less absurd way:

" Unlike the mawkish liberal pandering of this year's other Civil War-era studio epic, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, at least Django Unchained's post-racial leap back into America's bifurcated past is overloaded enough be plausibly construed as complex. To this end, perhaps the most intriguing, constructive wrinkle in Tarantino's revisionist fabric is Steven..."

I didn't really see what was so pander-y about Lincoln, not that I was overwhelmed by it either.

michaelgloversmith

RIP Harry Carey, Jr. (who I hope didn't hear about Tarantino's Ford comments in his final days).

Jeff McMahon

I thought Lincoln was more about legislative politics than race, but what do I know.

Louis Godfrey

It's a silly argument a fool's errand to try to stack the two next to each other in terms of what they "say about slavery." I like Django quite a bit more than Glenn does, but defend it on its merits, not at the expensive of another film (which, I, ahem, still have not yet seen...).

Dan Coyle

I think the most amazing thing about this piece is it didn't appear at Breitbart first.

Noam Sane

Well who cares, Tarantino is a juvenile philistine who's not fit to smell the glove. I hear.

David Ehrenstein

I'ms surprised Quentin didn't cast Tyler Perry as "Broomhilda."

Shamus

Someone should tell QT that trying too hard to be outrageous is the surest sign of an asshole. And the only zombie here is the mindless, patently false "John Ford was a racist" accusation, which refuses to die.

Don R. Lewis

I can't believe the level of lip-service being given to one flippant OPINION shared by Tarantino. I'm not defending what he said (although I think it *might* bear some consideration, and also could add to the themes of Ford's work that changed as he got older, especially in terms of race...if he really was KKK *inclined*) but really, who cares? I like the fact someone said something unpopular and it's no reason to boycott DJANGO UNCHAINED.

george

QT thinks Ford was racist, but one of his favorite movies is "Mandingo," which seems to be the main inspiration for his new movie. I heard him on NPR yesterday denying that "Django Unchained" is an exploitation film, which seems laughable based on reviews I've read (I haven't seen it yet).

But with QT, you never know if he's being serious or if he's just trying to get attention by being outrageous.

David Ehrenstein

"Mandingo" is most definitely NOT a racist movie.

george

"Mandingo" may not be racist, but it most definitely IS an exploitation movie. Its goal was to titillate audiences with interracial sex, and inflame them with scenes of racial violence.

QT apparently got the idea of "mandingo fighting" from the 1975 movie. It didn't exist in the real Old South, according to a Slate article.

Michael Worrall

@George: Read Robin Wood's "Mandingo: The Vindication of an Abused Masterpiece" and go back and watch the film. You may find your claim of the film's "goal" to be a misreading.

Petey

Will someone please wake me up when the Two Minute Hate of Tarantino is finished...

Glenn Kenny

"Please wake me up when the Two Minute Hate of Tarantino is finished." Oh, please. I didn't like his movie, and was disappointed in it. His interview infelicities are irritation/disappointment bonus points, nothing more. But to huff and puff that he's being made into some kind of martyr is pure bullshit. He is, as the saying goes, a grown-ass man who knows what he's doing and saying. And his provocations, aside from their distortions, are just transparently pandering. he can butter up "Skip" Gates all he pleases, but, as Armond White or whoever writes his headlines for him rather aptly put it, he's "Still Not A Brother." Whatever pushback he gets, it was requested.

Although I haven't heard of a boycott, which I wouldn't personally endorse if I had. Although it would be funny to see whether a boycott of "Django" on behalf of outraged John Ford fans would cost the movie one or two thousand dollars worth of box office receipts.

Petey

"Oh, please. I didn't like his movie, and was disappointed in it."

I had better feelings about the movie than you did, but I've got no quarrel with your take. I just find the whole crowd shifting into Two Minute Hate mode to be more than a bit tiresome and misguided. I'm not trying to make him a martyr, but he ain't suddenly Satan either.

"...but, as Armond White..."

I rest my case.

Don R. Lewis

"Although it would be funny to see whether a boycott of "Django" on behalf of outraged John Ford fans would cost the movie one or two thousand dollars worth of box office receipts."

Well played!

And Glenn, I do agree with much of your review and your comments about QT's media management skills, but I was more addressing the fact that all these John Ford fans are outraged by a (possibly) fair claim about a true masters personal life. I mean, Elia Kazan and Roman Polanski deal/dealt with the choices they made in real life, why does Ford get a pass? Or is QT full of shit? Or is Ford a reflection of his times and upbringing? Does it matter? I just like that Tarantino expressed an unpopular opinion rather than sticking with the same ole same ole. Ironically, spike Lee is catching grief for boycotting DJANGO so....around and around we go.

Also- I apologize in advance for invoking Polanski's name, please people....let's not to that argument here. I beg you!

Glenn Kenny

Don, point taken. I'll just say that while it's pretty plain that Ford was a pretty ornery son of a bitch in real-life and that it is entirely probable that said orneryness took a myriad of forms, in terms of anecdotal evidence, the scales tend to tilt more in favor of anti-racist than racist. Then there are the films themselves. Even in something like "Stagecoach," which is the most blatant in its portrayal of American Indians as faceless marauding Others, there's more sensitivity and craftiness in the acknowledgement of the slippery terrains of race relations than in almost any other Westerns of the time, as in the stuff with the innkeeper at Apache Wells. Some insist that the characterizations here are wholly negative, but the brinksmanship on display and the tone in which it's conveyed suggest, at least to this viewer, that it's not the participants who are perverse, but the situation in which they exist. Similarly, in a picture such as "Fort Apache," a completely avoidable conflict is brought to a tragic end because of a martinet white commander hell-bent on achieving something like manifest destiny, and so on. Again, all of this is arguable, but it strongly suggests that saying "John Ford put on a Klan hood for D.W. Griffith and he rode...he rode HARD" and being done with it is something like an oversimplification. To say the least.

george

Tarantino does make one valid point in the Gates interview, about the horrific racism of Thomas Dixon's novels. As racist as "Birth of a Nation" is, Dixon's novels "The Clansman" and "The Leopard's Spots" are even more appalling.

And these were national best-sellers -- which means it wasn't just white Southerners who bought them -- and they inspired the first blockbuster movie. This was the country that John Ford grew up in.

george

My main problem with QT, over the last decade, has been the repetitive nature of his work, the obsessive focus on violent retribution in all his films since "Kill Bill." He does the "Death Wish"/"Dirty Harry" trick of creating villains so loathsome and irredeemable, the audience will cheer for any brutality the hero inflicts on them.

He creates straw men to be knocked down. What can be more vile than a woman-hating serial killer (Kurt Russell in "Death-Proof"), a Jew-hating Nazi (Waltz in "Basterds") or a racist plantation owner (DiCaprio in "Django"). As critic David Edelstein said, QT's "morality" is very lazy. We're supposed to get off whenever a white slave-owner is blown away in some garish way.

jbryant

"Or is QT full of shit? Or is Ford a reflection of his times and upbringing? Does it matter?"

I'd say yes, yes and yes. Ford was one of the few golden age directors who actually dealt with race head on in some of his films, and his attitudes toward it clearly evolved and were often complex. QT's beloved Howard Hawks (whom I've often seen referred to as a racist and anti-Semite) rarely addressed the issue at all in his work, so I guess he's off the hook.

I saw DJANGO today, and liked it a lot. But QT's comments about Ford are either ill-informed or willfully ignore a significant portion of his work. The man was no Stanley Kramer (in more ways than one, thank God), but I don't think it's fair to paint him as an irredeemable racist because he wore Klan robes as a teenage extra in BIRTH OF A NATION andsome of his films have dated depictions of Native Americans. And did NONE of William Witney's many Westerns have similar depictions? Seems unlikely, but I haven't seen enough of them to know.

Petey

How often does one get a chance to have a relevant reason to pop in a Haysi Fantayzee reference?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSKuxVNBC34

george

http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/tarantinos_incoherent_three_hour_bloodbath/

Andrew O'Heir's hilarious takedown of the "incoherent three-hour bloodbath."

My favorite line: "Lately Tarantino appears to have drifted into the hipster equivalent of George Lucas-land, where everyone around him agrees with his dumb ideas and nobody dares to observe that the movies are fatally undisciplined and way too long and not really about anything."

D

1) On the errors and pandering of LINCOLN:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/171461/trouble-steven-spielbergs-lincoln

Additionally, the mise en scene includes several reverential gazes from black characters toward Lincoln. The film has no awareness of Lincoln's conflicted attitude toward blacks:
http://www.theroot.com/views/was-lincoln-racist?page=0,0

Also, when Thaddeus Stevens gets into bed with his common-law wife, the two-shot is narrowed down to a close-up on the white character, rendering superfluous the black character who had just shared the screen moments ago.

This simplistic exaltation of Lincoln against the fact of a historical record that is far more complex/conflicted is what causes LINCOLN to pander to its audience.

2) I admit that I have never been a Tarantino fan. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS was the first film of his for which I had any regard. I do find, however, that DJANGO UNCHAINED is a good film. DU avoids the overly fussy/insular feeling his movies have had for me. DU is expansive, providing a viewer space to respond. O’Hehir misses a precision in this film which I had experienced as over-determined and suffocating in QT’s earlier efforts, but I think he is wrong when he avers that Tarantino is just “pretending to raise these so-called questions.” Tarantino does raise the questions and they are anything but so-called.

Also, O’Hehir’s charge of incoherence does not seem right when he is able to lay out clearly how the film does cohere even if it does sprawl – I wonder if the coherence he asks for is actually a request for definitiveness -- http://criticallegalthinking.com/2012/02/20/is-history-a-coherent-story/

Glenn’s view that the film is unfocused seems to be one way to experience it, but to me the movie is episodic, not unfocused. By loosening the narrative reins, Tarantino achieves a relaxed coherence where the story he tells is one version offered in dialectic with earlier versions of the same history – and which (in opposition to his earlier films) allows space for a viewer to critique and then construct her own version in response. DU is not an art work that is sealed off from the world, but rather engages it – straddling the border of late modernism and postmodernism in a refreshing way. LINCOLN by contrast is modernist (in its reactionary manifestation), offering up hagiography to be hosannaed. Where DU visualizes how history was written/inflicted on black bodies, LINCOLN mostly keeps black bodies in shadow and off to the side, acknowledging them only to elide them.

Brian Dauth

Shamus

I like what jbryant has written about Ford and Hawks: according to one of Ford's biographers, no other Hollywood film-maker in the pre-war era ever raised such controversial subjects as race relations in their films, ever. By contrast, Ford filmed a scene in JUDGE PRIEST where Will Rogers's character averts a lynching and delivers a passionate protest - this was at a time the violence against African Americans was still horrifically great. The studio simply cut the scene from the film, so Ford later re-made the film for Republic solely for the sake for shooting that scene and including it in the final cut (although this was much later. But see also STEAMBOAT 'ROUND THE BEND, which has bizarrely cheerful scenes of an innocent (white) man being hanged while there is a carnival gathering nearby- but what Ford was referring to, obliquely, is quite unmistakable.) And his treatment of Native Americans, although hardly consistent, became quite respectful and sympathetic from the 50's onwards (cf. FORT APACHE, WAGON MASTER)- much more so than Tarantino's cartoons, anyway.

George, it might interest you that several critics, like Adrian Martin, (but I remember even Fuzzy Bastard bringing this up right here) have spotted the parallels between the narratives of increasingly violent retribution in Tarantino's films, and the narrative put forth by the Bush Administration to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even bad cartoons can be political.

george

Speaking of cartoons, the figure that Tarantino most reminds me of is comic-book creator Frank Miller. Miller's obsession with violent retribution started before Tarantino directed his first film. ("Sin City" began in 1991, a year before "Reservoir Dogs" was released.)

Miller seems to be Tarantino's current role model. No wonder QT wanted to direct a scene in the "Sin City" movie.

george

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBKj0W1JylU

In a better world, "Birth of a Nation" would be forgotten, and this much better film from 1915 would be better known.

Oliver_C

"Miller seems to be Tarantino's current role model."

Even from the heights of his first three features, Tarantino still has a great distance to fall before he matches fedora-fetishist Miller's aesthetic and ideological decline from libertarian Japanophile to NeoCon xenophobe.

Grant L

...who made "The Spirit."

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