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January 09, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-09

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 5A

"We're here for the Bear Jew and the Little Man.
'Unchained thrills

Tarantino brings
blood, style to
spaghetti western
Daily B-Side Editor
A tableful of professional crim-
inals discussing Madonna's "Like
a Virgin." Two jaded hitmen
debating the A+
sexual insinua-
tions associated Django
with a casual Unchained
foot massage. A
ruthlessly cun- At Quality 16
ning SS offi- and Rave
cer comparing Weinstein
the survival W 'se
instincts of the
Jewish people to those of a rat -
all the while puffing away on an
oversized tobacco pipe. It really is
the little things that make a Quen-
tin Tarantino movie special.
Little things and violence -
pulpy, whimsical, hilarious vio-
And if you've seen Taranti-
no's latest masterpiece "Django
Unchained," you'll know there's
just something inexpressibly
special about watching a woman
fly 10 feet in the wrong direction
after taking a single bullet from
an old-fashioned six-shooter.
Over the last two decades, it's this
quirky take on violence, almost
comic book-like in its exaggera-
tion, that has allowed the world's
most knowledgeable director to
use buckets of pasty faux blood to
mold a genre of his own.
A genre in which the extrava-
gant displays of ferocity are
skillfully framed by beautiful,
self-referential lines of dialogue
and light-hearted contexts to
pay homage to the most forgot-
ten corners of B-movie history.
"Django" is an undeniable prod-

uct of this genre. In so many
words, it is Tarantino's love let-
ter to the classic Sergio Corbucci
spaghetti western, featuring the
same recognizable Southern set-
ting and the same stereotypical
N-word-spewing, gun-slinging
Southern folk.
But there's a catch.
The two main characters, as
can be expected.of any Tarantino
production, are written specifi-
cally to stick out of this osten-
sibly well-trodden background.
The first is Dr. King Schultz
(Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious
Basterds"), a bounty hunter hired
by the national government to dis-
patch known criminals and sell
their corpses for sizable rewards.
Naturally, he's also a German ex-
dentist with perfectly manicured
fingernails and a soft spot for
On a routine mission to locate
and execute three ex-cons, our
smooth-talking European friend
needs the help of a recently sold
slave to identify his three targets.
Enter "D-J-A-N-G-O ... the D is
silent" (Jamie Foxx, "Collateral"),
Tarantino's take on those 19th-
century cowboys found in early
Clint Eastwood westerns. Except,
of course, this cowboy is black,
and represents the hand of bloody
African-American revenge, much
in the same way the Basterds sym-
bolized a collective Jewish ven-
geance in "Inglourious Basterds."
Django is later freed by Schul-
tz, who helps transform him into
the "fastest gun in the south,"
finally agreeing to assist in locat-
ing and freeing his enslaved wife,
Broomhilda (Kerry Washington,
"The Last King of Scotland").
Unlike most other Tarantino
films, "Django" does not feature
many strong female characters.
Disappointingly, Broomhilda
is really nothing more than a
damsel in distress, visions of her
pretty face and simple demeanor

frequently appearing on screen
to beckon our hero forward,
towards old Mississippi's version
of hell on earth.
In this hell, the devil's throne
is occupied by Calvin Candie,
played by Leonardo DiCaprio
("Inception") as a perfect rep-
resentation of vicious white
bigotry, served with a side of
loquacious southern hospitality.
The right-hand man is the head
house slave, brought to life in
scene-stealing fashion by Samuel
L. Jackson ("Pulp Fiction"), who
quickly comes to represent the
mental manacles of slavery that
Django has to overcome on his
path to liberation.
Like in any good western,
when the good meets the bad,
things go boom. But it's clear Tar-
antino is going for something a
lot more ambitious with this film.
Yes, he's still that kid working at
the video store, waxing lyrical
about the movies he finds genu-
inely entertaining, but he's no
longer just concerned about mak--
ing obscure pop references and
getting that occasional knowing'
chuckle out of audience members.
Tarantino, now having made
eight feature-length films, has,
grown as a writer and director.
In "Django," the scenes of vehe-
ment retribution are aplenty and
all wholly satisfying. Butthe truly
memorable ones feature a form of
writing that puts on full, ugly dis-
play the saddening excuses igno-
rant men hid behind to justify
The scenes of Django riding
desperately towards his wife, his
last chance at something nor-
mal dwindling in front of him as
flecks of dust ripple off the tat-
tered rags around his shoulders,
make you want to stand up and
applaud. And when the credits
roll, the applause comes. Finally,
for once, it's not just for the little

"No, ! don't think theresa huftet at the Lonely Mountain.
'Hobbit' paints Ml e
Earth, fals8 to'-excite

Daily Film Editor
Conceived in New Zealand's
sweeping country, our generation
was introduced to a live-action
Middle ' Earth
with the 2001 B
release of "The
Lord of the The
Rings" trilogy. Hobbit:An
Middle Earth
taught us that Unexpected
we could be as JoUrney
kind, wise and
brave as we At Qualityl6
wanted to be. It and Rave
taught us there Warner Bros
were worlds
beyond ours, for
us to create. Today, "The Lord of
the Rings" is a movie memory for
the ages. And nowwe're to return.
With the release of "The Hobbit:
An Unexpected Journey," direc-
tor Peter Jackson is taking audi-
ences back to the birthplace of
millennial film fantasy - Middle
Good luck, bro.
Blame it on the source material
or poor screen adaptation, "The
Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
is often a meandering adventure
lacking any sense of urgency, but
stirrnpped by strong performanc-
es and gorgeous visuals, it almost
manages to meet the insurmount-
able expectations.
Jackson's latest begins with
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman,
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits")
living happily and uneventfully

in the S
len, "X-
ture. TI
of thic
up at h
stores a
them o
their fa
some d
ple of e
does "'
story a
the Ri
matic s
short c
ogy. No
other it
pace is
full of

hire, until along comes the never looked better. The high
some Gandalf (Ian McKel- frame rate, filmed in 3-D, makes
Men") in need of an adven- the landscape more expansive,
hat very night, a fellowship more vivid, more real. Armies
k-bearded dwarves shows clash, trolls bellow, waterfalls
is doorstep, raids his food glisten - Middle Earth/New Zea-
nd asks him to accompany land breathes. And speaking of
n a quest to help reclaim groundbreaking visuals, Gollum
llen kingdom from a fear- (Andy Serkis, "Rise of the Planet
ragon. of the Apes"), in all his pallid
t follows is a drab exam- boniness, is worth the trip back to
pic storytelling. Not only Middle Earth alone. His wretched
The Hobbit" bear uncom- entrance garnered applause and
e resemblances to the laughter from the whole theater.
rc of "The Fellowship of Serkis wasn't alone in deliv-
ing," much-needed dra- ering an expectedly great per-
team was lost due to the formance. As always, McKellen,
n to make J.R.R. Tolkien's ancient and haggard, is spritely
hildren's novel into a tril- and infinitely wise. Freeman cre-
'w, what we have are three ates the "youthful" Bilbo Baggins
of long encounters with we've always imagined - fussy
elves, stone giants and and homely as an old man, but
, unable to build on each amicable. Like all good heroes,
n any meaningful way. The he can still surprise us with great
slack, dull and fattened deeds of courage.
cumbersome mythology In "The Lord of the Rings,"
rt,: left as footnotes. Ulti- Jackson succeeded in telling
there's too much fluff, not a tale that enthralled us with
beard. adventure, but also made us
feel how very much his hobbits
yearned for home. In "The Hob-
ivid visuals bit," the unexpected party of
dwarves that arrived at Bilbo's
elie lack of doorstep aches for that sense
of belonging. You can hear it in
nthralling their fireside singing. You hope
that after all the fighting they do
story. find home. Jackson may falter
more than he enthralls, but "The
Hobbit," in some small sense,
contains some of that same magic
in that winding journey that marshaled a horde of fan-
hing, Middle Earth has boys 11 years ago.


to not

Follow @michdailyarts

Christmas specials fail

when holiday season closes PoicyTalks

Daily Fine Arts Editor
This holiday season, I did
something that I have never done
before: I watched "Frosty the
Snowman" afterDec 25. In fact, it
was the 27. My father had already
begun to dismantle our tree, and
I was looking ahead to my plans
for New Year's Eve. But I noticed
the special on our DVR and I've
watched it every other year of my
life so I figured, heck, why not?
I have to tell you, it's not good.
I can confidently say that it's
a bad half-hour of television.
Nothing happens, really, except
a bunch of kids take a hat that
isn't theirs, a girl gets cold and
then Jimmy Durante sings over
the credits.
That's when it hit me: Every
Christmas special, ever, is awful.
What baffles me is that I
never realized it until now. It
never occurred to me that those
specials could ever be considered
not good until I came across one
out of its element. I've always
watched them in a context of
Christmas cheer, holiday spirit
and Yuletide blah blah blah,
which always had me assuming
that each of them met the quality
standards that dictate my tele-
vision-viewing decisions during

the oth
Now I
quite p
find. T
that stc
kid tha
him un
movie i
ten to t
level, I
bad, bu
able. fB
a ratio

er 11 months of the year. unearth, and I search for each
look back on all of those year like a Christmas spirit crack
movies that have such addict going through withdraw-
ental value for me with a al. I like these crappy holiday
ng grimace. specials because I grew up with
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed them, but if I met them at a party,
er," for example. That well, I don't think I would call
'ng Christmas special is them the next day.
'ossibly the worst combi- But now I can't tell what's
of low-quality stop motion good and what's not. Is every
ion and writing you can Christmas movie just terrible?
hey really emphasize the Each year I watch "It's a Won-
ness of the characters in derful Life" and each year, as I
try, too: Let's pick on this grow up and its message becomes
t's different and exclude more relevant, I cry a little bit
til he becomes useful to us more. Seriously: real grown-up
sly, the Santa Claus in that tears. This reaction can't possi-
s a real asshole). It has got- bly be rooted in the nostalgia of
he point that, on a rational past Christmases, right? It also
should stop watching the doesn't hurt that the film is well-
s because they're not only written, not poorly animated
it also potentially unenjoy- and has strong performances
ut we aren't dealing with throughout (that Jimmy Stewart
nal monster here; we're is quite an actor).
with Christmas. I am usually a very picky TV
viewer, meaning that I enjoy
programming that is extreme-
dolph sucks ly intelligent edgy and well-
executed - as cocky as that
may sound. Christmas movies,
J r though, are very often none of
these things because they are so
rooted in tradition and nostalgia.
nt think I'm watching But I think these are the values
pecials for the entertain- you can prioritize around the
alue they try to offer any- holiday season, even if it is just
rut for the memories they for a short time.


I do
these s
ment v,
ways, b



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