Friday, January 04, 2013

"Django Unchained" Continues Hollywood's Sad, Shameful Legacy of Dealing With Slavery Era

By MARC McDONALD

The critical adulation that greets every new movie by Quentin Tarantino is a sad commentary on our culture. Tarantino is an overrated hack who does nothing more than rip off ideas from vastly superior directors from Europe and Asia. He then waters down these ideas and re-works them into movies that are infinitely inferior to the originals.

Tarantino is hailed as a "daring" and "radical" filmmaker, when in fact his slick, commercial movies are about as daring and radical as a cup of Starbucks coffee.

Django Unchained, the latest Tarantino film, is receiving universally rave reviews, as well as big box office numbers. It has also drawn controversy (which no doubt has boosted the film's box office---as controversy always helps shift product).

I haven't seen Django Unchained and I have no intention of doing so. So why do I already detest this movie and urge my fellow progressives to boycott the film?

It's because I believe that the American film industry really has no business making mere "entertainment" movies about the slavery era.

Hell, America has never even honestly confronted this horrific chapter in our history. In fact, we are still in many ways a racist society. (The incredibly vicious right-wing attacks on President Obama over the past few years merely confirm how racist a nation America is to this day). We can try to pretend we've moved beyond racism as a nation---but we're really just fooling ourselves.

I believe most African-Americans will understand what I'm talking about. But many (if not most) white people won't---which serves to prove my point.

Django Unchained has drawn outrage from a number of notable African-Americans, including director Spike Lee.

"American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western," Lee recently Tweeted. "It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them."

Lee was right. Slavery was a Holocaust. It was one of the greatest crimes in history.

Millions of Africans died during the years of slavery. And the slaves who didn't die suffered a fate that was actually worse than death.

They were locked up in chains. They were forced to work long grueling hours for no pay at the barrel of a gun. They were beaten. They were tortured. They were raped. They were bought and sold like cattle.

Slavery was a horrific crime against humanity. And it was a colossal crime that white America has never honestly confronted.

Germany killed six million Jews during World War II. But at least that nation has made an effort to try to atone at least a little bit for its crimes. Germany has paid billions of dollars in reparations over the decades. The country has also passed strict laws to try to ensure that the nation never forgets its crime. (For example, denial of the Holocaust is illegal in today's Germany).

But America has never atoned in any way for slavery. It has never paid reparations. Indeed, America continued to oppress African-Americans long after slavery ended. America brutally oppressed black people via Jim Crow laws, as well as lynchings, and it treated them like second class citizens for many decades. Black people couldn't even vote in the Deep South, all the way up until the 1960s.

Indeed, Jim Crow still exists in today's America in some ways. The huge numbers of largely low-income black men who are serving long, harsh punishments in prison for nickel-dime petty drug crimes is evidence of that.

What's particularly nauseating about today's America is that so many white people continue to be racist, but deny it.

You've met these people yourself. They include your right-wing brother-in-law who rails against "lazy blacks collecting welfare" while you're trying to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal. These are the people who bizarrely believe white people are somehow the victims of racism these days. They also believe that no black person was ever mistreated in America after 1865.

I know a number of these people. They all listen to Rush Limbaugh's racist spewings. And yet they deny that Rush is racist in any way. Indeed, these are people who privately and routinely use the "N" word (and then publicly declare that they're not racist).

I have nothing but contempt for such people. In fact, I actually have more respect for old-school bigots who were at least upfront about their racism. I'd actually prefer a racist who is at least honest enough to openly use the "N" word and express his hatred for black people. I'll take a bigot like that any day over a typical Limbaugh listener who carefully dances around the "N" word and then denies his racism.

Slavery was a horrific crime. It is not something that America should be using as a topic for mere entertainment in another of Tarantino's overrated films.

It's a sad commentary on just how abysmal the art of cinema is these days that a mediocrity like Tarantino gets the time of day.

And yet critics line up to kiss Tarantino's ass. They over-analyze and over-intellectualize his films. They read a great deal of Deep Meaning into his movies.

But Tarantino doesn't deserve such critical devotion.

For example, consider all the critical commentary and analysis that has been prompted by Tarantino's heavy usage of the "N" word in all of his movies.

Actually, there's no mystery to Tarantino's love of the "N" word. It's nothing more than a crutch to prop up his overrated, weak scripts. The fact is, the "F" word no longer packs a punch, because of over-usage. But the "N" word still does pack a punch. It's still "controversial."

Anyone who thinks there's any Deeper Meaning to Tarantino's heavy usage of the "N" word is kidding themselves.

Critics also constantly praise Tarantino for being a "daring" and "risk-taking" director. But this is nonsense. There is absolutely nothing daring and risk-taking about Tarantino. True risk-taking directors don't enjoy movies that have blockbuster worldwide box office of over $300 million (like Tarantino's last film, Inglourious Basterds did).

Speaking of Inglourious Basterds, that film revealed just how full of crap those who champion Tarantino as a risky, daring director are.

If Tarantino were really a brave director wanting to make a war movie, he would have tackled the Iraq War. That whole evil, rotten enterprise would have been a perfect target for any director who wanted to make an edgy, risky film.

In taking on the Iraq War, Tarantino could have poked a finger in the eye of the whole jingoistic Fox News/NeoCon crowd who cheered the nation into war and who ferociously attacked anyone who dared question their beloved Commander-in-Chief. (We saw a glimpse of the latter when the Dixie Chicks made what was actually a very mild criticism of George W. Bush and received an avalanche of NeoCon hatred and death threats as a result).

Yes, the Iraq War would have been a logical target for any U.S. film director who wanted to make an edgy, brave, risky statement.

So which war did Tarantino target in his movie? World War II.

Yawn.

Like there haven't already been enough films about World War II.

Of course, with Django Unchained, Tarantino is simply following in the footsteps of other Hollywood directors who have a shameful track record of films set in the slavery era.

After all, Hollywood has almost always been dishonest and cowardly when approaching the subject of slavery.

Take, for example, the very first Hollywood feature film ever made: D.W. Griffith's sad, shameful The Birth of a Nation. This was an outrageously racist film that depicted African American men as stupid and as extremely sexually aggressive towards white women. The film also glorified the Ku Klux Klan.

Hollywood's other big blockbuster set in the slavery era, Gone With the Wind, was hardly much better. This was a film that glamorized the old Deep South. Slaves were shown happily singing, laughing, dancing and enjoying a colorful agrarian lifestyle. It was a grotesque distortion of the realities of slavery.

In reducing the horrors of slavery to mere entertainment, Tarantino is carrying on a sad tradition for Hollywood (and indeed American society in general) in refusing to honestly confront America's own Holocaust. It would be impossible to imagine, say, Germany making a similar film about the Jewish Holocaust.

I can hear the Tarantino defenders already, though. "But it's just entertainment!" they'll say.

The problem is that slavery is simply too horrific a crime to be the topic of a movie made for mere entertainment (particularly coming from a white film director). White America has never honestly confronted this horrific crime.

If Hollywood is to ever properly tackle the slavery era, it needs to do so with a respectful, dignified Schindler's List type film (preferably made by an African-American director). What we don't need is an profane, cartoonish, overrated Tarantino ripoff of a Sergio Leone film.

35 comments:

Ted McLaughlin said...

Very well said! I can't find a single word I disagree with in this excellent post.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Ted, thanks for your kind words.

Courtney Isabelle said...

Excellent. Every point nailed!!!

Frank Moraes said...

Say what you will about D.W. Griffith, at least he got the trains to run on time! Wait. Forget that.

I think there is an important difference between Griffith and Tarantino. Griffith actually believed what he put in Birth of a Nation. He was sadly addled on that point, but he intended to tell the truth.

Tarantino is the ultimate in modern artistry: a nihilist. His films remind me of Capote. Neither men really believed in anything outside of the art that they practiced. (Capote, however, was a great writer; I don't think that Tarantino is a great filmmaker.)

I've given up trying to watch Tarantino's films. I got perhaps 10 minutes into Inglourious Basterds and I could take no more.

One of the biggest problems is his theft from other films. This goes far beyond homage or allusion. At one time it was fun: like a game of "name that reference!" But if you remove everything he stole from other films, I'm not sure you're left with much.

To put Django into perspective, however: maybe it does less harm than Spielberg's Lincoln. No one is going to mistake Django for real history, but Lincoln has problems that are potentially more serious. (It was still quite good.)

Finally, note that the two recent Hollywood films to get all this critical attention--Django and Zero Dark Thirty--both apparently have major ethical problems. I haven't seen either, but I've covered the controversy of Zero closely. This is what disturbs me. America really seems to be slipping into a social darwinist dystopia where might makes right. I write about this every time I am forced to see a Hollywood blockbuster like The Expendables 2.

But: the French comedy Romantics Anonymous is delightful and must be seen! (I am pushing it on everyone.)

Anonymous said...

Fuck you Ted and fuck you Marc

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Courtney, thanks for your kind words.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Frank, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>But if you remove everything he
>>stole from other films, I'm not
>>sure you're left with much.

I agree. And that's a big problem I have with Tarantino. It's not so much that he steals from other, superior talents. After all, every filmmaker steals here and there. Tarantino's problem is that he doesn't really add anything worthwhile of his own to the mix. That's why his films are vastly inferior to the original films he steals from.

Sergio Corbucci's 1966 film, "Django" (which Tarantino has cited as an influence) is so vastly superior to Tarantino's work that I can't imagine why anyone would bother watching wasting their time with Tarantino's films after watching the original.

A true talent like Chaplin ripped off elements from the French film, "À Nous la Liberté" with his "Modern Times." But Chaplin's work added enough originality to where his film could stand on its own as a masterpiece.

re:
>>To put Django into perspective, however: maybe it does less harm than Spielberg's Lincoln

Great point. In fact, I am thinking of doing a piece on this issue.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon, thanks for your intelligent comment. You're a Republican, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Hi Marc, I COUDNT AGREE MORE WITH YOU, THANK YOU, its really nauseating when you see everywhere the poster of django unch..from this crappy director, didnt people know or watch the original one from 1966 that is unforgetable?! but I think the problem lies more deeply, it has to do with greediness in people - in search of always new/or something else its consumerism that brings these awful faces to the screen and media like this tarant-SHIT, for myself I have a couple of films on my videolibrary like books that I have no intention to replace them or check for new versions, why would I do that, I am happy with what I've got nothing more STOP, its stupid. thank you again for your article, I was digging the net and you made the point, THANK YOU. english is not my first language.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Anon, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>THANK YOU. english is not my
>>first language.

Where are you from? I'm just curious.

BekkaPoo said...

Totally agree with your post.. why is it that America is so afraid of dealing with its past?

Also, the 'not-racist' racists are all around us.. but they are not as sneaky as they think they are. They obviously are having cognitive dissonance if they are more comfortable about lying & claiming to be something they are not, rather than admitting what they really are about. But they don't want to admit a thing..just because they lie to themselves doesn't mean others can't see through their BS.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>why is it that America is so
>>afraid of dealing with its past

I think its really the Rich & Powerful in America that want this nation to ignore its past.
As a result, most ordinary Americans are hopelessly in the dark about U.S. history.
Take a book like "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn. This magnificent book offers one of the most honest accounts of U.S. history ever put to paper. And yet, I'd suspect fewer than one percent of Americans have ever even heard of 99 percent of what Zinn writes about.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

There actually is a very direct and unflinching picture made about American slavery (made in Italy) called 'Goodbye, Uncle Tom'. This movie presents a very frank and explicit look at the slave trade and includes details I never got in my high-school history class (and we covered some pretty brutal things).

Sadly, the movie does make one fatal mistake; it forgot that for anything with blood and brutality in it to be taken seriously as a "real" piece of cinematic art, it has to have been made by someone with the name Quentin Tarantino. GBUT is not, and it is therefore a tasteless piece of garbage that crassly and carelessly exploits a dark time in American history for the sake of turning a profit. If only the director had the foresight to make sure that his initials were QT before taking on this project so that it could have been "daring and bold!" rather than "cruel and crass!"

Oh well...

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

There actually is a very direct and unflinching picture made about American slavery (made in Italy) called 'Goodbye, Uncle Tom'. This movie presents a very frank and explicit look at the slave trade and includes details I never got in my high-school history class (and we covered some pretty brutal things).

Sadly, the movie does make one fatal mistake; it forgot that for anything with blood and brutality in it to be taken seriously as a "real" piece of cinematic art, it has to have been made by someone with the name Quentin Tarantino. GBUT is not, and it is therefore a tasteless piece of garbage that crassly and carelessly exploits a dark time in American history for the sake of turning a profit. If only the director had the foresight to make sure that his initials were QT before taking on this project so that it could have been "daring and bold!" rather than "cruel and crass!"

Oh well...

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for letting me know about that film, "Goodbye Uncle Tom." I hadn't heard of that film. But it does sound very intriguing. I will look for it.
It's interesting that it was made in Italy. I have my doubts that a truly honest film about slavery could ever be produced in America.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

You're welcome, Marc. The movies is accurate from what I can tell, but if you watch the movie for yourself and you find some liberties that were taken, feel free to point them out.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, will do.
You know, America has always been the first to point out the wrongs of other nations, while we gloss over our own crimes.
I recall a recent U.S. human rights report that condemned China's policies on suppressing organized labor. I laughed out loud when I read that----no modern developed nation has ever more ruthlessly suppressed unions than the U.S. has.
I also wonder why the U.S. has a Holocaust Museum, but there is no museum here about slavery. It'd be nice if we also had a museum that focused on the victims of the lynching era, as well as the Jim Crow era.
But I guess I'm dreaming. We're about as likely to see reparations for victims of slavery.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

"You know, America has always been the first to point out the wrongs of other nations, while we gloss over our own crimes."

Well, I wouldn't sell Japan short in that area, but I see what you're saying.

That Museum idea isn't half bad, by the way.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, thanks.
Say, I'm just curious: are you an American? Are you from Europe? If so, I'd just be curious as to what the reaction there was to "Django Unchained."

Marc McDonald said...

By the way, on another point:
re:
>>Well, I wouldn't sell Japan
>>short in that area, but I see
>>what you're saying.

Yes, this is the case. Japan is guilty of a lot of things in this regard, from refusing WWII era compensation to altering textbooks.
One thing I will say in Japan's defense, though, is that this is hardly a nation that can't cast a critical eye at itself.
I'm a big fan of Japanese cinema. I'm always surprised at how harshly critical Japanese films are of Japanese society in general.
This goes for a lot of Japanese literature, as well as other arts.
By contrast, most U.S. films are cheerleaders for all things USA.
Given the worldwide influence of Hollywood, it's no wonder why so many people in other nations think the quality of life for ordinary Americans is much higher than what it really is.
Yes, you do have an occasional Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. But these are the rare exceptions.
I always get a kick out of critics whining that Stone's films "distort" history. Films like "Lincoln" "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" take far more liberties with history than anything Stone ever did. And the distortions of these films are far more objectionable than anything Stone has done. (I mean, to glorify a terrorist organization like the CIA is beneath contempt).

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

"Say, I'm just curious: are you an American? Are you from Europe?"

American.

"Yes, this is the case. Japan is guilty of a lot of things in this regard, from refusing WWII era compensation to altering textbooks.
One thing I will say in Japan's defense, though, is that this is hardly a nation that can't cast a critical eye at itself.
I'm a big fan of Japanese cinema. I'm always surprised at how harshly critical Japanese films are of Japanese society in general."

This is true. One of my favorites is 'Fighting Elegy' from 1966. Ever see that one?

"By contrast, most U.S. films are cheerleaders for all things USA."

Chuck Norris!

"Yes, you do have an occasional Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. But these are the rare exceptions."

The strange thing is, it wasn't as rare in the 70's with films like 'Little Big Man', 'Punishment Park', 'Electra Glide And Blue' and 'Serpico' coming out fairly often. Yet, even then I can't think of a honest movie about slavery from the US (unless 'Mandingo' counts; I've never seen it). We can (or rather we could) take a critical look at all sorts of things, like Vietnam and the abuse of Native-Americans yet somehow, slavery was still more or less off limits. When you get down to it, was it really any worse than those those other things I mentioned such as near-genocide? Odd.

"I always get a kick out of critics whining that Stone's films "distort" history. Films like "Lincoln" "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" take far more liberties with history than anything Stone ever did. And the distortions of these films are far more objectionable than anything Stone has done. (I mean, to glorify a terrorist organization like the CIA is beneath contempt)."

That's strange too, but you never really know what will set a critic off: How come Troma movies or nearly every irreverent gore/comedy hybrid is juvenile trash, but 'Attack The Block' is a "Witty social-satire"; you know, because there are a few throwaway lines that mention social issues so it's a sharp social-critique, but something like 'Poultryguest: Night Of The Chicken Dead' (a much more consistently satirical film) is still just exploitation (I'll admit that it's a tasteless movie, hell, it is from Troma, but as a satire it works a hundred times better and is a hundred times more honest than ATB)

For that matter, why are old Samuel Fuller movies often criticized for being too ham-fisted to be taken seriously, but the extremely heavy-handed 'Crash' is defended by critics on the grounds that if you have a point to make, why hide it?

Why was Roger Ebert (R.I.P) disgusted with 'Kiss-Ass' for featuring an underage girl cursing and killing, meanwhile he gave three and a half starts to 'The Orphan' (What was that movie about again...? Oh yeah...)

And finally, (I'll bet you already know where this is going) how come absolutely anything and everything Quentin Tarantino has even done and will ever do will be heavily praised by critics, including all the things that would offend and appall the same critics when done by other filmmakers (and often have)?

My point is, you can never really just critics to be consistent (and I'll bet that if QT made 'Kick-Ass' the exact same way with the same cast the same script and everything, Ebert would have loved it).

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>'Fighting Elegy'
I hadn't seen that one, but I'm a fan of the director, Seijun Suzuki.
Tarantino couldn't carry his jock strap. I always enjoy directors who are risky and daring. Tarantino only acts as though he is "risky" and "daring." But his films are very cynically crafted to draw in as much worldwide box office as possible. A lot of his acclaimed script dialogue often sounds better than it really is, when hipsters are quoting it to each other over beers at a party. But in the cold, harsh light of day, it's overrated crap.
Truly "daring" and "risky" directors often suffer for their art. Unlike Tarantino, Suzuki really did suffer for his art. His career took a severe hit after his film, "Branded to Kill."
You mention a number of other intriguing-sounding films that I haven't had the chance to see. But they're definitely now on my to-view list.
re: "Crash." You are referring to Haggis' film of that name, correct? What an overrated film that was.
re: "Kick-Ass"
You know, normally, I detest all superhero and comic book movies. But I have to admit, I kind of liked "Kick Ass." I saw Ebert's review and like you, I shook my head. But then again, Pauline Kael is hailed as this "great progressive movie critic" and I've never understood why she was considered either "progressive" or "great." She was flat-out wrong on her assessments of so many landmark films, from "2001" to "The Good, The Bad & and the Ugly."
You really nailed that point about "Kick Ass" and Tarantino. Ebert seemed like a nice enough fellow and he did seem to have a heart. But he, like Kael, was wrong on so many films.
As I recall, Ebert gave "Wolf Creek" zero stars. Maybe I'm in the minority view on this, but I enjoyed that film---that's my idea of a horror film. It scared the hell out of me. I don't think a film like that could be made in America. It's just too extreme.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

Yes, I love 'Branded to Kill'! It finally answered that question I always had about weather or not it's possible to enjoy a movie when you have no idea what's going on; the answer is "YES!"

"QT"

My problem there partly comes from the fact that he QT gets praise for things that are often ignored or bashed when done by other people; a line like "If you encounter God, God will be cut." Is just a cheesy b-movie line when used in 'Samurai Reincarnation'. "Is that even supposed to mean something?" people say, or, "Ha! I love it when some low-budget (and therefore bad) chop-socky flick tries to be "artsy". Its hilarious!" Meanwhile, the line gets used in 'Kill Bill' and now not only is it a good line, it's the best dialogue EVER! But only when used in the Tarantino flick, in the original movie it's still a bad b-movie line." Same goes with "I'm Buck and here to fuck" From 'Eaten Alive'; so crass and juvenile, that is unless in pops up in a Tarantino movie, and now it's the funniest thing ever said.

It also annoys me when QT can use use maybe an entire scene or monologue from another movie, maybe even copy a movie scene-for-scene and everyone will defend it as an "tribute" and will spout off old lines like, "All good ideas come from somewhere. Every artist has there inspirations." But these are the same people who will instantly bash any movie that shows someone wearing sunglasses as a "Shameless rip-off of 'Reservoir Dogs' made by an unoriginal hack!" Again, is a little consistency too much to ask for?

Of course QT himself can't really be blamed for this, but if there is one thing that makes me critical of the man himself, its that all of his movies are produced by the Weinsteins, and somehow it becomes very difficult to believe that something like KB can be an honest homage to Asian films when the producers are trying to destroy every Asian action film they can get their hands on.

"Crash/Haggis."

Yeah, that's the one.

"You know, normally, I detest all superhero and comic book movies."

What? I didn't know that.

"But I have to admit, I kind of liked "Kick Ass."

So did I. You might also like 'Mirageman'. Very similar concept.

"Ebert"

I do miss Ebert. He wasn't really as snobby as many have made him out to be (of course, if you're a critic, it's only natural that you'll get a great deal of flack for liking what others hate or hating what others like, etc...) but he didn't have the smug demeanor that some other critics have, (Hell, I'll just say it; I've never met Richard Roeper, but he comes off as a pompous ass. I'll admit that I could be wrong, but that's how he appears) and he did write three of Russ Meyer's best movies, so even people that don't like him as a critic have got to give him some credit! Still, there are those times when, not only do I not agree with what he says, I don't understand it ("A little girl using vulgar language and killing people is crass and irresponsible. See'The Orphan'")

"Pauline Kael"

I'm unfamiliar with her, but it's kinda hard be right or wrong in a job that's essentially opinion oriented. The only time I'd say that a critic is really wrong is when they just miss the point, like when Ebert thought that 'I Spit On Your Grave' was a glorification of rape. He was right in that he didn't like the movie, but to say that it was on the rapists' side is just wrong.

"WC"

I'm with Ebert on this one. I'd at least give it one star, but yeah, I didn't like it

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt,
Thanks for the comment.
You know, I used to be a movie critic for a newspaper (The Plano Star-Courier). One of the first films I reviewed was "Full Metal Jacket," which I reviewed the day it was released. I gave it the top rating (4 stars). Later, I saw that Ebert had given it a negative review. On this one film, at least, I think I was right and he was wrong. Most, if not all, critics now regard that film as a masterpiece.
I got into Asian cinema after I started learning the Japanese language. I watched any Japanese movies I could get my hands on. After watching countless horror/extreme Japanese films, I developed a taste for that sort of film. So now I enjoy envelope-pushing extreme cinema (like the French films, "Inside," "Martyrs"...that sort of thing).
BTW, although this blog is mainly a progressive political blog, I do run progressive-leaning commentary/reviews on cinema and music, from time to time.
(For example, see):
http://www.beggarscanbechoosers.com/2011/06/film-review-tokyo-gore-police.html
If you'd like to contribute a piece along those lines to this blog, let me know. It can be about any film, or about cinema in general. It'd be nice if it had a progressive angle, as well, but it doesn't have to be overly political.

Anonymous said...

first off...you clearly haven't seen the film so I really don't care what you have to say about it, no one can make an observation of a film they haven't seen...so it's not ok to tell a story in the times of the "American Holocaust" as you call it, and you say slavery is a horrific crime and shouldn't be used for entertainment purposes

braveheart/schidler's list/virgin harvest.All about a culture of people being oppressed and enslaved, all depict the horrible conditions people had to endure, so all that was ok, but not if tarenteno does it? or is it just not ok to do about black people?

But yes i agree, you american's have been quite racist towards your first black president, making comments like "the most extreme president in our history" is a white code for "nigger", I follow your politics somewhat closely, seeing as I live in canada and generally, if someone fucks up royally in america, it affects us somehow...and considering that you reference the director more then the actual film, I'm lead to logically conclude that you have a personal issue with said director, that's your business but...risk taking is for people with something to prove, or turning nothing into something, Tarenteno doesn't have to do this anymore, because he's made himself a name in the industry, do you think people in the music industry that have made it big perform songs that they arn't almost certain will be hits?

in conclusion, i agree with a few things in this posting, i disagree with some, but i find your hypocracy very disheartening...you yourself say racism, and by extention, bias thinking still exists in america, and yet you protray these very qualities in your posting...pointing out in a single sentence "haven't there been enough movies about world war 2" without naming any unless its by said director or schindler's list (which is more offensive to the sense if you ask me) as if film makers are solely responsible for informing america about what goes on in the world...anyone with a brain in their head doesn't need a film about the iraq war, because they've seen it as it happened, heard all the lies, lived with it, or fought in it...so in comparison, how is the subject of slavery in america "off topic" but slavery in ireland/germany/anywhere else to any other race is ok, because they've all been done, and yet, I see you drawing no comparisons to other races or directors who have done the same work, be it better or worse then this film.

You call "the list" a dignified film, and in the same post talk about how slaves were raped...well, I find it odd that a movie that doesn't really depict any graphic scenes of torture/rape (you don't see whips cutting into skin like you do in Race to Freedom, no mention of that film either)it does show violence in the form of gunshot wounds, but lets be honest, gunshots and american go hand in hand, yet seeing dead bodies stacked 8-10 feet high with ripped gaping holes in their skin...is dignified in your book?
you need a new book my friend.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

"You know, I used to be a movie critic for a newspaper (The Plano Star-Courier). One of the first films I reviewed was "Full Metal Jacket," which I reviewed the day it was released. I gave it the top rating (4 stars). Later, I saw that Ebert had given it a negative review. On this one film, at least, I think I was right and he was wrong. Most, if not all, critics now regard that film as a masterpiece."

I like FMJ although, I know a military brat whom disagrees with parts of it (he mainly hated the scene where the fat guy goes insane, giving me reasons why it's extremely unlikely to ever happen). He still admits that it's a good movie all in all, but it does go overboard at times.

"I got into Asian cinema after I started learning the Japanese language. I watched any Japanese movies I could get my hands on."

Japan has come up with a lot of great movies, haven't they? I was compiling a list of films I hated (for whatever reason) and I notice that there were only about two or three Japanese movies on that list as I've liked most of them.

"After watching countless horror/extreme Japanese films, I developed a taste for that sort of film. So now I enjoy envelope-pushing extreme cinema (like the French films, "Inside," "Martyrs"...that sort of thing)."

Well, 'Goodbye Uncle Tom' is pretty envelope pushing. Have you checked it out yet? I see that you've seen 'Martyrs'; I keep telling myself that I'll watch it again at some point, but I never gathered up the nerve. I actually saw it at a point in my life where I though that I was completely jaded and that nothing could shock me anymore. 'Martyrs' proved me wrong. *Shutter*

"BTW, although this blog is mainly a progressive political blog, I do run progressive-leaning commentary/reviews on cinema and music, from time to time.
(For example, see):
http://www.beggarscanbechoosers.com/2011/06/film-review-tokyo-gore-police.html
If you'd like to contribute a piece along those lines to this blog, let me know. It can be about any film, or about cinema in general. It'd be nice if it had a progressive angle, as well, but it doesn't have to be overly political"

I have written a few reviews in my spare time (that's code for, time when I should have been doing something important but didn't wanna). They're short ones though, like the kind you see in video guide books. Would you be willing to take those?

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, thanks for the note. Say, can you send me an email so we can continue this correspondence via email? Go to my main page:
http://www.beggarscanbechoosers.com and in the left column, look for the "Contact me here" link.
Thanks.

Matt T. Dalldorf said...

Where exactly is the link? I don't see it.

Thanks in advance.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Matt, please send me an email at:
marc.mcdonald (at symbol) gmail.com
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but
after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that
over again. Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!


my blog post :: todoaragon

Anonymous said...

I agree completely, but don't watch Django Unchained, it makes no sense and is incredibly cliche you will want to die before finishing this movie.

David said...

It's very, very amusing to see you practicing what you claim to hate, McDonald.

You claim to hate racism, yet on this very article, you are practicing it by declaring all whites to be racist simply because they are white. You are charging them as guilty of crimes that occurred when most of them weren't even alive simply because they are white. You are dismissing their claims of being victims of racism simply because they are white and the people they accuse of such things are black (doesn't equality mean everyone is equally capable of being racist? And have you heard about the new "Knock-out Game"?).

And I'm certain that I will be accused of racism for saying this, even though you have no idea what my race is (after all, blacks never speak ill of their own race, riiight?)

It says a lot about you that you don't see your own hypocrisy.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi David,
Like the rest of the deluded Drudge/Fox/Limbaugh crowd, you're simply making shit up.
re:
>>on this very article, you are
>>practicing it by declaring all
>>whites to be racist simply
>>because they are white.

Where in the article do I say this?

David said...

"Hi David,
Like the rest of the deluded Drudge/Fox/Limbaugh crowd, you're simply making shit up.
re:
>>on this very article, you are
>>practicing it by declaring all
>>whites to be racist simply
>>because they are white.

Where in the article do I say this?"

"Slavery was a horrific crime against humanity. And it was a colossal crime that white America has never honestly confronted."

Pretty much every member of today's "white America" wasn't even alive when slavery happened, so why are they under any obligation to confront it? Are they guilty of it simply by nature of being white? How many of them do you think asked to be born white?

And you're also ignoring the well-established fact that slaves were traded by Africans in Africa, and black slave owners did exist in America, so that's two instances of your racism right off the bat.

"In fact, we are still in many ways a racist society. (The incredibly vicious right-wing attacks on President Obama over the past few years merely confirm how racist a nation America is to this day). We can try to pretend we've moved beyond racism as a nation---but we're really just fooling ourselves."

I doubt you can find enough actual examples of actual racism to back this up, so instead you're just going for collective guilt, the idea that people are racist due only to a single characteristic they all share. As you've made rather clear in this article, that characteristic is being white.

By the way, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have also spoken out against Obama and the double-standard applied to race and racism nowadays. Are they racist as well?

"What's particularly nauseating about today's America is that so many white people continue to be racist, but deny it."

Again, you specifically name white people as racist, ignoring the unavoidable fact that anyone, their race be damned, can be racist (look at all the black and hispanic pride groups. Is it not racist to believe that your race, something you have no control over, is something to be proud of and makes you better than another person?).

"These are the people who bizarrely believe white people are somehow the victims of racism these days."

Again, to you, white people can only be racist and black people can only be victims. Again, have you heard about the "Knock-out game"?

Sorry, Marc, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can either go after ALL forms of racism and truly be a supporter of equality (including equality for whites), or you can continue to show yourself as a moral hypocrite who doesn't have a leg to stand on and will eventually be shown for the fraud you are.

Marc McDonald said...

re:
>>And it was a colossal crime that
>>white America has never honestly
>>confronted

I maintain that the wealthy white male power structure (that has held all the real power in America since it was founded) has never honestly confronted slavery. (Or any of its other terrible crimes---such as the genocide of Native Americans).
If you disagree, then fine: whatever. I don't really give a shit about your Rush Limbaugh NeoNazi views.
re:
>>"And you're also ignoring the
>>well-established fact that
>>slaves were traded by Africans
>>in Africa

Ah, the well-worn "but the blacks sold slaves too" argument that I've heard so many times. Well, there were Jewish people who served in Hitler's armies. But I've never heard anyone say that the Holocaust was any less a crime because of that.
In any case, the white slave traders said (in so many words) to the black leaders, "Round up some of your people and sell them to us. Either do that, or we will kill you and then do the job ourselves."
re:
>>I doubt you can find enough
>>actual examples of actual racism
>>to back this up

That's interesting. I hear extreme racism ALL THE TIME from virtually every single white male that I know here in Texas. They all listen to Rush. They all spout the same racist B.S. They all routinely use the "N" word. And many of them routinely talk about using violence against Obama. (Oh, and interestingly enough, every single one of them vehemently denies that they are racist).
re:
>> Again, have you heard about the >>"Knock-out game"?

This is nothing more than another contrived Fox News/Drudge/Rush "story" that carries the predictable theme of "those scary negroes are coming for us poor, persecuted white folk."
It's a "story" that will be long forgotten a few months from now (just like other similar "stories" like the scary Black Panthers who were supposedly keeping whites from voting).
Your predictable NeoNazi views are really not welcome on this blog. Please go hang out at RushLimbaugh.com, or some kiddie porn site (or where ever it is that you NeoNazis spend your time these days).