Django: Part Blaxploitation, All Genius
When I settled in to see “Django Unchained” recently, I was already pretty cynical because over the years I have grown quite distrustful and suspicious about most anything that comes out of Hollywood. This movie, with all the trailers and promos on the talk show circuit, had a drum roll that beat the “N” word as though we were being introduced to it for the first time. However, despite my distrust of the credibility of what comes off the silver screen where the subject of slavery is concerned – I thoroughly enjoyed Django.
For starters, Django let flow a star-studded cast. After all, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson could – singularly, let alone together – get the average couch potato out to the movies. Genius loves company – Quentin Tarantino and company. Usually, exaggerated blood spasms and gratuitous violence turns me off; but Tarantino’s creative license made sense when I put myself in the seats of those who have neither read about the terrors of slavery nor who can visualize the tyranny slave masters and the rest who supported the system piled upon my ancestors for more than two centuries.
Tarantino did a magnificent job at what he is best known for: close up HD shots that literally splattered blood on the camera’s lens; the gut-wrenching quadraphonic sound of dogs’ jaws crushing black arms, and those scenes of slaves loving each other – humanizing themselves beyond their scars and high-pitched horrors. The KKK shown as so many butt heads on horses was an absolute over-the-top hoot – now my favorite of all times scene in a movie!
What a superb make-up job on Samuel L. Jackson. I found myself so angry and upset with Jackson’s Uncle-Tom-on-Steroids character that I had to remind myself that I was watching a movie. Mr. Jackson is one of the best actors in the world. Django unchained some brilliant camera angles, so well done as to have viewers like me suspend believability. It occurred to me that the designer cowboy attire that Jamie Foxx wore for the last half of the movie was like few cowboys – white or black – I have ever seen, to include his Prada-looking shades. I heard a young man on the way out of the movie transfer Foxx’s best line, “They never saw a nigger on a horse,” to explain why a lot of people can’t wrap their brains around the occupant of a certain house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Life imitates art, in real time.
When I read that Kerry Washington’s character’s last name was Shaft, it hit me that Tarantino – with the cunning of a mastermind – had hoodwinked everybody. He has pulled off what was nothing less than the first Blaxploitation film of the 21st Century. I don’t know if his target audience was urban blacks; but, 95 percent of those in attendance where I saw the film were young blacks. Obviously, however, the flick had a lot of cross-over appeal: not only did Waltz win an Oscar but Tarantino waltzed away, his smirk now larger-than-life, with the Best Screenplay honor. Django painted a picture for the abusive insides of slavery that I could see boomed to my 12 year-old granddaughter Africa, who accompanied us to the movie. I watched her fascination with many of the scenes, but she giggled, as in “this is soooo cool,” when rapper Rick Ross and Grammy Award winner John Legend came on the soundtrack. When Django comes out on DVD, I will chain it to our copy of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song.
Django Unchained was baad!
William H. Turner writes freelance pieces from Houston, Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at WilliamHTurner1.