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Dlink. The D is Silent

Mandatory the 100 funniest tweets of the year. Some of the movie folk who get punchlined: Liam Neeson, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp.
Nicole's Magic Scans from Paris Match -- Nicole Kidman looks great as Grace of Monaco
E! Anjelica Huston is PETA's person of the year
i09 Futuristic predictions that came true this year
The Lost Boys farewell to Peter Knegt's long running blog.
Slate I've been talking a lot recently about people being hideous jerks when it comes to the topic of Les Misérables so here is a negative review from Dana Stevens which I think is completely fairly written and actually pretty clever in some of its digs. I've only ever asked that people be fair about it and state their biases if they have them (Stevens doesn't like the source material).

Unreality looks for gender flipping of Star Wars in the cosplay community. Sadly the gallery has no Prince Leia Lee. WTF?
Cinema Blend Quentin Tarantino wants to make a third revisionist history revenge flick called Killer Crow. This saddens me as Tarantino hasn't made a non-revenge themed film since Jackie Brown. That's a long time to be working one kind of narrative template, even if you do it extremely well.
Shadow & Act the actress who plays "Coco" in Django Unchained, a slave in a French maid's uniform, speaks about her experience on the film. And while we're on the topic ...

Spike & Quentin
I feel bad for Spike Lee. I really do. Even when people are trying to be fair to him, they end up dissing him. Press Play's Steven Boone wrote an excellent provocative piece on Django Unchained that has measured compliments for Spike Lee's work but it's still basically a slap.

Not to say that Django is an exceptionally subtle piece of work. Both Spike and Quentin have a Sam Fuller tendency to go all-caps, tabloid large when staging bits of provocation that would be juicy all on their own. But let's just lay it on the table: Tarantino is the better filmmaker, by many miles.

Meanwhile We Are Respectable Negroes reviews the movie (Quentin's) that does exist but still ends up critiquing an imaginary movie that doesn't (Spike's). And though the article is really interesting and makes strong points about the imaginary movie that's maybe still wildly unfair once you stop to think about it.

Meanwhile Quentin and others like Sarah Silverman are defending the controversial rampant use of the "N" word in the movie on the grounds that it's a period piece set during the time of Slavery. Which is a basically a solid defense. But I think the reason Quentin sounds like such an asshole spelling that out is because he's always used the word rampantly in his movies, even when that excuse was nowhere to be found.

ANYWAY... Spike really was in a lose-lose situation with Django Unchained. If he spoke against it without seeing it he'd be dissed. If he made anything like it he'd be crucified whereas Tarantino is celebrated (hi, double standards). If he hadn't said anything people would have surely kept asking him to. So he said that Slavery wasnt a Spaghetti Western but a Holocaust (which is true, duh) and now everyone is pissed at him. Would they still be pissed at him if he saw the movie and still said that? I think so. 

Today's Must Read
The Vote discusses the biggest problem with Oscar this year: the early voting deadline. Jon concludes with the message I'm always trying to send to the Academy which is basically this: Stop worrying and just be you. I'm glad others are starting to carry this message because my voice was lonely and choruses are louder. The Academy is Goliath. There is no David. And yet they're constantly changing to dodge the phantom slingshots. 


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    Dlink. The D is Silent - Blog - The Film Experience

Reader Comments (26)

Spike gets slapped down a lot because he uses his voice to criticize too much. It's Eastwood, Tyler Perry, Tarantino and so on...if he was more selective, it would have more impact.

In regards to the "n word" was it ever used in The Help? I don't remember hearing it...

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Yeah, and "motherfucker," a frequent verbal refrain in this movie, was a real staple of that historical period also. And in general, Django is super invested in scrupulous period recreation. Puh-leaze, QT.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I totally agree with you on Let. I do thunk sometimes he comes off badly, but this time its like wtf. There's absolutely nothing wrong with what Spike said. He was actually being respectful when he was initially asked about it by Vibe. Then everyone jumped down his throat about it on twitter and that's when he made the comment about Spaghetti Westerns. He was freaking asked asked about it. Its not like he was spouting off for no reason.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

the pictures inside are so much better than that cover.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

What everyone should REALLY be offended by is the fact that Frank Ocean's song "Wise Man" didn't make it in the final cut of the movie!

And Bia, I'm pretty sure Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) says it at least once.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

marcelo -- right? it's crazy that they chose that photograph for the cover.

December 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

In regards to Django and the n-word...
A historian of the times knows that “nigger” was used less than “negro” and “darkie”. And generally wasn’t used in “anger context”. I am so utterly pissed off by the excuse of this! “Nigger” was not originally a derogatory word, it was a classification of human, a synonymy of “slave” and using it the way QT does IN THIS MOVIE makes, generally, no fucking sense! A couple instances were appropriate, most were historically inaccurate. He has a better case for “accuracy” with his other movies that happen post reunification, and especially during and post civil rights era.

Also, you can't use history as a defense when you cherry pick what to follow from history especially knowing how the term is used actually doesn't line up with history.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngelica Jade

Sorry for the errors, I was on my phone.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Angelica - I'm not a historian of the antebellum south so I could be wrong about this but I believe 'nigger' was used more often, considerably so, than negro and darkie and that is why nigger has the stigma it does today and negro is considered reasonably benign. If you could point me to some evidence to back up this claim your making of appreciate because as far as I know the generally accepted explanation for the ugliness of the word nigger in modern American culture is its association with previous eras in which it was used to belittle black people and or describe, objectively as a classification, as you say, black people who have been forced into dehumanizing positions.

As for the angry tone in which it is used which you seem angry about, I actually think QT had good reason to use the word this way, because the theme of racism throughout the film is emboldened by showing the negativity of cultural staples like the word nigger. It points out, rather boldly, that this is a bad word.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Fiore

I don't have any online sources unfortunately all in the books I have. :/ Which I will pull out some titles when I get a chance. (I took a class on Gone with the Wind plus I'm from the South so all this interests me) I will concede that the word was used to differing amounts depending where you're talking about. I know it was used as a classification that shifted course to be straight up derogatory. IMO It is derogatory either way when you think about it.I was bringing up the angry tone because of Tarantino using the excuse of it being historically correct to use the word in the way he uses it in the film. Which isn't *exactly* true. Also...there are more interesting issues to talk about in the film beyond word usage.

I don't think anyone needs it to be pointed out that it is bad word. If the only thing you can say as a filmmaker doing a film about slavery is that well...
I don't think Tarantino is morally or intellectually complex, really. Dealing with slavery can be tricky. Sure the whole spaghetti western/exploitation style doesn't lend itself to that but...with how few films deal with black character let alone during slavery it kind of sucks it doesn't get more complexity. Says I, the black latina screenwriter. Although, I never have explicitly dealt with race in any of my screenplays.

Sorry if I am not making sense.
I have complicated thoughts on all this and am probably too damn muddled to talk straight. But, the conversations I have been having are very interesting and lots of food for thought.

December 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngelica Jade

"But I think the reason Quentin sounds like such an asshole spelling that out is because he's always used the word rampantly in his movies, even when that excuse was nowhere to be found."

So so so true. You know, I usually love the QT publicity train every time one of his movies come out, but there has been a real self righteous stench coming off him lately - the lame historical accuracy excuse (even if its true, QT is the LAST MAN ON THE PLANET who should be using historical accuracy to defend his movies), the gratuitous slaps at John Ford earlier in the week. I haven't seen Django yet, and its unfortunate because I can feel a certain negativity starting to seep in.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Spike seems to have made a career of criticizing other directors without actually producing anything worthwhile of his own. That is why he's getting slapped down so often nowadays. When the Levees Broke and Inside Man were both great, but that was six years ago.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

W.J. -- also great: 25th Hour, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X. I seriously think he gets an inordinate amount of disrespect on the web considering his accomplishments. True, he hasn't been knocking out of the park lately but it's been 6 years since Scorsese made a great movie too and people are still acting like he is the shit in 2010 and 2011 ;)

December 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Angelica needs to soften her look. I really like SMASH / love her - but she looks like a man on that show.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

Spike Lee was a much better director than people seem to remember - Malcolm X should have won Oscars across the board. I wish his newer films were more interesting. Still, there are a few reasons I don't take his comments seriously:

- He mentions slavery was a Holocaust (it was) and acts as if this means Tarantino has no right to touch the material. I guess he missed Inglorious Basterds, or just didn't voice his complaints.

- While it important to have a rational voice in the film community calling out race inequality, this is the guy who called out Eastwood for no (legitimate) reason when they both had war films out. Maybe the press likes to have a field day with Lee, but I do think he gives them opportunities. (I saw him speak earlier this year, and while I loved it, I would say he's the kind of guy who enjoys getting a rise out of people on any topic.)

- I refuse to act as if complaints against films not yet seen are valid (and this goes for Oscar fans, too). If you don't see it, you don't get to complain about it because you don't have a clue what you're saying.

With all that said, Tarantino's use of the n word is beyond bizarre at this point. Another interesting point that no one has brought up though: Can you name another white American director that has used as many minority actors in his/her films? I can't. Maybe this should open up to a wider discussion of how parts are written for any character that isn't white, and what different directors currently working in Hollywood have brought to the table in that regard.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

The difference, Nate, is that Scorsese doesn't go around picking fights with other directors, at least not that I'm aware of. I would also argue that Hugo was one of the most creative and finely crafted films of 2011, but that's tangential to a discussion of why Spike Lee is disrespected in 2012.

Lee has always been a provocateur. As such, he likely expects--and probably welcomes--the attention. I just think his talents would be better used developing a film about slavery rather than criticizing someone else's. Granted, if the results are as bad as Miracle at St. Anna (arguably a response to Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers), maybe Twitter is the place for him.

Lee is a smart guy and there's usually some truth to his arguments (i.e. the absence of black faces in Eastwood's film), but they're often undercut by reality (i.e. the presence of tan faces in both of Eastwood's films that year; the sobering imagery of slave treatment as a counterpoint to the other violence in Django; etc.). And it's hard to take him seriously when he's such an uneven filmmaker, at least in the last decade or so.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

He mentions slavery was a Holocaust (it was) and acts as if this means Tarantino has no right to touch the material. I guess he missed Inglorious Basterds, or just didn't voice his complaints.

@Eurocheese, when did someone ask him about IB? There were a whole lotta folks asking him about DU. When did he say Tarantino has no right to touch the material bc I missed that.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I don't really get the complaints that Tarantino spends too much time on revenge narratives. I've never heard anyone suggest that Paul Thomas Anderson lay off the tempestuous father-son dynamics. Every artist has themes and subjects that they constantly return to, and as long as they vary their treatments of these subjects there's no problem with it. Singling out Tarantino for being repetitive seems to have less to do with Tarantino himself and more to do with people's prejudice against the low-brow material he so loves and loves to emulate.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

"With all that said, Tarantino's use of the n word is beyond bizarre at this point. Another interesting point that no one has brought up though: Can you name another white American director that has used as many minority actors in his/her films? I can't. Maybe this should open up to a wider discussion of how parts are written for any character that isn't white, and what different directors currently working in Hollywood have brought to the table in that regard."

@eurocheese: Exactly. It's always been the paradox of Tarantino's career that beneath the noxious language he puts in his characters' mouths, is a basic empathy for people who do not outwardly resemble him. And I see the same dynamic in his treatment of women. As open he is about fetishizing the ladies that feature in his movies, he has also been supremely generous to his actresses, having written for them some of the richest and most powerful roles of modern cinema. Honestly, I think this approach is far more honest than that of writers or directors who make claims to creating strong and transgressive female or non-white characters, but don't seem to acknowledge the ways that they objectify or condescend to these characters.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

@Melissa: The quote is "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them."

I agree that it was a Holocaust. My point is that Lee seems offended by the use of this story in a Tarantino film, while Tarantino's last film was about the Holocaust during WWII. No one asked him about IB - I'm just saying if the rationale behind leaving this material alone ("honor them" implies they are being disrespected) was the same rationale that could have been used to object to IB.

I agree with Nathaniel that even if Lee saw the movie, people would still be upset. I do think the movie asks some moral questions that are worth addressing if you're going to call it out. I'd be more interested in what Lee had to say if he could remark on it directly (and the press may have unfairly gone after him to comment on this, but he obviously could have told them he would only comment if he saw it).

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

@Eurocheese, He never said how he felt it disrespected them. But by judging by other Black filmmakers responses, I'm sure he's more appalled by the humor in it, which is pretty evident by the trailers.

I've seen the film and I wasn't greatly appalled, but their were some parts of it that people uncomfortably laughed at. Also the use of the N word was a bit much.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

The ironic thing is that Spike's comments have created much more of a conversation about race in Django Unchained than the movie would have on its own. The film itself--to me, anyway--wasn't really making too much of a statement. Tarantino just doesn't seem to be particularly interested in stirring up debate about topical issues, which I'm not saying makes him less serious a filmmaker, but he's definitely more about film for the sake of film, as well as film in tribute of other film. Django was entertaining, but I personally don't think it had much depth at all. Spike Lee's comments have gotten the movie caught up in a much more weighty discussion than it warranted.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

@Melissa That "I will honor them" in his statements about the movie implies it was disrespectful (i.e. I will honor them by complaining about the movie and not seeing it). And humor wouldn't be a reason to differentiate between IB and DJ,since IB had plenty of QT's brand of humor and that was reflected in IB's advertising campaign.

If Spike Lee wants to complain like he is about slavery not being treated like a holocaust because has been turned into a QT revenge fantasy salute to spaghetti westerns he sounds silly when his comments show no account taken of the fact that the jewish holocaust was previously turned into a QT revenge fantasy salute to prior genres including spaghetti western (thus QT is treating slavery precisely like he treats holocaust).

"But I think the reason Quentin sounds like such an asshole spelling that out is because he's always used the word rampantly in his movies, even when that excuse was nowhere to be found."

The same explanation applies equally to the use of the word in movies with a modern setting. If the particular human groups in the real world the writer is reflecting in his/her script use a word then using the word is accurate to the times and people. Many in the black community do use the word a lot now in a reclaimed fashion, and some non-black people still use it in their speech in an ignorant and/or hateful fashion.

Whether a majority writer should be allowed the same sort of unrestricted language as a minority one would be given when it comes to depicting minorities is another issue. It's one that should be balanced with consideration of all the frustration and complaints people have for the lack of strong interesting roles for minorities in white male dominated Hollywood and the strong tendency of white Hollywood to neglect non-whites and sanitize current and past treatment of minorities. Also consideration of the outrage and rejection online in response to show runners for the Girls and Teen Wolf defending their habit of leaving out or short changing black characters as a consequence of them being white people from white backgrounds and thus not well suited to depicting black people and black experience.

QT is one of the rare white Holllywood directors who seems like he listens to minority visibility and role concerns and attempts to address them. He has strong interesting intelligent female and poc characters in his films, and his films have bucked usual trends like "a poc character will be the friend not the lead in major movies" and "if there's only one guy (and maybe his "girl") left standing at the end of a movie you can bet it won't be a black one" and "german roles of any substantial size will be played by english language actors with bad accents instead of giving german speaking actors an opportunity". And I don't think the kind of treatment these groups get in his action films is more objectifying or condescending than the kind white male action stars have gotten all the time (ripped muscles on display in scenes and promotional material, stupid macho lines, hair fluttering in the breeze while walking away from an explosion in a tight shirt strategically ripped to display chest, etc).

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLT

@Angelica The autobiography of former slave Solomon Northup published in 1856 provides evidence of "nigger" being used a lot by southern white people as both a common casual descriptive term for black people and as part of angry comments and dismissive insults. The way Solomon treats the word also signals that he personally finds the term offensive and objectionable (although he was originally from the north himself). Here's some examples of slavery era white southern speech patterns from Solomon's account of his life as a slave:

No, no, he would not sell her then. She was a beauty - a picture - a doll - one of the regular bloods - none of your thick-lipped, bullet-headed, cotton-picking niggers...

He came out soon with the pass in his hand, and calling me a " d—d nigger that deserved a hundred lashes," threw it on the ground.

" Platt, you lying nigger, have I?" was his brazen appeal to me.

"Aha I ye havn't been strolling about much to-day, any way. I'll teach you what's what. I'll tire ye of eating water-melons on the Lord's day, ye Sabbath-breaking niggers."

More than once I heard it said that Platt Ford, now Platt Tibeats - a slave's name changes with his change of master - was " a devil of a nigger."

"You're the nigger," he said to me on my arrival -" You're the nigger that flogged your master, eh ? You're the nigger that kicks, and holds carpenter Tibeats by the leg, and wallops him, are ye ? I'd like to see you hold me by the leg - I should. You're a 'portant character - you're a great nigger - very remarkable nigger, ain't ye ? I'd lash you - I'd take the tantrums out of ye.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLT

@LT, as I said before, I'm sure Spike Lee is aware of IB, again since hundreds of people didn't ASK him his opinion on the film( like they did with DU). We can't assume that A).He thought it was respectful B).That he even saw it. So you're just making assumptions about a statement he made on twitter when a bunch of people were already harassing him about not wanting to see DU.

I'm not a big fan of Lee, but in this instance I felt that he did or said nothing wrong. When hundreds of people including journalists are bombarding you with questions about a film you do not want to see, then what can you do.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

edwin -- i'd agree with that. In fact i'm a little disappointed that critics are willing to forgive so much of Tarantino's lesser qualities simply because he is such a strong creator of entertainments.

lt -- you have a point that the language conversation is more complicated than "if it's true to the community" but i guess that very complication make Tarantino's use of it an even bigger isuse for me -- slavery settings and beyond. His writing is simply too stylized for him then to lean on excuses about realism. I think he uses the word in every film simply because he enjoys the way it sounds coming from his characters... which bothers me. I live in Harlem which is heavily african-american. I hear the word more times than I can count each day (always from african-american to african-american) so it is complicated issue.

December 31, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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