“Django Unchained”, or “How I Learned that Quentin Tarantino is a Fan of The Boondocks”

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I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained about four hours ago. Without any advanced knowledge of the plot, it was everything I expected from a Tarantino movie; the dialogue was intriguing, the pacing was perfect, the acting was charismatic (though I was disappointed in how few lines Kerry Washington had) and Tarantino once again paid perfect homage to a genre of film, this being the western. However, during the third act of the film the audience is introduced to the character Steven, played by the ever-loud-and-exciting Samuel L. Jackson, and I wondered where I had seen this character before. Without spoiling too much of the movie, Steven plays the right-hand man to Monsieur Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), to the point that he refers to other black people as “ignorant niggers” and laments that misbehaving slaves aren’t given harsher punishment. Basically, he was Uncle Ruckus from Cartoon Network’s show The Boondocks.

Not familiar with The Boondocks? It’s okay, because I have a feeling many more people will be discussing this similarity in the weeks to come. In fact, I have flashbacks of the “argument” that the movie The Hunger Games was basically a rip off of the 2000 Japanese thriller Battle Royale. Anyway, the show has a huge cast of characters and secondary characters that shape the show. One of the most controversial secondary characters is Uncle Ruckus. He is a black man that claims to have 32 jobs and doesn’t understand how “young black people today” don’t know how to get and keep a job. He also is completely racist against his own race. I think there’s a name for that. Wait, let me consult my partner Google. *several seconds later* Alright, “internal racism” is the more compact way to say it. There is one episode of The Boondocks in which Grandpa (voiced by John Witherspoon) tells his grandchildren Riley and Huey (both voiced by Regina King) a story about their ancestor Catcher Freeman. Catcher Freeman, according to Grandpa, was a slave-turned-killer in an effort to save his girlfriend from fiendish white masters. Uncle Ruckus steps in to inform the kids that Catcher actually worked with white slave owners to “catch a free man” and bring them back to the plantations. Get it? Catcher Freeman. Catch a free man. You get it. Sorry for dumbing it down. Django’s partner and savior is Dr. King (ahem) Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. Dr. Schultz gives Django the appropriate last name of Freeman. Hmm.

Kind of seems like Django Freeman is a product of both the stories of Catcher Freeman from The Boondocks. In one, he murders white men in an effort to find his wife, whom he was separated from before the movie began. In the other, he is partnered up with a white man. But when did it strike me that Steven was like Uncle Ruckus? Perhaps it was the visual:

Picture credit << also a thread about Django vs Boondocks

Uncle Ruckus, in the show, hates black people. Steven, in Django Unchained, hates black people. He ridicules, humiliates and yells at the other black servants in the Candie house right along with Monsieur Candie. Only once does Candie reprimand him, but mostly he is overjoyed at his old confidante that helped raise him and his father.

I guess this was less a review of ‘Django’ and more a comparison. I really did enjoy the movie. In fact, when it was over I wanted to see it again! (By the way, there is a little something extra after the credits).

I will leave you with this: the episode of The Boondocks about Catcher Freeman. For some reason this copy is backwards (as in the images are backwards, but you get the idea)

Oh! Also the soundtrack was amazing! I kind of love when films are self-reflexive, and the opening song features singers wailing the name “Djaaaangoooo”. Oh and there was this song which I might love; a mashup (you know I LOVE mashups) featuring James Brown and Tupac. It also unnecessarily features clips from the movie sometimes interrupting the song :/

So I was just about to end this post with these clips, but in my “research” discovered some backlash to this movie. Specifically from Spike Lee and Tavis Smiley. Sorry, what exactly is the point of boycotting a movie YOU HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN? I could understand if you’re skeptical going into a movie theater, but you should never completely write off a movie simply because you read the plot and decided you didn’t like. True to what Spike Lee says, ‘Django’ is being promoted as a ‘spaghetti western’, or more accurately a “spaghetti southern” as it primarily takes place in Texas and Mississippi. Lee also writes that he doesn’t want to see it because the movie is disrespectful. Uh sorry fellas but how is a slave that revolts against the system of slavery and kills slave owners and baddies not a good thing? I take it the ‘disrespect’ lies in the fact that this not an historical film. Tarantino said that ‘Django’ “is meant to be an entertaining look at a shameful era in American history”, and that is EXACTLY what it is. If a movie were made about a Jewish man turning the tables on German Nazis, would there be an equal celebrity backlash? I wonder if Spike Lee’s Twitter followers will blindly heed his advice and avoid seeing the movie in an effort to respect their ancestors. I’m not taking sides or anything, but wasn’t Steven Spielberg’s film The Color Purple snubbed by many people because he was a white director at the helm of a “black movie”?

Anyone have any particular thoughts on anything I’ve discussed in this post? Is the Django Unchained versus The Boondocks even a relevant discussion people care about? Is Quentin Tarantino turning his nose up at slavery in the United States, by telling the story in the form of a spaghetti western?  Hmm, could be the homemade pina colada talking but I don’t think anyone has heard the last of either of these arguments. (Speaking of which I was considering changing the name of this account to something like Boozy Musings…might be taken though…)

Celebrity Crush(es) of the Week: Dave Franco and Kimbra

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I wanted to start this thing last week where I write one post a week about my new “celebrity crush”. Why? Because I feel like every week I become mildly obsessed with some talented person. Last week after seeing the movie 21 Jump Street for the second time (yes, it was that funny; no, I wasn’t under the influence) my celebrity crush was Dave Franco.

At first it was because of his handsome ass face. Then I saw this video and my heart was his. Oh and yes, he is James Franco’s younger brother.

Anyway that was last week. This week my heart is moved by Kimbra. For my last post I wrote about “Somebody That I Used to Know”, which is Gotye’s song that features Kimbra. “Wait”, I thought, “uhhh WHO is Kimbra?” She’s a 22 year old New Zealander that sounds like the love child of EVERY AMAZING FEMALE VOCALIST THAT EVER LIVED. I’m exaggerating, but she does have this unique husky-yet-breathy jazz-ready voice AND her video for “Settle Down” is super captivating. To me at least:

I downloaded the song on my phone and I cannot stop listening to it! And when I’m not listening to it (like when I’m at work) I’m singing it and doing little shoulder-shimmy movements like she does in the video. And if you liked the song as much as I did then you should love this next video. Her vocal range is so impressive. She reminds me of Regina Spektor, who doesn’t hesitate to play with her voice, like making little hiccup noises and having them sound completely lovely and appropriate for the song.

As I write this post I’m listening to “Settle Down”. I really can’t believe that 1) It took me this long to “discover” Kimbra and 2) I’m so addicted to her voice! I will see her in concert in a damn heartbeat.

Gotye’s Gotcha, Glee

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If you’ve been reading my posts with any regularity (not that I update that often, but still) then you’ll know I’m generally a fan of a cover song. What you may not know (but would probably assume) is that Fox’s Glee is maybe one of my favorite TV shows ever. Of all time. What initially attracted me to Glee was the fact that young, moderately attractive “high school age” misfits were singing Broadway tunes like “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” and “Defying Gravity”. However with Seasons 2 and (now) 3, Glee has clearly been trying to desperately to expand their audience by having the cast sing covers of Top 40 tunes, or having theme episodes wherein they only sing songs from Madonna or Britney Spears or Lady Gaga. (Granted the Madonna theme episode was Season 1, but the use of Top 40 songs has increased dramatically since the premiere of Season 2, when the Glee kids even complained that they were doing too much Broadway).

What’s your point, Danielle? MY POINT IS for the first time (?) there has been some backlash over aGlee cover from the artist that was covered. Gotye (real name Wouter “Wally” de Backer) is an Australian singer-songwriter who has been in the music biz since 2001. This single “Somebody That I Used to Know” (featuring Kimbra) was released July 2011 and quickly raced up the charts. The song was #1 in Australia for 8 weeks, unseating a track by the group Truly Madly Deeply. (Ha, remember them? Fourth grade was magical because of the lyrics “I want to stand with you on a mountain/I want to bathe with you in the sea”). Anyhow, the track sailed across the ocean and ended up hitting the top o’ the charts in the UK, US, Germany and Ireland, to name a few. Here’s the vid:

The song has gained a lot of popularity in April because it was featured on Glee (April 10), American Idol (April 11) and Gotye n Kimbra performed on Saturday Night Live on April 14. On Glee the song was performed by two brothers, who had lost touch throughout the years. I thought the song was done rather well, considering some of their covers are questionable. Here is their performance:

On April 22 the interwebs were all abuzz because Gotye told Australian newspaper Sunday Mail that he thought “They did such a faithful arrangement of the instrumentals but the vocals were that pop Glee style, ultra-dry, sounded pretty tuned and the rock has no real sense.” He went on to say that the song was “dinky and wrong”. Of course hardcore Gleeheads (or whatever uber Glee fans are called) were pretty upset, many of them saying that the version sung by Darrin Criss and Matt Bomer was a better song than the original. Apparently now Gotye is eating his words.  He says he was misquoted and that when he said the song was “dinky” he was referring to the use of xylophone. Okay.

I’m all for Glee doing covers because that’s what the show is based off of (except for those dreadful episodes in Season 2 where the focus was on “original songs”). I’m all for artists complaining that they didn’t think the cover was as good as their own. But come on, Gotye, don’t go back on what you said! If you honestly thought the cover wasn’t good and you claim that the vocals were cheesy “Glee-style” vocals, don’t turn around and call it “clever” when people get upset.

Before I Forget

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I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my post from April 17th about the performance arts piece in Sweden. I really do think it is a story that people need to read and I’m glad so many people shared it. Unfortunately, not all of my posts will be as significant or even interesting, but that story needed to be told. And I wanted my part in telling it.

Thanks again

Tupac’s Back!

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My intention when writing this post was to discuss the video of Tupac Shakur at Coachella (“performed” April 12).

When I first watched it I couldn’t watch it past the first minute; it was too damn creepy to me. I couldn’t get past the “how” to appreciate the “what”, if that makes sense. HOW IS TUPAC ADDRESSING THE AUDIENCE AT COACHELLA? But there were many people that disagreed with me. I read at least 20 tweets from people that were “moved to tears” by the performance. In a way I can understand that, but I feel like this article by Melinda Newman addresses the issue of  paying to see a 2D hologram of a dead person pretty well. I said that my intention was talk about the Tupac video, but Newman beat me to it and more or less voiced my thoughts, so I think her article is important.

The article is kind of a “what’s next for the concert biz?” as far as the usage of holograms goes. Newman asks, “Should the Beach Boys, who are heading out on their 50th anniversary tour, add holograms of Carl and Dennis Wilson into the act? As if they are there on stage with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, who are still flesh and blood?” My boyfriend and I were discussing who the next “hologram concert star” would be and at the same time we said: Michael Jackson. At first I poo-pooed the idea. Who would pay to see that? I could just watch him on TV or something if I really felt the need for Jackson fix. Then we started brainstorming ‘what ifs’.

What if the concert started with hologramichael as a kid in the Jackson 5, performing all kinds of delicious tunes from ABC to Never Say Goodbye, and then moving up to the teenage years with Dancin’ Machine and going through all the jammies, including a jaw-dropping performance of Thriller featuring flesh-n-blood zombie dancers?!? Before we knew it we were incredibly excited for some shit that doesn’t even exist yet.

Dr. Dre waved away at the idea that the Tupac-ogram was created for anything but Coachella, but in the same breath basically said that a tour “could be possible”. I’m assuming it would basically be legal issues that would get in the way of a tour, as far as song rights, image rights and such are concerned.

What do you guys think? Is the hologram creepily cutting edge or tear-jerkingly beautiful? Would you pay to see a hologram Tupac concert, or any other concert?

*clears throat*

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So I’ve been out of commission for a few days. My boyfriend got appendicitis and I stayed with him in the emergency room and overnight at the hospital from Friday to Monday. My armpits smell from lack of showering and my neck is stiff from lack-of-sleeping-on-a-memory-foam-mattress-like-the-one-at-my-apartment. Anyhoo, I owe everyone some updates so for coherence-like purposes I’ll probably post several entries to night. Makin’ up for lost time and whatnot.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

A (horribly offensive and unnecessary) Performance Art Piece in Sweden

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Do you find the image disturbing? Then congratulations! You still have a soul!  The above picture is from Swedish performance artist Makode Linde’s “Painful Cake” exhibit. The point of this travesty was to highlight female genital mutilation in Africa. Great, thanks. Couldn’t have maybe taken some artistic photos or anything? Instead, Linde (as the yelling head in blackface) decided to make the situation “real”. Here is the YouTube video from his show:

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of this piece (aside from the screaming, the blackface and total disrespect for African women) is the response of the attendees. This picture has been circulating on the internet (specifically Facebook) with many people calling for the Minister of Culture (feeding the head) to resign.

The caption, in case it is not legible, reads: “Reported on 16 April 2012, The Minister of Culture of Sweden cuts up an ‘African woman’ cake a la Sarah Baartman at the Museum of Modern Art. The head is of a real person in blackface.” [The link is my own addition.]

This picture is the close up of Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth gleefully feeding Linde, while onlookers can’t seem to control their joy.

According to Liljeroth’s Facebook page she thought the situation was “bizarre”; and Linde asked her to say the following as she cut off the first genital piece of cake: “Your life will be better after this!” Linde claims the cake’s meant to be provocative social commentary on the issue of female circumcision in Africa as it’s viewed by the West.”

Liljeroth doesn’t plan on resigning. In fact, she totally supports what she did. Liljeroth said: “[Linde] claims that [this exhibition] challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism,” she said. “Art needs to be provocative.” I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize people from “the West” thought that female genital mutilation was exotic or romantic. How is his piece not totally going against what he claims to be trying to debunk? To make an African female body into a fucking CAKE  and having people laughingly cut slices and eat it is totally romanticizing the idea of genital mutilation. Is there anyone who disagrees with that? I honestly would like to know, because so far I have not seen any comments that condone this performance “art”.

What are your thoughts? Is this racist? Or is this just in disgustingly poor taste? Or is it both?