Saturday, March 23, 2013

django vs. lincoln

Same theme: Slavery. Different directors: Tarantino and Spielberg. Night and day.

Let's not beat around the bush. The star of the movie Lincoln was Steven Spielberg. The look, mood, the pace, the melodrama, the humor-- every little thing was stamped "Spielberg". Which was not a bad thing, don't get me wrong. Sometimes it's all very effective, like in E.T. But maybe, given the seriousness of the topic, I was expecting more gravity, like in Schindler's List or Amistad.

I enjoyed the movie, nevertheless. After all, it's got Daniel Day-Lewis.

It's always a pleasure to watch DDL immerse himself in his characters, although to be honest, he's done it so many times and won numerous awards each time, I feel that he's become sort of an acting automaton. (Good thing he did Nine: shows he is still human.)

Sally Field was majestically shrill and hysterical-- her natural state?-- while Joseph Gordon-Levitt's talent was underused. His character, Lincoln's elder son, could have been played by any two-bit actor but I suppose he figured what the hey, it's a Spielberg movie.

Ah, but it was Tommy Lee-Jones in a wig who made Lincoln worth watching.

Django Unchained, on the other hand. Hoo boy.

Yes, it was very obviously a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it was first and foremost the cast's movie. Like all of Tarantino's projects, it was the wonderfully put-together cast that was the star.

One might say that this director tends to use the same actors over and over again-- in this case Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz-- but so what? Other film-makers do it all the time, too. But it's the way they all mesh together, even as they are allowed to shine in their individual kookiness, that makes Tarantino's films so much fun to watch.

Case in point: my love, Leonardo de Caprio. His portrayal of the charmingly evil Calvin Candie demands a prequel!

OK, fine. Django lacked the moral ambiguity of Lincoln. All the characters were either good or evil with the lines clearly drawn, which made the whole film a bit cartoonish. I say again, so what? For a movie about slavery, I would rather go deadly serious or shockingly hilarious. To tread the middle ground is somewhat boring. But that's just me.

One last note. Breakthrough performance: Don Johnson. Pulp Fiction revived John Travolta's career. Will Django Unchained do the same for Sonny Crockett? I wouldn't be surprised.

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