Published on: December 6, 2013
When Django Unchained
originally came out last year, it was shortly after the Newtown school massacre, and I decided not to see the Quentin Tarantino movie because of what clearly seemed to be a celebration of gun violence that I would find disturbing at any time, but thought was particularly distasteful at that particular moment.
As it happened, Django Unchained
was Tarantino's most successful movie, and won two Academy Awards - best original screenplay, for Tarantino, and best supporting actor, for Christoph Waltz. But I never saw it.
Until the other day. My son the actor/writer, who is an enormous Tarantino fan, got me a Blu-Ray copy of the movie for my birthday and when he was home for Thanksgiving, urged me to sit down and watch it, to give the movie a chance on its own terms. So we did.
What I found was a movie of undeniable craftsmanship, filled with nods to pop culture icons of the past (Tom Wopat and
Michael Parks and
Don Johnson in the same movie?), and with solid performances by Jamie Foxx as a slave turned bounty hunter and Kerry Washington as the enslaved wife who he tracks down, and outstanding performances by Waltz as a bounty hunter, Leonardo Di Caprio as a plantation owner, and Samuel L. Jackson as a house slave of questionable motives.
But I cannot shake the feeling that the movie celebrates violence and that, in many ways, Tarantino uses all the splatter as a kind of crutch that helps him to avoid any real consideration of the collateral damage of all the violence. I'm no prude, and I like a good, well-plotted action movie as much as the next fellow, but Django Unchained
was disconcerting without seeming to make a larger point.
Maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff. Then again, maybe I'm just finding that with age comes perspective, and perspective often means having to consider context and consequences.
I've written often in this space about the importance of companies like Netflix and Amazon developing original content that help them transcend their traditional roles as delivery systems. I've had a chance, over the past week or so, to watch the five episodes now available of "Alpha House," the original series created by Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau.
"Alpha House" is based on an actual situation - four US senators who share a house in Washington, DC, though I'd like to think (though I am not entirely hopeful) that the actual senators behave with greater decorum. "Alpha House" isn't a breakthrough effort, and can be uneven, but it does have moments of genuine humor and a sharply satirical view of how government and politics work. It's as good as any similar effort that might run on HBO or Showtime, and features a broadly drawn and very funny turn by John Goodman as a GOP Senator from North Carolina who is being challenged in a primary because his conservative ranking "has plummeted to 98 percent."
The only thing I don't understand about "Alpha House" is why Amazon is rolling it out, after an initial flurry, at the rate of one episode a week. I think that they should've gone the Netflix route and just made the whole thing available at once. But again, maybe that's just me.
Speaking of Netflix … good news this week, as the company announced that the second season of "House of Cards," it breakthrough political drama starring Kevin Spacey, will be released as streaming video on February 14, 2014.
Which makes me think that I know what Mrs. Content Guy and I will be doing the evening of Valentine's Day next year.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.