Film Studies unit 1, 2 of 3

I watched 2 films Sunday for my film studies class: Taxi Driver (1976) and Django Unchained (2012). I will probably watch There Will Be Blood (2007) tonight and pick which 2 of the 3 to do for my unit 1 analysis, and which of those 2 I will write about for my unit essay.

Taxi Driver

It’s been at least 20 years, probably 30, since I last viewed this film. I remembered going in how uncomfortable the movie is to watch. Robert De Niro is perfect in the role, bringing a staccato integration with other characters while his voice-overs give an internal monologue that vacillates between assured and unhinged in equal measure.

Cybil Sheppard’s Betty lights up the screen in almost every scene she is in.

A young Jodie Foster delivers Iris with a delicate veneer ineffectively hiding her fear.

Peter Boyle portrays maybe the most interesting character in the movie. When Travis Bickel (De Niro) goes to get the taxi job at the start we can see Boyle’s Wizard in a heated discussion through the window over the dispatcher’s shoulder. I would love a story about Wizard that takes place simultaneously with Taxi Driver.

Random thoughts:

  • Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel are wasted in this movie
  • That said, they both inform Bickel’s interactions with Betty and Iris, respectively
  • I forgot about the scene with Martin Scorsese as the guy in the back of Bickel’s cab talking about how he will kill his wife
  • Windows, mirrors, and eyes are recurring elements
  • I forget how New York used to look & be
  • I forgot how the movie ends
  • I had to stop the movie twice and watch 30 Rock episodes
  • This is a movie that would be hard to remake today in the modern age
  • It is about 20 minutes too long
  • The political posters end up in interesting spaces
  • The music was spot on – the xylophone pieces really bothered me. Bernard Hermann, well done

Django Unchained

This was my first ever viewing. I was not looking forward to it, because:

  • I’ve grown disenamored of Tarantino’s homages
  • I do not like Jamie Foxx or Leonardo DiCaprio as actors
  • It’s dark and heavy

I ended up enjoying it more than I thought. Christoph Waltz was great as King Shultz, Samuel L. Jackson played Steven superbly, and the bounty hunter section of the film was as good a bit of the Western genre as you’d find in this century.

I am impressed by the second dinner scene where Leo cuts his hand. I read that it actually happened and he stayed in character and pushed through. He received a standing ovation from the cast and crew for this, and the scene was clearly his best.

Random thoughts:

  • Few women are in it, and the ones that are and have screen time are mostly wasted, which is out of step for Tarantino movies
  • Walton Goggins was also wasted
  • The scene with the Australian mine employees was a missed opportunity
  • This was Tarantino’s super hero movie
  • A lot of seeing things through slats/gun sights/gaps in things, and like Taxi Driver eyes in general are key elements
  • Tarantino in this movie was as disturbing as Scorsese in his but for different reasons — Tarantino is awful in acting and accent
  • Where in the hell did Candie get all those gun hands?
  • Hi, Chattanooga! (The first outfitting scene for Django)
  • Reading articles about the movie I think there was a lot that was cut that should have been left in to make the movie hold together better than a super hero movie
  • I could do without the cameos — give up-and-comers with ability the roles
  • That said, the woman with the covered face in Candie’s crew was another wasted opportunity
  • This should have been 2+ movies — bounty hunter & vigilante in Django Unchained and then rescue husband in Django Unleashed — or else been 30 minutes shorter. A third movie could have been about him and Brumhilda trying to settle somewhere.
  • No one wised up to Hilde and Django having the same ‘R’ burned into their right cheek. It took Stephen to somehow decode that they knew each other

Biggest Criticisms

The music in this movie is a mess. The pieces that were homage to spaghetti westerns and more modern stuff done in a country-and-western vein were great. However, Tarantino kept taking me out of the movie with more modern pieces that reminded me that this is a movie and they were thematically out-of-place.

The super hero elements I alluded to also took me out of the suspended disbelief this kind of movie deserved: blood & other body matter spatter was comical; the clown car that spewed gun-toting plantation hands was ridiculous; Django shooting a rider off his horse the first time he fires a rifle is absurd; that he turns out to be a shooting savant is even more absurd; and his interaction with the Australian miners had me thinking “it can’t be this easy”, until it was.

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About Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

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