Some Entertaining History Lessons

What a day! Spent over five hours sitting in a movie theater watching Civil War era films, yet didn’t get quite so weepy eyed like when watching the Ken Burns documentary with all the sad violins and whatnot. (Although I have to admit, I came close to wet eyeing it a couple of times – including in the Tarantino film! – Never thought I’d be able to say that!)

First up was Django Unchained. I didn’t know quite what to expect going in, but I do know that expectations can of their own accord make or brake a film, or at least a first viewing, and I more or less figured on an Inglourious Basterds set in the Civil War South. This expectation is probably why I felt the film was slightly short in the humor department. Inglourious Basterds sets the bar pretty high for laugh out loud violence and Django Unchained, while containing plenty of explosive ultraviolent comedy, isn’t quite the nonstop laughfest its predecessor was. Don’t get me wrong – some scenes are funny as hell, and I laughed quite a bit, but there is plenty of screen time given to some very tense, highly emotionally engaging drama that is just too plain serious to be funny. On the other hand, I found myself much more emotionally involved with this movie than with Inglourious Basterds. Unlike in the following film Lincoln, not knowing for sure how things were going to turn out made for some stomach tightening moments. (Anyone who’s ever seen a Quentin Tarantino film has some idea how it will turn out, it’s really just a matter of the details, but still…) Seeing in a film the marriage of two slaves being afforded the respect a marriage deserves was touching, as was the bonding between the two bounty hunters. Actually gave me a bit of hope that we may some day end up getting over this issue which is race. But then again, this is just a film – and a Quentin Tarantino film at that… Never one for reality or factual accuracy, but I suppose one can dream.

The style of conversation/dialog was inconsistent, but again, one does not see a film by Quentin Tarantino for historical accuracy. This was only a minor con, not a major distraction. Overall, I loved the film and highly recommend it. If you can sit for five or six hours, I recommend the double feature like I did. Provides quite a contrast of the subject matter. (Idea from this review here.)

Lincoln, on the other hand, wildly exceeded my expectations. I figured to find it dry, or studious, and, despite my love of history and the Civil War in particular, a sober straight man to Django Unchained‘s funny man. But Lincoln was funny and surprising – shocking even. No typical Spielberg honey coated sap fest here, although if you’re sensitive, you could definitely spill a little eye lubricant I suppose. (In fairness, Spielberg hasn’t been so syrupy in a while now… A good thing in my book.) I definitely didn’t expect to be laughing out loud during this one, but I sure did, on more than one occasion. And I love the scene with Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and Lydia Smith (S Epatha Merkerson) near the end just before the final scenes – a cinematic treasure. This whole film is worthy of all the praise which has been heaped upon it. Not pretentious either, I should add.

I may do a post with more detailed contrasts and comparisons – I feel one is warranted – but another day. I’m pooped from all this viewing!

One comment

  1. Post script: An interesting national discussion is only beginning…

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