Comedy and Violence
I had been into work 10 days straight after the honeymoon before having a day off on Thursday when I saw Django Unchained (2012) and Tropic Thunder (2008).
I wanted to catch up on watching some recent westerns as well as Quentin Tarantino films with the recent Blu-ray release of Hateful Eight and Django Unchained was a decent enough place to start that viewing. It's not my favorite Tarantino movie or my favorite western of recent years, in fact it's closer to the bottom of my preferences in those areas, but it is a movie with a series of interesting parts to it. Jamie Foxx is great in this, his presence draws the eye away from anything else on the screen, but Christoph Waltz's character is a bit painful to see him lay it on thick for every word he annunciates. This movie drags at times through "check out this cool dialogue" sections but the overall feel of the movie is of a western from the 1970's. For that reason, the decade feel of the movie, this film is worth more than my initial reactions about story and dialogue.
It's interesting how it is like a series of entertaining scenes (and some that fall flat, I'm not a fan of the dentist wagon at all) much like Wolf of Wall Street but this movie gives more of a sense that those scenes all belong together. My final thought on this movie is that it ends in a celebration of westerns by Jamie Foxx doing a very intricate equestrian trick for the character of his wife. This reminds us that despite the racism and violence, this was all a show and tells us that the story has moved to fun western rather than dark western.
I watched this to relax to later in the day but I was reminded by luck we have had in comedic films in the last ten years or so where comedies can be good movies with big stories and great casts. It's more of Comedy Action movies (rather than Action Comedies) where Tropic Thunder lives in a family with The Other Guys and The Interview. I'm sure there are plenty others and there are also the great string of Judd Apatow DNA movies ranging from Knocked Up to 50/50 to Forgetting Sara Marshall.
Our recent honeymoon to Kauai made us aware of how many movies have been made there and this was one of them. It is most noticeable in the opening scene of the pyrotechnic effect that is not caught on camera by the fake director where the mountain from the middle of the island is featured in the landscape background.
I used to not like Jack Black. I think he was a bit of a cartoon character and did a lot of movies for kids where he just acted wacky. This movie plays with that perception where his fictional character plays an Eddie Murphy type who dresses up in fat suits and farts but the off screen character is a drug fiend misfit. This character steals the movie for me and the other side of Jack Black's real career has stolen my initial perception of him for me. I have loved seeing him in this, Be Kind Rewind, and Margot at the Wedding have shown a side to him that keep me from holding movies like Shallow Hal against him.
There just aren't many movies like Tropic Thunder and watching it this time made me wish Ben Stiller directed more movies. He has Zoolander, Cable Guy, Tropic Thunder and Walter Mitty among his filmography but he just doesn't direct very frequently. There are a few movies mentioned earlier that are similarly great comedies and great movies and the last 10-15 years have shown that there can be more and more movies that live up to those comedy and quality standards.
I would be neglectful to not recount the first time I ever saw this movie. I rented this and Wall-E from Blockbuster in 2009 as part of planning for when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I was a little proud and it took me a while to ask my parents to drive out to New Britain from Storrs to take me to the procedure and look after me in the hours after having my wisdom teeth taken out. I remember counting down as the dentist drugged me up then woke up telling my parents the story of one of my co-workers who had his wisdom teeth taken out but didn't plan to have anyone drive him home. He ended up having them call another one of my co-workers come to pick him up and take him home. "Yes, you just told us that story," someone laughed in response.
I remember my parents stopping to get some groceries on the way to my apartment, I think they asked if I wanted to go in with them and I'm pretty sure I wasn't capable of moving. I recall leaning against the window in the backseat staring into space, and the next thing I remember was being in my apartment and putting one of the movies into my playstation to watch with my parents. All I remember seeing of those movies was that they were really depressing. Something was lost on me in that state and the humor didn't make it through to my brain and all I saw of those movies was a depressing war movie and a story about how garbage killed Earth and all humans got fat and useless.