Thursday, December 27, 2012

Django Unchained: Karen's Thoughts on Schultz and Love

Django Unchained is a brilliant movie. An action movie on the outside is, in reality, a complex movie skillfully encompassing the genres of blaxploitation, German mythology, and romance.

Django is a hero who, with the aid of Dr. Schultz,  rescues his wife Broomhilda from humiliation and slavery. In many Germanic stories, the name Broomhilda ( Brunnhilde, Brynhildr), is the defining damsel in distress. She is imprisoned in a remote castle where she sleeps in a ring of fire until she is rescued by a hero (the Norse mythology ends in tragedy). 

In a disputed plot development, some question why Schultz decides on a "harebrained" scheme to save Broomhilda when he could have simply made an offer to buy her freedom.  I think the answer is that Schultz is a complicated character.  "Schultz specializes in theatrics" says Tarantino in an interview with Mike Ryan in the Huffington Post. Schultz seems like a reasonable and thoughtful man, but Schultz is also a trickster who likes convoluted plans. He is a control freak who needs to be in control of all situations.

Django Unchained is controversial.  Although some may see the film as empowering, Spike Lee says he is boycotting the movie because "It's disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film." In 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch "Django Unchained" and 5 reasons Why You Should Skip "Django Unchained," Chuck Creekmur of All has a mixed review, saying he found the excessive use of the 'N" word (used 114 times) "offensive" and "Do we really need another movie about slavery?"

Want more Django Unchained? Wired reports a new comic book series which, according to Vertigo Comics, is the only way to read the entire, uncut story, which contains scenes that may not appear in the final film. "Nerdgasm" was in the article's comments section.
Cover #4 for the comic book Django Unchained

Thursday, December 6, 2012

January Selection Announced / The Blog Evolves

Apparently PBR Book Club is far too lazy to read a collection of essays in December, so we'll resume our literary exploits in January and tackle our first book of essays:  Jon Ronson's Lost at Sea.

In the meantime, we'd like to encourage our many blog authors (and anyone else who stumbles across this blog and is interested), to submit short pieces on whatever hip books or films you're watching this month.   Aside from the reliable Karen and Steve posts, we've seriously slacked off with this blog in recent months, and it could use some content!   Surely B-Suit has thoughts on Joe Wright's very-meta new film version of Anna Karenina?  Surely I can finally make time for an annoyingly pompous Brechtian reading of the new Brad Pitt film Killing Them Softly that I've been itching to write for the past week?  Surely someone who watches Magnolia with us next week (during our 3rd meeting of PBR Film Club) will want to compare PTA's "everything is connected" flick with Cloud Atlas, somehow?

Anyway, if you happen to be interested in writing and need an "author invite," leave us a message.

And we'll see the hippest among you next week for Magnolia.

In the meantime, here's some of our favorite cast members:

 Frank TJ Mackey (that's NOT a peace symbol!) :


Quiz Kid Donny Smith!

Officer Jim!

Falling frog!  (why can't PTA re-release this film in 3-D??)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wittgensteinian Skyfall

"Under the Skin" by Michel Faber

"She tried to see herself as a vodsel might.
Even at a glance, she found it difficult to believe how much she had let herself go. It seemed like only a few days ago that she'd last done what was necessary to push herself across the dividing line into bestiality; it must have been much longer ago than that. What a bizarre sight she must have been to the vodsels who'd seen her recently. It was a good thing, really, that the last couple were safely out of circulation, because she had to admit she didn't pass muster now ... She looked almost human."

This fabulously sicko creeper work in the best tradition of H. G. Wells but thoroughly living in at least the late 20th century works on many levels from the kind of wonderful delicacies we tend to partake of in this holiday season to interstellar travel and alien worlds and culture colliding with less developed societies and species in our part of the galaxy on down to political commentary on the human social realm to simply a fun and campy-haunting homage to the Scottish countryside and the kinds of horrors one can conjure from that starting point but perhaps the most fundamental is that notion of what it means for someone or a group of someones to have language, to have words for things.

Like most enjoyable works, this one functions on multiple levels, the kind of thing I am always hungry for. Does reading this work make you hungry or make you sick? Hmm, for me - mostly hungry, despite it all. There are interesting discussions about how our own pain blinds us to certain realities even as it increases our potential for compassion for the pain in others. About how self-righteous anger is the most destructive kind of anger. About what beauty, sexual attractiveness, success and failure really look like once you decide to look more closely.

For me, one of the core levels ties together the real and the imagined, the power to disorient the reader with frame of reference regarding culture and race (human vs alien - the biggest subversion of all!), and the ethical and emotional - language and what does it mean in terms of who we actually are and even if we're even to be thought of as "sentient"! Are we not men? We are vodsels. V-O-D-S-E-L-S. What does it mean?

Wittgenstein's ghost along with many others runs through his kind of process. The question is not whether our heroine (or is she an anti-heroine - she's working for the other side!) Isserley can ever learn English by watching TV (as so many do, but then they are already human at least) - it is whether the combination of her own language and her limited understanding of ours will be sufficient to understand what is means when we think of ourselves as humans (much the same as we wonder what it might be like to experience the viewpoint and sentience of animals) and whether it will ever be sufficient to understand a non-literal concept like "mercy".


Not until she experiences our "meaning" of specific language-games first-hand does she finally have a glimmer of who we are and how we think and how that might relate to her (their) concepts of same. A skin-deep understanding of a language is actually misleading (and convenient) when making assumptions about (preparing sumptuous delicacies of) The Other.

Once you view the book in this light, you can tear down the alien-human distinction as it functions about as well for similar provocative discussions about differences in perception and ethical hierarchies of race, culture, species, and so forth. All while immersing yourself in a strange romp through the lonely, wet Scottish countryside with aliens and home-world horrors and a cartoonish sense of lampooning to inject a bit of whimsy into other dark-ish themes. And if you happened to go see the latest James Bond movie "Skyfall" right smack dab in the middle of reading this book, then you experienced a really odd synchronicity, right down to exact vodsel highway names!

Bon appetit!