Why I'm Glad Quentin Tarantino Won't Win An Academy Award

Why I'm Glad Quentin Tarantino Won't Win An Academy Award

This started as a review, you know. Things got out of hand.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for several Quentin Tarantino films, some harsh language, and a graphic image from "12 Years a Slave."

By a casual definition, I'm an untalented, underemployed film geek. So, all of my cinematically-inclined followers should not be surprised to know that I went to see the roadshow version of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, "The Hateful Eight," in 70 mm film projection. And damn, was that an experience.

I (among others) think of Tarantino as an anti-directorial enigma, because he makes really, really incredible movies seemingly effortlessly, and does whatever the hell he wants whenever he so desires; Tarantino is as Tarantino does. And admittedly, there's a ring of truth to that: who else would have released a three hour Western almost entirely contained in a small cabin that basically coincided with the release of "Star Wars" and still have it be the best paced movie I've seen since "Ex Machina?"

Much as I'm sure the world needs another gushing review of "Hateful Eight," I like to think that movies are more than their formal qualities. So while I would list this film in the top 10 I've seen this year and in my top three Tarantino movies overall, the film is undeniably one of the most heavy-handed approaches to race relations I've seen since "Red Tails."

From this point forward, my review will no longer be spoiler-free. The widespread respect and admiration this film has gotten despite serious thematic issues is too important to let things like the standard format of a film review get in the way. Henceforth, this is going to be the opinions of a young white guy trying to make sense of the world around him, so take it with a big grain of salt.

OK, let's start with some historical background. Tarantino has been mired himself in racial controversy since "Reservoir Dogs," specifically through the wanton use of one specific word. Though various parties have attacked and defended the director, here's what Tarantino himself had to say in the wake of "Pulp Fiction:"

"My feeling is the word 'nigger' is probably the most volatile word in the English language. The minute any word has that much power, as far as I'm concerned, everyone on the planet should scream it. No word deserves that much power. I'm not afraid of it. That's the only way I know how to explain it."

OK, so put one on the board for Tarantino, if you believe it. No, it's not his word to "not [be] afraid of" any more than it is mine. No, he never explained why everything he films with people of color turns into a painful aping of what he seems to view as their culture. For the moment, society gave our young hero a pass because he claimed to be making a political statement through the vocabulary of his characters.

And that worked for several years, including a rip-off blaxploitation picture in Jackie Brown (which is my favorite, technically, because it actually takes its time to let characters think instead of being a damn highlight reel. Color me hypocritical, again). Our boy buzzed his happy way through several critically acclaimed films while only seriously being criticized by people who thought his movies were too violent.

That all changed in 2012 with the release of "Django Unchained." The only time continually spraying racist hate into the mainstream can be considered subtle is when it is compared to a revisionist history film about a Black gunfighter who kills a ton of white folks before literally demolishing the institution of slavery at the end of the film. As always, Tarantino is light on his feet.

Finally! everyone cried. Someone has done it! They've made the perfect slave movie, something we can put on a double bill with "Birth of a Nation" and feel like we've made progress afterwards. The Academy even gave him another Oscar, the critical equivalent of a gold star and a pat on the head.

I'll admit, I shared this view for a second until that meddling Steve McQueen shook me back to reality. While "Django" gleefully juxtaposed slavery and revenge through destruction, "12 Years a Slave" subjected the viewer to shit that seems impossible. You don't need a history degree to know about whippings or of lynchings, but seeing a film that so painfully lingers on degrading and horrifically visceral human suffering damaged me in a way no montage could ever. Racism became an element of history and society that demands reparations and justice, not some phony plantation in the backwards South that can be blown to bits for the climax.

Tarantino does something similar at the end of "Hateful Eight," and boy, is it even more so. As I've said before, the film is about an assorted group of folks crammed together in a cabin for a snowstorm some years after the Civil War. There are a lot of interesting moments that surround race in the film, but I'd like to focus on one item in particular: the Lincoln Letter owned by Samuel L. Jackson.

As a totem, the letter goes through a series of transformations. It begins the film as a sacred object, an intimate letter from the deceased leader of the free world to one lowly soldier. However, once the film reveals that the letter is indeed fake, it takes on another meaning as something meant to disarm racial tensions, a way to put white people at ease. For a moment, the film seemed to have a nuanced approach to race relations, which makes sense for a smart group of Hollywood people.

But as the white Rebel renegade (Walton Goggins) and the Black Union soldier (Jackson) lie dying at the end of the film, Goggins asks for the letter once again. Now, we are given the full text of the letter, which reads in part: "We still have a long way to go. But, hand in hand, we will get there." As the camera pans out to reveal the hanged racist Domergue, the film slaps you with a message of coming together as a nation, one that is new from the earlier leaked version of the script and the opposite of the letter's message. The film seems to end on a largely optimistic and socially conscious note for America's future: evil is dead, the two races are reconciled, and Tarantino is a genius.

He may be a genius, but that doesn't mean he's perfect.

America isn't done with racism anymore than QT is. Continuing to symbolically destroy plantations and hang, shoot, and stab racist southerners in films isn't the way to address these issues. A combination of revolution, reparation, and reconciliation is the only option I can see, and continuing to shoot explosively Cool movies (now featuring capital S Social messages) almost seems counterproductive. Not even his comments on #BLM sold me on the movie, especially his bizarrely messianic hope that the film become "a rite of passage for Black fathers and their sons."

So, that's why I'm happy Tarantino didn't make it to the big show this time. Not because it isn't a good movie, but because even #OscarsSoWhite seems to be able to tell this one has something weird going on.

Cover Image Credit: SamePageTeam.com

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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