*For such a talented guy, Spike Lee sure seems to make an absolute fool of himself when it comes to taking on other directors.
First, there was the baffling criticism of Clint Eastwood over the lack of black soldiers in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima; now it’s potshots at Quentin Tarantino for his use of the n-word in Django Unchained. Lee took to Twitter to sniff at the movie, sending out “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”
Lee’s in the wrong on this, a lot of folks think. In case you haven’t seen Django Unchained, stop reading this right now and go. It not only might be the best movie of 2012, it might be the best movie Quentin Tarantino has ever done. That’s right. Certainly better than Jackie Brown or the two indulgent Kill Bill movies, richer and more rewarding than his two blood-soaked early masterpieces in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and more focused and streamlined than Inglorious Basterds. It’s an utterly amazing film filled with A+ performances from Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio, some gorgeous cinematography by Tarantino, and a sprawling, compelling screenplay that, of course, includes liberal doses of the “n-word.” However, as Tarantino has repeatedly stated in interviews, he merely adopted the verbiage of the time and place where the film was set. The Antebellum South was not a politically correct place – it was hell on Earth, as Tarantino presents in his film.
Seeing a black hero blasting apart the evil villains that stalked this hell on earth is a release, that’s all it is. Django Unchained is a fantastical revenge movie. Audiences shouldn’t take this as history gospel, no more than the ending of Inglorious Basterds – in which Hitler was blown up in a movie theater. We should trust the people in the seats to recognize what the film is. Sometimes it’s just good to see the bad guys get killed.
In the meantime, Lee should focus on making better movies. Maybe people would be talking about him, and not Tarantino, if Red Hook Summer had been any good at all.