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*** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The only thing I'd ever seen about "Chariots of Fire" is the opening song, the run along the beach (both of which take place at the very beginning of the film), and parodies thereof - it was hard not to be roused by the classic combination, worn out though it may be. I didn't realize the film took place in 1924; I thought it was a World War II movie - I know virtually nothing about it, so I'm looking forward to it very much. Okay, 25-minutes in, I'm a "wee bit" worried that this is going to be a "message movie" (the message of brotherhood), but I'm banking on the Best Picture win to ensure it isn't nauseating - anything that beats out "Raiders of the Lost Ark" must be great, right? Right? So far it's shaping up to be a classic human drama - Christian vs. Jew, for lack of a more elegant phrase. I'd say this is around the time of "feel-good" movies, but "Ordinary People" won the award the year before, so that theory is instantly dispelled. When Scotland was racing France in the quarter-mile, the maggot who pushed Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) off the track, never got another camera shot (I rewound the film to check (*)). Yes, Harold Abrahams' (Ben Cross) clutching of the paper when Liddell got back up to chase down his unethical foe was quite touching - go ahead, call me a softie. (*) Oh yes he did! About twenty minutes later, when he gave Abrahams (not Liddell) an "eat shit" look in the locker room. My only question at this point is that Liddell seems to be a middle-distance runner, whereas Abrahams seems to be an all-out sprinter, so how can they compete against each other? Or, is that not where the film is heading? Whoa! A middle-distance runner beat Abrahams in a sprint the first time they meet? Abrahams has every right to be upset - wow, I wasn't expecting that. That girl (the actress) telling him he was acting like a child, and that he was "marvelous" has absolutely *no clue* what it's like to be an athlete who loses. Seeing the transportation from various countries coming towards this 1924 Olympics - countries had to have *money*, serious money, to just *get to the games*. Forget hosting; I'm talking about just getting there - it's remarkable, coming over by slow boat, slightly post-WWI. The Olympics are high-dollar entertainment, especially now, and that's why poor countries just simply cannot compete (unless, of course, they're genetically superior athletes, such as Kenyan marathoners (forgive the stereotype, but it's true)). This makes me realize that the Olympics was, is, and probably always will be, games for the rich, or at least for countries who are so proud that they pour money into making a good showing. In a way it's quite sad; in a way, it's harsh reality. "The Skaters' Waltz" shows up here numerous times. Did you know that this is *not* by Johann Strauss I? No, it's by the relatively unknown French composer, Émile Waldteufel - isn't that amazing? Ask most classical music aficionados this question, and they'll have no idea what the answer is.The piece is called "The Ice Skaters" (<<Les Patineurs Valse>>) and was composed in 1882, fully fifty years after the heyday of Strauss I (I keep saying "Strauss I" because he also had a son who was "Strauss II." In case you think I'm some Classical Music know-it-all who knew this ... I, too, thought it was composed by Johann Strauss I. There's a lot - a *lot* - about this movie that drags, to the point where I'm surprised it won the Academy Award, but the moment of tension during the start of the 100-meter finals was palpable - the way they dragged out the beginning.really gave everything a "nervous' feeling. I wonder how many people realize that Director Hugh Hudson paid homage - and I mean *direct* homage* - to "Ocean's 11" at the very end of "Chariots of Fire." It was every bit as remarkable (and every bit as obvious) as Martin Scorsese paying homage to "The Great Train Robbery" at the very end of "Goodfellas." This was not quite a much of a "message" movie as I feared it would be, but there was certainly that aspect to it, and quite frankly, that's probably what won it the Best Picture award. "Chariots of Fire" was a very good movie, and I'm willing to say it was a great movie, but it was absolutely *not* the Best Picture of the year - for starters, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was better in every way except for pensive introspection. For those who disagree, I consider "Raiders" to be a classic in the same vein as "The Wizard of Oz," "Star Wars," and "Gone with the Wind" - in other words, it wasn't just "Best Picture" material, but it was one of the greatest motion pictures ever made - an absolute legendary classic which could rightfully be on anyone's Top 10 list. "Das Boot" was better, too, but that's at least debatable. Still, I'm really glad I saw "Chariots of Fire," because I was both entertained and intellectually enriched from the experience - it's worth seeing, and it's something even more than that. Here is the actual video of Eric Liddell winning the 400 meter race.
I've never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino because I'm very much against the use of gratuitous violence in film. That said, I've only seen "Pulp Fiction" and (probably all of) "Reservoir Dogs," which are 12 and 14 years old, respectively: There's something about "Django Unchained" which called out to me, despite me suspecting it would probably be Tarantino-esque; violence was terribly real in the days of slavery, and so here was a film in which I could perhaps justify it - perhaps even enjoy it, in a vengeful sort of way - depending on how it was used, and for what purposes. I also had a rough week at the office, and needed some mindless escapism - Tarantino is about as mindless as it gets: A bloodhound gift-wrapped as an intellect. Maybe Django (played by Jamie Foxx) will get some sort of revenge at the end of all this, and shoot the bastards who deserve it. That's the kind of week it has been for me. *** SPOILER ALERT *** It's a safe bet that I'll be discussing things from this point forward that will ruin the movie for you - as usual, I'm writing while watching, so my comments will arrive in mostly chronological order. As usual, I'm writing this as I go, and so far, Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), worries me. He has been almost superhuman in killing the Speck brothers, and now he has taken on an entire town, killing the sheriff in cold blood, and getting everything he wanted in the process. He's a little too good to be true, I'm afraid, though I admit it was satisfying to see the poor, chained-up slaves have the final say against the remaining Speck brother - I only hope they followed the North Star as recommended by Schultz. The scene where they were arguing about the eye-holes in the KKK masks was the first time I've ever seen comedy surrounding a KKK meeting, and it was brilliantly done, too - acting both as comic relief, a suspense-builder (for what we dread is about to happen), and most importantly, foreshadowing - for what actually happened. This guy Schultz is no dummy. With almost two hours remaining in the film, Schultz and Django have just partnered, and I'm afraid that things are going a little *too* good - there's plenty of time left for lots of terrible things to happen. I sure hope Schultz isn't guilty of a last-minute betrayal; he sure seems like a decent fellow so far. Okay, this Mandingo fighting is making me physically sick to my stomach (some movie fans will remember the 1975 Blaxploitation Film, "Mandingo"). This is the side of Tarantino I don't like - there's nothing left to the imagination, and if he could do it in 3D, he would, if he could do it so that you could smell the blood, he would, if he could do it so that you were there in the room with fighters, he would, if he could do it so that you felt the pain, he would. There's no subtlety with Tarantino - even in this film, over a decade later, he's still doing body horror under the very thin veil of "high art" - he is the most contemptible of directors: the kind that substitutes gross-out shock value for true artistry. When Leonardo DiCaprio perks up upon hearing the outlandish amount that Schultz and Django are willing to pay for a top-level Mandingo fighter, he just goes to show that even the most heinous, sadistic people will gladly sell their principles if the price is right. This is a universal theme. Tarantino could have made the dog-killing scene much worse, but then the film would have carried an NR-17 rating - I honestly wonder if that's the reason he chose to make most of it impressionistic. Assuming there *were* slave owners as sadistic as Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) - and I assume there were - this is just 165 years ago, and we, as a species, haven't evolved all that far from this. In fact, genetically, we've scarcely evolved at all - there are still people, Americans, who would be doing this if given the right. Maybe Tarantino is a better director than I give him credit for, because he's being quite successful at making me hate people. --- Comic Relief: The Candyland plantation is located in Greenville, MS (trivia: there are more towns and cities named "Greenville" in the 50 United States than with any other name - at least, that's what I remember reading about ten years ago). Greenville is near the Mississippi Delta, and not far from both Arkansas and Louisiana. Some real-life people born in Greenville that you may have heard of are Jim Henson, Shelby Foote (these two men alone have provided PBS with a disproportionate share of talent), George Scott, Frank White, and Mary Wilson. These are the ones I know, but there are others whom you may know that I'm not familiar with. Well, I guess this wasn't really "comedy," but at least it wasn't someone getting ripped to shreds by three angry dogs - back to the film. --- The best scene in the movie so far is when they ride into the Candyland estate, and the elderly butler gives Django the biggest eat-shit look I've ever seen. [Edit: Hoo boy was I wrong, and I had *no idea* this was Samuel L. Jackson at first, either.] Vintage Quentin Tarantino: A director with finesse wouldn't have felt any need to see Broomhilda graphically pulled from the hotbox; (s)he would have simply shown Django's facial expressions the entire time, and let viewers use their imagination. Any excuse for gore, violence, and shock value: That's Quentin Tarantino. I know, I know, it'll make Revenge Time all the more sweet to watch, right? That said, the scene at the dinner table with the wise old butler is suspense at its finest, and I mean it is *masterful*. The entire course of events, from the hotbox up until the handshake was masterful - a flash of brilliance from a sadistic provocateur. Oh, look! A bloodbath juxtaposed with rap - how intellectual. And ... I just stopped watching the film before the potential castration scene - I have no need for this in my life, and shame on Hollywood for a Best Picture nomination for this piece of sadistic garbage. Since I try to always finish what I start, I may or may not finish the film later, but I will most certainly read the synopsis of the plot before I do, because at this point, I no longer care what happens: they can castrate Django ... or not. They can kill Django ... or not. They can kill Broomhilda ... or not. The two can magically escape and ride off into the sunset ... or not. I couldn't care less. Franco Nero in a cameo: