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A Million Ways to Die in the West

 

Central to Post-American Hollywood’s hate affair with European-American heritage is its especial loathing for the rugged, expansive tradition of the masculine Old West, a tired spite that found expression in Brokeback Mountain (2005), Django Unchained (2012), and last year’s flop Lone Ranger remake, and now throws a new shovelful of Marxist manure onto the pile with A Million Ways to Die in the West, the latest directorial effort of Family Guy auteur Seth MacFarlane, whose last foray into feature filmmaking was the less heartless and more palatable Ted (2012).

The western spoof was never a genre that held much interest for this reviewer. After Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962), Little Big Man (1970), Thank You Mask Man (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974), and so many others, was there really such high demand for another one of these things? Worst is that A Million Ways to Die in the West misses even the broad target of this underachieving subgenre and fails to elicit a single laugh – with, perhaps, the brief exception of the absurd sight of Gilbert Gottfried dressed up to look like Abraham Lincoln.

MacFarlane, who stars as an Arizona sheep farmer, lacks the charisma and color to carry a gonzo film of this sort, and might have done better to cast Seth Rogen or some other funny Jew in the lead. Monument Valley, at least, was never more gorgeous, and sets off race traitoress Charlize Theron’s earthy beauty to nice effect. Liam Neeson, too, is adequate as the principal villain, while Sarah Silverman is convincing as (what a stretch!) a brainless whore. No coup of casting, however, could offset the fact that A Million Ways to Die in the West is too explicitly nasty, self-aware, and mean-spirited to evoke any genuine mirth.

2 out of 5 stars. ICA’s advice: watch Shane (1953) again instead. That is, unless the viewer is absolutely determined to see a sheep urinating in Seth MacFarlane’s face or Doogie Howser, M.D., dumping noisy splats of diarrhea into a Stetson.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Million Ways to Die in the West is:

13. Pro-miscegenation. Giovanni Ribisi dirties himself with Jewish floozy Sarah Silverman.

12. Anti-capitalistic. Merchants receive unfavorable depictions in an arrogant mustache cosmetics salesman (Doogie Howser) and a quack medicine hawker (Dennis Haskins). Other representative forms of commerce and industry are prostitution and mining, which leads to health problems.

11. Anti-tobacco. MacFarlane has a coughing fit when he tries his first cigarette.

10. Anti-Arab. Theron, after hearing him do a mock rendition of an Islamic prayer, is relieved to learn that MacFarlane has no Arabian ancestry.

9. Anti-slavery (i.e., pro-yawn). Django himself, Jamie Foxx, shows up in a cameo to murder the proprietor of a “runaway slave” shooting game at a fair.

8. Anti-human. Among the sights MacFarlane expects the viewer to find hilarious are a family catching on fire and men being shot, gored by a bull, and smashed into bloody bits by a falling block of ice.

7. Pro-slut. Sarah Silverman with a gob of semen stuck to her cheek. How charming.

6. Anti-Christian. Parkinson’s disease is sarcastically described as one of the ways God shows His love. A pastor and his son are murderers. Silverman plays a prostitute who bangs ten customers “on a slow day” but refuses to compromise her Christian beliefs by having premarital sex with her fiance.

5. Pro-castration. MacFarlane’s girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him, mainly because the guy is such a wimpy, needy schmuck with no potential. The movie’s somewhat ambivalent solution to his woes, however, is not for the hero to turn himself into a stud and a macho gunslinger, but for him to become more open-minded, study under the tutelage of a feminist, take drugs, and embrace diversity. Sissy, progressive, ethnomasochistic men like MacFarlane and Ribisi are the characters the viewer is supposed to like, while traditionally masculine types are antagonists, with rough-loving outlaw Liam Neeson getting a daisy stuffed in his ass. Men, the message seems to be, ought not to toughen up so much as opt for moderation in wimpiness.

4. Gun-ambivalent. A Million Ways to Die in the West is naturally eager to depict the typical gun owner as a rowdy Caucasian who likes nothing better than to find an excuse to put a bullet through a stranger. The film finds itself in a bit of a quandary, however, in that it is difficult to tell an entertaining story about the Wild West without making use of heroic gunplay. As a compromise, the film features an unlikely, reluctant hero in MacFarlane, a man with no natural talent for shooting and who avoids confrontation when possible, but does learn (from a woman) how to handle a gun in order to protect himself from all of the horrible, unprogressive white men in town. A Million Ways to Die in the West appears to suggest that firearms are best left as a monopoly of responsible feminists like Charlize Theron.

3. Pro-drug. MacFarlane and Theron share a marijuana cookie. The hero later attains “true courage” by drinking a psychedelic concoction given to him by an Indian tribe. Group freakout sessions, explains their wise chief (Wes Studi), constitute the way to “true happiness”.

2. Feminist, anti-marriage, and anti-family. Theron heroically liberates herself from bossy, abusive husband Liam Neeson. MacFarlane’s parents are lifeless sourpusses who never show him any affection. Ribisi, meanwhile, mentions being molested by an uncle. (cf. nos. 5 and 8)

1. Anti-American. “The West fuckin’ sucks.”

white_house_down

Magic Mike himself, big badass Channing Tatum, stars as a Capitol policeman and would-be Secret Service agent who gets his chance to play at the real thing when he and his daughter (Joey King) tour the White House on precisely the day real-life Obama disser James Woods, the devious head of White House security, plans to stage a coup d’etat to unseat President Django, played by Jamie Foxx.

It is appropriate that the opening credits acknowledge a company called Mythology with this lightweight production, considering how White House Down is nothing if not an encapsulation of liberals’ mythologized view of an idealized President B.O., the scholarly man of peace who could solve all of America’s problems if only given enough cooperation and tax revenue. President Django, suitably enough, makes His first appearance in a three-helicopter formation symbolizing the Trinity of His Godhead.

The film follows the basic template of the Die Hard franchise, with a bloodied, battered Magic Mike, complete with soiled wifebeater and an imperiled loved one among the hostages, jumping, running, and dragging himself through historic bedrooms and the obligatory elevator shaft like a younger, sexier, generally less interesting John McClane.

The action is decent, if unoriginal, though there is an admitted joy to the scene of the mild-mannered, bespectacled President Django getting unchained on the White House lawn and hanging out of the window of His chauffeured car with a rocket launcher. James Woods brings a necessary seriousness to the film, while gorgeously quirky Maggie Gyllenhaal, wasted here in the role of a Secret Service bigwig, is at least enjoyable to ogle.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that White House Down is:

9. Anti-tobacco. President Django is not a smoker.

8. Anti-Christian. Prominently featured terrorist Killick (Kevin Rankin) has a cross tattooed on his chest.

7. Pro-miscegenation. Magic Mike’s daughter has a crush on President Django.

6. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Right-wing white nationalists naturally play a part in the coup.

5. Feminist and anti-marriage. Magic Mike’s daughter not only protects the President, but saves the world from nuclear holocaust. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a strong, self-assured, and independent woman with no need of a man. Her ex-husband was an “asshole”.

4. Egalitarian. President Django deploys a folksy anecdote to explain how poverty causes crime.

3. Antiwar. Refreshingly, White House Down vilifies defense contractors and poo-poos the fearmongering about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Undermining this show of pacifism, however, is the President’s favorable attitude toward drones.

2. Crypto-Zionist. Conspiratorial mastermind Woods is a fanatical neoconservative bent on destroying Iran. White House Down points the finger not at Israel, however – that country receiving mention only as a signatory to a Middle East peace treaty – but at vague “corporations” and a nebulous “military-industrial complex” with which President Django must grapple. In addition, the implosion of the Capitol dome from a fire inside the building corroborates the official story obscuring the implosion of the Twin Towers and WTC 7, thus diverting attention from any possible Israeli involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Magic Mike’s daughter wears a shirt depicting a squid or octopus to show her solidarity with the forces of the New World Order.

1. Statist. A few bad apples may exist, but government, as personified or deified by Lincoln aficionado President Django, generally has America’s best interests at heart. Racist mercenary Killick, in addition to his cross tattoo, sports an anarchist circle-A on one of his arms. Also demonized are anti-government hackers of the Wikileaks and Anonymous varieties.

django-unchained

Quentin Tarantino is a man with perhaps one great film to his name and who has managed to coast on the strength of that beloved opus for the better part of two decades; he does, however, have more than one very good film to his credit, and the gorgeously realized Django Unchained can, happily, be added to that list.  His love letter to the spaghetti western and blaxploitation genres, it is also his rabble-rousing death threat to civilization and as such is something of a triumph of self-loathing.

Jamie Foxx is affectingly earnest in his portrayal of Django, Rousseau’s chained man, suddenly presented with the opportunity of achieving his liberty and reuniting with his enslaved wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Christoph Waltz is no less charming as the German dentist (who, in a gratuitous irony, has been named Dr. King Schultz) who offers Django his freedom in exchange for a profitable partnership in tracking bounties.  Leonardo DiCaprio, who shines most brightly as a villain, plays Calvin Candie, the handsome, debonair slavemaster in possession of Django’s woman.

The fabulous cast is, typically for Tarantino, filled to the brim with familiar character actors and pop culture favorites of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with Michael Parks, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Don Johnson, James Remar, and Franco Nero, star of the original Django, all putting in appearances.  Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, has probably the funniest role of his career in Stephen, Candie’s loyal but sassy domestic slave – the representative Uncle Tom, in other words – who resents freeman Django at first sight and who, in the race-baiting theology of Django Unchained, embodies what may be the worst of evils: the complaisant betrayal of his own long-suffering people.

That Django Unchained is so successful and involving is proof of writer-director Tarantino’s dangerousness as a filmmaker.  Tarantino, who bears major responsibility for foisting the torture porn genre on humanity through his endorsement (“Quentin Tarantino presents . . .”) of Eli Roth’s execrable anti-human hit Hostel, continues his desensitization of the American public with his obsessive fetishization of the splattered blood and played-for-laughs agony of bullet-riddled unprogressive white men.

With humor but also an unintentional irony, Tarantino has cast himself in a cameo as one of the slavers revolutionarily liquidated by Django.  It is ironic because what what the man is peddling is in effect hatred of himself – of successful whites and of the rich – as an unwitting accomplice in what Yuri Bezmenov describes as the systematic demoralization of Americans by useful idiots through cultural Marxist contamination.  Exhibit A: the critically heralded oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino.

This reviewer can sympathize with Django’s violent impulse to liberation and even the pleasure he takes in killing the men who obstruct his enjoyment of natural rights.  Where the film flies off the ethical rails is in celebrating the shooting not only of those directly imperiling Django’s liberty, but all of their associates, including Candie’s unarmed and mild-mannered sister.  Her crime is one of complacency and, one suspects, of blood relation to the oppressor – of having inherited slavers’ genes.

This is particularly reckless in a film that makes a point of alluding constantly to the contemporary – with hip-hop music, “fuck”-sprinkled dialogue, joking reference to the Holocaust, characters named after Martin Luther King and an Italian western hero, and Tarantino’s endless self-referential postmodern hipsterism – and through these conscious anachronisms advertises some imagined relevance to the race relations of today.  Designed with the express purpose of ripping open and poking the synthetic psychological wounds of crimes not experienced by anyone alive in America today, Django Unchained is nothing if not a wholly superfluous incitation to racial hatred, genocide, and redistribution of wealth.  It is all the more egregious for being so good.

4.5 stars with accompanying whip-scarred stripes.  Goodbye Uncle Tom remains the most incendiary and entertaining treatment of slavery on film, but Tarantino’s new contribution is certainly no slouch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Django Unchained is ominous in its flippancy and:

9. Anti-Christian.  White slavemasters return from a funeral singing a hymn.  Religion that allows for such injustice is a fraud.

8. Anti-tobacco.  Monsieur Candie smokes from a cigarette holder like the bourgeois swine he is.  Rank-and-file southern hick psychos chew and spit.

7. Anti-police.  A racist sheriff turns out to be a wanted criminal.

6. Anti-science.  Study of human biodiversity is represented by pseudoscientific phrenology.  Science = racism.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  A Texas woman eyes Django with interest from her window as he rides through her town.  Black love is described as a tar pool that refuses to let go its hold on the fancy of those who enter (i.e., once you go black, you never go back).  The camera seems to want to lick Foxx’s nude physique.

4. Anti-business.  Thoroughly hostile to private property, the film’s representative forms of commerce are vengeful bounty hunting, the slave trade, and mining – the latter utilizing slave labor, naturally.  Wealth is accumulated through cruelty and murder.  A saloon keeper who objects to Django’s presence is chased out of his own establishment.  Private property = slavery.  “I’m runnin’ a business here,” Candie says during one of the most savage scenes of meanness.

3. Anti-South/anti-white male.  While critics will complain of what was previously the “whitewashing” of American history in films, Django Unchained demonstrates that, if anything, brownwashing and brainwashing are at present the order of the day.  Southerners are without exception vile sadists with bad teeth who live to beat, whip, humiliate, muzzle, brand, and castrate blacks.  The effeminate swagger of Billy Crash (Walton Goggins), the most vicious of Candie’s toadies, suggests that white loathing of and desire to neuter blacks is a function of white sexual inadequacy and salivating, latently homosexual penis envy.  Those not participating directly in these activities remain equally guilty for tolerating the status quo and therefore must receive equal punishment.  The conventional incestuous southerner smear receives a nod with what may be hints of Candie’s overly enthusiastic affection for his sister.  Black-on-black violence results from white manipulation.

2. Anti-slavery/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts).  Django Unchained perpetuates the myth that slavery existed not as an economic expediency, but principally as the plaything of whites’ sadism.  Where anti-racist films have previously presented viewers with the “sacrificial Negro” archetype, Django Unchained breaks new ground by inventing the sacrificial honky, the man who absolves the sins of his racial inheritance by dying to liberate blacks.

1. Black supremacist/genocidal.  They mo betta.

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