Smolker Letter No. 14 “Ten Criteria for Selection of Best Movie Derived by Me While Pondering Whether Quentin Tarantino Should Be Damned for Making His Newest Movie “Django Unchained” and Steven Spielberg Should Be Praised for Making His Newest Movie “Lincoln.” (Updated January 29, 2013)
Smolker Letter No. 14
“Ten Criteria for Selection of Best Movie Derived by Me While Pondering Whether Quentin Tarantino Should Be Damned for Making His Newest Movie Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg Should Be Praised for Making His Newest Movie Lincoln”
Am I knowledgeable and intelligent or only opinionated?
by Gary S. Smolker
(Updated January 29, 2013)
While trying to figure out whether Quentin Tarantino Should Be Damned for Making His Newest Movie Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg Should Be Praised for Making His Newest Move Lincoln”, I developed the following ten criteria for me to use to tell the difference between a good movie, a great movie, and a greater movie, and the greatest movie.
The Ten Criteria I Use for Selection of Best Movie
1. Does the movie hold hundreds of the most varied audiences spellbound? The best movie should keep the movie goers’ curiosity alive without faltering. The viewer should feel there is no time to go to the bathroom or to buy popcorn while that movie is being shown. The best movies move forward unfailingly at all times, the underlying rhythm of the whole is masterly. Thematic unity is preserved throughout the film.
2. Does the movie cause viewers to relate to characters in the movie, to understand the characters, to like or dislike the characters, to care about what happens next to the characters and what the characters do next? In the best movies, all the characters are “real”; all the characters are believable; viewers know where the characters are coming from, know the characters’ motivations and intentions, who the characters are is not a mystery.
3. The best movie will provoke self-aware contemplation — will make a viewer think about who the viewer is, what the viewer’s values are, and where the viewer stands on important issues. The best movies spark a daily and efficient public discussion of an important issue.
4. The best movie will teach unforgettably. The best movies have take home value. The best movies teach the viewer something useful. The best movies cause excitement.
5. The best movies show a conflict about a real issue with complete clarity through words and images which illuminate the core issues presented in the story told in the movie. The best movies show you how an event, issue, or impulse or vision took shape. The viewer is shown and finds the deep source of a conflict.
6. The best movies convey a moral lesson with complete clarity.
7. At the end of the best movies, the audience has learned something new. The best movies are full of facts and density of thought which transport the viewer into another reality.
8. The best movies prompt the viewer’s curiosity, make the viewer want to learn more about something or someone.
9. The main character in the best movies has a philosophy of life and aesthetic sensibilities. Wit, eloquence and density of thought is portrayed by the main character as the main character acutely, passionately and intensely lives his or her life.
10. In the best movie the story is presented through images and dialog in a coherent way with such an abundance of feeling, thought, imagination, and unbounded spirit that the thickest mind and slowest eye is aroused to think and see what the film maker perceives.
Knowing the Cultural Bearings of Society and the Temper of the Times
It is important to understand the public’s mind set.
People today live in turmoil and anxiety.
That being said, it is my opinion that it is critical to know the cultural bearings of society and the temper of the times if you want to win a political election or if you want to be a successful movie maker or to be successful in any other endeavor.
It is essential to understand public opinion, the power of public opinion and the mindset of the public. You must know where the public mind is, what the public’s values are and how the public sees things.
In short, you must understand the world you live in.
In my opinion Mitt Romney never had a chance to win his bid to become President of the United States because of the cultural bearings of American society, the voting public’s mindset and the temper of the times.
In my opinion Quentin Tarantino understands the cultural bearings of society, how people think, how people see things, what people’s values are, where the public mind is and the temper of the times.
That is why Quentin Tarantino and his movie Django Unchained are successful.
We live in a brutal violent world where people do disgusting things.
People do more disgusting things in the real world than they do in the make believe world of Django Unchained.
The brutality portrayed in Django Unchained teaches a lesson in morality, a lesson in history and a lesson in government.
Because the moral and historical lessons are so powerfully portrayed in Django Unchained is the reason why Django Unchained is a box office runaway money making success that has been well received by both by the public at large who bought tickets to watch it and by professional movie critics who have reviewed it.
The powerful message (and moral lessons to be derived from that message) portrayed by the images and scenes in Django Unchained is why famous successful movie stars who played different parts in Django Unchained were thrilled to act in that movie and is the reason they were able to deliver such powerful performances.
The actors in Django Unchained want to deliver the message that Django Unchained delivers. They are happy that Django Unchained has raised public consciousness and discussion about the brutal nation-state portrayed in that Django Unchained.
Should Quentin Tarantino Be Damned for Making His Newest Movie Django Unchained?
Some people say that Quentin Tarantino has a disgusting manner of story telling, that he has a sick mind; that Quentin Tarantino is a person who considers violence and depravity the norm.
Some people claim that hard studies directly associate screen violence – such as the screen violence portrayed in Django Unchained – with overall violence in society.
Some people claim that violence in media gives fuel to potential young killers, who don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it when they commit acts of violence.
Some people protest that Django Unchained is exploitative.
Some people claim that Django Unchained is a revenge fantasy.
Some people claim that watching Django Unchained will encourage and fuel more violence than being familiar with the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” and/or will fuel more violence than being familiar with the legal concept of “self-defense” and/or than from being familiar with current events or from being familiar with modern history and/or than from watching broadcast news reports and/or from reading general print media.
Some people claim that Quentin Tarantino is responsible for the current state of violence in society along with all other film makers making films of the same genre.
I don’t agree with that assessment that Quentin Tarantino is responsible for the current state of violence in society or with the prediction that the film Django Unchained will be responsible for noticeably more “unsanctioned” violence in society.
On Screen Violence in the World at Large
Nobody blames Tarantino for the recent violence in Libya, the killing of the American Ambassador in Libya, the recent violence in Egypt, riots going on in Egypt, Egyptian police killing protestors in the street, or for the on-going violence in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in India, in Algeria, in Mali or in Yemen.
We live in a brutal violent world where people do disgusting things. Quentin Tarantino did not invent that world, cause that world to come into existence, or cause violence and disgusting conduct to flourish.
The world was violent and brutal before Tarantino started making movies and before Tarantino was born
The media and YouTube regularly broadcast violent pictures which depict violence and daily killing going on in many countries in the world.
The print media and broadcast media constantly report on armed rebellions that are taking place in various parts of the world, bombings of government facilities, bombings of public facilities, people bullying each other, rapes, wrongful sexual conduct, and every other kind of disgusting human conduct.
The public is provided by the media with a daily diet of detailed graphic reports on all kinds of disgusting acts (including acts of violence) in many countries.
Nobody in America claims that the print and broadcast media and YouTube should not be doing so, or that local people who are witness to such horrible events should not take videos of what they see, upload their videos and then send them out over the Internet.
Being in Touch with Reality, in Touch with the New Normal
Do the many people who are upset by Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of violence in Django Unchained believe the news media should not report the following RECENT OR CURRENT ONGOING EVENTS:
- a young woman going to college is raped at a bus stop on her way to school in India,
- a child is shot while she was riding on a bus by members of the Taliban because that child is known for leading a campaign to educate women in her country,
- a suicide bomber blows himself or herself up while riding a bus, or walking or driving on a public street in Israel, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, or in any other country or nation,
- missiles being shot into Israel,
- the kidnapping and forceful taking of civilian hostages,
- people not able to escape a raging fire in a nightclub because security guards block there way out of the only door through which they could exist,
- torture of prisoners,
- U.S. military turning over captured enemy combatants to Afghanistan detention facilities where the prisoners are tortured and abused,
- beheading of hostages,
- monks setting themselves on fire and burning themselves to death in protest,
- U.S. drones killing innocent citizens in foreign countries,
- Afghan soldiers and policemen killing their American soldier allies and compatriots,
- the latest actions of Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and/or the Kadashians,
- sexual molestation of boys by Catholic priests and the cover up by leaders of the Catholic Church,
- sexual molestation of boys by a football coach at a prominent university and the subsequent cover up of child molestation by the head coach and by the President of the University
- sexual molestation of boys by their adult leaders in the Boy Scouts,
- women being stoned to death after they have been gang raped,
- the Enron scandal or
- the fraudulent actions of Bernie Madoff ?
We are regularly (perhaps daily) bombarded with stories by news media of violence, disgusting conduct, depravity and irresponsible conduct.
The Character of the Society In Which We Live and Temper of the The Times We Are Living In:
People Are Fed Up with Being Powerless, with Being Exploited, and On Top of That People Are Disgusted by the Conduct of the Rich and Powerful
In my opinion it is very important to understand the character of the society in which you live.
It is also important to understand people’s rational and irrational impulses.
It is a cherished American value to allow free debate, the free flow of information and the free flow of ideas.
In my opinion, one of the several reasons Mitt Romney did not win his bid for the Presidency of the United States is that a good portion of the people who voted for president are of the opinion and sincerely thought and believe that Mitt Romney is a disgusting person because Mitt Romney has no remorse about his involvement in and profit from the firing of American workers whose jobs were exported to China and those jobs in America were replaced by workers in China, instead Mitt Romney is proud of the fact that he (Mitt Romney) was responsible for firing of American workers and then exporting those fired Americans’ jobs to China.
People who were disgusted at Mitt Romney’s behavior in connection with the exporting of American jobs to China had the opinion and believed that as President, citizen Mitt Romney would do what is “legal” but what would be immoral in their opinion for his (Mitt Romney’s) own financial gain and for the financial gain of his friends and his supporters.
Those voters believed that Mitt Romney as President would be a threat to working men and women in America, a threat to the financial and emotional health and security of the common people in America. In my opinion, that is why they did not vote for Mitt Romney for President.
Additionally, those voters believed it would be morally irresponsible to give him (Mitt Romney) Presidential Power to do to do “legal” but what in their opinion are “immoral” acts.
Put another way, although it was and still is legal to fire American workers in order to transfer their jobs from America to China, many Americans did not want their President to be a person who relentlessly did so without any remorse, did so solely for his own personal financial gain and personal financial profit and is proud of doing so.
People who don’t understand why Mitt Romney lost his bid to become President of the United States do not understand that the majority of the voting public in the United States are fed up with what they consider in their personal opinion to be disgusting immoral conduct by rich and powerful people in society.
Quentin Tarantino understands that a majority of the people in the United States, and a majority of people worldwide, are fed up with being powerless, are fed up with what they consider to be immoral conduct by the powerful in their society and will cheer on a person who stands up to that and will not back off.
Before making Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino understood, in his heart, that a majority of people in the world would cheer on a black bounty hunter like the character Django in Quentin Tarantino’s newest movie Django Unchained.
Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained reflects Quentin Tarantino’s genius at assessment of the intellectual and emotional mindset of our times: that people are fed up with misuse of power by the powerful and therefore he would be able to create a box-office hit of a movie by making a movie where the “little” guy wins against a powerful guy in a classic battle against all odds.
Tarantino knew that people would react strongly to the sadistic, brutal and exploitative conduct of the plantation owner Calvin Candi in the film Django Unchained — that is the reason Quentin Tarantino created the sadistic, brutal arrogant character Calvin Candi.
One of the many intellectual, emotional and moral points made by Quentin Tarantino in Django Unchained is that although whipping and beating slaves and ordering one slave bash in the head of another slave was legal in the South before the Civil War, because doing so was “legal” did not make Calvin Candi any less repulsive or immoral.
That just because something is “legal” does not make doing it “moral” is an idea to reflect upon and the degree to which Mitt Romney’s failure to win the recent Presidential election can be attributed to such a mindset is something to be reflected upon.
We know that things do not happen “over night.” Change does not come about “over night.” Society changes slowly, even when inspired to change by an effective transformative leader.
In that regard, on November 18, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to make some remarks at the dedication of a national cemetery. The next day, on November 19, 1863, in President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln defined the great task lying before the American people by proclaiming that we are “…dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln set out a vision of government that continues to play a great role in the American consciousness — that the purpose of the founders of the United States in breaking away from Great Britain, that their purpose in declaring independence, in obtaining “freedom” from the tyrannical rule of the British King and their purpose in dissolving all political connections with the State of Great Britain and any allegiance to the British Crown, in the minds of the founders of the United States, was to break away from British rule in order to create an independent nation that would be ruled by a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Masterful Story Telling
Django Unchained demonstrates that Quentin Tarantino has a genius for imagery, for the use of imagery to tell a story, for the use of imagery to make a point, for the use of imagery to make an argument, for the use of imagery to rile us up.
The images of white men whipping black slaves, of white men setting a pack of attack dogs loose to tear apart a runaway black slave who has been caught after running away, of an owner ordering his slave to bash in the head of another slave all strike an emotional and intellectual cord in a great number of viewers.
Those images repulse a large segment of modern day audiences.
The images of slaves being whipped, etc. in Django Unchained, because they portray violent and disgusting conduct, are supposed to repulse viewers. The fact that such conduct was “legal” is supposed to make such conduct doubly disgusting.
The actions of characters portrayed in the images created by Quentin Tarantino express Tarantino’s idea and make Tarantino’s argument that slavery is horrible, that no man (a slave owner or any other man) should have that kind of sanctioned and legal power over another man. Tarantino wants to make the point, and successfully makes the point, that people should treat each other with care for each others dignity as human beings.
Quentin Tarantino fans will rightfully and self-righteously tell you Django Unchained is an attempt by Quentin Tarantino, through the art of movie making, to re humanize mankind by showing the horrors of inhumane conduct.
One can’t help but note the improvement of the state of civilization in the United States today compared to the state of civilization in the United States portrayed in Django Unchained.
That being said, one can argue that Tarantino is teaching us in Django Unchained that civilization and members of society might become more humane.
Roadrunner Cartoons and Tweetie Bird Cartoons
I was born before in 1945.
I grew up, went to college and lived through the Viet Nam war before Quentin Tarantino made Django Unchained or made any other [popular] movie.
During the war in Viet Nam innocent people in Viet Nam were massacred, innocent people were burned to death by napalm bombs dropped on them by Americans; bombs containing Agent Orange were dropped on Viet Nam and Cambodia to kill forests and other vegetation and American soldiers got horribly sick by handling Agent Orange. All of this was reported in the news media without any protesting or claiming that the dissemination of such information that the violence and/or disgusting conduct broadcast and publicized gives fuel to potential young killers, who don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it when they commit acts of violence.
As I was growing up, I was constantly exposed to violence in Roadrunner cartoons and in Tweetie Bird Cartoons.
In those Roadrunner cartoons a bird (a roadrunner) was always running away from a coyote (Wiley coyote). The coyote wanted to catch the roadrunner in order to eat the roadrunner. Inevitably, while chasing the roadrunner a misfortune would befall the coyote (such as a rock or anvil falling on his head, or falling off a cliff) as the coyote was chasing the roadrunner. During each cartoon the coyote would suffer grievous injuries. In Tweetie Bird cartoons Tweetie Bird was always in mortal danger of being eaten alive by Sylvester the cat. I also watched Tom and Jerry cartoons. It Tom and Jerry cartoons a cat always tried to catch and eat a cute little mouse.
The point of the above recital is Quentin Tarantino is not the first person to portray violence and disgusting conduct for public consumption.
Should Steven Spielberg Be Praised for Making His Newest Film Lincoln?
Steven Spielberg’s newest movie Lincoln takes place while the Civil War is raging and the Congress of the United States is debating whether to adopt the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. The 13th Amendment is the amendment which abolished slavery in the United States.
Prior to release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, people who thought of Abraham Lincoln thought of Abraham Lincoln as having been a self-taught boy who learned by reading by candlelight, as a young man who earned money by being a rail splitter, and as a man who later became a shrewd country lawyer, and later yet became the President of the United States, and as a president of the United States who during his term in office wrote the Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves, wrote the Gettysburg Address and saved the Union during the Civil War.
Before release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln the general public thought of President Lincoln as “Honest Abe.”
The President Lincoln portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s newest film Lincoln is in one scene fantastically funny humorous and fun to be and in other scenes is a self-assertive yet detached person with the singular determination to get the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution adopted by the Congress of the United States.
In those later scenes, Lincoln is portrayed as being ruthless in using others’ help and influence to get the 13th Amendment adopted.
In many scenes it is brought out that President Lincoln had Congressmen bribed in order to secure their vote for passage of the 13th Amendment.
President Lincoln was not portrayed in Spielberg’s film as ever being a clumsy lawyer.
The images shown in scene after scene in the movie Lincoln show that President Lincoln was not a modest man, that he subconsciously assumed power, that he had a disconcerting power to see into questions, events and persons and that he projected superior intellectual power.
Throughout the movie Lincoln it is made clear that as President, Abraham Lincoln towered in mind and will over everyone.
Throughout this movie, President Lincoln is portrayed as being a supremely conscious genius who with a clear mind and great common sense was always scheming to secure passage of the 13th Amendment.
This is not the President Lincoln the general public knew before release of this movie.
Both Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained and Spielberg’s movie Lincoln are about efforts taken to secure the freedom of slaves.
In both movies the main character’s goal was to free slaves.
In both movies the main character accomplished his goal.
President Lincoln in Lincoln, Django and Django’s helper Dr. Schultz in Django Unchained were engaged in a battle for freedom.
Django was in a more desperate situation than President Lincoln because Django’s goal was to secure the freedom of the women he loved, his wife.
At the beginning of the movie Django Unchained, Django was a poor black man who couldn’t read or write or ride a horse or shoot a gun.
In order to find out where his wife was, Django needed Dr. Schultz to read the slave sale ledger at a slave market for him, in order to determine who had bought his wife.
These men relentlessly creatively and intelligently pursued their goal with great energy stamina and exertion.
On the issue of killing and violence:
- More people were killed and maimed and more property was destroyed as a result of President Lincoln pursuing his goal in Spielberg’s Lincoln than as a result of Django and Dr. Schultz pursuing their goal in Django Unchained.
- There is a much higher dead body count — more people are killed — in Lincoln than in Django Unchained.
- Lincoln is contains a more morbid scene than Django Unchained.
- The movie Lincoln contains a morbid scene in which body parts are being carried in a wheel barrel leaking blood from a hospital and then dumped in a pit.
- The movie Lincoln contains scenes of President Lincoln riding through fields strewn with dead bodies.
These are both great movies because the viewer’s attention is at all times riveted to the story unfolding on the screen, the movie maker portrays each main character is each movie living a clearly defined life style, the movies portray their main characters’ aesthetic sensibilities, all of the characters in both movies are very real (very believable) and the story in each movie teaches the audience important real life useful lessons.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Gary S. Smolker
Posted on January 19, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged aesthetic sensibilities, American jobs, arrogant character, being in touch with the new reality, brutal, brutality, character of society, coherence, coherent thought, criteria to use when judging merits of a movie, cultural bearings, culture, curiosity, density of thought, depravity, dignity, effective transformative leader, enlightened, government, imagery, images, immoral acts, important issues, intention, intentions, irresponsible conduct, legal acts, mindset, mindset of the public, Mitt Romney, moral lessons, motivation, motivations, opinionated, opinions, power, protest, public consciousness, public opinion, rape, ruthless, ruthlessness, sadistic, self-aware contemplation, sexual molestation, spellbound, stoning women, superior intellectual power, temper of the times, thematic unity, understand the world, understand the world you live in, values, violence, violent times. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.