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Quentin Tarantino and the N Word

quentin-tarantino

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In the thick of awards season, we now turn with jaded eye to the question of Quentin. Disclaimer: I, personally, do not use the N-word, not even ironically. But Quentin Tarantino is no stranger to controversy or to that six-letter word that has the power to freeze the blood when uttered in polite company. Spike Lee has been a big critic of Quentin over the years (“Jackie Brown” and “Pulp Fiction” come to mind), but with “Django Unchained,” the floodgates have opened.

The film – a cross between a revenge fantasy and a highly stylized blacksploitation flick – is Tarantino’s most direct, controversial and brilliant confrontation with the subjects of race and revenge, twin topics that have subtly helixed their way through his oeuvre. And so it was inevitable, when confronting these controversial topics, at the same time, in a bombastic manner, that he would run into some sort of public turbulence.

Turbulence, though, might be an understatement. Many thoughtful African-Americans who have seen the film had profound issues with it. Heavyweight thinkers and African-American members of the entertainment community like Spike, Cecil Brown, Ishmael Reed and Mo’Kelly have all weighed in – very publicly — with powerful and convincing/condemning arguments that the film is fundamentally degrading to African-Americans. L.A. Reid also had problems with the language. Even NPR doesn’t escape this brouhaha– the comment thread on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air page had over 250 comments after she interviewed the controversial director. “I’m not against the word. And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word,” Lee said of Tarantino, quite accurately, in an interview with Variety in 1997. Tarantino employed the n-word 38 times in “Jackie Brown” by Lee’s calculation. And what a grim task it must have been for Spike to tabulate that data!

To Tarantino’s defense comes Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua. Jamie Foxx, the star of the film, also comes to the director’s side. “I respect Spike, he’s a fantastic director. But he gets a little shady when he’s taking shots at his colleagues without looking at the work,” Foxx told The Guardian. Spike began attacking the film on social media before even having seen it and it remains unclear if he has seen the film at post time. Obviously, Sam Jackson, Tarantino’s muse in so many films, backs the man he calls “QT.” Spike Lee has shown, in the past, he is not a fan of Tarantino’s use of the word. But to be fair, Spike ought to first watch the movie before judging its context and its use. Further, the problem might be generational, as younger African-Americans – Nas, for instance – understand, organically, what Tarantino was trying to do in the film. The controversy, of course, has not hurt “Django Unchained’s” bottom line. The film is Tarantino’s highest grossing domestic release. What is that old show business adage? There is no such thing as bad publicity.

To be fair, no one really thinks Quentin Tarantino is a racist (well, maybe Spike Lee does). The argument is basically that Tarantino is, at worst, racially insensitive — that he shouldn’t use that word, ever. This is an overly emotional argument that gives an almost sacred totemic power to the n-word, because, clearly, Tarantino is not throwing it around to make some sort of argument about racial superiority. Rather, Tarantino is using a word – a hateful, terrible word – to show the moral decay of someone like Leonardo DiCaprio’s King Schultz. Tarantino uses the word, though not as artfully as Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzzo employed it in “The Godfather,” to basically say: these may be interesting men, but they are not good men, they are unevolved and broken, always remember that.

No word, no matter how hateful, should be off limits in film. That argument, that there are things too terrible to hear or see, runs counter to the spirit of independent film. Disqualifying a word – the c-word, for example – limits the palette of a writer, chains the characters and harnesses the story. How can filmmakers accurately depict the darkness that exists in the world without descending into the ugliness and the muck? It is not pretty to hear Don Zalochi in “The Godfather” utter the n-word, but it holds the mirror up to nature and reveals great insight into his disgustingly flawed character. Independent film exists to expose such flaws, to make explicit such grays that the black and white formula that mainstream Hollywood ignores. A film in the independent spirit should be as ugly and as beautiful and as complicated as life itself.

“Django Unchained” ought to be seen as how it was meant to be seen. Tarantino is not a racists and “Django Unchained” is not meant to be a hymn to race supremacy. It is, in fact, an homage to spaghetti westerns, to the revenge fantasy – a genre that Tarantino has now perfected – and to Blaxploitation, territory he explored, furtively, in Jackie Brown but with much love. The film is about the primal need for vengeance on those who have wronged us, cloaked in outrageousness — Candyland plantation? Really? –all wrapped up messily around a highly sensitive topic, perhaps the most sensitive topic in American history. And if that gets your panties in a twist, you are misreading the intention and seeing DiCaprio’s slaveholder in a way that was never intended. Get over it.

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GIF Giving

The Funniest Gifs From the Maron Season Premiere

Watch the Maron season premiere now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Last night, Marc Maron returned in all his haggard glory in the darkly hilarious season premiere of Maron. In case you’re not caught up, Marc has fallen into a downward spiral of drugs and addiction, having lost his house, his podcast, his cats, and the ability to say he doesn’t live in a storage unit. And only someone like Marc can make the situation laugh-out-loud funny.

Here are the 5 funniest GIFs from last night’s Maron premiere, which you can watch right now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

1. Dave Anthony, Professional Truth Teller.

Maron Not Okay


2. Storage locker etiquette is important.

Maron Storage Locker


3. We’re sure Chris Hardwick would love to have Marc back on Talking Dead.

Maron Dumb Show


4. We can’t unsee Dave in that apron.

Maron Shit Bucket


5. The first step is listening. Marc has a lot of steps to go.

Maron Shut Up

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Marc Maron, Craig Anton – Maron – Season 4, Episode 3

The Reviews Are In

Critics Are Raving About the New Season of Maron

Watch the Maron season premiere right now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Last night saw the return of Marc Maron, more than a little worse for wear, in the pitch-black premiere of Maron’s fourth season. Having fallen back into addiction, Marc’s lost his house, his podcast, and even his cats, and is now residing in a storage unit.

Maron

Part two of the double-shot premiere found our favorite curmudgeon dealing with the assorted characters in the Clean Living Rehab Center. The season’s heavy themes and unflinching performances earned much praise from fans and critics.

Check out what people said about last night’s premiere of Maron. And in case you missed the premiere, you can watch it now on IFC.com and the IFC app

Joe Berkowitz of Co.Create: “For the first time ever, Maron has veered way off the course of its creator’s timeline — into a chaotic alternate reality — and it’s the boldest creative leap in the series’ run yet…This particular downward trajectory provides a window into a world where the actual Marc Maron ends up hitting rock bottom. This world turns out to offer darkly comic possibilities, such as a rehab facilitator trying to get an in-patient Maron to be a guest on his podcast.”

Jason Tabrys of Uproxx: “[Whether] this is the beginning of the end for Maron, or just the start of a new phase, the fourth season’s off to an intriguing start that should make for compelling viewing.”

Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times: “[The] premiere does effectively, yet comedically, show two truths of substance abuse: Addicts need enablers who fuel their problem, either deliberately or inadvertently, and most need someone to intervene to help them climb out of the pit.”

Vikram Murthi of AV Club: “By shifting the series’ premise from a man struggling to maintain success to a man desperately trying to get it back, Maron has found a whole new energy…Maron doesn’t bring Marc down to a low point just for kicks but to demonstrate what happens when people forget what’s important and succumb to their worst selves. The fourth season effectively channels the raw vitality of [the WTF podcast’s] early days, when Maron was trying to dig his way out of a hole by embracing the world around him instead of pushing it away. ‘I’m gonna be okay, right?’ Maron asks Dave at the clinic. ‘Or not,’ Dave replies honestly. ‘But you have to try.’ Maron’s entire career has been about trying, and Maron’s fourth season succeeds by placing that idea at its center.”

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Roommate Not Wanted

The 10 Worst Roommates In Pop Culture History

Find out how Marc deals with his new roommate on the season premiere of Maron available now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Last night’s season premiere of Maron found Marc’s disastrous downward spiral landing him in rehab with an annoying roommate who breaks into rhymes whenever he feels like it. Played in an inspired bit of casting by real life celebrity rapper Chet Hanks, Trey makes Marc’s life a living hell by taking his stuff and doing unspeakable things to his bed. Check out some other insufferable roommates from pop culture below, and be sure to catch up on the two-episode Maron season premiere on IFC.com and the IFC app to see how Marc deals with his new rapping bunkmate.

10. Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim Vs the World

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim is the ultimate geek heroic fantasy. In that he’s living in a constructed fantasy world while ignoring all the people who have to deal with his failures. Saintly roommate Wallace Wells offers rent, food, and even his own bed to his eternally immature friend who rewards him by whining and leaving clothes on the floor.


9. Hooch, Turner & Hooch

Turner and Hooch

Nobody likes being forced to share their home. This goes double when you’re a police officer, the work is a murder investigation, and the unwelcome guest is a dog spraying more fluid than a leak in the Hoover Dam.


8. Floyd, True Romance

True Romance

Perfectly portrayed by Brad Pitt, Floyd is the worst kind of stoner roommate. He never answers the door, and barely moves from his position on the couch. Even worse, he rats out your pals’ location to a tough-looking stranger who comes to the door without a second thought. Not to “condescend” to you Floyd, but you’re kind of a tool. You probably never share that honey bear bong.


7. Gil and Brynn, Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is already at a low point when her roommates Gil (Matt Lucas) and Brynn (Rebel Wilson) ask her to move out. To make matters worse, the tattoo-obsessed Brynn isn’t even Annie’s roommate — her brother has been letting her stay rent free so she can wear Annie’s clothes and read her journal.


6. Eddie, Friends

You might remember Eddie (played by the always reliably deadpan Adam Goldberg) as Chandler’s roommate who moved in after Joey moved into his own place with his big time soap opera money. Eddie proved to be a complete psycho, accusing Chandler of sleeping with his ex-girlfriend Tilly and watching his new roomie while he sleeps. In the end, Chandler tells Eddie that Hannibal Lector would make a better roommate. Could he be any creepier??


5. Bevers, Broad City

Bevers Broad City

What’s worse than an annoying roommate who eats all your food, tries on your clothes, and never seems to leave the apartment? How about a guy who isn’t even technically your roommate, but in fact the boyfriend of your roommate who is never around. If you’re going to hang out in your underwear all day, the least you could do is pay rent, dude.


4. Chris Knight, Real Genius

Real Genius

Freshman Mitch Taylor faces every college student’s worst nightmare: a pushy roommate. Chris Knight might be a genius, but within the first minute of their acquaintance he’s thrown out Mitch’s clothes, talked about his genitals, and smashed the dorm-room window.


3. Oscar Madison, The Odd Couple

Odd Couple

The Odd Couple defined the idea of mismatched roommates. Uptight neat-freak Felix and easygoing slob Oscar were meant to be just as bad as each other, but anyone who’s ever lived with other people knows that the lazy one is always the worst. At least the obsessive is keeping things clean while annoying you.


2. Roberto, Futurama

Futurama

Fry’s regular robotic roommate is an indestructibly amoral freeloader who’d sell Fry’s kidneys if he could think of a suitably lazy way to extract them. But Bender is the deity of domestic bliss compared to Roberto, the stabbing-obsessed psychobot who shares Fry’s room in the robot asylum.


1. Hedra Carlson, Single White Female

Single White Female

Hedra Carlson takes “drinking the last of the milk” to the ultimate extreme, stealing her roommate’s boyfriend, identity, and takes a stab at stealing her life. Well, it’s more of a butcher’s hook slash than a stab. Which makes it all the worse.

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