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Quentin Tarantino and the N Word

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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.

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Silver Linings Playbook” dominate 2013 Oscar nominees

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When “Beasts of the Southern Wild” broke onto the scene at Sundance, people were calling it the little indie that could. Well, it did, and the Benh Zeitlin film is now up for four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. No small feat for a small budget indie starring relative unknowns and the youngest actress to ever be nominated.

“Lincoln” lead off the nominations with 12 nods in categories including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, while “Les Miserables” came close behind with nine nominations. But we can’t help but be thrilled to see “Silver Linings Playbook” up for eight nods, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress (you rock, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Writing. That’s a solid block of awards if we’ve ever seen it.

Of course, we have to talk about the snubs too. David O’ Russell and Zeitlin beat out expected nominees Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for the Best Director category, and “Moonrise Kingdom” only got one measly nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Then we need to talk about the fact that “The Dark Knight Rises” didn’t get a single award while projects like “Mirror Mirror,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Hitchcock” and “Prometheus” all got nominated. At least “Skyfall” was up for five technical awards and “Django Unchained” snuck into Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.

Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best Picture
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Amour”
“Lincoln”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
Denzel Washington – “Flight”

Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin – “Argo”
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams – “The Master”
Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

Animated Feature Film
“Brave”
“Frankenweenie”
“ParaNorman”
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
“Wreck-It Ralph”

Directing
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – Ang Lee
“Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

Writing – Original Screenplay
“Amour” – Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” – John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

Writing – Adapted Screenplay
“Argo” – Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” – David Magee
“Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

Music – Original Song
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Foreign Language Film
“Amour” (Austria)
“Kon-Tiki” (Norway)
“No” (Chile)
“A Royal Affair” (Denmark)
“War Witch” (Canada)

Cinematography
“Anna Karenina”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

Costume Design
“Anna Karenina”
“Les Miserables”
“Lincoln”
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Documentary – Feature
“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War”
“Searching for Sugar Man”

Documentary – Short
“Inocente”
“Kings Point”
“Mondays at Racine”
“Open Heart”
“Redemption”

Film Editing
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Silver Linings Playbook”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Makeup And Hairstyling
“Hitchcock”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”

Music – Original Score
“Anna Karenina”
“Argo”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

Production Design
“Anna Karenina”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”

Short Film – Animated
“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare'”
“Paperman”

Short Film – Live Action
“Asad”
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Curfew”
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)”
“Henry”

Sound Editing
“Argo”
“Django Unchained”
“Life of Pi”
“Skyfall”
“Zero Dark Thirty”

Sound Mixing
“Argo”
“Les Miserables”
“Life of Pi”
“Lincoln”
“Skyfall”

Visual Effects
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
“Life of Pi”
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
“Prometheus”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Watch every Quentin Tarantino pop culture reference in chronological order

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Ever wanted to watch every pop culture reference in Quentin Tarantino movies in chronological order? Well, you’re in luck, because the folks over at College Humor did it for you.

CollegeHumor’s Favorite Funny Videos

What counts as chronological order, you might ask? We’re talking the order of the references in all of his movies from the era they reference. Tarantino touched on everything from the 1900s through the 2000s, and they’re all fantastic. Some of them are easier to notice than the others, but they’re all fantastic. We hope that College Humor does an updated version after “Django Unchained” comes out so that timeline can go even farther back.

What’s your favorite Tarantino pop culture reference? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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