“JERICHO” Retrospect: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

 

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”

For the past two to three years, I have always believed that the Season One episode, (1.08) “Rogue River” was the one in which “JERICHO” really came into its own. But after watching (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor”, the episode that first aired a week before “Rogue River”, I think I may have made a mistake. .

In this episode, Gray Anderson’s return to Jericho brought about a great deal of emotions from some of the townspeople. Especially from two people in particular. This all started when Gray had volunteered to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who had left town in (1.03) “Four Horsemen”. They left to search for outside news following the nuclear attacks. Jake had immediately returned with news of a plane crash that involved Emily Sullivan’s missing fiance, Roger Hammond. Another “Horseman”, Shep, disappeared for good, due to guilt over the death of citizen during the fallout in the second episode. I do not recall who the third Horseman was, but Gray remained missing for three episodes before his return in this one.

Gray’s news turned out to be a mixed blessing. He revealed a disturbing tale of the fatal beating of a FEMA driver by drifters outside of Topeka, Kansas – a fate that he managed to avoid. Gray also revealed that the New York Police Department had found a nuclear bomb in a van minutes before it was set to destroy the metropolis. However, both Lawrence, Kansas and Washington D.C. were destroyed. Gray’s experiences on the road eventually led him to suggest to Eric Green that all of Jericho’s recent newcomers – including the Hawkins family – be interrogated, in case they turned out to be threats to the town. Of course Gray’s interrogation of the Hawkins family took place in “Rogue River”. But as I stated earlier, his news affected certain characters.

The news about New York City being spared from destruction, thanks to the NYPD brought a great deal of relief for the sixteen year-old Skylar Stevens, whose parents had been in the Big Apple when the bombs fell. And since Dale Turner – another one of Jericho’s adolescents without any parents – was the one who delivered the good news, the two became closer friends. However, the destruction of Washington D.C. proved to be another matter. IRS agent Mimi Clark originally came from the nation’s capital. When Stanley Richmond, at whose farm she was staying, gave her the news, she realized that she had lost all of her family and close friends. Both Robert and Darcy Hawkins were present when Gray disclosed Washington’s fate and the two eventually told their oldest – Allison. Naturally, Allison discussed the loss of her friends with Robert. She also revealed that Darcy had a boyfriend who also perished.

“Long Live the Mayor” also featured the second appearance of James Remar as Emily’s estranged criminal father, Jonah Prowse. His appearance provided an opportunity for some excellent performances by Remar and actress Ashley Scott, who portrayed Emily. It also included Jake’s only kiss with local schoolteacher Heather Linsinki. I wish I could say that I found their screen kiss impressive. But I would be lying. It seemed apparent to me why producers Jon Turteltaub, Stephen Chbosky, and Carol Barbee did not bother to develop any further romance between the two. However, I am certain there are Jack/Heather shippers who feel otherwise. Also in this episode, Mayor Johnston Greene’s illness finally sends him into septic shock after two episodes. With no drugs available to cure him, April tells the Greene family in a rather tense scene that he needs the antibiotic Cipro within the next 12 hours or he would die. Jake and Eric decide to head for the town of Rogue River, the location of the nearest major hospital, in order to procure the drug for their father.

A great deal of interesting moments and excellent performances filled this episode. But three scenes, featuring three performances really stood out for me. The first performance came from actor Michael Gaston as the opportunist Gray Anderson. In the scene that featured Gray’s revelations about the news outside of Jericho, Gaston portrayed Gray as a man frightened by the horrors he had witnessed and learned during his journey around Kansas. The second performance came from Alicia Coppola, who portrayed Mimi Clark. She gave a superb performance as a Mimi first pretending that she was not shaken by the bad news regarding Washington D.C. and later, releasing her despair in a marvelous rant that should have earned her some kind of acting nomination. Finally, there was April D. Parker, whose Darcy Hawkins faced the triple task of dealing with the destruction of Washington D.C., the death of Doug, her former lover, and Robert’s discovery of said lover. One would think that Darcy would crumble over a series of crisis. Being a strong willed woman, Darcy holds her own. But in a quiet, yet marvelous performance given by Parker, Darcy finally reveals her true feelings about moving to Jericho, Doug, and how Robert’s profession had endangered their marriage and family life. Her outburst culminated in a phrase that perfectly described the Hawkins marriage before their arrival in Jericho – “House of Secrets”. Parker’s performance was another that should have earned an acting nomination.

The episode ended with Heather admitting to Emily that she might be falling Jake, Dale and Skylar becoming closer than ever after she invites him to stay at her house, Stanley trying to help Mimi deal with her grief, Gray determined to investigate the Hawkins family and other newcomers, Emily managing to procure Jake’s old car from Jonah for the trip to Rogue River, and the Hawkins marriage still in a precarious state. The episode also ended with Jake and Eric on the road to Rogue River to find medication for an ailing Johnston. And their journey to Rogue River would end in consequences that will resonate throughout the rest of the series’ television run.

“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

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“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.06) “9:02”

This sixth episode of “JERICHO” picks up at the same moment where the previous episode, (1.05) “Federal Response”left off. In other words, (1.06) “9:02” started with the citizens of Jericho, Kansas witness the presence of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) soaring eastward over the town’s skies, before the time period jumped another two weeks.

Despite this exciting opening, I found myself wondering why the series’ producers and screenwriter Nancy Won used “9:02” as the episode’s title. I realized that it referred to the time in which the ICBMs sent an electromagnetic pulse that disrupted the electronic devices – cellphones, the Internet, television, radios, etc. – throughout the town. But what did it have to do with the episode’s plot overall?

Come to think of it . . . aside from all electronic devices in Jericho not working (save one), what was “9:02” about? There seemed to be at least three subplots at work in this episode. One of them involved the town’s citizens failed attempts to assume some form of normalcy, following the ICBMs’ disruption of Jericho’s electronic devices. Kids have been stealing from Gracie’s Market. And so has a new character named Mitchell Cafferty, who happened to be an old friend from Jake Green’s delinquent past. Cafferty’s thefts have put him in the path of Dale Turner, the young shop assistant who managed to stumble across a supply of food for the store. Cafferty has also been stealing horses from various farms and ranches outside of town. When Jake and his mother Gail visit the Green family ranch to feed their horses, the latter is nearly trampled, when Mitch and a fellow thief are in the middle of a heist. This sends Jake on the warpath to take down his former friend. Robert Hawkins becomes aware of the enmity between Jake and Mitch and decides to investigate the pair’s past relationship.

Meanwhile, Stanley Richmond is approached by I.R.S. auditor Mimi Clark for room and board in exchange for her labor on his ranch. During their conversation, Stanley discovers worms that have infested his corn crop. He tries to acquire pesticide from merchant Gracie Leigh. But she is only willing to give Stanley insecticide in exchange for profit from half of his corn crop. Even worse for Stanley, Mayor Green is willing to help him get the insecticide if he is willing to share his corn with the town’s citizens. In the final subplot, Allison Hawkins discovers that her father Robert possesses the only electronic device that is still working. She also discovers that he has a map of the U.S. locations that were bombed . . . and a gun. When Allison confronts her father, he decides to tell her that he is a government agent who knew about the September attacks. He also decides to teach her how to shoot. Father and daughter eventually begin to grow close.

Many of these subplots proved to be interesting. And all of them proved to have an impact on the characters’ relationships, developments and the series’ main narrative. At first I had a hard time believing that the situation with Stanley Richmond’s corn crop had any future impact. But it did. One, Stanley’s desperation for the insecticide led Mimi to hire a few kids to steal it from Gracie’s Market. This act led to a visit to the Richmond farm by Deputy Bill Koehler, who reveals his aggressive nature for the first time in the series. This storyline also marked the first time both Stanley and Mimi display something other than hostility toward each other. And it exposed Gracie Leigh’s penchant for avarice, which proved to have an impact upon her character’s future development. Gracie and Dale’s encounters with Mitch Cafferty not only played a major role in their characters’ arc, it also revealed Jake’s past with the criminal. And this, in turned revealed how dangerous Jake could be – something that Robert Hawkins found very interesting.

All of these subplots – Jake/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Dale/Mitch Cafferty conflict, Robert and Allison Hawkins’ relationship, and Stanley’s corn crop – end up having some kind of impact upon future story and character developments. The question remains . . . what did the episode’s title, which was an indication of when the ICBMs disrupted the town’s electronic devices, had to do with the plot? The lack of electronic devices seemed to have robbed Jericho’s citizens of a sense of normalcy, leading many of them to behave more irrationally or aggressive. But overall, the impact of no electricity seemed more like a metaphor of the disruption in the lives of the town’s citizens, instead of any real impact on the series’ overall narrative. And this is probably why I found the use of “9:02” as the episode’s title a bit weak.

However, “9:02” did provide some interesting moments in the series. The episode featured two interesting conversations – one between Robert and Allison and another between Stanley and Mimi. Both conversations changed the relationships of all involved. “9:02” also featured an exciting action scene in which Jake and his brother Eric had a violent encounter with Mitch that I found rather suspenseful. Not only did I find myself wondering if Jake and Eric would be able to arrest Mitch. I wondered how Jake would react once they made the arrest. Needless to say, I was not disappointed by how that encounter turned out. But my favorite sequence proved to be the montage in which Jericho’s citizens arrived at the Richmond farm to help Stanley save his corn crop. After Jake greeted Robert in the middle of the cornfield, the following exchange occurred between the Hawkins father/daughter duo:

Allison: [in reference to Jake] Is he a good man or a bad man?

Robert: Baby, there is no such thing.

In that one line, Robert Hawkins said more about humanity’s moral ambiguity than any other person – fictional or real – ever has.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed “9:02” a good deal. It was interesting to see how the ICBMs’ impact upon the town’s electronic devices affected the citizens. And the episode featured some very good performances, especially from Skeet Ulrich, Pamela Reed, Lennie James, Erik Knudsen, Jazz Raycole, Brad Beyer and Alicia Coppola. But if I must be honest, I wish that someone on the production staff for “JERICHO” had given this episode a better title. This sounds like a shallow criticism. But if one looked at the episode, the ICBMs’ impact upon the town seemed to have a minor impact upon the episode’s narrative, aside from the Robert and Allison Hawkins’ familial relationship.

Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1850s

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Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1850s:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1850s

1-Django Unchained

1. “Django Unchained” (2012) – Quentin Tarantino directed this Oscar winning tale about a newly freed slave who searches for his still enslaved wife with the help of a German-born bounty hunter in Mississippi. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson starred.

 

2-The Charge of the Light Brigade

2. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1938) – Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland starred in this exciting adventure story set in both British India and the Crimean War. Michael Curtiz directed.

 

3-Race to Freedom The Underground Railroad

3. “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” (1994) – Courtney B. Vance and Janet Bailey starred in this television drama about the adventures of four slaves who escape from a North Carolina plantation, while being tracked by a pair of slave catchers. Don McBrearty directed.

 

4-Skin Game

4. “Skin Game” (1971) – James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. starred in this dark comedy about a pair of con artists who clean up in a slave selling scheme in Missouri and Kansas, before their scam finally catches up with them. Paul Bogart directed.

 

5-Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

5. “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” (1954) – Stanley Donen directed this famous 1954 musical about six backwoodsmen brothers When a backwoodsman in the Oregon Territory, who decides to marry after their oldest brother brings home a wife. Jane Powell, Howard Keel and Russ Tambyln starred.

 

6-The First Great Train Robbery

6. “The First Great Train Robbery” (1979) – Michael Crighton wrote and directed this adaptation of his novel about three Victorian criminals who plot to rob a shipment of gold for British troops serving during the Crimean War, from a moving train. Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne Down starred.

 

7-Wuthering Heights

7. “Wuthering Heights” (1939) – William Wyler directed this superb adaptation of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel. Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier and David Niven starred.

 

8-Westward the Women

8. “Westward the Women” (1951) – William Wellman directed this excellent Western-adventure about a trail guide hired by a Californian rancher to escort a wagon train of women heading west to marry men who have settled in the rancher’s valley. Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire starred.

 

9-Mountains of the Moon

9. “Mountains of the Moon” (1990) Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen starred in this historical account of Victorian explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke’s expedition to find the source of the Nile River on behalf of the British Empire. Bob Rafelson directed.

 

10-Jezebel

10. “Jezebel” (1938) – William Wyler directed Oscar winners Bette Davis and Fay Bainter in this adaptation of Owen Davis Sr.’s 1933 play about a headstrong Southern woman, whose actions cost her the man she loves. Henry Fonda and George Brent co-starred.

Favorite Movies Set in MIAMI

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Below is a list of my favorite movies set in Miami, Florida: 

FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN MIAMI

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1. “Bad Boys II” (2003) – Martin Lawrence and Will Smith starred in this hilarious sequel to their 1995 hit film about two Miami cops who, this time, battle a Cuban drug dealer. Directed by Michael Bay, the movie co-starred Gabrielle Union, Jordi Mollà and Joe Pantoliano.

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2. “Miami Vice” (2006) – Michael Mann directed this remake of the 1980s television crime drama about two undercover cops for the Miami-Dade Police, who investigate a Columbian drug lord on behalf of the F.B.I. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell starred.

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3. “Absence of Malice” (1981) – Paul Newman and Sally Field starred in this high-powered drama about a liquor warehouse owner, whose life begins to unravel when a prosecutor leaks a false story about him being involved in the murder of a union leader. Sydney Pollack directed.

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4. “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003) – Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson starred in this exciting second film in the FAST AND FUIROUS franchise about former cop Brian O’Conner and childhood friend Roman Pearce forced to help the Feds arrest a local Miami drug importer in order to clear their names. Directed by John Singleton, Eva Mendes, Chris Bridges and Cole Hauser co-starred.

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5. “The Crew” (2000) – Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Seymour Cassel and Dan Hedaya starred as four retired mobsters who decide to make one last score to save their apartment at a South Beach retirement home. Directed by Michael Dinner, the movie co-starred Carrie-Anne Moss, Jeremy Piven and Jennifer Tilly.

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6. “Bad Boys” (1995) – Martin Lawrence and Will Smith first starred together in this funny movie as Miami-Dade cops Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey; protect a witness to a murder, while investigating a case of missing heroin. Directed by Michael Bay, the movie co-starred Tea Leoni, Tchéky Karyo, Joe Pantoliano and Theresa Randle.

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7. “The Birdcage” (1996) – Mike Nichols directed Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in this funny remake of the 1978 movie “La Cage aux Folles” about a gay couple who pretends to be straight for the conservative parents of their son’s fiancée. Gene Hackman, Dianne Weist, and Dan Futterman co-starred.

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8. “Marley & Me” (2008) – Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston starred in this heartwarming adaptation of John Grogan’s 2005 book about the experiences of a journalist and his family with their incorrigible Labrador Retriever. The movie was directed by David Frankel.

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9. “A Hole in the Head” (1959) – Frank Capra directed this engaging comedy about a womanizing widower who struggles to raise his son and hang on to his small Miami Beach hotel. The movie starred Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, and Edward G. Robinson.

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10. “Moon Over Miami” (1941) – Betty Grable and Carole Landis starred in this charming musical about two Texas sisters who move to Miami in order to meet and marry millionaires. Directed by Walter Lang, the movie also starred Don Ameche and Robert Cummings.

“DJANGO UNCHAINED” (2012) Review

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“DJANGO UNCHAINED” (2012) Review

Over three years following the release of his 2009 movie, “INGLORIOUS BASTERDS”, Quentin Tarantino courted success and controversy with a new tale set the past. Called “DJANGO UNCHAINED”, this new movie combined the elements of the Old West and Old South and told the story about a recently freed slave-turned-bounty hunter in search of his still enslaved wife. 

The movie begins with a gang of male slaves being transported across Texas by a group of slavers called the Speck brothers. The group encounter Dr. King Schultz, a German-born dentist, who also happens to be a bounty hunter. Schultz offers to purchase Django, whom he believes can identify a trio of murderous siblings called the Brittle brothers, who had worked as overseers for Django’s previous owner. The Specks become hostile and Schultz kills one of the brothers. He then frees Django and leaves the wounded brother behind to be killed by the newly freed slaves. Django and Schultz come to an agreement in which the latter will give the former freedom, a horse and $75 for helping him identify the Brittle brothers. Once the pair achieve their goal at a Tennessee plantation owned by one Spencer “Big Daddy” Bennett, Schultz takes on Django as his associate and over the winter, collect a number of bounties. In the following spring, Schultz offers to help Django track down the latter’s wife, Broomhilda von Shaft. They discover that she is owned by a brutal, yet charming Mississippi planter named Calvin Candie. The pair realize that in order to rescue Broomhilda, they would have to pose as potential buyers of a fighter slave in order to secure an invitation at Candie’s plantation called Candyland.

Even before its initial release in movie theaters in late December, “DJANGO UNCHAINED” managed to attract a good deal of controversy. Producer/director Spike Lee declared the movie as an insult to his ancestors in a magazine article and his refusal to see it. Others have criticized the film for its violence and its use of the word “nigger”. And some have criticized the movie for historical inaccuracy. They claimed that the practice of fighting Mandingo slaves never existed and that Tarantino depicted the Klu Klux Klan a decade before its actual existence. And Jeff Kuhner of The Washington Times complained that: “Anti-white bigotry has become embedded in our postmodern culture. Take Django Unchained. The movie boils down to one central theme: the white man as devil — a moral scourge who must be eradicated like a lethal virus.”

Mind you, I have my own complaints about “DJANGO UNCHAINED”. Actually, I have three complaints. One, I found the movie’s chronological setting rather confusing. According to the movie’s opening, it began in “1858 – Two years before the Civil War”. Judging by the weather, Django’s first meeting with Schultz in Texas occurred in the fall. Which probably means that the movie began two-and-a-half years before the Civil War, not two years. Yes, I am being anal about this. However, Django and Schultz accompanied Candie to Candyland in early May 1858 . . . at least according to a scene that featured Candie’s head slave Stephen writing out a check for supplies. It is quite obvious that Tarantino got his time frame a little off. Was “DJANGO UNCHAINED” set between the fall of 1858 and the spring of 1859? Or was it set between the fall of 1857 and the spring of 1858? Only Tarantino can answer this. I also found the character of Broomhilda von Shaft slightly underdeveloped. Some have claimed that her character is passive. I would disagree, considering she was introduced being punished for attempting to run away from Candyland. But aside from a scene or two, I feel that Tarantino could have done a little more with her character. And three, I have mixed feelings about Tarantino’s use of flashbacks in this movie. Some of the flashbacks were well utilized – including those featuring Django’s memories of Broomhilda being whipped and branded as a runaway, Schultz’s trauma over witnessing the mutilation of a Candie slave named D’Artagnan, and Big Daddy organizing a group of night riders to attack Django and Schultz. But some of the flashbacks seemed to go by so fast that I found their addition to the film unnecessary.

As for the other complaints about the movie, I do have a response. Spike Lee is entitled to his decision not to see the movie. However, I do find his willingness to condemn the movie without seeing it rather strange. Criticism of Tarantino’s use of violence in his movies have become repetitive in my eyes. “DJANGO UNCHAINED” is a Quentin Tarantino movie. Can someone name one of his movies that did not feature any violence? Because I cannot. And his recent films do not strike me as violent as earlier films such as 1993’s “RESERVOIR DOGS”. Also, violence has played a part in many slave societies throughout history . . . including U.S. slavery. Yes, the Ku Klux Klan was first organized in the late 1860s, after the Civil War. But the Klan’s origins came from patrol riders, who were recruited by planters in many Southern states to maintain vigilance of both slaves and free black in local rural neighborhoods. So, the idea of “Big Daddy” Bennett organizing a group of local riders to attack Django and Schultz is not implausible.

In response to Jeff Kuhner’s accusation of anti-white bigotry, Tarantino not only created the German-born Schultz, who helped Django attain freedom and find Broomhilda; but also a Western sheriff portrayed by television veteran Lee Horsley (“MATT HOUSTON” anyone?), who seemed very friendly to both the German immigrant and the former slave. Tarantino also created Candyland’s head house slave, Stephen, who proved to be one of the film’s worst villains. So much for Kuhner’s accusation. A great deal of “DJANGO UNCHAINED” is set in the pre-Civil War South and its topic happens to be about American slavery. The use of “nigger” is historically accurate for the movie’s setting. And I am surprised that no one has complained about the slur being used in Steven Spielberg’s recent movie, “LINCOLN”. Hell, the word is used throughout productions such as the two “ROOTS”miniseries, the three “NORTH AND SOUTH” miniseries, “QUEEN”, the 1971 movie “SKIN GAME” and in a good number of other movie and television productions set in antebellum and Civil War America. Even the use of the slur in a production set in the 19th century North would be historically accurate. I also recall the use of racial slurs for whites in a few scenes. As for Tarantino’s use of Mandingo fighting slaves in the movie . . . I have no explanation for its presence in this film. There is no historical evidence of this particular sport. And I suspect that Tarantino was simply inspired by the 1975 movie, “MANDINGO” and Kyle Onstott’s 1957 novel upon which the latter was based.

So . . . how do I feel about “DJANGO UNCHAINED”? Frankly, I believe it is one of the best movies of 2012. And I also consider it to be another cinematic masterpiece by Quentin Tarantino. One of the aspects of “DJANGO UNCHAINED” was Tarantino’s ability to take a rather dark topic like slavery and fashioned it into a explosive mixture of action, drama, suspense and some comedy. Many have complained that the movie should have been a straight drama, considering its topic. But I disagree. Yes, “DJANGO UNCHAINED” could have been an effective straight drama. But Tarantino decided to take a rare and unique route in unfolding his tale. And in doing so, he managed to fashioned a fascinating story that allowed me to experience an array of emotions that left me more than satisfied by the movie’s last scene.

“DJANGO UNCHAINED” was not the first time comedy was used to reveal one of the darkest episodes in this country’s history. This has been done in “SKIN GAME” and in television shows such as “BEWITCHED” and the comedy sketch series, “KEY & PEELE”. Tarantino used the same mixture of pathos, horror, drama and comedy for many of his past movies – especially in“INGLORIOUS BASTERDS”. I found this use of humor especially effective in scenes that included the surviving Speck brother’s attempt to convince the slaves freed by Schultz not to kill him. I never knew that James Russo, who portrayed the surviving Speck brother, could be so funny. Django and Schultz’s little exchange regarding the former’s identification of the Sprittle brothers struck me as funny. I could say the same about Stephen’s reaction to Candie’s treatment of Django as a house guest and Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly’s (Candie’s sister) futile attempts to attract Schultz’s attention. But the funniest sequence has to be the flashback featuring “Big Daddy” Bennett’s recruitment of night riders for an attack on Django and Schultz. In fact, that particular scene practically had me rolling with laughter.

Some people have complained that “DJANGO UNCHAINED” is basically a revenge tale for African-Americans. I find this accusation rather odd, considering that Django’s main objective was to find Broomhilda and get her out slavery by any means possible. And despite the movie’s prevalent humor, Tarantino did not hold back in presenting not only the horrors and emotional traumas of slavery, but also racism. This was especially true in a handful of scenes in the movie. The opening scene featured an emotionally shell shocked Django being transported across Texas as part of a slave coffle. Other traumatic scenes include Candie’s little speech on the inferiority of blacks, the erruption of violence at Candyland that resulted in Django hanging from a barn’s roof, naked and bound and Stephen’s maleovelent revelation of Django’s fate as a slave for a Mississippi mining company. One horrifying scene that I found particularly brutal was a flashback featuring Broomhilda’s brutal whipping at the hands of the Brittle brothers, while Django desperately tries to convince one of the brothers to spare her.

I really do not know what to say about the performances featured in the movie. I realize there are no Academy Award nominations for ensemble casts. If there were, I would nominate the cast of “DJANGO UNCHAINED”. One, Tarantino cast old movie and television veterans in cameo roles. I have already mentioned Lee Horsley and James Russo. I also spotted the likes of Russ and Amber Tamblyn, Don Stroud, Tom Wopat, Cooper Huckabee, Robert Carradine, Michael Parks and a humorus special guest appearance by Franco Nero. Both Bruce Dern and M.C. Gainey (of “LOST”) were especially scary in their brief appearances as Old Man Carrucan (Django and Broomhilda’s former owner) and Big John Brittle. Both Dana Michelle Gourrier and Nichole Galicia gave solid performances as Cora and Sheba, Candie’s housekeeper and concubine respectively. And Dennis Christopher’s performance as Calvin Candie’s obsequious attorney, Leonide Moguy, struck me as spot-on.

Don Johnson provided a skillful combination of charm, menace and humor in his role as Spencer “Big Daddy” Bennett, the Tennessee planter who served as the Brittle brothers’ current employer. Jonah Hill had a funny cameo as one of his night riders. I could say the same about Miriam F. Glover, who gave one of the movie’s funniest lines, while portraying one of Big Daddy’s house slaves. Ato Essandoh of A&E’s “COPPER” was very effective as D’Artagnan, the frightened fighting slave whose runaway attempt led to his brutal death. Laura Cayouette’s performance as Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly, Candie’s widowed sister, struck me as effective. On one hand, I found her attempts to seduce Schultz rather funny. On the other hand, her outrage over Candie’s attempt to display a naked Broomhilda during supper provided a great deal of tension in the scene. Walton Goggins gave a memorable and scary performance as one of Candie’s henchmen, Billy Crash. James Remar got to portray two intimidating characters – Ace Speck and Candie’s main henchman, Butch Pooch. And he did a damn good job with both roles.

Although I had been critical of Tarantino’s creation of the Broomhilda von Shaft, I must admit that Kerry Washington still managed to wring out a first-rate performance from the role. I especially impressed with her in scenes that featured Broomhilda’s tense encounters with Stephen; and her subtle, yet pleased reaction to Schultz’s purchase of her from Candie and her painful whipping by the Brittle brothers in one of the flashback. And I must admit that I found that last shot of her removing a shotgun from her saddle rather interesting. Perhaps after all that Broomhilda had endured, she was not taking any chances. I believe that the year 2012 will prove to be one of Samuel L. Jackson’s best years professionally. Aside from portraying Nick Fury in the year’s biggest hit, “THE AVENGERS”; he got to portray one of the most complex and villainous roles in “DJANGO UNCHAINED” as Candie’s trusted and malevolent head house slave, Stephen. Watching the movie, I was struck at how much Stephen reminded me of the Mr. Carson character from the British television series, “DOWNTON ABBEY”. Both characters possessed the same blinding loyalty, snobbery, jealousy over his position within the slave hierarchy, and anger toward anyone from their background who managed to rise higher than they (for example: Django). Jackson did a superb job in not only conveying Stephen’s penchant for utilizing the old “Puttin’ on Old Massa” routine publicly, but also his intelligence while in the private company of Django, Broomhilda or Candie. And by the way, the man has a nice singing voice. Many people have expressed surprise at Leonardo Di Caprio’s portryal of the villanous, yet charsmatic Calvin Candie. I was not that surprised, considering I have seen him portray a villain before – as the cold-blooded Louis XIV in 1998’s “THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK”. But I do believe that Candie not only proved to be a more memorable villain, but also one of the actor’s best roles ever. He was fantastic as the charming, yet brutal Candie . . . and at the same time rather contradictory. It was obvious that Di Caprio’s Candie fervently believed in the superiority of whites; yet at the same time, he had no problems with allowing Stephen to handle the plantation’s finances or accepting the elderly slave’s intelligence and sharp observations about Django, Schultz and Broomhilda with very little reluctance.

Instead of portraying a villain, Christoph Waltz portrayed Django’s friendly, yet ruthless mentor and partner; the German-born dentist-turned-bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. And he was fantastic. Waltz effectively portrayed Schultz’s cold-blooded pursuit of wanted criminals for profit, yet at the same time; conveyed the character’s disgust over the institution of slavery and open-mindedness toward Django, Broomhilda and other slaves. Waltz’s best moments proved to be Schultz’s encounter with the Speck brothers and Django in Texas, his taking down of the wanted Sheriff Bill Sharp (portrayed by Don Stroud), his reaction to D’Artagnan’s mauling and the revelation of his disgust toward Candie. And Waltz proved to have great screen chemistry with Jamie Foxx. I believe that the latter’s portrayal of the title character has proven to be vastly underrated by the majority of film critics and some moviegoers. I am a little disappointed, but not surprised. Django turned out to be a somewhat introverted character that was not inclined to speak very much . . . whether as a slave or a free man. Critics and filmgoers are not inclined to pay much attention to non-showy characters. Since Django proved to be a quiet character, Foxx resorted to good old-fashioned screen acting to convey most of the character’s non-speaking moments. And he did a superb job in portraying Django’s array of emotions – especially in the opening scene featuring the slave coffle in Texas, Schultz’s killing of the criminal, his first view of Broomhilda at Candyland, and the confrontation with Candie during the latter’s supper party. Ironically, another one of Foxx’s best moments proved to be quite verbal in which he attempts to con a group of slavers for a mining company to take him back to Candyland in order to collect on a fake bounty. In the end, Foxx did a superb job in developing Django from a slave in shock over the traumatized separation from his wife to the soft-spoken, yet self-assured man who could be very ruthless when the situation demanded it.

I also have to say a word about the movie’s behind-the-scene production. I was impressed by Sharen Davis’ costume designs. She did a solid job in re-creating the fashions of the late antebellum period. However, I noticed a few oddball designs for Candie’s slave mistress Sheba and a maid at a social club in Greenville, Mississippi; reflecting the planter’s penchant for anything French. I suspect this was a visual joke on Tarantino’s part. I was also impressed by J. Michael Riva’s production designs and Leslie A. Pope’s set decorations in the sequences for the Texas town featured in the movie’s first 10 to 20 minutes, Candie’s Napoleon Club in Greenville and especially the interiors for Candyland’s mansion. Robert Richardson did an excellent in capturing the beauty of California, Louisiana and especially Wyoming with his photography. As he had done for “INGLORIOUS BASTERDS”, Tarantino used already recorded music to serve as the score for his movie. I did notice that a few songs – especially one for the opening title sequence – seemed to have been written specifically for the movie. However, I do not know who may have written them.

It occurred to me that “DJANGO UNCHAINED” was Tarantino’s second period piece in a row. And I found myself wondering if he planned to write and direct a third period movie as part of some kind of semi-historical trilogy. Whether he does or not, I must say that I was impressed with “DJANGO UNCHAINED”. More than impressed. I believe it is one of the best movies I have seen released in 2012. And I feel that it is one of the writer-director’s more original works, due to superb writing, direction and an excellent cast led by Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz.

P.S. Check out this photo:

Jamie+Foxx+Don+Johnson+CbSnoKvfAsGm

Ohmigod! It’s Crockett and Tubbs!

Top Ten Favorite “JERICHO” (2006-2008) Episodes

Below is a list of my top ten (10) favorite episodes of “JERICHO” (2006-2008).  Created by  Stephen Chbosky, Josh Schaer and Jonathan E. Steinberg, the series starred Skeet Ulrich and Lennie James:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE “JERICHO” (2006-2008) EPISODES

1. (1.16)”Winter’s End” – In this well written episode, Eric Green’s estranged wife, April, goes into premature labor amidst energy and supply shortages. Also, this episode featured the introduction of New Bern and its sheriff/leader, Phil Constantino.

 

2. (1.08) “Rogue River” – Jake and Eric Green make a harrowing trip to the neighboring town of Rogue River in order to procure much needed medication for their ailing father and have their first encounter with Ravenwood mercenaries and John Goetz. Meanwhile, the Hawkins family is being questioned by Gray Anderson and the local law, due to them being newcomers.
3. (2.05) “Termination For Cause” – Upon receiving no help from the Allied States of America’s Major Beck and his troops; Jake, Robert Hawkins and the members of Jericho’s Rangers defend a badly wounded Mimi Clark from Jennings and Rall mercenary John Goetz (formerly of Ravenwood) and his thugs.

4. (2.04) “Oversight” – Mimi Clark becomes a target of John Goetz and his goons, when she discovers that he has been embezzling from his bosses – Jennings and Rall. Matters come to a tragic end, when Bonnie Richmond defends Mimi at the Richmond farm.

5. (1.18) “A.K.A.” – Both Lennie James and Skeet Ulrich give tour de force performances when Jake learns the truth about Robert Hawkins and the circumstances behind the September nuclear bombings.

6. (1.07) “Long Live the Mayor” – In this underappreciated episode, Gray Anderson returns to Jericho with news of the nuclear fallout in the outside world. The news not only affects Washington D.C. accountant Mimi Clark, but also the Hawkins family. Meanwhile Johnston Green’s illness becomes dangerously serious, and Jake and Eric decide to travel to nearby Rogue River for medication.

7. (2.07) “Patriots and Tyrants” – Jake and Robert head for Cheyenne to recover the remaining bomb that can be used as evidence against the new Allied States of America in the series’ exciting finale. Their actions will set in motion a new civil war on American soil.

8. (1.15) “Semper Fidelis” – A platoon of U.S. Marines arrive in Jericho with promises of reconstruction for the town. Meanwhile, Robert discovers the truth about his former C.I.A. colleague, Sarah Mason; which leads to an explosive showdown inside the Hawkins home.

9. (1.20) “One If By Land” – Johnston and Robert set out to rescue Jake and Eric from New Bern’s Phil Constantino and his deputies, who are bent upon attacking and invading Jericho.

10. (2.03) “Jennings and Rall” – To protect his identity, Robert tells Major Beck of the Allied States of America that he is an F.B.I. agent searching for a rogue agent (namely Sarah Mason). Also, Jericho receives news of a dangerous virus sweeping west of the Mississippi River and Mimi Clark becomes an accountant for Jennings and Rall.