Here are some thoughts on the three movies I just saw:
1) Life of Pi: Surprisingly strong adaptation of the book, though it misses some of the whimsy of Pi’s character. A good example of how a filmmaker can take a book that was stunning in its writing and make it stunning in its cinematography. I didn’t consider the book to be ‘visual’ in any special sense, but the movie claimed its own artistry by filming the story as it did. I’m still unsure of the ending. I like its attempt at a comment on the nature of art and religion, but I can’t tell if it’s so simplistic a thought as to be idiotic or so subversive a thought as to be admired.
2) Lincoln: More politically problematic than Django Unchained, though people won’t think of it that way (essentially Spielberg’s version of Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate quote suggesting that black people may start civil rights movements and whatnot but you need white people to get the job done). Nonetheless, Day-Lewis’s portrayal is stunning (yes, I know, how original of me to say). I can’t say it’s believable because I don’t know what Lincoln was like, but it manages to make him seem appealing in a way that hits all the right notes of patriotic emotion without seeming like a propagandistic, overly sentimental portrayal.
3) Django Unchained: Sure Tarantino’s ego (as evidenced in recent interviews) is a bit on the unbearable side, but sometimes egotistical people are god damn right about themselves. Compare the opening scenes of each of these three films and you’ll see that the man just has far more talent than anyone going. The simple image of a white tooth dongling (not a word but I’m going with it) to and fro on top of an old wagon has more brilliance in it than I saw in most of the other two movies. On a purely entertaining level: leaps and bounds above all else. On an artistic level: same thing. Too many moviegoers want something like Pi and Lincoln, both of which telegraph their ‘messages’ through dialogue. Even Pi–with all its visual splendor–spells it all out for us at the end.
But you simply cannot interpret Django validly without taking into account how it is filmed, edited, scored and written. There’s a dialogue that Tarantino creates both within his films and across films, and unless we taken into account things like genre, homage, and pastiche, we aren’t being fair.