Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.
Django Unchained is being praised for bringing the forgotten genres of westerns and Blaxploitation back to the theater. But previously, the major criticism dished out at director Quentin Tarantino's movies was that he blurred the line between paying homage toward his influences and stealing their work.
Tarantino got major heat for his first movie Reservoir Dogs, taking plot points and visual motifs wholesale from the Hong Kong flick City On Fire.
The director came of age in the early nineties when similar attacks were being thrown around in the music industry. Rock, funk, and soul acts got their panties in a bunch that hip-hop groups sampled their music without giving them credit and paying royalties. Tarantino was nothing more than the film world's nineties hip-hop. They both wore their influences on their sleeves and made others' work their own. He was a cinematic DJ, not merely mixing in songs, but also splattering old images into something new.
With the soundtracks to his movies you really saw how hip-hop affected Tarantino. Albums like De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising and A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders threw tracks of rapping over established songs between non-musical skits. The soundtracks of Tarantino's first two movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction followed their lead by featuring songs interspersed with scenes of dialogue taken from their respective movies. This format for a movie soundtrack was new at the time, even if none of the songs were new except for Urge Overkill's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" (which technically wasn't new either as it was a cover of a sixties Neil Diamond song).
If you are not a purist with a hankering for artistic integrity, Django Unchained's soundtrack will charm you. Tarnatino resumes that old/new trick of including the wittiest words from his movie amongst classic songs which you might know from other movies. Composer Ennio Morricone is represented with music he created for Clint Eastwood westerns. James Brown and Tupac are mashed up in a new mix called "Unchained." There are even a couple almost entirely new creations. Rick Ross brings "100 Black Coffins" and there's "Freedom" by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton. Best of all is "Who Did That To You" by John Legend, which, of course, samples a distinctive hook from the 1967 song "The Right To Love You" by Mighty Hannibal.
There aren't too many sticklers left who argue great art must be one hundred percent original. DJs now have as much credibility as composers and songwriters. Songs and movies are now collages of original content and what came before.
And if they ever make a move based on this shift in our culture where hip-hop won out, it will be directed by Quentin Tarantino.