Looks like Samuel L. Jackson has had it with these muthaf—ing directors in this muthaf—ing industry.
After his recent outburst against M. Night Shyamalan, the Django Unchained star has gone after Steven Spielberg and his direction in the incredibly well received Lincoln.
In a report from Los Angels Times, Jackson stated, “I don't understand why it didn't just end when Lincoln is walking down the hall and the butler gives him his hat. Why did I need to see him dying on the bed? I have no idea what Spielberg was trying to do.” Jackson also went on to state, “I didn't need the assassination at all. Unless he's going to show Lincoln getting his brains blown out. And even then, why am I watching it? The movie had a better ending 10 minutes before.”
At first glance, it seems a bit unfair for Jackson to criticize Spielberg for the ending. The penultimate death scene is a classic of cinema, something that effectively grants a hero martyr status. Also, for the sake of historical accuracy, it would be unfair to leave out the assassination because there is no denying that Lincoln’s presidency ended in death, possibly as a direct consequence of his daring, progressive actions.
Also, gore doesn’t entirely fit in a drama like it does in action films so the part about “getting his brains blown out” is perhaps misplaced.
And Spielberg doesn’t necessarily deserve criticism for adhering to convention because, frankly speaking, he invented a lot of these traditions. If critics were to start hating Petrarch for being too lovey-dovey, for example, it would be weird because he is the guy who defined “lovey-dovey.”
Plus, it is not as if all conventions of filmmaking are terrible. Works such as Scent of a Woman and Good Will Hunting are both stories that play up the sappy scenes unapologetically and are filled with boisterous, dramatic speeches. However, both of these films are done well and actually do spark some Kleenex moments so convention helps them more than it hurts.
Besides, if there were some Hollywood traditions hurting Lincoln, they were less about directorial direction and more about plot points. Even in 2012, women were comfortably relegated to purely supportive roles while the view on roles by other races demonstrated a somewhat dated mentality, not just by the characters (which is only natural) but by the filmmakers too.
This would perhaps be more visible to someone like Samuel L. Jackson, who Quentin Tarantino calls a “good writer.” And that is valuable praise because Tarantino, who Jackson has praised and defended on more than one occasion, is one of the few mainstream writers that challenge Hollywood conventions.
While Spielberg is busy having Indiana Jones press on a female statue’s chest to open a door, Tarantino introduces ideas such as feminine empowerment beyond just sexualization (Kill Bill) and racial role reversals that reject subservience (Django, Pulp Fiction).
Tarantino, for his part, has also displayed his dislike for John Ford, another Oscar winner known for his conventional films and somewhat dated takes on race relations. And in what seems like a direct response, perhaps, Tarantino has declared that he wishes to make an Inglorious Basterds spinoff trilogy from the point of view of Black soldiers.
While Spielberg is an effective director, it is perhaps a little bothersome that he chooses to revel in the conventions that should have been discarded. I personally have a lot of problems with what I think is Tarantino’s occasional indifference towards people’s legitimate sensitivities, but at least he tries to abandon Hollywood’s inherently problematic takes on the issues that shouldn’t even be issues at this point. Samuel L. Jackson values that mentality, as should all moviegoers.