Inside the Best Picture nominees: A deep dive into 'Django Unchained'

DJANGO-UNCHAINED

Name: Django Unchained

Release date: December 25 2012

DVD release date: Unknown

Run time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Box office: $154.5 million

Rotten tomatoes score: 86 percent

Movie Math: (Django x Shaft) + (Glory/Mandingo)

Tweetable description: In the antebellum South, a bounty hunter and a freed slave named Django join forces to kill evil white people and rescue Django’s wife.

What Lisa Schwarzbaum said: “It is one thing to take on a mix of genres and say he’s going to mush up the western and the slave stuff and the spaghetti western…but I’m finding there are fewer and fewer ideas behind it…I feel like he’s living in such a tiny little bubble of references to movies that it’s not reaching me anymore.”

What Owen Gleiberman said: “Tarantino’s deliriously kicky and shameless (and also overly long and scattershot) racial-exploitation epic is set in the slave days, and among other things, it’s a low-down orgy of flamboyant cruelty and violence…Django isn’t nearly the film that Inglourious Basterds was. It’s less clever, and it doesn’t have enough major characters — or enough of Tarantino’s trademark structural ingenuity — to earn its two-hour-and-45-minute running time… B-

Number of Oscar nods: Five. Like Tarantino’s last Best Picture nominee, Django earned Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, and Best Supporting Actor. A Best Director nomination eluded Tarantino this time, though.

Movie’s Oscar history: Tarantino was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction; he won for the screenplay. He was nominated for both awards again with 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. Waltz earned his first nomination — and his first Oscar — playing SS man Hans Landa in Basterds. Cinematographer Robert Richardson has been nominated a total of eight times: He won for JFK, The Aviator, and Hugo, and was also nominated for Basterds, Snow Falling on CedarsBorn on the Fourth of July, and Platoon. And this is, sound editor Wylie Stateman’s sixth nom, after Born on the Fourth of JulysCliffhangerMemoirs of a GeishaWanted, and Basterds.

What is has won thus far: Tarantino won the Golden Globe award for Best Original Screenplay, and Christoph Waltz won the Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Why it should win: Because it’s exactly the kind of movie that never wins. (Heck, without the halo of prestige Tarantino still brings to a project, it probably wouldn’t even be nominated.) Django is a brash and incredibly bloody pulp western which tackles the history of American slavery. The Academy prefers to see sensitive issues handled sensitively: Think of The Help, or Crash. Tarantino doesn’t do sensitive. Django Unchained earned some controversy for the frequent use of the n-word, but the movie is genuinely transgressive in its gleeful portrait of a freed slave tackling the racist white establishment.

But from another angle, Django is also an endearingly old-fashioned movie. It’s an epic, but it’s more focused on characters than on elaborate setpieces. (The scene where Christoph Waltz tells Jaimie Foxx the story of Siegfried is treated with just as much importance as the movie’s frequent showdowns.) And Django allows actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson to deliver the kind of florid, profane, glorious dialogue that is practically a lost art in movies today.

Why it shouldn’t win: Django is the longest of the Best Picture nominees, and it feels like it. In sharp contrast to the clockwork plot of BasterdsDjango is wandering and digressive — the film has one climax, and then lasts for another half hour. Django is the flabbiest and slowest-paced of Tarantino’s movies. (The film had a rushed filming schedule during which the script was constantly rewritten and characters were combined, which might explain why the whole operation feels like a bit of a mess.) And although DiCaprio, Jackson, and Waltz all get to play great characters, the titular character in Django feels like a bit of a blank. Django is probably the most straightforward — and boring — of all Tarantino’s protagonists.

Vegas Odds: 100/1 according to Vegas Insider

Best Line: It would be SPOILER-y to describe exactly why it’s so awesome when Waltz’s Dr. King Schultz says line “Alexandre Dumas is black.” Suffice it to say that, in the moment, it’s a line that speaks volumes about what the movie says about race in America, and it also doubles as one of the best action-badass lines since “Yippee-ki-yay Motherf—-r.”

Worst Line: Listen, even if you love Tarantino, and you have to admit that sometimes his dialogue gets a bit too cute. That’s especially true when it curves back on itself, and you get the feeling that all the characters are speaking with the same voice. There’s a little exchange that sums this up. Calvin Candie asks Django: “I’m curious, what makes you such a mandingo expert?” Django shoots back: “I’m curious what makes you so curious.” You imagine them going back and forth for twenty minutes like that: “Well, I’m curious what makes you so curious about my curiosity.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

Read More:
Check out all of EW.com’s “Inside the Best Picture Nominees” series

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