Saturday, May 18, 2024

Oscars: How “Django Unchained” Fits into the Academy Award Jigsaw Puzzle


Well, now, we’ve seen Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” Technically, there’s a reviewing embargo until something like December 15th. So I can’t review it or tell you much about it except that it’s a kind of soul food spaghetti Western with a mad dash of Mel Brooks. Without getting into too much detail, though, it’s time to fit “Django” into the big Academy Award jigsaw puzzle. Today we’re going to have voting from the mostly irrelevant National Board of Review followed by the Los Angeles Film Critics. Other cities’ critics groups are going to start announcing their awards, followed by the Golden Globe nominations on the 13th. The Oscar nominations won’t be announced until January 10th. But everyone wants to know what to do, who goes into what category, etc.

So far the Best Picture category–10 choices– would be — in no particular order– Argo, Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The Master, and then choices among Amour, Rust & Bone, The Sessions, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Skyfall, and now Django. There’s no question that Django could be among the top 10. And Tarantino must be considered as Best Director. Whether you like his oeuvre or not, there’s a masterful and mature quality now to what he’s doing. Plus, his Q&A last night before several groups really demonstrated his overall brilliant comprehension of filmmaking. He’s somehow become more fascinating than ever. With Spielberg, Affleck Russell, Hooper and Bigelow, Paul Thomas Anderson ahead of him, Tarantino is not going to be out of the discussion.

The actors: I know there’s a push for Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Supporting Actor. This is not out of the question. DiCaprio is also full of surprises, and underrated too often. Go back and watch Blood Diamonds or J. Edgar or The Aviator. He is the rare combination of a movie star and an actor. As he gets older, he’s going to function more and more as a character actor, a la Jack Nicholson.

Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are superb in “Django.” They function as a team as much as Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master.” They have a special magic. I don’t know what to do with them. The lead actor category is very full already– Phoenix, Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel Washington, John Hawkes, Hugh Jackman. Who do you take out? Who do you put in? It’s a killer. Foxx’s character, as you’ll see in the film, has the biggest arc and grows the most. Waltz, however, is sparkling. When Tarantino found him, he must have thanked his lucky stars.

One thing’s for sure: there is great music in “Django.” I think their song nominee is “Who Did That to You?” by John Legend, written with Paul Epworth. That, plus “Suddenly” from “Les Miz” and the five songs listed on our front page poll, gives us at least seven terrific songs this season. A bumper crop, to be sure.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News