Oscar Countdown: 9 - Tarantino's Django Unchained

Tarantion versus Spike Lee, Jamie Foxx versus Katt Williams, in the most contraversal Best Picture nominees: Django Unchained. Photo: 2013 Oscar Nominees

Beijing, January 15, 2013 - In light of this year’s Oscar nominations I have decided to take a second look at the nine films in contention for Best Picture, beginning with Django Unchained. The film is Tarantino witty, stylistically violent and sadistically engrossing. Foxx hits the mark with such ferocity that the shrapnel of supporting characters that appear in his wake are just as piercing.

Django Unchained is more than a film, it is an event, one of Tarantino’s best and amid the remakes and adaptations it has the distinction of being a film that feels necessary. But racial sensitivity threatens to overshadow what ironically is one of the best “black films” of the past decade.

The picturesque visuals and Oscar nominated cinematography in Django is decorated by a diverse cast. Foxx gave a commendable leading performance but it was the supporting characters that strengthen the film’s impact. The entire supporting cast gave more than strong performances but it was Christoph Waltz who garnered an Oscar nomination.

Though well deserving of this honor, in my opinion, that esteemed honor should have been bestowed upon Leonardo DiCaprio who even amid strong performances by his fellow cast members, a lack of onscreen time and even a full frontal peak at the lovely Kerry Washington, manages to stands out. He disguises himself so well in the role that the heartthrob is barely visible; his stranglehold on the character goads the rest of the cast to elevate their game and Django shines for this reason.

The film though is not without its flaws. Approaching three hours the script could have done with some trimming. An enormous first act, that could have almost been a film in itself, is chalk full of scenes that feel superfluous or drawn out via Tarantino’s signature dialogue. It is over an hour before we are introduced to DiCaprio and ninety minutes before Jackson and Washington grace the screen.

The almost anticlimactic climax, remember this is a western, hurts film, especially after a good old Cowboys and Indians style shootout thirty minutes earlier, toss in a deus ex machina and the structure of the film suffers.

In the end though the story’s strengths easily carry its imperfections and what remains is a well deserved Oscar nominee.

Changing gears, earlier I remarked, quite confidently that Django Unchained is one of the best “black films” of the decade and I stand by that. “Black film” because it’s a film in which the leading cast is predominantly black, its themes are relevant to the black community and it deals with slavery for God’s sake. Flight with Denzel Washington was not a “black film” and even though black appears in the title, neither was Men in Black 3 with Will Smith but Django is, and thank God for that.

Yet there are cries of “disrespect”, “racism” and… “gay”? Yes comedian Katt Williams called Jamie Foxx gay for taking the role and blasted the film saying, “Any n*gg@ that (would) do this deserves to die.” Spike Lee refused to see the film saying the Django Unchained was, “disrespectful to my ancestors”. Such voices can be so infuriating when most of the films produced for black actors today, mostly comedies and melodramas, are leaps and bounds more disrespectful, deprecating, and embarrassing for the black community.

So this award season take the advice of someone who has seen the film over someone refusing to see it yet saying it’s disrespectful to his ancestors; it’s not. It IS one of Tarantino’s best films, one of the best black films to date and one of nine Oscar nominees; and there’s more to come…

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Dwain Worrell

A Georgia State University graduate, Dwain Worrell majored in theater with concentration in play and screenwriting. Dwain is a news  article translator in Beijing and a screenwriter.

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