Tarantino, ‘Django’, and the Beast That is Christoph Waltz

Posted in Movies on January 11th, 2013 by Nick

jamie-foxx-600Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s latest bloodfest, explores slavery, revenge, love, loyalty, and friendship. It’s a pre-Civil War Western set in the times of slavery when Northerners had very different viewpoints about race and freedom than their Southern counterparts. There’s heaps of violence, stellar acting (more on that later), classic QT quips, diverging dialogues, and beautiful cinematography. It’s quite possibly everything one could ask for in a Tarantino flick. So why am I left feeling underwhelmed?

The story follows a newly freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), and his bounty hunting partner, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), as they tour the country finding and killing wanted criminals for handsome bounties. With money lining their pockets, Django and Schultz set out to rescue Django’s wife (Kerry Washington) from the cruel hands of a perverse plantation owner (LEO!) and “mandingo fighting” enthusiast (it’s like cock fighting except with male slaves – no big deal).

The film has lots working in its favor. Partly shot in Louisiana and Wyoming, the rural settings used in the film produced some really breathtaking exterior scenes. With violence percolating left and right, Tarantino remains dedicated to giving the audience a visually stunning, light-hearted (given the subject matter), and quite entertaining film. You never watch the same gun slingin’ shootout twice because the camera is always doing something quirky and unique. The director’s style never fails to leap off the screen.

And the acting! It’s refreshing to see Leonardo DiCaprio taking on a villainous role so completely different from his staple gigs – especially since he knocked it out of the park. As the two-faced Calvin Candie, DiCaprio transformed from charming Southern gentleman to an evil, maleficent torturer like some sort of nineteenth century Jekyll and Hyde, flashing a devious smile that hides the many secrets of his slave-ridden plantation. Samuel L. Jackson is also excellent as Stephen, Candie’s right hand man, who seems more loyal to his white owner than his fellow servants. Jackson plays the miserable, tattling curmudgeon brilliantly – and it looks like he had a blast doing so.

As for Christoph Waltz, his Best Supporting Actor nomination says it all. Dr. Shultz is the direct opposite of Waltz’s other Tarantino character, Colonel Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds). He’s kind-hearted, logical, and you know, not an elitist, racist, egotist, or Nazi. Schultz frees Django, taking him into his command, returning his freedom, and even becoming his trusted ally. Schultz’s allegiance to Django throughout tugs subtlety at your heartstrings and makes you love the character and love the man portraying him. Many are hailing Jackson as the star here, but I digress.

Though enjoyable, Django didn’t really rustle my feathers. Jamie Foxx was just OK as the taciturn lead character, and Django’s story wasn’t as vengeful or exciting as say, The Bride’s in Kill Bill, or Shosanna’s in Basterds. Perhaps there lies my struggle: Tarantino’s resume is mindfuckingly amazing. Maybe the passion and excitement I felt walking away from Death Proof and Bill can’t be topped. Is it fair of me to critique this film based on the director’s other works? Probably not. Django didn’t feel incomplete, nor unworthy to sit amongst the Bills, Fictions and Dogs of the past, but it certainly didn’t resonate any deeper than surface-level entertainment with this QT fan.

But those performances, man. Wow.

Grade: B-

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Oscar 2013: Nominations Have Landed

Posted in Movies on January 10th, 2013 by Nick

Nominations are in for the 2013 Academy Awards and like most years, there aren’t too many surprises…except for that Ben Affleck snub for Best Director, Argo (what WHAAAAT!?). Speaking of Best Director, Zero Dark Thirty’s Kathryn Bigelow is also egregiously missing from the list. Yikes.  Beasts of the Southern Wild fared way better than most probably predicted and…well, lets just get to it:

Best Picture
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Hanake
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Animated Feature:
Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary Short
Inocente
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
Redemption

Best Film Editing
Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour, Austria
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Best Original Score
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Achievement in production design
Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best animated short film
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Paperman

Best live action short film
Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow
Henry

Achievement in sound editing
Argo ,Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Achievement in sound mixing
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Achievement in visual effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

The ceremony and live broadcast will take place February 24 on ABC.

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