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Our Pete Wassell continues his overview of this year’s 9 Best Picture nominees.

Django Unchained:  Quentin Tarantino does what he does and I love it.  A great soundtrack, violence, vengeance, dead slave owners and bigots to the left and the right, and comedy… yes, Django Unchained is very funny.  That’s what Tarantino does.  He’s a synthesis machine, taking the best aspects of the genres he loves, breaking them down and putting them back together again in his own way, illuminating the possibilities that lie within pulp and now Spaghetti Western genres.  From the opening scene when Jamie Foxx, who plays Django, throws off his burlap wrap and stands over his would-be oppressor, the audience knows they’re in for  a treat.  Django is nominated for Best Picture, and Christoph Waltz, who plays Dr. King Schulz, is up for Best Supporting Actor, and Tarantino for Best Original Screenplay.  But no director and no nomination for Samuel L. Jackson who, much like William Hurt in A History of Violence, adds so much to the film in such a short period of time.  You literally can’t take your eyes away from Jackson when he’s on screen.  And Leonardo DiCaprio as the depraved Calvin Candie, owner of the 4th largest cotton plantation in Mississippi, is brilliant.  He plays Candie with a mix of southern charm and ignorant, evil nonchalance that adds an operatic nature to his character.  The truth is that everyone could have been nominated for Supporting Actor, so seeing Christoph Waltz get nominated again wasn’t a surprise, and not that big of a problem for me.  Though I would have nominated either Jackson or DiCaprio over him, at least the Academy nominated one of them.  No Best Director nomination for Tarantino, though, is ridiculous.  The film once again moves at its own pace and blends music with visuals better than any film this year.  Tarantino has shelved his chapter style and instead filmed a straightforward Spaghetti Western in the vein of A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but maintaining his unique style and sense of pulpy entertainment.  When we first go to Mississippi to meet Calvin Candie, the camera looks straight down over the heads of shackled slaves as they trudge through thick wet mud, and the giant letters M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I scroll across, covering the entire screen.  We are in Mississippi, and it is not where we, or Django, want to be.  There’s a fight scene between two slave men that has been set up by Calvin Candie that does get on the brutal side, and I nearly turned away.  I loved Django from start to finish, though it does wrap up a little too nicely for a Tarantino film.  I think it’s one of the best movies of the year and no nomination for either Tarantino or Samuel L. Jackson is a giant snub.

Look for more of Pete’s overview on the Oscars next week. 



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