Quentin Tarantino has the power to stop the music at the Academy Awards.
With Quentin Tarantino’s first movie, Reservoir Dogs, he brought 70’s star Harvey Keitel back into the Hollywood picture. His follow-up, Pulp Fiction, saw him give John Travolta the greatest comeback role of all time. For his third feature, Jackie Brown, Quentin dug deep and gave not only comeback roles, but career defining roles to Pam Grier and Robert Forster (maybe not “defining” for Grier, but certainly the best role of her career). Eschewing the trend for a while, Tarantino made his Kill Bill movies with old favorites and then discovered Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (and gave Michael Fassbender his largest Hollywood role at the time).
His latest, Django Unchained, sees a return of Tarantino favorites, Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, and newbies Kerry Washington and Leonardo Dicaprio. It’s Dicaprio’s best role since Blood Diamonds but it’s also his smallest (it’s the first time in well over a decade Dicaprio hasn’t had top billing) and Leo was certainly in no need of a comeback. But what of the movie’s star? Jamie Foxx.
You might recall a few years back, Foxx was primed to be the next big movie star. He was nominated for two academy awards in the same year (best lead for Ray and best supporting for Collateral) and established a niche in the music industry as well. But big budget vehicles like Stealth and Miami Vice flopped while more serious work like Jarhead and The Soloist never found the critics’ attentions. If you were going to judge by his last two years, you might think Foxx had resigned himself to making awesome cameos in comedies. His only real success since 2004 was a supporting turn in Dream Girls.
Enter Tarantino. Django was reportedly written for Will Smith, so we can’t give Tarantino all the credit but he did ultimately decide that Foxx was his man. The result? The film is a hit and Jamie Foxx is the man on the poster. According to IMDb, his next couple of roles will see supporting again as the President of the United States in a Channing Tatum action flick, and then as the villain in the Amazing Spider-man follow-up. Oscar winners don’t usually disappear unless they want to but Foxx had found himself in a strange place between leading man and venerable character actor. A starring role in a Tarantino flick has brought his name back to people’s mouths.
For the better. Foxx is a star, I have no question, and his talent leaves even less to be questioned. Not just his ability to impersonate Ray Charles, either. Even when the movies aren’t great, Foxx always is (at least since after Held Up). The man has more in him than we’ve seen for the last 8 years. Django feels like more of a return to form for Foxx. It’s hard to believe he’s as old as he is but that doesn’t matter. Hell, maybe it’s for the better. He’s been around long enough for audiences to recognize and trust him but he doesn’t look old. He’s the anti-Sam Worthington.
It’s not the dragging-from-nowhere comeback that became a Tarantino staple in the 90’s but it is worth noting that Foxx is a leading man again and Tarantino was behind the camera. Part of me will always wonder the movie might have looked like with Will Smith (and part of me desperately wants to know what older actor Tarantino had in mind for Calvin Candie) but Foxx was excellent and the movie was excellent and it’s good to have Jamie Foxx back. Even if he never really left.
1. There’s no way for me to fit both Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo Dicaprio into my Best Supporting Actor list without knocking off someone really deserving. Can we nominate them both in one slot as “the villain from Djang Unchained”? Their relationship and their scenes are terrific.
2. Their are a couple of long talking scenes that go on too long and the movie might be a little too long itself but Tarantino’s name is on poster so we know what we’re in for and this movie suffers from these things less than Inglourious Basterds did.
3. Tarantino has oft been criticized for being too violent and in the past, these criticisms have been mostly baseless. His early movies dealt with violent very intelligently and most of the grizzliest stuff happens off screen, leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks. The Kill Bill movies were the opposite. A thrill ride, love letter to samurai movies complete with on-screen decapitations with a katana. Django might have been better served by the old method, rather than strapping giant squibs on everybody and painting the walls.
4. The movie is too well written, too well shot, and too much fun to not love. It’s the ultimate revenge movie and Christoph Waltz gets to everything we want him to be.
5. Jonah Hill has a cameo and the scene he appears in is the funniest thing I’ve seen this year. I wonder if Tarantino would ever write a straight-up comedy?
Bought a black suit jacket today at Good Will, cementing my decision to go as Mr. White (from Reservoir Dogs, not from Breaking Bad) for Halloween. So now I’m sitting in my room thinking my hair isn’t quite long enough but it’ll do and maybe what if I just ate a ton of food for the next week and put on a little bit more weight to sell middle age.
That’s taking a the Halloween costume too far, though, isn’t it?