According to Variety magazine, that's the number of times the N-word is spoken in Tarantino's "Django Unchained," starring Jamie Foxx. The title is a wink to the the 1966 violent, spaghetti Western "Django."
Not exactly a typical Christmas movie to share with your white husband, brother-in-law and black family in Alabama, but boy, oh boy, was it worth it. Given my very recent and not so favorable viewing of "Pulp Fiction," I dare say this is Tarantino's masterpiece of this decade.
Why You Should (And Maybe Shouldn't) Watch This Flick
The writing and acting that created the unlikely friendship between Django and Dr. Schultz and Django's undying devotion to rescuing his wife is the underlying theme and what makes this movie so memorable and great. Of course it has the typical Tarantino elements of odd camera shots, grandiose music and gratuitous violence. So much so, it even made me queasy and a few folks, including my Mom, walked out.
In case you're like me and have been avoiding any trailers or previews, be forewarned: while it's one thing to see a lot of folks get crazily shot up repeatedly in great, gory cowboy shoot-outs, it's another thing to watch what happens to the slaves depicted in this movie. The violent realities of U.S. slavery that Tarantino infuses in to the movie is truly, truly horrifying and stomach-churning.
Thankfully, Mom came back and the gory elements of the story were overshadowed by the awesomeness of pretty much everything else. Here are a few spoiler-free reasons why you should stop what you're doing and go watch this right now:
Above everything else, the acting in this movie is strangely stellar. I say that because most of the characters tended to be very complicated, yet still very cartoonish people. What makes this movie stand out is that despite the unusual setting, you really begin to develop a deep and meaningful relationship as the viewer with Django and Dr. Schultz in particular. You have a vested interest in their well-being, even though you know their job as bounty hunters is less than pleasant. You want them to succeed even more so than you want the evildoers to get their bloodied comeuppance.
Top acting nods in my book go to Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. They get top honors, because a mere change in facial expressions or a body tic emanated their characters. Watching DiCaprio play a vitriolic racist is completely unusual given his previous roles as the reluctant hero. But you believed every scary word coming out of his mouth. Their Golden Globe nominations are incredibly deserved.
It really is about time we saw some original stuff coming out of Hollywood. I know this year we had a lot of really super epic sequels, but to see something so completely different and new was really what is making this one of the top movies of 2012. A slave turned gun-slinging hero is simply genius. What is even more brilliant is how layered all of the characters were. The movie forces repeat viewings because there is something a little different that you more than likely missed because you were either laughing hysterically, in awe or completely horrified.
It was also relatively simple to understand and follow, which was important, because the movie's other elements are extremely overpowering at times. However, this is intentional and done very well. Hence, the overuse of the N-word and the over-the-top battles.
My only issue other than the violent scenes is that (yes, as a chick) I wished there was more opportunities to see Django and Broomhilda as a couple. Kerry Washington's acting talents are only hinted at in this movie.
This is another element of the movie that shines. Any failings this movie has are completely overshadowed by the quality of the writing. The screenplay makes it clear that these are extremely complex characters, even when done in a caricature-like way. For instance, Leonardo DiCaprio's character is clever, evil and naive at the same time. Sometimes his lines make it very clear he isn't really that bright either. The same goes for Django. While he has difficulty reading a wanted poster early on, his more evolved character is conniving and brilliant.
The comedic elements of the writing are key to this movie. There's dialogue that is so blunt and so witty, it was difficult to keep a straight face, even when the movie has moved on to something much more serious. There is one particular scene involving hooded bandits that was so funny, I was in tears and nearly had to leave the theater to compose myself.
This movie is about slavery. Every gruesome detail. Whether or not you agree with the number of times the N-word is spoken or not, the overall gratification of watching, in my opinion, completely outweighs its minor faults.
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What are your thoughts on the movie? Did you think it was too violent or racist? Sound off in the comments below!