Django Unchained is fantastic. There is simply no denying that but while some of Quentin Tarantino’s movies sometimes take their time to win their audience, this one truly begins with a bang as we meet Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). The German doctor travels all by himself in the middle of the night, his horse Fritz bows ceremoniously as his owner introduces himself to a group of slave drivers and their slaves. Within the next three minutes Schultz meets Django (Jamie Foxx) and the film’s plot is set in motion. It never lets you go after that.
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Though 2011 was undoubtedly the Good German’s breakout year, with no less than five noteworthy parts under his belt—well, six noteworthy parts under his belt if we count the Shame hullaballoo—it is his standout performance in this year’s Prometheus that is most deserving of awards buzz. Few things in Ridley Scott’s maybe-Alien-prequel were easily agreed upon by critics and audiences, save for its arresting visuals, its murky script, and Fassbender’s eerily incandescent portrayal of David, a remarkably humanlike, quietly mischievous android who accompanies the film’s scientists on their journey to discover the origins of mankind. Though we’ve seen this obligatory character in other installments of the bruised franchise, Fassbender manages to best his predecessors—no small feat, considering Ian Holm’s startling, cagy turn as Ash in the 1979 original—by becoming, ironically, the film’s moral center even as he commits amoral acts that spark a nightmarish sequence of events.
I love the Best Actress race, even though in recent years, it has been a relatively tame and predictable category. What was our last honest-to-God surprise? Keisha Castle-Hughes, the New Zealand child actress who won over the Academy with her devastating performance in Whale Rider? Maybe Laura Linney for The Savages? For the most part, the five women who get nominated are recognizable, beloved stars rolling on high-budget campaigns and hit films. There’s no other way to explain Sandra Bullock winning.
Well, it happened. The National Board of Review, one of the most notable early entries on the awards season calendar, announced their picks. There were a few surprises—Leonardo Dicaprio won Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained, Bradley Cooper won Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook. I’m sure we here at Statuesque will cover the implications of these surprises as well as other implications thoroughly but for me, the biggest surprise, though, had to be the strong showing of Looper.
In last year’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ezra Miller played Tilda Swinton’s demonic offspring. His evil glances and soulless detachment in no way prepare you to his vibrant turn as Patrick in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In fact, you might even wonder if you’re indeed seeing the same actor. Essentially what Miller proves in Stephen Chbosky’s film is that he’s not just a pretty guy with killer bone structure. His turn in Kevin seemed like a dress rehearsal for a high fashion photoshoot (“be serious”, “fishface”, “wicked, mysterious smile”) but his performance here is so full of life that the viewer becomes truly swept up in the magic and romance of the film.