Who would have thought that a brutal, obscenity-laced Spaghetti Western about slavery in the antebellum South would be a strong contender in the Oscar race?
Yet this morning Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" nabbed five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Dramatic Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director and two for Best Supporting Actor — Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie has now officially gained strength in the awards race, running alongside other favorites like "Zero Dark Thirty," "Lincoln," and "Les Miserables."
This was something of a surprise since there have been few advance screenings for journalists and critics, in part because Tarantino was tweaking the movie right up to the last minute.
Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave freed at the beginning of the movie by loquacious bounty hunter Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who teaches him how to be a contract killer. It is a vocation that Django takes to with particular finesse. "Kill white men and get paid for it? What's not to like?," he quips. Django's ultimate goal, though, is to free his wife, Broomhilde (Kerry Washington), from the clutches of sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Even by Tarantino's own grisly standards, "Django" will be a rough watch for some people. Not only is the movie spectacularly violent -- the body count approaches the triple-digits by the end of the film -- Tarantino also makes liberal use of the "N-word." This is the South before the Civil War, after all.
When the Academy Award nominations are announced, on January 10th, keep an eye out for "Django Unchained." Christoph Waltz probably will get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Tarantino should also get a Best Screenplay nod. Yet whether or not the movie can nab more noms depends on what kind of support it can build. During a recent screening at the Director's Guild in Los Angeles, the movie received a standing ovation. Following the movie, "Looper" director Rian Johnson tweeted: "Django was terrific. DiCaprio blows the roof off the joint."
Of course, Academy voters are notoriously squeamish. While Harvey Weinstein's famously effective awards season PR machine will be cranking it up to 11 over the next month or so, don't expect "Django" to win much in the way of Oscar gold. Remember, they gave Best Picture back in 1995 to "Forest Gump" not "Pulp Fiction." If the Academy want to vote on a movie about slavery this year, they will most likely vote for the much more decorous "Lincoln."