The Tarantino Tradition in “Django Unchained”

Leonardo DiCaprio gets to be very freaky during dinner in “Django Unchained.” This is a long and mind-blowing scene, in which all the important characters interact with each other, with one dangerous secret after another coming to light. DiCaprio goes from charmer to full-on bloody maniac and back again. Django spends the entire time quiet but far from cool – on razor’s edge to snap and spring from his chair to kill all the bad guys in the room. He could probably do it.

Quentin Tarantino’s best movie is not “Pulp Fiction,” even if it remains the favorite for most of us. Tarantino’s movies have gotten better and better since that genre-jolting masterpiece had us all laughing at a man’s head getting suddenly exploded in the back seat of a car. (Marvin!)

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The “Kill Bill” movies were an homage to kung fu cinema which spun wildly into a modern American classic because the characters were so interesting, their fates so dramatic. “Death Proof” has a car chase with no digital effects. Try watching that movie and not being afraid the whole time for the stunt woman. “Inglourious Basterds” begins with our horrifying introduction to the Jew Hunter, a slithery bad guy immortalized in bronze by the Oscar-winning performance of Chritoph Waltz in the role. It ends with righteous justices both big (Hitler being blown away with machine guns and then exploding) and small (Jew Hunter getting marked as a Nazi for life). My favorite part of that movie is the card game turned shootout.

There’s talk of a Best Picture Oscar nomination for “Django.” That seems crazy, because it’s so goofy in places. It has serious moments, but it isn’t a serious movie. It’s full of jokes and exploding bullet wounds.

The reason it’ll probably be nominated for Best Picture, like “Inglourious Basterds” and “Pulp Fiction,” is that Tarantino transcends how we think of the best movies. The best movies don’t have to be serious. They can have fun (“Royale with cheese!”) and go crazy (“You’re telling me she cut through 88 body guards before she got to O-Ren?”).

“Django Unchained” continues in the grand Tarantino tradition. IMDB says DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand as he was smashing it against the dinner table, then continued the scene and that was the take they filmed. He must have really been into it.

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