The first time I saw Django Unchained, I somehow both loved it and was underwhelmed at the same time. The depth of my appreciation for two specific works by Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, cannot be properly demonstrated by words. In my cinematic world, they are both what I would deem flawless masterpieces, as I have watched them repeatedly and kept a close eye on every possible detail and yet I still can't find a single moment of either I would alter in any way.
So when it came time to screen Django, I couldn't temper my expectations. I wanted that type of experience, I craved 160 minutes of pure joy dripping from every single word of Tarantino's screenplay. I wanted laughs, I wanted heartbreak, I wanted intense personal drama blended with horrific depraved violence. I wanted the greatest Quentin cake ever baked, and God damn it I wanted to eat it too.
I recall thinking certain moments dragged, that the pacing was slightly off and it wasn't quite as tight and attention-grabbing as those two films I mentioned above, and thus something felt as if it was missing. Well, I figured it was about time for the always important revisit, as many films throughout my life have either found a spot in my heart or vanished from my thoughts forever due to that second viewing. The Social Network when I first screened it? Good but not great. After the second viewing? A total masterpiece. My Tree of Life debut? Ridiculous rubbish. Now it sits comfortably as my favorite film of all time.
I can confirm it is official. Django Unchained joins the ranks of those films I mentioned, the type of work that left me cold initially and yet now just mentioning the title makes me want to leave work immediately so I can go home and cinegasm all over again. What the hell was I thinking? What did I miss that first time so many months ago? Was it too late at night, did a fatigued mind prove to be incapable of embracing genius? Everything I hoped for when I took my first trip to Candyland, it is all here. It always was, just waiting for me to give it another chance so I could wrap my arms around it and never let go.
Django Unchained is a masterful, confident example of how to perfectly balance true comedic wit with a total understanding that the subject matter still needs to feel serious enough to make an audience care. The performances across the board were sensational, the ideal cast to deliver exactly what Tarantino wanted to showcase when he mapped out such a truly inspired screenplay. The beauty of the Quentin Tarantino - Christoph Waltz dynamic is that when Waltz was handed both Supporting Actor Oscars for their collaborations, you could feel the honesty in the gracious acceptance speeches that those trophies felt like they belonged to both of them because one would not have shined as bright without the other. Was Waltz deserving of recognition based on his scene stealing performances? Without a doubt, the way he brought those words to life was astonishing, yet without those brilliantly clever words such a character could have easily been ignored.
The first time I watched Django Unchained, I woke up the next day and lived my life and didn't think much of the film despite enjoying the experience and admiring the craft. I always knew it was great, but I needed it to be more than that. I needed it to be the third film I could mention when asked "What is your favorite Tarantino film?".
Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Three films worthy of each other.