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Django Unhinged

Quentin Tarantino's new film about American slavery comes complete with a line of action figures. Karu F. Daniels on the controversy they've stirred.

Academy Award-winner Quentin Tarantino is laughing all the way to the bank this week. The controversial film auteur and his longtime studio chief-partner Harvey Weinstein took a gamble on transforming the atrocities of American slavery into comedic, action-packed entertainment. And the new movie, Django Unchained, which opened Christmas day, bested the glitzy Les Miserables at the box office with numbers indicating that the flick could do as well as, or maybe even better than Tarantino’s top-grossers Inglourious Basterds ($120 million) and Pulp Fiction ($107 million).

Django Unchained Action Figures

Django Unchained dolls (Courtesy of NECA)

And to build on the Django momentum, there’s an entire product line to compliment the Jamie Foxx-fronted spaghetti western/slave revolt/action drama/fantasy tale.

Last fall, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, Inc. (NECA), in tandem with the Weinstein Company, announced a full line of consumer products based on characters from the movie. First up are pose-able eight-inch action figures with tailored clothing, weaponry, and accessories in the likeness of characters played by Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar and Christoph Waltz. The dolls are currently on sale via Amazon.com.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

The Daily Beast’s Oscar Nominees!

Oscars-beast-of-southern

Fox

While the event won’t air until Feb. 24, voting for the 85th Academy Awards nominations ends today. Here are The Daily Beast’s picks for the movies, performances, and filmmakers that deserve your Oscar consideration.

BEST PICTURE

*Beasts of the Southern Wild


Due to the Academy’s bizarre weighted voting system, there can be anywhere from five to nine nominees for the Best Picture Oscar (we think), so a plethora of films will be nominated. Les Misérables tugs at the heartstrings, Amour offers one of the more realistic depictions of on-screen love in recent memory, Silver Linings Playbook is a refreshingly coarse take on the screwball comedy, and Zero Dark Thirty provides a visceral, expertly crafted account of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. But it’s Benh Zeitlin’s little film—and protagonist—that could, Beasts of the Southern Wild, that deserves the Best Picture Oscar.

This stunning debut tells the tale of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a ponderous 6-year-old girl who lives with her tough-love father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in “the Bathtub”—a Katrina-ravaged community in the southernmost reaches of the Louisiana bayou. A terrible storm melts the polar ice caps, unleashing a group of prehistoric creatures called Aurochs. Amid the chaos and her father’s diminishing health, Hushpuppy goes off in search of her long-lost mother. The film, made on a budget of less than $2 million—raised via a string of nonprofits—and shot on grainy, beautiful 16mm, was the most original and engrossing cinematic vision presented this year. “In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub,” says Hushpuppy. Indeed.

Amour
Silver Linings Playbook
Les Misérables
Zero Dark Thirty
The Master
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained

1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

BEST DIRECTOR

*Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty


While Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild was the most original film of the year, and Michael Haneke and Paul Thomas Anderson showed why they’re considered two of the most technically masterful craftsmen around in Amour and The Master, respectively, no filmmaker exhibited as thrilling a combination of craft, complexity, and vitality as Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. That she could methodically capture the behind-the-scenes action that went down during the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, as well as splicing in kinetic action sequences, in less than three hours—and present it in such cohesive fashion—is a staggering achievement. Bureaucracy and tradecraft have never been this engaging. Bigelow deserves to be the first woman to take home not one, but two Best Director Oscars. The times they are a-changin’ ... and it’s about goddam time.

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Michael Haneke, Amour
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Oscars-The-Master

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

‘Django’ Fallout

Was Spike Lee Out of Line?

The director’s harsh criticism of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ earned him both scorn and yawns. By Allison Samuels.

When director Spike Lee publicly criticized Quentin Tarantino’s slavery-themed film Django Unchained last week, the real surprise for some was that anyone was actually shocked. As one prominent female African-American actress noted, Lee “always goes after Tarantino. So I expected that from him. I wasn’t surprised.”

Django Unchained

Christoph Waltz as Schultz and Jamie Foxx as Django in "Django Unchained." (Andrew Cooper/The Weinstein Company)

Others, including African-American director Antoine Fuqua, were less charitable. “That’s not the way you do things,” Fuqua said of Lee’s two very public swipes at the Tarantino film. “If you disagree with the way a colleague did something, you call him up, invite him for coffee, talk about it. But don’t do it publicly.”

Lee (School Daze, Do The Right Thing) has long championed a more balanced view of African-American life on the big screen and has been an outspoken opponent of anyone he deemed unwilling to follow suit, including such industry power figures as Clint Eastwood and George Lucas. The New York filmmaker has been a particular—and frequent—critic of Tarantino’s work, repeatedly taking issue with Tarantino’s casual use of the “N” word in such films as Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.

Not a History Lesson

What ‘Argo’ Gets Wrong

As the Oscar race heats up, bets are on Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ to win big, but the film gets Iran and its history all wrong. Iranian Kambiz Atabai on why the film is an unfortunate and inaccurate depiction of the Shah’s reign and the Iranian people.

As we approach the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the commercial success of Ben Affleck’s film Argo is a timely reminder of the great tragedy that severed relations between Iran and the United States. During most of the 20th century these two great countries enjoyed generally cordial and constructive relations.

shah-chief-argo-tease

It is baffling that after 33 years of the Islamic Republic, with its dreadful record on human rights, abuses, and excesses, the director found it necessary to open Argo with a distorted and one-dimensional picture of life in Iran before the revolution. Understandably, Argo is not a documentary. But it is a motion picture which purports to re-enact true events about recent Iranian history. Affleck told Interview magazine that he went to special lengths to achieve historical accuracy, to the point where he considered traveling to Iran (he said he was dissuaded from making the trip by his studio and by the U.S. State Department). “I wanted to go—just for research—very badly,” he said. “I really wanted to be accurate.”

Yet very little about the first few minutes of Argo can be described as accurate. Over the years, the Pahlavi era has been hailed for its successes and criticized for its failings. Some criticisms are fair, others are not, just as some are truthful and others have no bearing whatsoever on reality. This is part of the natural process of trying to understand our collective experiences. All societies examine and reexamine their histories. We also understand that life on the public stage invites scrutiny. Nonetheless, Argo pushes the boundaries of fairness and truthfulness beyond what some would regard as acceptable norms even for a Hollywood movie.

Under the Mistletoe

2012’s Most Memorable Kisses

From Katniss and Peeta’s cave kiss in ‘The Hunger Games’ to Ben proposing to Leslie on ‘Parks and Recreation,’ WATCH VIDEO of the best smooches in movies and on TV this year.

We get to watch the Rachel McAdams and Jennifer Anistons of the world get epically kissed on an annual basis. (We hear McAdams’s smooch scene in The Vow was pretty great this year.) But how often do you see an undead vampire rip an entire living room apart with his loving (à la Dark Shadows), or a prostitute fall for a dwarf (Tyrion and Shae!), or Liz Lemon get married in a Princess Leia costume? 2012 was a year filled with memorable kisses, and here we present 15 of the best, from Downton Abbey to The Hunger Games and more.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

Though not quite as iconic as that other Spider-Man kiss, The Amazing Spider-Man held its own in the kiss department. Peter Parker (James Garfield) reveals his superpowers to Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) by spider-web-lassoing her into his arms and then planting his lips on her utterly confused face. He then jumps off a building to go fight crime, leaving Stacy totally smitten—and more than a little apprehensive. “I’m in trouble,” she breathes.

Come On

Where Are the Black People?

‘Lincoln’ is an epic yarn, worthy of our praise. But where are the historic black leaders? By Allison Samuels.

A year ago, I began hearing chatter from those in the know in the entertainment industry about the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones, the movie is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Team of Rivals. The book masterfully follows the Lincoln presidency through the lens of his relationships with three key cabinet members who were also his opponents for election in 1860. 

LINCOLN

From left: Montgomery Blair (Byron Jennings), John Hay (Joseph Cross), Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), William Seward (David Strathairn), John Nicolay (Jeremy Strong) and James Ashley (David Costabile) in "Lincoln" from DreamWorks Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox. (David James / Dreamworks)

Spielberg’s film is more narrowly focused on the last four months of Lincoln’s life and his efforts to get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed by the House of Representatives to formally end slavery in the United States. 

Though several of my friends ventured out to see Lincoln and eagerly came back with rave reviews, I had little interest in revisiting the painful past of slavery—especially through eyes of white Hollywood or a heroic biography of Lincoln. 

‘Les Miserables’

Eddie Redmayne’s Star-Making Turn

The Tony Award winner, sometime model, and burgeoning film star Eddie Redmayne opens up about his new role as Marius in 'Les Misérables,' long road to Hollywood, and the New Brit Pack of well-coiffed stars, including Andrew Garfield and Ben Whishaw.

They’re spindly, dashing, well coiffed, and most of all talented young Englishmen. Due to their theatre backgrounds, they can stretch from intimate indie dramas to Hollywood blockbusters. Call them The New Brit Pack. Andrew Garfield, Ben Whishaw, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and, last but not least, Eddie Redmayne.

“We don’t all go to the same hairdresser!” says Redmayne, with a laugh. “What’s interesting about Ben and Andrew is we’ve been at it awhile and I remember auditions seven years ago when we were all in the same room together. So it’s not just the hair that binds us, but there’s a mutual support since you do feel a bit alien when you go over to the states to act in Hollywood. I’m grateful to have a great network of British actor-friends.”

Eddie Redmayne

Laurie Sparham/Universal Pictures

In the movie-musical Les Misérables, Redmayne plays the plum role of Marius—a courageous young revolutionary during the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris who falls for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the radiant daughter of former convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). And, despite the megawatt cast of stars, it’s Redmayne’s performance that’s one of the standouts, exhibiting a remarkable singing voice.

Game Changer

Django’s Damsel in Distress

Kerry Washington plays a bigshot attorney on TV. But in Quentin Tarantino’s dark new movie, she comes face to face with the horrors of slavery. She talks to Allison Samuels about her role’s silver lining—and late-night phone calls from Jamie Foxx.

Actress Kerry Washington doesn’t often get the chance to play the damsel in distress in her current role on TV. As Olivia Pope on the ABC show Scandal, Washington is a no-nonsense D.C. powerhouse who’s never met a problem she couldn’t fix.

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington poses for a portrait in promotion of Django Unchained, on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in New York. (Victoria Will/AP)

But Washington and her perfectly placed cheekbones do a complete 180-degree this week in the new Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained.

As Broomhilda, Washington plays a slave who’s been sold away from her husband, Django (Jamie Foxx), and the plantation where they lived together. Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio also star in the film.

Cheat Sheet

French Revolution for Dummies

The Daily Beast explains the history behind ‘Les Misérables.’

The movie adaptation of Les Misérables finally hits theaters this week and is already garnering raves. (Oscar, are you out there?)

The film, based on the enormously successful Broadway musical, is a sprawling historical epic set against the backdrop of revolutionary France. Now, mention of the French Revolution usually conjures up images of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette recommending that hungry subjects eat cake before being led off the guillotine. But neither makes an appearance here. In fact, both those guys lost their heads by 1793, while the events of Les Miserables don’t begin until 1815. Here’s what else you might not know:

The Monarchy

The French Revolution ended the age of absolute monarchy in France, but was followed by the Reign of Terror, a violent spell in which rival factions dueled it out for power, resulting in the executions of nearly 40,000 people. What emerged from the rubble was an empire under Napoleon I. A popular general, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power after a coup d’état in 1799. He was made first consul, then consul for life in 1802, and then emperor in 1804. But Napoleon’s dynasty did not last quite as long as the monarchy that had come before it—his collapsed in 1814 after a series of military defeats, including a failed invasion of Russia. He was briefly restored the following year, after escaping from his island exile. But his restoration was brief. Following the famous defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled once more—this time to an island much further away.

Misreading History

‘Les Miz’s’ Bad History Lesson

The magnificent movie version of Victor Hugo’s classic novel exalts the spirit of revolution at the expense of the virtues of its hero, a hardworking middle-class small-town mayor.

Revolutionary fervor in seizing the barricades for change makes for great theater and grand cinema, but seldom produces the positive results that young idealists desire. Those constructive consequences come much more reliably from middle-aged, middle-class virtues, patience, planning, deferred gratification, hard work, incremental improvement—with far less flash and glory.

‘Les Miz’ gets two thumbs up from Flick Picks reviewers Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers.

That’s the problem at the very heart of the magnificent new movie version of Les Miserables, an obvious front-runner for nominations in every major category in this year’s Oscar race. In faithfully adapting the hit stage show, which in turn followed the classic outlines of the revered Victor Hugo novel of 1862, the movie hands audiences an inescapably disturbing and ultimately dishonest conclusion. It’s unsettling rather than uplifting—not at all what the heroic filmmakers (led by director Tom Hooper, who previously did brilliant work on The King’s Speech) intended.

The final segment of the sprawling story focuses on a bloody incident of French history: the failed “June Rebellion” of 1832. Following the wrenching disruption and slaughter of the original French Revolution (beginning in 1789), the constant warfare of the Napoleonic era, the emperor’s exile and brief return (1815), re-institution of the monarchy, and another violent uprising in 1830 that installed the “Citizen King” Louis-Phillipe, the short-lived revolt dramatized in the novel and movie would be largely forgotten were it not for Les Miserables. The failure of the student-led uprising, culminating in nearly 200 deaths in two days of street battles, produced only more repression, and then more grisly turmoil, until another Revolution in 1848 gave way to another Emperor (Napoleon III). That imperial episode collapsed after disastrous defeat in a major war with Prussia (1870), and the brutal failure of the world's first Communist revolution (1871), yet another forlorn and violent attempt to bring on a glorious new day.

OSCAR BAIT

Watts Takes On ‘The Impossible’

The actress dishes on her award-worthy turn as a tsunami victim in ‘The Impossible’—and her next role as Princess Diana.

When Naomi Watts is suffering, her sweet visage transmogrifies into a ghastly goulash of misery—like Picasso’s Weeping Woman or the stunned victims in her first Hollywood film, The Ring. And, whether it’s a schizo aspiring actress in Mulholland Drive or a woman who loses her entire family to a car crash in 21 Grams, no other actor can capture torment onscreen like Watts.

The Impossible

Tom Holland and Naomi Watts in a scene from 'The Impossible.' (Jose Haro/Summit Entertainment)

“I’m actually a lighter person, but things have happened in my life that have informed who I am, and there are times that it’s available to be called upon,” says Watts. “My father died when I was very young, which created some level of pain and sadness that’s been in me since an early age.”

In her latest film, The Impossible, Watts plays Maria, a woman on Christmas vacation with her husband (Ewan McGregor) and three young sons in Thailand. Their idyllic getaway comes to a screeching halt when, on the morning of December 26, 2004, a tsunami tears through the coastal region, separating the family. When the waters subside, they search for one another amid the devastation. The movie is directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and based on the true story of Maria Belon, a Spanish doctor who, along with her family, miraculously survived the Indian Ocean tsunami.

gallery

20 Best Movies of the Year

SEAL of Approval

The Navy SEAL Team Six Gift Guide

Just in time for Christmas, several competing versions of the raid on Osama bin Laden hit the marketplace, from Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty to the Medal of Honor video game.

Just in time for this holiday season, the big American media machine has a slew of products that depict Operation Neptune Spear—the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Books, video games, made-for-TV movies, and Hollywood epics: this military operation is the gift that keeps on giving. After all, catching Public Enemy No. 1 deserves only our very best holiday effort. But it’s not the end product that is driving our fascination—it’s the unique and unprecedented recipe that Hollywood itself could never cook up, even with its own army of writers.

Zero Dark Thirty

Jonathan Olley / Columbia Pictures

So before you venture off into the market place for your SEAL Team Six fix, take a look at our breakdown and how each of the following works decided to interpret the story and its facts. In the mix, we have:

—Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty
—John Stockwell’s National Geographic Channel made-for-TV movie SEAL Team Six
—Mark Bowden’s The Finish—The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden
—Mark Owen’s (nom de plume) No Easy Day
—Medal of Honor “Warfighter

‘Amour’

The Year’s Best Foreign Film

Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour,’ about a loving old man caring for his wife after she has a stroke, won the Palme d’Or, stands atop many critics’ best-of lists, and should receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture—a rarity for a foreign-language film. Haneke opens up about his poignant drama.

“I think the essence of love is being there for the other person, no matter what that involves,” says Michael Haneke.

amour-stern-tease

Les Films du Losange

An exploration of love is one of the last things you’d expect from the oft-prickly Austrian auteur, whose sinister oeuvre, includes—but is not limited to—the sad travails of a sadomasochistic piano professor (The Piano Teacher), a dark French-Algerian race-relations allegory (Caché), and a stark portrait of the origins of fanaticism (The White Ribbon). Haneke, however, is in a decidedly genial mood on an overcast fall day in midtown Manhattan—and with good reason.

His latest film, Amour, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is the Austrian submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar (despite being in French), and recently was named not just the best foreign film of the year but the best film of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association as well as A.O Scott of The New York Times. It has a great chance to be the first foreign-language film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar since 2006’s Letters From Iwo Jima, and the first entirely foreign production to achieve that milestone since 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Seth MacFarlane's Worst Oscar Jokes

Whether you found him hilarious or lame, it's undeniable that the Academy Awards host gave a provocative performance. Watch MacFarlane's most controversial comments, as he ripped on everything from Clooney's pedophilia to Lincoln's assassination.

Snub

They Forgot Who?

10 Oscar Shockers!

10 Oscar Shockers!

All the surprises and snubs from this morning’s Academy Award nominations honoring the best in cinema.

For Your Consideration

Amour

The Year’s Best Foreign Film

The Year’s Best Foreign Film

Marlow Stern talks to Michael Haneke about his heartrending ‘Amour’—which deserves an Oscar nod.

For Your Consideration

Argo

Ben Affleck’s Oscar Lock

Ben Affleck’s Oscar Lock

The actor-director dishes on his riveting CIA thriller, a virtual Oscar-nomination lock.

Reality Check

‘Shahs of Sunset’ Grade ‘Argo’

Not a History Lesson

What ‘Argo’ Gets Wrong

Crisis Revisited

Love and Hate in Tehran

Reality Check

‘Argo’ Blurs the Truth

Flick Picks: Argo

It's Hollywood to the rescue in actor/director Ben Affleck's new film, 'Argo,' based on the true story of when the U.S. staged a movie shoot to rescue hostages from Iran. Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers dissect the film.

For Your Consideration

Beasts of the Southern Wild

A Post-Katrina Fairy Tale

A Post-Katrina Fairy Tale

Sundance darling ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ out June 27, is one of the year’s best, says Marlow Stern.

For Your Consideration

Django Unchained

Django’s Damsel in Distress

Django’s Damsel in Distress

In Quentin Tarantino’s dark new movie, Kerry Washington comes face to face with the horrors of slavery.

‘Django’ Fallout

Was Spike Lee Out of Line?

Too Far?

Django Unhinged

Flick Picks: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is at it again, directing another star-studded cast in a monumental slave story meets spaghetti western. But is it his best work? Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers debate.

For Your Consideration

Les Miserables

‘Les Misérables’ Is a Triumph

‘Les Misérables’ Is a Triumph

Marlow Stern on why the film adaptation of the celebrated musical is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar.

Misreading History

‘Les Miz’s’ Bad History Lesson

One Day More

The Best ‘Les Miz’ Flash Mobs

Cheat Sheet

French Revolution for Dummies

‘Les Miserables’

Eddie Redmayne’s Star-Making Turn

Flick Picks: Les Miserables

Does 'Les Miz' justify all the Oscar buzz? Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers review the epic big screen adaptation of the celebrated musical.

For Your Consideration

Life of Pi

‘Life of Pi’: Book vs. Film

‘Life of Pi’: Book vs. Film

Was Ang Lee’s film adaptation of ‘Life of Pi’ true to the novel? Mike Munoz explores the differences.

Oscar Hopeful

Life of Pi: This Year’s ‘Slumdog?’

For Your Consideration

Lincoln

'Lincoln' Fact Check

'Lincoln' Fact Check

Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, a consultant on the movie, says in the end it’s not the details that matter.

Sally Field’s Take

Was Mrs. Lincoln Bipolar?

Highlights 2012

Obama Reviews ‘Lincoln'

Come On

Where Are the Black People?

EPIC

Is ‘Lincoln’ Great?

For Your Consideration

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence on Katniss and Vaginas

The actress tells Ramin Setoodeh about ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and how ‘Hunger Games’ changed her life.

‘Silver Linings’ 

Chris Tucker’s Comeback Tour

Under the Mistletoe

2012’s Most Memorable Kisses

For Your Consideration

Zero Dark Thirty

The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Backlash

The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Backlash

Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-bait film is being falsely accused of promoting torture, says Marlow Stern.

Bin Laden Film

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Revealed!

It's That Opening

Is Zero Dark Thirty Propaganda?

Spies Like Them

Is This the Real Carrie Mathison?

‘Osombie’

Bin Laden’s Walking Dead?

Flick Picks: Zero Dark Thirty

We missed you, Kathryn Bigelow! In this edition of Flick Picks, Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers review her not-quite-a-follow-up to The Hurt Locker.