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Notebook: Jamie Foxx turns in one exceptional performance

Weinstein

By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published January 30, 2013

Oscar nominations were announced recently and, as always, there were several snubs and surprises. One of the most discussed snubs, especially among some of my co-workers here at the Daily, is Leonardo DiCaprio not receiving a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained.” As good as I believe his performance was, Christoph Waltz deservedly received the nomination instead. Not to mention that Leo’s snub wasn’t the biggest to come out of “Django”: It's a crime that Jamie Foxx isn’t nominated for Best Actor.

Perhaps it’s because his co-stars turned in such phenomenal performances in their over-the-top roles, but it seems to me that Foxx isn’t receiving the proper recognition for the amazing job he did as the titular role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest masterpiece.

It’s natural that Foxx would be overlooked. His character is quiet for much of the film. This, however, makes his performance all the more impressive. The eyes are the most expressive feature of an actor, and Foxx is able to convey powerful emotion with them, in spite of his sparse dialogue. When Dr. King Schultz gives him a beer, Foxx takes a sip, then stares down at the beer with subtle surprise and intrigue, as if to say, “Oh, so that’s what it tastes like.” This is a miniscule detail that's easy to overlook, but that stood out to me as Foxx going the extra mile in his role.

On the other hand, when Django does decide to speak up, dammit can he steal a scene. Upon arrival at Candie Land, he gives Calvin Candie’s henchmen a tongue-lashing that sets the tone for his character for the rest of the film. He then goes toe-to-toe with Candie himself, not backing down when Candie expresses his curiosity in Django, instead looking him in the eye and stating, “I’m curious what makes you so curious.” A simple line, yes, but Foxx’s delivery makes it great and makes it known to Candie that Django is not a man to be messed with.

I recently had an hour-long debate with my roommate, in which I defended “Django” as an incredible movie and well deserving of its Best Picture nomination. You could say that there are better, more productive ways to spend your time at 3 a.m., and you’d probably be right. But hey, it’s my job (sort of). Among the things we disagree upon is Django’s speech at the end of the film. He thinks that it is unimpressive and unnecessary. But I remember seeing that scene and being blown away by the sheer badassness of Django.

The two most important factors, to me, in measuring the greatness of a performance are the ability to capture the audience’s attention and believability. Foxx possesses both in “Django.” Even when Christoph Waltz is delivering his lines with slicing precision right next to him, my eyes were always curious to see what Django is doing in the background — how he's reacting to the scene and absorbing his surroundings. As for believability — from the opening sequence of the film, Foxx takes on the character completely, while also injecting some of that signature swagger that helped him win the Best Actor Oscar for “Ray.”

Unfortunately, come Oscar night, Jamie Foxx will be just a spectator like the rest of us (at least as far as the individual awards are concerned), rooting on his co-star, Waltz. I imagine (hope) he’ll get drunk and eventually break out into a chorus of “Gold Digger” at some bar at 3 a.m., already having forgotten about the Oscars and deep into preparation for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” But he knows, and I like to think he knows I know, that he deserves to be nominated. He plays his character with emotion and intensity — a badass in love who is smart and cunning — like a Foxx.