I celebrated MLK Day/Inauguration Day by catching Django at a matinee. After perusing this thread I've not much to add (loved the film, the cast QT), except.....
Stephen is the villain of the piece, not Candie. Partly this is due to Samuel L Jackson coming and and damn near hijacking the whole film (it reminded me of how Leonard Rossiter successfully did the same thing in Barry Lyndon. But he only had Ryan O'Neal and Maris Bersenson to contend with: Jackson is up against some high caliber talent here), and partly the way the part was written.
Stephen is a slave, but he's got the drive and intellect (he's the proverbial "1 in a 1,000 Nword") to run the plantation, but nonetheless he's considered less of a human than his Jackass owner Candie. Who he helped raise. The amount of conscious and unconscious loathing and self loathing, and the moral perversion in Stephan's character, make him one of the most interesting and complex characters I've seen in a film. It puts lie to the opinion I hear and read sometimes that film cannot equal the written word as an art form.
It also explains why he hates Django so much, and also why he manipulates Sister Candie (heh) into sending him off to work in a mine. Because to hang him, set dogs on him etc would be to recognize him, in sense, as a man, an individual who must be put down. Sending him to the mines is a way to "reaffirm" Django as a piece of property, a commodity to be traded.
I'm a bit surprised that Jamie Foxx isn't getting more praise here. He doesn't have the flashy monologues that DeCaprio and Waltz have, nor the opportunity to chew scenery the way Jackson does, but he's great at showing the arc of Django from defiant slave to fully self confident and self actualized human being. I could easily watch a trilogy with this character in it. Maybe QT can take a leaf from the Tintin production and hand off the sequel to a Guy Ritchie or a lesser known but interesting up and comer.
I will confess the way Schultz goes out didn't register well at all with me at first. Thinking about it on the walk home, and reading some of QT's comments, led me to "get" it. It doesn't satisfy me on a gut level (it just seems contrived, even though there is ample build up to it). On an intellectual level, I see how Schultz is a control freak who has a strong sense of justice (he only kills bad guys, "the badder they are, the bigger the bounty"), I see how he's affected by being in the "heart of darkness" of slavery (it's quite plausible he never encountered the Plantation society before this), how seeing the slave murdered by dogs (and for me watching that man beg for his life was the most uncomfortable part of that film), then having to listen to Candie pontificate on the supposed differences between whites and blacks (a fun book to read on the topic of Phrenology and Racism is The Mismeasure of Man), the pure evil, stupidity and hypocrisy embodied by Candie and Stephen, cause an almost psychotic break.
Oh and I may have missed it, but did no one in this thread wait till the end credits rolled by to catch the "secret scene". It was very brief but gave me a good laugh and a good buzz leaving the theater.