Movie Observing

Time to hit some 2012 movie reviews. I say it all the time, but I consider myself more of a movie observer than a movie reviewer. Just a bit too unorthodox and untrained to actually say “reviewer.” Anyway …

it's safe to say you've never seen leo this way.DJANGO UNCHAINED: Your level of enjoyment concerning Django Unchained will be derived from what your level of tolerance is for the N word. If it makes you uncomfortable to the point where you don't want to hear it, then I implore you, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. Ever. Maybe when it debuts on TNT in a couple of years with all occurrences of the N word muted-out, perhaps then you can watch it. But at that point, I don't know how watchable this movie is. I went through a weird process with it. I was pretty uncomfortable with it for the first half-hour of the movie, then got desensitized to it for the next 90 minutes thanks at least partly because of a hysterical five-minute scene that gives you an idea of how hard it was for the KKK to organize. It's by far the funniest thing I've seen this year. But for the last 45 minutes, it gets really, really uncomfortable, but that may only be because its so jarring to see and hear Leonardo DiCaprio doing it so forcefully and with such contempt in his voice. If you can get by it and realize it for what it is -- a historically accurate word of the American language in 1858, when the movie is set -- then Django is easily one of the best movies of the year. Quentin Tarantino is nothing short of a master of storytelling since the premise of the movie shouldn't work. You shouldn't be able to spend 2 hours and 45 minutes in a movie theater watching a guy search for his wife. Because when you boil everything down, that's what the movie is. Jamie Foxx riding around the South looking for his wife. But Tarantino surrounds Foxx with such impressive characters, from DiCaprio's uncomfortable southern plantation owner to Christoph Waltz's genius of a bounty hunter. They make it impossible not to watch or to take your eye off it for a second. 2:45 is pushing it for anyone -- I came close to nodding off at a late show this week -- but Quentin being Quentin, he finds ways to make it interesting, and then of course turns up the body count in what may have been the first time a director made an homage to himself. Or he just straight copied off the Crazy 88's scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1, take your pick. He actually gets in the way of his own movie in a two-minute cameo appearance with the most laughable, distracting Australian accent ever captured on film that only partially takes away from the surprising fact that he's gained about 75 pounds. When did I miss the memo that Quentin Tarantino ate Quentin Tarantino? But it's not nearly enough to bring down the movie. As long as you can stomach hearing the N word about 2,000 times. GRADE: A-."the loneliest planet" rolls off the tongue easier.

THE LONLIEST PLANET: It sounds a poop-ton better than the original working title, “A Couple’s Worst Nightmare,” doesn’t it? What else would you call a honeymoon-timed hiking trip to the top of a mountain range, and at the apex of the trip that has already taken a couple days, something so excruciatingly unforgivable happens that you’re pretty sure your wife has somehow made arrangements for a divorce lawyer to be at the bottom of the mountain, pen and paper in hand? Then you have to take the next couple days getting back down the mountain with just you two and a sherpa who hasn’t stopped eye-sexing your wife since the second you’ve met. Great, where do I sign up?!?!?! But for as awkward as that third act of the movie is, it forces you to think, “What’s the point of no return in a relationship?” Everyone has a different answer, and director Julia Loktev doesn’t make judgements about it, she just puts the situation into play and keeps filming. It’s not for everyone. If you wanted to, you could probably sit down and count the number of understandable words spoken in the movie, between broken Russian-accented English and purposeful use of limited dialogue. But it’s a scenic beauty and a realistic look at the sudden, potential dissolution of a relationship. GRADE: B-.

sorry, seth. we still have to see it again.

TAKE THIS WALTZ: Just because an actor steps outside of his comfort zone, it doesn’t automatically mean he was good, or that the movie was good because of his participation in a new type of role. Jim Carrey going serious in Truman Show didn’t make it good. Al Pacino doing comedy in S1m0ne didn’t make it good. So just because Seth Rogen takes his first true dramatic role in Take This Waltz doesn’t automatically make it good before a camera shoots a second of footage. It still takes talent on and off-camera, and Rogen smartly made sure that he had both in the Canadian movie Take This Waltz. Writer/director Sarah Polley improves on her 2009 debut Away from Her — which is quite the feat in itself — and lead actress Michelle Williams continues on her trek to be the most under-appreciated actor in Hollywood. What does this girl have to do to get noticed? I suppose living in Sullivan County, N.Y., doesn’t help, but she’s turned in some of the most daring, vulnerable performances of the last five years. This one is up there with her roles in Blue Valentine and My Week with Marilyn — but that’s not surprising. What is surprising is that Rogen keeps up with her every step of the way as a somewhat relationship-challenged imp who can’t tell how bored his wife really is. Rogen’s Lou is a cautionary tale to all men who have married above their class (me included): Pay attention to your wife, because there is always someone lurking in the background that can promise her a better life and sweep her right off her feet. And he plays it perfectly. It’s a step in an interesting direction for Rogen, though it doesn’t look like he’s got anything else dramatic on the immediate horizon to show whether this was a fluke or not. Oh, and kudos to Polley for including the most unarousing full-frontal nude scene involving at least somewhat hot celebrity women that has ever been filmed, when Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman take a shower together at the YMCA. That’s hard to do. GRADE: A-.

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