Saturday 19 Apr

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04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Knights of Badassdom

In 2008, the third act of the guy comedy Role Models used LARPing — live-action role-playing, that is — as a backdrop for our protagonists' lessons learned. Today, Knights of Badassdom extends that half-hour into a full feature, to the point where viewers are left not smiling, but exhausted. 
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Switched on

Not everything on television has to appeal to mass audiences. In fact, with the further fractioning of viewership thanks to alternatives like Netflix and VOD, more series can afford to become more niche. Here are five examples of shows both past and present — and new to DVD and/or Blu-ray — that encompass some of the more outrageous ideas ever to go beyond boardroom discussion.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Confession of Murder

Seventeen years after slaying 10 women and getting away with it, the charismatic serial killer Du-sok (Park Si-hoo) comes clean with a Confession of Murder, in this 2012 South Korean crime thriller. He does so by publishing a book that dishes all the grisly details.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ is destined to frustrate and bewilder — in a word, it’s amazing.

Phil Bacharach June 22nd, 2011

For a vast understatement, let’s say “The Tree of Life” is an atypical summer movie.

The latest work from notoriously deliberative writer/director Terrence Malick (“The New World”) is, by turns, ambitious and audacious, bold and bewildering.

Not many pictures are so adventurous, pretentious and/or flatout ballsy — take your pick — as to interrupt its principal story to reveal the origin of the cosmos, but “Tree” does just that. It is an art film that boasts dinosaurs and a coming-of-age drama with more questions than final-reel epiphanies. It is “2001” with a Texas twang. It is, in a word, amazing.

That doesn’t mean Malick’s fifth feature in four decades is for everyone. This is the sort of movie about which my 81-year-old mother likes to say felt like it lasted for eight hours. Opening Friday, “Tree” took top honors at the Cannes Film Festival, but it drew as many boos as cheers.

Its pretentiousness is breathtaking.

In centering on an ostensibly unremarkable Texas family in the 1950s, Malick probes the mysteries of the universe, questions about God and virtue, and the interconnectedness of all life. That’s heady stuff, all right, preordained to divide audiences.

Newcomer Hunter McCracken is tremendous as 11-year-old Jack. Growing up in Eisenhower-era Waco, he and his two younger brothers do dumb-kid stuff as they orbit around the disparate worlds of their parents.

Their father (Brad Pitt, ”Inglourious Basterds,”), a middle-class salesman bitter from dreams unfulfilled, cautions his sons, “If you want to succeed, you can’t be too good.” Chafing from their dad’s explosive temper, the boys find solace with their quietly suffering mother (Jessica Chastain, “Jolene”).

The story is driven by images and impressions, not plot. Jack and his siblings increasingly are caught between their parents, or the dueling polarities of Nature and Grace, as the film spells out in the opening minutes.

Malick, who grew up in Texas and Bartlesville, fashions a mosaic of nonlinear imagery both real and imagines, shuttling between Sean Penn (“Fair Game”) as grown-up Jack, now a Houston architect, and the fragmented remembrances of a childhood steeped in the requisite joys, sorrows and casual cruelties. In so doing, “Tree” captures something fundamental and almost mystical about memory.

Lyrical and overflowing with sumptuous visuals, “The Tree of Life” unfolds as a sort of cinematic poem. The production is flawless, from Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful score to the dazzling work of cinematographer Emmanel Lubezki.

Taken as a whole, it is provocative and sprawling enough to invite a spectrum of interpretations, at least until a final sequence that owes more than a bit to European art-house films of the 1960s.

But let’s not nitpick. “The Tree of Life” is destined to be sliced and diced in film classes around the country for years to come. Better yet, experience it yourself — on the largest screen possible.

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06.23.2011 at 06:03 Reply

Excited to see it. It's taken far too long to get here, but "The Tree of Life" will open in Oklahoma City tomorrow in Quail Springs.