Tree of Life (11/12/12)

Tree of LifeMovie Two Hundred Sixty

The Tree of Life chronicles the life of a young boy growing up in Texas interspersed with the creation of the universe and the meaning of life.

A family is torn apart after receiving a letter that their son has died. In the present day, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) calls his father to apologize and reflects on his childhood. The universe is created, life is created and evolves, and an asteroid crashes into Earth. In the 1950s in Waco, Texas, we see the O’Brien family; the mother (Jessica Chastain), the father (Brad Pitt), and three boys, including a young Jack (Hunter McCracken). We see scenes from Jack’s life, including the drowning of his friend and the subsequent funeral and the joy of having their overbearing father leave for business.

Disclaimer – if you haven’t seen The Tree of Life, it is a very polarizing movie. The plot is minimal, there is a lot of esoteric and existential narration and visuals that may seem like they have nothing to do with the movie.

I’ve seen Tree of Life four times and each time I’ve come away with a slightly different experience but I’ve always liked the film. It is an artsy film, there is not a straight line from A to B like most movies and this can be interpreted as a lack of plot or rambling, but this is largely open to how you view movies. If you see movies strictly as entertainment, you may be bored to tears by Tree of Life but if you can appreciate movies as an art form you may “get” Tree of Life a little more. However, that’s not to say there is much to “get”. Tree of Life is writer/director Terrence Malick’s very personal story and you will likely either connect with it or you won’t.

There is not much I wish to say about Tree of Life because it’s a film that could easily be dissected and have short books written about. It is a film you will love or hate; Very few people I have talked to that have seen it fall in the middle. When discussing the film with people that don’t like it, I have a hard time defending it because it’s like defending vanilla ice cream to someone that prefers chocolate. Still, Tree of Life is a movie I would recommend everyone watch at least once to form your own opinions on. If you didn’t like it, I would be curious what your impressions would be after repeat viewings.

I give it 5 dinosaurs out of 5.

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Days of Heaven (4/14/12)

Days of HeavenMovie Eighty Four

Days of Heaven is one of only a handful of films from director, Terrence Malick, so it’s easy to call it one of his best. Days of Heaven would be one of the best of nearly any other director as well, but it is certifiably a Malick film.

Terrence Malick has a very unique style to his films and his entire process of filming. Days of Heaven was apparently shot without a script for the most part, and the editing process took him over two years to complete. When watching his films, you become aware that you are watching something much richer than what is simply happening on screen. There are shots of scenery, of animals, of the sky, things that have nothing to do with the plot directly, but enhance the beauty of the story being told.

Days of Heaven focuses on a worker named Bill (Richard Gere) that has to flee Chicago for killing his boss. He travels with his girlfiend, Abby (Brooke Adams), and young sister, Linda (Linda Manz). Linda provides the narration for the film. Posing as three siblings, they find work on a farm and Abby is coerced to marry the dying farmer for his money. Things become complicated as the farmer finds out the truth about Bill and Abby, but Abby develops feelings for her new husband.

For a movie without a script, the story is actually quite good, but Malick’s films are primarily visual. The cinematography is, of course, stunning and the film is such a wonder to simply stare at you could easily be distracted by the plot. There is literally no one else quite like Terrence Malick making films today. It’s also worth noting that the Criterion Collection has done an outstanding job with the release of Days of Heaven. Everything is top-notch and there are special features aplenty.

Days of Heaven is a wonderful film and is a film for the sake of beauty. There are moments near the end where my mouth was simply agape in wonderment at the scenes captured on film. Not quite as esoteric as Tree of Life, but a bit dreamier than The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven is a wonderful film and a terrific introduction to Terrence Malick.

I give it 5 locust swarms out of 5.

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