Tag Archives: Inception

The Tree of Life

10 Jun

Title: The Tree of Life
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Starring: 
Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some thematic material
Runtime: 
138 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 
86%

Before I launch on my review of The Tree of Life I feel like I must go to lengths for you readers to understand just how badly I wanted to see this film. First off, I’m nineteen right now, turning the big two-oh this September, so it’s not like I’ve been watching films for all that long, much less watching them with the level of appreciation of the art behind it I now think I at least somewhat posses. But as a young film aficionado I still remember clearly the most formative events in my movie-watching life. Obviously the first ones came very early on in my life and were marked by Disney movies, the songs of Beauty and the Beast, the tears over Mufasa’s death in The Lion King or me writing my own name in my Toy Story toys like Andy did in the film, those are all still memories I hold very dearly in my heart.

But the actual film that made me love movies was a timeless classic I saw when I was eleven: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Look, I’m not talking about it being a sublimely perfect film (though it is), because at that age I didn’t really love films (I’ll talk about that moment later), I just watched movies to keep myself entertained, but when I saw this one I realized I actually loved watching them. It was a combination of many things, realizing what the word beauty meant when I saw Audrey Hepburn, the moment she sings ‘Moon River’, seeing her in the iconic black Givenchy dress walking to Tiffany’s in the early morning, just everything about that film got to me in a way that had never happened before with any other film. So after watching it I started watching as many movies as I could, not necessarily going back to the great classics because I was still eleven and that didn’t really cross my mind, but watching whatever I found on TV and in the theaters.

But that just made me really really like movies. The moment that made me truly fall in love with films, the one that got me into every single aspect of it, that made me able to really appreciate the stuff that went on behind them and that made me watch every single film from past decades I could and that would then make me start this blog so that I could talk about the films I had seen happened a few years after my first encounter with Ms. Hepburn. It came sometime during the last week of February, 2005, to be exact, when I was thirteen. And it came courtesy of Sofia Coppola and her then-one-year-old film, Lost in Translation.

To this date Lost in Translation remains, without the slightest doubt, my single favorite film. I could make tons of very OCD- infused Best Of lists and if Lost in Translation is eligible for inclusion in it it will most certainly top it. Yes, maybe it’s my favorite film for sentimental reasons, I’m pretty sure it is, but isn’t that what favorite films should be all about? A film that takes you back to a certain time, one that you can quote from beginning to end, that you can connect to on countless levels. That’s what Lost in Translation is to me. It’s the one that made me love films, and it may sound shallow but I’m absolutely certain that my life right now would be totally different had I not watched that film. I wouldn’t be writing this right now, that’s for sure, I wouldn’t have gone and watched every single Bill Murray film after watching that one, I wouldn’t have gone back and watched literally thousands of older films after watching it. A lot wouldn’t have happened for me.

And I would certainly like to think, at the risk of sounding like a snob, that since 2005 I’ve become quite knowledgeable about films. I’ve certainly tried to watch as many as I could, understand the history, the landmark moments, you name it. Last year alone I watched 210 films with a 2010 release date, which I think is a pretty commendable number. But anyways, this all hasn’t been for nothing, it’s just been to illustrate that I truly love films, and to show that it’s not like I have been watching them with this level of passion for all that long, just for six years.

And exactly for that reason, that it’s not like I’ve been loving films this much for all that long because I’m still young, there hasn’t been “that” movie for me yet, the one that I have been waiting for for ages. Sure, there have been lots of films I’ve been anticipating like crazy, last year’s Inception is just one example, but my anticipation for those films was founded by trailers and teasers released months before its release. But The Tree of Life is finally that first movie I’ve been truly longing for. That’s because it’s a Terrence Malick film, one our times definitive auteurs, a guy that’s the film world’s equivalent to what J.D. Salinger was to the literary world, a true recluse, a guy that in 38 years has given us only 5 films (counting this one) but one that has a cult following, and is known for his extremely picky and tediously long process of creation. Actors kill for the opportunity to work under his direction, filmgoers relish the chance to analyze and get immersed in a film of his, which is why The Tree of Life is a true cinematic event.

I said my anticipation for films in the past has been based on cool trailers, or teasers or just press releases that said that a director I liked was tackling an awesome concept with a cool cast. And that sense of anticipation doesn’t last for long. Yes, you can say that you’ve been excited about Marc Webb’s upcoming Spider-Man reboot with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone since the moment they announced it (as well as you should be) but we’ve just been thinking that it’ll be a cool movie, and we’ll (I hope) love the trailer whenever it’s released, and then I guess our anticipation will truly begin. The Tree of Life is a film that has had genuine anticipation boiling up for two full years now, since it was announced. If only because it meant a new Terrence Malick film was due, only six years (a short waiting time for him) after his fantastic The New World in 2005 (which I ranked as the 18th best film of that year). And because the cast was Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in a film people knew nothing about, because it was said that Mr. Malick was shooting some really ambitious prehistoric scenes, because Douglas Trumbull, the special effects master responsible for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, was reportedly coming out of a near three decade retirement to provide work for the film. The reasons why The Tree of Life was hugely anticipated for two years were endless, the fact that it was supposed to premiere at last year’s Cannes Film Festival but then didn’t and made us wait a whole year more only added to Mr. Malick’s aura of perfectionism and to the film’s mystique.

It did premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, were it was met, as it was expected to, with hugely divided reactions, either extraordinary praise for its ambition or perplexed thoughts from people that really didn’t get it. I just saw the film and you can count me as part of the former and certainly not the latter. I doubt The Tree of Life will end up as my favorite film of 2011, but it certainly is the best I’ve seen so far this year, the first one I’ll award a perfect grade to, and one that made all that salivating for a new Terrence Malick film completely worth it.

But, at the same time, I can totally get why some people aren’t falling head over heels for this film. It’s a tough one to digest, more like a work of art than a film, one that has to be appreciated more than understood, and it will certainly require repeat seatings to fully grasp. Because the visual achievements of this film are undeniable, it’s just insanely great to look at, and you’ll lose yourself in its immensity easily enough, but some people won’t get much more than that out of it, because to really get the emotional aspect of it you have to be very patient with it, and let yourself go and let it all sink in. I would like to think I did that, because by its end The Tree of Life was a film that had moved me tremendously.

This really is a cinematic achievement, and I’m sure I will love it even more the next time I see it, and even more the time after that. Even if the stuff that Mr. Malick presents doesn’t resonate to you personally, even if the spiritual offerings don’t ring true with you, there’s no way you’ll leave this film having gained nothing, no way the film won’t stay with you and mean a lot to you, I just don’t know how that could be. Yes, there are bits and pieces of the film that I’m not sure I really understood, I didn’t really think it was a fully cohesive piece of work, and it got me frustrated at how overlong some scenes were at times, but that’s all stuff that you think while watching it, because once the whole movie is done and you’re left pondering about the experience of the film as whole, you’ll be blown away by even those bits that you thought weren’t working at all.

And the ambition level behind is just astonishing, it evokes everything, it talks about things as wide and complex as creation, and things as personal and just as complex as family without ever taking a moment to let you breathe. In the end it’s just a very honest film, and asks some questions that are very hard to answer, ones that won’t go down easy, and because of that I think The Tree of Life is a film that has finally shown us the real power of this art form, film hasn’t been put to this use before.

I don’t know if I should tell you exactly what this film is about, or the stuff it does along the way because I fear it may take away from your experience. It’s a vastly bold film that takes on the task of encompassing all of creation and viewing it all through the lives of members of one American family, and it achieves a marriage of impeccable vision and incredible humanity with a level of success I think is unparalleled in film history. And I would like to go on for longer about the merits of this film, but this review is already twice as long as my usual ones, and I’m sure when I check it for spelling mistakes once I’m done I will have the urge to edit it down a whole lot, but I won’t, because even if this may feel like blabbering at times I think it illustrates just how much I adored this film. I’ve just find out what it means to finally see a film I’ve been waiting two whole years to see come to fruition, and Mr. Malick delivered like crazy, not only giving me a film as great as I expected it to be, but also giving me something there’s no way I could have ever really expected.

Grade: A+

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Oscar Predictions: Best Picture and Director

25 Feb

This is the last of my Oscar Predictions posts, in which I tackle the two main races: Best Director and, of course, Best Picture. These two races will see Sunday’s two main players pitted against each other, with The Social Network and The King’s Speech considered the front-runners for both categories.

Most are saying they will split the two, with the British biopic getting the big one, and David Fincher nabbing the Best Director statue for his work on the Facebook film. Some are saying The King’s Speech will get both, some say the same of The Social Network, so yes, there’s a nice variety of ways these two races could go. Read on through for my opinions.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees

  • Black Swan (Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin)
  • The Fighter (David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg)
  • Inception (Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray)
  • The King’s Speech (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin)
  • 127 Hours (Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson)
  • The Social Network (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin)
  • Toy Story 3 (Darla K. Anderson)
  • True Grit (Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
  • Winter’s Bone (Anne Rosselini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin)

So, The King’s Speech or The Social Network? How this race has evolved has been the highlight of the 2010 awards season to me, The Social Network seemed unstoppable early on, winning every critic’s group award, the Golden Globe, nothing seemed to stand in its way to get the big one come Oscar night.

But then Harvey Weinstein came up with The King’s Speech and that one started killing it, winning the PGA, DGA, SAG, BAFTA, pretty much every single big award it could after that initial Social Network streak, and it’s now considered the clear front-runner.

This is obviously a question of new versus old. The tough, gritty, relevant and modern The Social Network, acted out by up-and-coming actors, a film in which there’s really no hero, no one to root for. And it’s standing against The King’s Speech, the sort of movie Oscar used to love, a biopic about the British monarchy, made by many veteran actors and which definitely tugs at the voters heartstrings with the warm relationship and message at the heart of the film.

My personal pick is actually Black Swan, but amongst these two I love The Social Network the most, I mean, to base a film on Facebook is daring enough, but to have the end product by this masterful, no one really saw that coming.

I’m gonna go and say The King’s Speech will win this one because it seems like it will, even though The Social Network is the better film. But don’t write out The Social Network just yet, it may seem like it’s all said and done, but a last minute revival may occur.

Should Win: Black Swan
Will Win: The King’s Speech

BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees

  • Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan)
  • Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (for True Grit)
  • David Fincher (for The Social Network)
  • Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech)
  • David O. Russell (for The Fighter

In my mind there should be a tie between Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher, the two are masters of their craft, and yeah, they should split the golden man up between the two.

But in all honesty, this one’s David Fincher’s. Even if The King’s Speech sweeps the night I think this one will still go to The Social Network. I mean, if a film about a social networking site and the story behind it was as compelling and intriguing and plain out entertaining as this was it’s because of how this man handled the material, sheer perfection.

Should Win: Darren Aronofsky/David Fincher
Will Win: David Fincher

Oscar Predictions: Best Original and Adapted Screenplays

24 Feb

In my seventh Oscar Predictions post I will examine the state of both writing races, the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay ones, who seem to both have pretty clear-cut winners already.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees

  • 127 Hours (Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy)
  • The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
  • Toy Story 3 (Michael Arndt)
  • True Grit (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
  • Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini)

Any other year and Toy Story 3 would have had a really solid chance, and it really would have been nice to see an animated film be the winner of a screenplay category, but the script Aaron Sorkin penned for The Social Network is shoulders above anything in contention this year, and there’s no way it’s losing this one.

Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees

  • Another Year (Mike Leigh)
  • The Fighter (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)
  • Inception (Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (David Seidler)

This category is full of exemplary screenplays, even though it’s insane to me that the Black Swan screenplay wasn’t nominated. The King’s Speech is all but guaranteed to take this one, but boy would I really love an upset at the hands of Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg.

Should Win: The Kids Are All Right
Will Win: The King’s Speech

Oscar Predictions: Cinematography and Editing

24 Feb

In my fifth Oscar Predictions post I will tackle two of my favorite categories, those honoring achievement in Cinematography and Editing. The candidates for both of these awards this year are pretty damn strong, and the race will be pretty interesting to watch unravel.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees

  • Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
  • Inception (Wally Pfister)
  • The King’s Speech (Danny Cohen)
  • The Social Network (Jeff Cronenweth)
  • True Grit (Roger Deakins)

This will most likely go to the master that is Roger Deakins, who has had eight other nominations previously (4 of those for some of his other collaborations with the Coen brothers), and yet has never won. The look he achieved in True Grit is rather breathtaking and really sets the tone for the amazing film that was True Grit, it’ll be a well deserved win.

My personal vote, however, would no doubt go to Matthew Libatique, the first-time nominee who worked on Black Swan, 2010’s best film. The stuff he did in this film is really stunning, creating scenes of ballet and making them feel not only technically outstanding, but also conveying some really deep feelings with how he showed those dances, truly spectacular work.

Should Win: Black Swan
Will Win: True Grit

BEST EDITING

Nominees

  • Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
  • The Fighter (Pamela Martin)
  • The King’s Speech (Tariq Anwar)
  • 127 Hours (Jon Harris)
  • The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)

This should be one of The Social Network‘s big wins on Sunday, the editing of this film is truly amazing, and is definitely a big part of why this film ended up being so perfect, the way the scenes of just computer programming were cut, making them seem more entertaining than a car chase, or just the scenes of the characters delivering their very fast and witty Aaron Sorkin-penned lines was just incredible. So yes, unless there’s no justice in this world this should be a very deserved win for Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, who were both previously nominated two years ago for their work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another David Fincher film.

Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

Oscar Predictions: Original Song and Score

24 Feb

In my fourth Oscar Predictions post we will take a look at both of the musical categories, those for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Nominees

  • “Coming Home” from Country Strong (Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
  • “I See the Light” from Tangled (Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Glenn Slater)
  • “If I Rise” from 127 Hours (Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)
  • “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 (Music and Lyric by Randy Newman)

My personal pick here would by the Country Strong song, if only because I’m pretty much in love with Gwyneth Paltrow and her voice. However, the race here is probably between “If I Rise” or “We Belong Together”.

A.R. Rahman won both Original Song and Original Score when he was nominated two years ago for his other collaboration on a Danny Boyle film with Slumdog Millionaire, and while the song is fantastic, and features pretty good vocals by Dido (though on the televised broadcast her part will be sung by the even more awesome Florence Welch), my hunch is that the Academy will go with Randy Newman’s tune, who has been nominated 20 times but won only once.

Should Win: Country Strong
Will Win: Toy Story 3

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees

  • How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
  • Inception (Hans Zimmer)
  • The King’s Speech (Alexandre Desplat)
  • 127 Hours (A.R. Rahman)
  • The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)

All five nominees here did superb work that was really felt in their films and that elevated their overall quality. However, this category is one of those battles between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Even though I can see why the Academy may want to reward Alexandre Desplat, who’s competing on his fourth nomination with no prior wins, and who really communicated the unspoken emotions of the King with his beautiful score I think, and really hope, they will go on the other direction.

Atticus Ross and NIN mastermind Trent Reznor should win for the mesmerizing score they created for David Fincher’s latest. It’s their music, I think, that had the biggest impact on any film this year, how those very unique and different sounds punctuated every bit of action on-screen was truly spectacular, and even if Sunday turns into a sweep by The King’s Speech I think they should walk away with this one.

Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

Oscar Predictions: Makeup, Costume Design, Art Direction, Visual Effects

23 Feb

Now, in my third Oscar Predictions post I will tackle the four more artistic categories the Academy Awards offer, those for Best Makeup, Costume Design, Art Direction and, in the technological artistry field, Visual Effects.

BEST MAKEUP

Nominees

  • Barney’s Version (Adrien Morot)
  • The Way Back (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)

I’m still baffled by the fact that Alice in Wonderland, which I considered pretty much as the guaranteed winner of this category, didn’t even earn a nomination. So, with that film not even in the running, I would think this would be an easy win for The Wolfman, considering it’s the strongest of the bunch and it has Rick Baker as part of its two-man team, and that man is a legend in the field, already having 6 Oscars to his name.

Should Win: The Wolfman
Will Win: The Wolfman

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
  • Io Sono l’Amore (Antonella Cannarozzi)
  • The King’s Speech (Jenny Beavan)
  • The Tempest (Sandy Powell)
  • True Grit (Mary Zophres)

This is a really solid bunch of nominees we got here, but it will most likely become a two-film race between Alice in Wonderland and The King’s Speech. If Sunday becomes a sweep by the latter then Jenny Beavan will most likely get her second Oscar here (she got her first for A Room With a View).

But I would think Alice in Wonderland, which got shut-out of the Makeup category above, will eventually get this one, with Colleen Atwood, a past winner for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago, getting her third Oscar. The work she did here was awesome, having to work with a lot of body ratios from Alice shrinking and growing and the Red Queen’s gigantic head. She’s the most deserving, and even though a big part of me thinks the Academy will want to go back to their love affair with prestige pics this year, I will still pick her as my winner.

Should Win: Alice in Wonderland
Will Win: Alice in Wonderland

BEST ART DIRECTION

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Robert Stromberg (Production Design); Karen O’Hara (Set Decoration))
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Stuart Craig (Production Design); Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration))
  • Inception (Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design); Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration))
  • The King’s Speech (Eve Stewart (Production Design); Judy Farr (Set Decoration))
  • True Grit (Jess  Gonchor (Production Design); Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration))

I love this category, and this year I think it’s a pretty tough one to call. Common sense would have one think The King’s Speech will sweep and will get one of their trophies for this category, for creating such a wonderful set and achieving amazing production values on such a tight schedule and even tighter budget.

But, if the night does not turn into a sweep by the monarch’s biopic, then I think Alice in Wonderland may prevail here. The marvelous sets decorated by Karen O’Hara were a big part of what gave the film it’s unique feel that resonated with audiences worldwide and got the film to gross over a billion dollars, and the production design headed by Robert Stromberg, who actually won this award last year for his work on another huge-grosser, Avatar, was seriously sublime.

However, my personal pick would actually be the three-man team behind the art direction of Inception, just the scale of the stuff they worked with, not to mention the very specific capacities they had to achieve for one of the world’s most inventive and detail-oriented directors was just mind-blowing.

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: The King’s Speech

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
  • Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell)
  • Inception(Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
  • Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

Do we expect any other film not named Inception to have the tiniest bit of a chance of winning this award? The effects in Inception were just top of their class, and this is one of the surest awards of the night.

The four-man team who were in charge of flipping a city on its sides, and which includes two of guys who were nominated for this award for their previous collaboration with Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight, gave us a seriously stunning amount of detail and raised the bar of their craft.

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: Inception

Oscar Predictions: Sound Mixing and Editing

23 Feb

In my second Oscar Prediction post I will tackle both Sound categories, the Mixing and Editing ones, both of which, I believe, are all but sewn up by a certain mind-bending summer blockbuster.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Nominees

  • Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick)
  • The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
  • Salt (Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
  • The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
  • True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland)

I honestly cannot see how Inception could lose this one, the work done here, done by the same trio that was nominated for working on The Dark Knight, is just mesmerizing, mixing the sound of three very intricate dream levels and music and a huge amount of elements, it’s all seriously great stuff.

However, if an upset were to somehow occur, I could only comprehend it being at the hands of the team that worked on The Social Network, that film was extremely dialogue-driven and the mixing of it, with many times the dialogue overlapping and with the background noises blending in, was superbly done. The group of four who worked on this one was the same which was nominated before for David Fincher’s previous movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and two of them already have two Oscars (David Parker won for The Bourne Ultimatum and The English Patient, while Michael Semanick won for King Kong and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: Inception

BEST SOUND EDITING

Nominees

  • Inception (Richard King)
  • Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
  • TRON: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
  • True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
  • Unstoppable (Mark P. Stoeckinger)

Don’t expect this award to go to anyone else other than to Inception‘s Richard King, who already won twice before, in 2008 for The Dark Knight and in 2003 for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The work he does here is sublime, coming up with a really neat sound difference between the dream and waking worlds.

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: Inception