The Tree of Life (R)

5 Stars

I hate melancholy.

Floating in existential whispery sadness doesn’t warm the cockles.

I can’t believe The Tree of Life was nominated for best picture. Sure there’s good stuff in there, but it’s been a long time since I wanted a movie to end so badly.

Let me start out strong with my best argument.

The hushed tone head-hopping voiceover. It’s artistic, and perhaps it works well with this particular plot.

But I doubt it.

Terrence Malick used the exact same effect in his film The Thin Red Line from 1998. Thirteen years later, it’s still just as distracting and uninformative.

I watched Thin Red Line with my Dad a week ago. He seemed to enjoy it more, because I didn’t love it.

In fact, I found TTRL dull, preachy and heartless. More ‘technically’ good, rather than ‘unquestionably’ good. Throw enough dollars into the visual layout, build a bunch of tension and you’ve got a thumbs-up.

Folks toss around the word, ‘boring’ too much. ‘Boring’ is mostly for whiners. It should only be used to describe something that’s extremely dull.

The Tree of Life is boring.

It’s not better than The Thin Red Line, despite a similar visual format.

What is with the gospel music? Was the plot not dull enough?

The cast is excellent. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn are all very good.

With all the stylish editing, the movie’s very difficult to follow.

Half of The Tree of Life is nature imagery, and features footage from cosmic to microscopic, from water molecules to supernovae. I’m open to a more whimsical form of storytelling, but eventually it gets tiresome.

I disliked this movie because I think Terrence is saying a lot less than he lets on.

As a period piece and a study of a family living in Waco, Texas in 1956, I’m fine with it. But do we need all of this existential stuff, the intergalactic imagery or the vague timeframe?

It seems the puzzle pieces don’t fit together in any coherent fashion.

There are a couple things I’m confused about.

When the velociraptor removes its foot from the wounded dinosaur’s head, is that supposed to be the moment in Earth’s history when humans began evolving? That our greatest redeeming quality is the capacity for compassion?

Well, if so, then great! What’s it teach us about Brad Pitt’s family in 1956?

I’m not convinced the dinosaurs belong in the movie.

The Oedipus complex is also something I never connect with. Perhaps Terrence is trying to show how it manifests itself even in recent history.

I don’t know, and I guess I just don’t care.

The Tree of Life has a few good moments, however.

Young men will appreciate much of the father-son interactions between Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken.

Whenever Jessica Chastain’s on-screen is generally enjoyable.

At one point, she’s bouncing and twirling in zero gravity beside the tree and it’s enchanting.

If Terry cut out some babbling brooks and tossed in a bit more of Jessica dancing on air, The Tree of Life may have been great.

Mud (R)

10 Stars

Mud is not a ghost.

I promise.

Thought I heard that on a podcast before seeing the movie, and turns out, it’s a complete fabrication. Made the whole damn thing up.

Myself and I, we really had a good laugh.

It actually jives with the story for awhile…but I digress.

Don’t waste your time focusing on homemade red herrings. Pop the disc in with the expectation of a complete story told quietly well.

Talk about a nomination snub.

I’m surprised the Academy didn’t glom onto Mud.

Then again, it’s an April release. Oscar doesn’t check his radar until May.

Even though it’s only #11 on my ‘Top Films of 2013’ list, it still deserves the nod more than half the B.P. nominees.

This film written and directed by Jeff Nichols scores on both ‘ocative ots.’

Provocative thoughts and evocative shots. Hah! What more do you need?

If you want to talk well-deserved spotlights, Matthew McConaughey will be at the forefront of the dissertation.

He’s the award winning lead in Dallas Buyers Club. Turning in a magnificent performance, he cameos as a broker; a character who inspires DiCaprio’s in The Wolf of Wall Street.

He’s cleaning up the small screen in HBO’s True Detective alongside Woody Harrelson. The new series (just concluded last weekend) is pretty much an eight-hour movie, and an excellent one at that.

Matt’s also in The Butler, but I refuse to see that movie, or refer to it by its listed title. It’s a shame, I would probably enjoy him as John F. Kennedy.

What a 2013. Keep it up Mr. McC!

The best way to describe Mud is delightful. It weaves a quietly cool narrative, with a heart-wrenching conflict at its center.

There seems to be a trend in adventures by the Louisiana Bayou.

This is a similar setting, but different, and you’re racist for mistaking the two.

Those of us who aren’t bigots know the plot unfolds in a small riverside Mississippi town.

Although Matt’s credited for the lead, I’m pretty sure Ellis (played by Tye Sheridan) has more screen time. And the narrative seems to swivel primarily around his perspective.

Never the mind.

Both turn in excellent, astonishingly true performances. Neckbone, Ellis’s best friend and cohort’s (played by Jacob Lofland) about as hard and crass as they come in the realm of moral children.

Hey guy, don’t see this Dramystery with your bros if you’re easily moved to tears. Okay?

It’s a touching romp full of beautiful imagery and a well-crafted simplistic story.

I think this film’s more suited to adults, despite the nature of the narrative. The transformations come thru both Ellis and Mud, and the juxtaposition of their romantic conflicts is excellent.

My love for the film stems from admiration for the writing.

This is an all-around fun story that everyone can connect with, no matter your age or gender. What’s great is considering how far removed it is from the realm of personal familiarity. I’m not going to run into a boat caught in a tree anytime soon.

The film may be mostly about growing up and broken love, but set in the Mississippi context, and with such devoted attention to physical detail, it might appear a waterlogged portrait of, “two boys who learn things.”

And it is; but it translates onscreen in an enchanting fashion.

There are minors who use swear words in this film. So if cursing gets you queasy, get the fuck over it, and go see the movie anyway.

Ellis’s blind devotion to Mud, whom he believes to be a good man (despite the protestations of everyone around him), is the catalyst allowing their ultimate redemption. That rapport, that silent understanding between two honest and good people; it’s a distinct enigma, and the film captures it perfectly.

It’s the complete opposite of disheartening. It’s heartening.

What an ending, huh? I was sure it was going the other way.

But I’m all too pleased with what we’re given.

Like I said before, Mud is definitely not a ghost.

Ironically, the actor portraying the role couldn’t be more alive (in this writer’s heart, at least.)

Really, I hope he retains this aversion to phantasm in his professional career.

I’m just happy I don’t have to write any more letters begging for Sahara 2.

Don’t miss Mud!