The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life. Well, it’s beautiful. And huge bonus points to Malick for ridiculous ambition and the credibility to do it at scale with big names. But in the same way that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend movies like Solaris or 2001 or Once Upon a Time in the West or Koyaanisqatsi or something, I don’t recommend this one if you’re not willing to sit through some wanky, gorgeous, exhausting, melodramatic sequences. I felt really, really skeptical when I saw the trailers, skeptical when I started, rolled my eyes a few times when I was watching… and yet I’m warming to the idea of watching it again. In the moments where there’s actually acting, the performers are excellent. Sometimes it takes you one viewing to figure out the rules and another to participate/surrender like you need to. My current Terrence Malick rankings:

  1. Days of Heaven (with a probably insurmountable lead)
  2. The New World
  3. Badlands
  4. The Tree of Life (or tied for third?)

With this one out of the way, it’s on to The Thin Red Line.

Mystic River

Mystic River. Great movie. Dang. I was immediately convinced this one would be worth it. On the surface it’s a whodunnit crime thriller kind of thing, but by the end it’s beside the point. It’s about hurt and healing, history and fate. My respect for Clint Eastwood grows with every film I watch. My overall impression is that he just seems to use his time really well, which is not a small compliment. I also realized during the movie that the score was recognizably Eastwoodian–I hadn’t known he wrote it before I started watching, but it’s definitely got his touch there, too. And I can’t not mention the kickass cast that kicks ass like you think they would: Penn, Robbins, Bacon, Fishburne, Linney. Good stuff.

My updated rankings for Eastwood’s directing:

  1. Unforgiven
  2. Gran Torino
  3. Million Dollar Baby
  4. Mystic River (or maybe one ranking higher, not sure)
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. Changeling
  7. Play Misty for Me
  8. Bird
  9. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I think I’ve seen more movies directed by Eastwood than anyone except for Hitchcock (also 9 movies) and Spielberg (20-something!). Buster Keaton and Tim Burton come in at 6 and Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan at 5, if I’m remembering correctly. Can’t think of anyone else with more than 4 right now.