Some gushing and grumbling

Dear Vinny and Jay,

First, the obvious: how our country is in dire need of dialogues like this and not merely feeding off from the hype machine. So thanks for doing this, Vinny.

1. The Tree of Life. It’s been seven months since I last saw the film (twice, in theaters) and I can never get myself to write about it. My review was supposed to be in two parts, as a reflection of the film’s central tenet. After watching the film, Jay and I went on for hours peeling off every layer of the film (to no avail of course).

I think what has endeared critics about The Tree of Life, more than its screensaver-worthy imagery or the Biblical references that some people forcibly hint at (as it seemingly slingshots through a toned-down version of Revelations towards the end), is that it is a grand immersion to our journey towards self-realization and how minuscule we are in the Grand Scheme of Things. Malick’s film is this spellbinding and courageous foray into themes that echo the ruminations of James Joyce, William Faulkner and Marcel Proust.

The Tree of Life is a hard watch, but like Jay and I agreed, it is a film that should be seen by everyone. It challenges our perceptions about the cinematic medium, and most importantly, how we see things and the way we experience them, something that Eric Hynes points out in his capsule for Reverse Shot’s Best of 2011 film:

Malick’s is a film of finite moments that express the infinite, moments in time that aspire to timelessness. It’s not about how we live now, nor about how we now think about how we lived then, but rather how we’ve lived, loved, thought, and felt forever. Our deepest fears, bafflements, and cravings are located in 1950s suburban Texas, as they are in the movements of our Mesozoic ancestors, as they are in phone calls to parents, confabs at work. “What I want to do, I can’t do,” says young Jack (Hunter McCracken) in the film’s most wrenching—yet still gorgeously enveloping—passage. “I do what I hate.” Words don’t come more grievous, or universal. The feeling doesn’t go away, not over a lifetime, not across the millennia, and it’s the squaring of life’s inscrutability—our own lives and life in the abstract—that motivates Malick.

2. One of my favorite movie moments from last year was also from Bridesmaids: Kristen Wiig’s breakdown scene during Maya Rudolph’s bridal shower. It’s one of those moments that you wish you could have at least once in this lifetime, to get out all the bullshit in your system, like a toddler’s tantrum only more batshit insane. You’d probably want to do that to your boss (if you’ve had enough) or to an insufferable boy/girlfriend, wife or friend. All that anger gushing out. God, how amazing it would feel. Maybe it’s better than stabbing a pillow.

I’m sure I have several more cinematic moments from the past year so I’ll probably get back to you guys on this.

3. Last night’s Oscar nominations was of course a surprise to most of us (at least they’re becoming less predictable anymore). Some unexpected contenders sneaked in and quite a number of people were up in arms because of Michael Fassbender’s absence in the Actor in a Lead Role category.

Like everyone else, I was surprised by the inclusion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the Best Picture category. I haven’t seen it (nor have I read the book. I am reading it now though) but if its reviews (and the uproar) prove to be true, that it’s Stephen Daldry’s weakest film yet, then Scott Rudin has definitely sucked some huge Oscar dick to get it nominated. Why push for a critically repulsed film then? Rudin’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was better received and it did well in the guilds. Is it because Extremely Loud mines a more “touching” issue? Or is it because of the Oscar heavyweights leading the film?

Whatever the reason is, we all know it’ll lose to The Artist anyway. Unless some mystical upending would commence and another Crash, um, crushes all the remaining credibility of the AMPAS.

And anyway, we’ll talk more about the Oscars in the coming weeks. We’re geeks like that.

– Don

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