Terrence Malick

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Numerous filmmakers have made their influences into mentors. Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’90s films were deeply indebted to the work of Robert Altman, with whom he developed a personal friendship, and even worked as an uncredited “backup director” for The Prairie Home Companion. And the well-publicized friendships between Peter Bogdanovich and titans of classic cinema (Howard Hawks, John Ford, Orson Welles) have threatened to obscure the notable films Bogdanovich actually made as his primary contribution to the world of movies. Many filmmakers hew themselves close to those whom they give homage, either personally or aesthetically. Yet this relationship typically produces a sort of third party amongst a collision of influences, a meeting of minds and personalities that shapes films which, while heavily indebted to what came before, use the past as a platform for expressing something notable on its own. That’s what makes A.J. Edwards’ debut work, The Better Angels, such a curious cinematic object. It’s a film that not only bears a significant debt to the style of Terrence Malick (and openly, proudly so), but produces such a perfect exercise in Malick-style filmmaking that it never quite reveals an autonomous personality of its own. It’s hard to think of a more confident, more elegantly executed debut feature than The Better Angels, but it’s also hard to think of any other strong debut that leaves the personality of its filmmaker obscured as deeply in the shadows as this.

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badlands

As I noted in a Scenes We Love post on True Romance last month, Terrence Malick‘s Badlands is among my top five favorite films. It might even be my very favorite, which is interesting because I don’t love any of the director’s other works (I do like some, hate one…). Now I get to showcase the film itself, because today marks the 40th anniversary of its premiere as the closing night selection of the 11th New York Film Festival. The trouble is, how do you select specific scenes from a film you love so much and find so brilliant that there’s not one worthless second let alone scene in the whole thing? Badlands is a perfect specimen of cinema to me, so few things stand out above others. Fortunately, I don’t get to do too much choosing since there aren’t too many clips actually available online. So, as Kit (Martin Sheen) would do, let’s mark our memories with what we can find (if these were rocks, it’d also be what we can carry). And as Holly (Sissy Spacek) would do, I’ll offer some commentary that is subjectively selective, not completely descriptive and, since I’ve never wanted to know too much about the production of the film, probably rather naive. Don’t judge me for not being as poetic, though; I won’t even try. And don’t judge the video quality of the clips, which may still be better than the time I went to finally see Badlands on the big screen and it turned […]

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Red Wing

Luke Perry and Terrence Malick, together at last. The upcoming Red Wing brings the two together, with Perry in a lead role and Malick playing executive producer. The film is directed by Will Wallace, the stepson of the acclaimed auteur filmmaker (and the missing link between Malick and Perry). An adaptation of François le Champi, the novel by 18th century French author George Sand, Red Wing tells of an orphan boy who grows up to drive a wedge between his foster parents. The trailer does capture a little of the Midwestern natural beauty that Malick is known for, and the young boy we see early on can’t help but harken back to The Tree of Life, but the whole thing resembles a direct-to-DVD release far too much for its own good. The performances, the music, the title cards, the presence of Luke Perry – they all make Red Wing look like a piece of country-fried melodrama rather than a sweeping adaptation of an 18th century French pastoral novel. From the looks of it, this one may be for diehard Malick fans only. Check it out after the break.

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Malick Fire and Water

Terrence Malick loves using images of fire and water in his films. He also loves earth and air, so he’s got all of 450BCE’s favorite elements locked down. This minute-long exploration from kogonada juxtaposes scenes from Malick films in order to find some structural and contextual similarities between the way the filmmaker uses those first two elements. It’s gorgeous, as Malick’s work tends to be, but it’s also fascinating to see how he captured some of the same shapes from two very different entities, as well as how people and other natural structures impact the visuals. The video composition is truly stunning, but more than anything it goes to prove how deliberate Malick is as a filmmaker (even when, you know, he’s slicing entire performances out of the final cut). I can’t wait until Wheat and Sun get added into the mix. How about it, kogonada?

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wonder

To The Wonder has proven itself as Terrence Malick‘s most critically disliked film to date. Malick’s sprawling epic, The Tree of Life, was met with scoffs, but Wonder has been met with snickers and laughs. The hype and conversations spurred by The Tree of Life were exciting, which hasn’t been the case for Malick’s newest movie, and it’s easy to see why. For both good and bad, his sixth film symbolizes everything we expect from the filmmaker. The good, at least for non-Malick fans, is that To The Wonder is a simple, mostly linear story. The two leads, Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), are madly in love. Neil, from Oklahoma, strikes up a passionate relationship with Marina while traveling Europe with the graceful Ukrainian woman. Of course Neil can’t live overseas with her forever, so he decides to bring Marina and her 10-year-old daughter back to Oklahoma with him. For a while, it goes smoothly. Then it doesn’t. Then it does. And it continues on like that for sometime.

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Jane Got a Gun from Malick

The Jane Got a Gun production has been a wild ride. After losing director Lynne Ramsay just before shooting started they pulled in Gavin O’Connor with the quickness, but the Natalie Portman-starring film was in limbo for at least a weekend. So, our old friend Sleepy Skunk put together a mashup of what the movie might look like if Terrence Malick, Wes Anderson or J.J. Abrams replaced Ramsay — but not before the production managed to lose Jude Law, throwing even this video into question. It’s really hard to keep up with this one. Nevertheless, sit back and enjoy playing What If with us, will you?

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To the Wonder

Being abstruse is usually Terrence Malick‘s bag, so it’s somewhat refreshing that the first poster for his upcoming To the Wonder is surprisingly straightforward. The dreamy and vintage-feeling one-sheet features stars Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko standing in front of (well, sort of, there’s clearly some hefty Photoshopping going on here) France’s Mont Saint-Michel, an island with the nickname “The Wonder of the Western World” or, “Rocky Little Island That Inspired The Name of a Malick Movie.” What could possibly go wrong for a pair of lovers at such a lovely location? To the Wonder will open in limited release on April 12th. [EW]

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Alfred Hitchcock Fighting Steven Spielberg

This week on the show, Scott and Geoff discuss Shane Carruth‘s 9-year hiatus as a viable career option, get some thoughts on Upstream Color from Rob Hunter at Sundance and talk to up-and-coming actor Micah Hauptman about his first big break in the movie Parker. Plus, in the main event, short filmmaker Aaron Morgan (No Way Out) and Aint It Cool‘s Eric “Quint” Vespe stop by to discuss the legacy of two titans of filmmaking, asking the all-too-important question: In 50 years, will Steven Spielberg overtake Alfred Hitchcock as the more popular icon of movies?  Download Episode #3

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To The Wonder

The theme of the first trailer for Terrence Malick‘s To the Wonder might be the inevitability and unpredictability of love. This sweeping emotion that takes hold of us even when we’re not looking for it, even as we fight against it. Back at Toronto, Andrew said the film — which stars Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams — was a more focused movie from the auteur, which should give some skeptics a bit of hope even as the faithful are won over wholly by this first look. Check it out for yourself:

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Michael Fassbender

According to The Film Stage, Michael Fassbender has been spotted on set with Ryan Gosling for Terrence Malick‘s untitled movie about two love triangles colliding against the Austin music scene. It’s a small role, but he has just as good a chance as any to be cut from the final product. There’s a blurry photo of him if you’re interested. Malick has been on a tear lately, making movies at a rate 18 times faster than normal. To The Wonder is hanging out at film festivals, but he’s also got Voyages of Time and Knight of Cups headed for home plate even while he’s filming this new work which also includes Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It’s unclear what’s prompted this increased productivity, but it’s hard to scoff when Fassbender’s involved. Even if his work might never see the light of day.

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If you’ve watched a movie about love, marriage, the environment and religion all wrapped up together with only enough dialogue to fill a few minutes of a Tarantino screenplay, it was probably a Terrence Malick film. His latest, To The Wonder, uses the same voyeuristic style that the director has been working on from Days of Heaven and refuses to discard. The film uses emotion and voice over as a narrative compass which pushes the film forward in a way that almost feels documentary-like. We’re cutting into this couple’s life at distinct points to find out how they truly feel about one another and how that progresses. It’s easy to casually view Malick’s latest efforts and label it with a word like “pretentious.” The film is very demanding and requires great attention as well as an ability to consider rounded viewpoints on the topics at hand. This is where Malick’s style comes to an advantage. The film makes the core themes become points of discussion as opposed to cannons bursting with the filmmaker’s own position.

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Jason Clarke in Lawless

Lawless features some towering performances. Tom Hardy commands with every grunt, Guy Pearce snarls in every scene, and Gary Oldman gives a quietly vicious performance. Then there’s Jason Clarke, playing the oldest of the three Bondurant brothers, Howard. He’s the brute of the group, the unhinged ox who’s seen a mass-scale violence, and he has clearly been affected by it. Clarke, like Hardy and his grunts, walks through the film with a lumbering physicality, as if he’s not even in much control over his own violent tendencies. That physicality is a factor Clarke put a lot of thought into, from using a smaller heel on his boot to wearing weights on his ankles. It’s that sort of commitment which seems to have earned the actor gigs with the likes of Baz Luhrmann, Kathryn Bigelow, John Hillcoat, and the two peas in the pod, Roland Emmerich and Terrence Malick. The actor was kind enough to take time off from walking around the White House for Emmerich to discuss his love for research, finding a character, and how you should never be afraid to go big.

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Jason Clarke

Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Joel Kinnaman, Imogen Poots, Freida Pinto, and Ryan O’Neal…with that cast, and others unmentioned, one would think Terrence Malick would have enough actors for a single movie. Apparently, that’s not the case, as Malick has added another name to his project about life, love, and probably other poetic things of that nature. That name is Jason Clarke. While speaking with us today about John Hillcoat‘s Lawless, Clarke revealed he just finished shooting on Malick’s Knight of Cups. When discussing the visionary filmmakers he’s worked with lately – Michael Mann, Baz Luhrmann, Kathryn Bigelow, and so on –  the actor made sure to mention Malick’s name in that list, “I did a film with Terrence Malick as well. Knight of Cups, it’s another one that he’s producing.”

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Joel Kimmaman

A few weeks ago, a filming notice plastered to the side of my apartment building revealed that Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups was filming within feet of my front door. Apparently, I should have stuck around to watch that all play out, because perhaps Malick would have tossed me into a frame or two, as the auteur now seems bent on getting anyone and everyone into his latest film. You’ll remember that Knight of Cups is just one of Malick’s currently-in-production features that stars Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Wes Bentley. This is the one that appears to be set in Los Angeles (the production has been spotted on the beach in Venice and Santa Monica, and my neighborhood is adjacent to both) not the one once known as Lawless that is set in Austin) and this is the one that centers on Bale as “a depressed writer” who, if on-set pictures are to be believed, seems to ease himself with a string of beautiful women. Now Swedish outlet SvD reveals that Joel Kinnaman (Snabba Cash, the next RoboCop) has also joined the film as “a rich playboy,” which seems like the type of dude who would hang out with Bale’s character. Additionally, The Film Stage and The Playlist pass on word that an extra named extra Brett Anderson says he shot some scenes with Antonio Banderas, who was rumored to have a part in the film. The Playlist also checked in on the film’s IMDB page, which reveals that […]

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Cannes! It’s upon us! At this stage last year, I offered my pre-festival wishlist for what films might screen at Cannes (and got six out of eighteen picks correct in the process), which was based on rumors and guesswork from around the net. This year, in the interest of embracing the spirit of imagination, the emphasis is on spurious gossip and pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Plucking films that might have an outside chance of screening on the Croisette this year (in some cases so far outside they won’t even be in France until months after the fest, probably), I’ve compiled my Ultimate Cannes 2012 Wishlist. The caveat to this of course is that probably very few of the bloody things will actually screen – at least not to the majority of the collected press – but what’s life without whimsy? Yes, the bent is firmly on American films, and English language ones, but in my defense, I don’t care. It says “wishlist” up there for a good reason. Realism aside, here are 13 movies I hope play at Cannes this May.

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Director

Film directors are responsible for every single aspect of their movie. That doesn’t mean they actually do each and every task on set, but it’s their job (and prerogative) to get each element just right. It’s a lot of responsibility, and judging by the nominees for this year’s Best Director, it’s clearly too much for a woman to handle. Sorry, Kelly Reichardt, Lynn Ramsay, and Sarah Polley…maybe you can bake something nice for the boys who were nominated? For the record, the director who should walk away with the Oscar this year isn’t even nominated. Nicolas Winding Refn deserved (at least) a nomination for Drive as he was able to craft something of raw beauty from some seemingly disparate parts. The film’s look and style, its exquisitely jarring shifts from calm to explosive, and its unexpectedly affecting score and soundtrack all make for a unique cinematic experience. The nominees are listed below with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Due to her Oscar-winning role in Black Swan and her pregnancy-imposed break from acting, Natalie Portman has been the subject of much talk in the movie world. When will she come back to work? What will her first post-Oscar role be? There have been reports of filmmakers as big as the Wachowskis actively recruiting her to come on board their projects, but still no word of an official signing. That is until now. Sorry, Hollywood directors, but Terrence Malick has beaten you to the punch. And, just to smear some dirt in your wounds, he’s done it twice. Deadline Ottawa is reporting that Portman has signed on to be in not one, but two of Malick’s upcoming projects, both shooting in 2012, which will mark her much anticipated return to acting. The first film is the Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett-starring Knight of the Cups, which is scheduled to start shooting this summer. The second is a film called Lawless, which sees Portman teamed again with Bale and Blanchett, in addition to other notable names like Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara. This film is scheduled to shoot in the fall.

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Culture Warrior

A week and a half ago, Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails was released. On the surface, the film breathes Hollywood oxygen through-and-through. It’s a WWII era action film that uses its setting for broad family-friendly cheese-banter and CGI-heavy eye candy rather than an opportunity for a sober interrogation of history. Red Tails looks and feels like any Hollywood film geared toward as mass an audience as possible. But the studio that’s distributing it – 20th Century Fox – didn’t pay a dime to produce it. The reported $58 million cost to make Red Tails came solely out of the pocket of producer George Lucas, who had been attempting to get a film about the Tuskegee Airmen made since the early 1990s. He was continually met with resistance from a studio system that saw anything less than the biggest guaranteed appeal to the largest possible audience as a “risk,” including a heroic true story about African-American airmen. The ideology that closed the doors on George Lucas of all people reflects the same business mentality that inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lengthy warning to other studios in a memo written during the same years that Lucas was first trying to get Red Tails financed.  In the memo, Katzenberg warned studios regarding their practice of exponentially centralizing all their resources in a few very expensive projects, resulting in high risk, little room for experimentation, and an increasing reliance on that coveted monolith known as the “mass audience” (which, to make things even more complicated, now includes […]

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Culture Warrior

As the final days of the calendar year wane to a close, efforts are made by anybody with Internet access to summarize and rank 2011’s products of popular culture. Two titles that have shown up repeatedly on end-of-year movie lists are Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. While one was a summer release and the other a quite limited fall release, both these films in several ways have occupied conversations about film throughout the year: Malick’s film was highly anticipated not only because it was a new entry by a notoriously un-prolific director, but was staged as his magnum opus, and Von Trier’s film was anticipated not only because it was a Von Trier film, but was the follow-up to one of the most contentious and challenging films released thus far in this 21st century. In May, both films drew headlines after their Cannes premieres: Tree of Life for getting booed before taking home the top award, and Melancholia because of the utter shock of a career provocateur acting provocatively at a press conference. Having just recently seen Melancholia and in reflecting back on Tree of Life, I noticed that these two films interact as two piercing sides of the same vast coin which make them, perhaps more than any other roundly acclaimed and contentiously fought-over pair of films this year, speak to each other about the worth of human existence in a way that renders them inseparable.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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