Tree of Life

IntroPreHistoric

The great thing about prehistory is that you can speculate pretty much any old hogwash about it. Sure – science has given us a reasonably educated guess, but when has science ever stopped us from making shit up? Who’s to say that dinosaurs didn’t talk, or that mankind wasn’t created by a super-species of cat-like beings? That would certainly explain their sense of entitlement. The film industry knows what’s up, and has given us some great depictions of pre-life over the years. Some are unique in their beauty and/or accuracy, while others are just downright silly. Both are great, so let’s celebrate 9 creative ways to look at the world before we came to be.

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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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The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Movie posters can rise to level of works of art, can be tame or daring. They are of course advertising. A good poster makes you want to know more about the movie and the more you want to know the more you’ll want to spend your money to see the film. With that in mind, we’ve assembled our favorites of 2011, broken down into fancy categories for your reading and viewing pleasure.

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This started out as a list of overrated movies, but we (“we” being Rob Hunter and Kevin Carr, rabblerousers) decided fairly quickly that “overrated” is an overused and abused term. Who are we, or anyone, to tell you that you like a movie too much? It’s a rude thing to say regardless of whether or not we’re right. But thanks to the internet sometimes one person’s exuberance can find a virtual megaphone in all the tubes and anonymous users online, and that misguided praise can become deafening. And yes, we’re just as guilty as the rest of you…especially in regard to our first pick below. To be clear, most of these are not bad movies. The majority of them are actually good. But none of them deserved the near-constant accolades that seemed to echo from one corner of the web to another ad nauseum. So without further ado, pomp, or circumstance, here are 11 12 movies (in alphabetical order) you people wouldn’t shut up about in 2011. (**Note, there may be a few minor spoilers below.**)

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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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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column, sure. But at its core, it is a hunter. A hunter of the most interesting film-related tidbits of the day. Can you feel the heat? It’s not enough for director Alex Proyas will make Paradise Lost, the story of the break between Heaven and Hell. But he’s also bringing Djimon Hounsou as the Angel of Death. If there is one actor that I look at on a consistent basis and think, “that man would bring death to me,” it’s Hounsou. It sure beats Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, so we’ll see how it shakes out.

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Usually when a filmmaker goes on a string of making a bunch of movies it’s nothing to bat an eyelash at. Hey, he’s a filmmaker, what did you expect? But when that filmmaker happens to be Terrence Malick, then it’s a whole other story. Malick is an infamous perfectionist who usually takes at least five years or so between everything he makes. Dude even waited twenty between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. It’s weird that despite the fact his newest film Tree of Life was just in theaters, he already has his next picture in the can. But it’s even weirder that before that picture has been put together and given a release date and what not, Twitch has already unearthed some information about the next movie he’s making a move on. Once he gets his Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams romance Voyage of Time out of the way, he’s said to be starting up a new film, which will star Christian Bale. That Bale is in the film shouldn’t come as a surprise, he’s worked with Malick before in The New World and he almost took the role Affleck eventually filled in Voyage of Time; but the fact that we look to be getting three Malick movies in two years is a gigantic shock. Who put what in this guy’s Wheaties? Does Malick know something that we don’t, or did he just blow all his money on a gambling debt or something?

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Culture Warrior

I’ll be the first to admit that the title of this post is a tad hyperbolic. The box office should not necessarily be forgotten, and it does, to an extent, matter. Predicting openings, percentage drops, and analyzing receipts present an interesting way to interact with movies as well as provide one of many ways to attempt an understanding of audiences in terms of evolving trends and patterns, as our own Jeremy Kirk does so astutely twice a week. Waiting until the early afternoon every Sunday to see the weekend’s estimations has been part of my weekly Internet routine for as long as I’ve been a movie nerd. Box office is, simply put, a part of the conversation. But we aren’t movie executives. Our investment is the box office is tied only to our social, emotional, and intellectual engagement with the films that sell tickets. The amount of tickets sold to see the product should never be confused with the product itself, and box office has severe limitations and problems in terms of understanding audiences’ relationship to a film. My concern with the ways we interact with and form conversations around box-office is not in regard to whether we should have such conversations at all, but the problematic meanings we routinely extrapolate from these numbers. To be frank, unless you work for a movie studio, a movie’s worth is never measurable in numbers. I concede that this is an obvious point, but unfortunately the box office continues to disproportionately dominate so […]

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Culture Warrior

You’d be hard-pressed to find two filmmakers who are more wildly different than Woody Allen and Terrence Malick. One is a notably prolific and economic filmmaker who still releases one movie a year well into his senior years, while the other is a perfectionist who labors over his films and has thus far released, on average, barely more than one movie per decade. One has an unmistakable public persona, while the other is a notorious recluse. One makes films about life in a great city, while the other turns his lens to nature and the experience of the rural. One is as much an atheist as his characters, while the other is a spiritualist who searches for “God,” whatever that may be, through the lens of the camera. Allen and Malick are, in many ways, perfect opposites. But after watching the strong new work by each of these talented filmmakers this past weekend, it became apparent that, at least in the shared thematic preoccupations of Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Malick’s The Tree of Life, these two ostensibly dissimilar filmmakers may have more in common than meets the eye.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a movie news round-up column that comes to you from deep space. It comes as a protector of all that is good and interesting in the movie news world. It also totally swoons over Michael Fassbender. Seriously, have you seen this guy act? He’s the man… man. As my good friend Rusty Gordon pointed out to me this evening, “this summer is already better than last summer,” and it’s just now June. With two-thirds of its movie releasing to go, Summer 2011 is already coming along great. With that, there’s plenty to still be excited about. Like Green Lantern, which continues to look cool as WB dumps a giant batch of photos on the web. So much detail, so much cool.

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The Reject Report

Could have been a B-. Maybe even a C+. The point being X-Men: First Class rose to a somewhat acceptable occasion, about what was expected. Especially by analysts who realized the film wasn’t being backed by Hugh Jackman, the first time in the franchise, and was comprised of an entirely new cast. Add into that mix the idea that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were both such colossal disappointments, and it seems X-Men: First Class did rather well despite all it has going against it. It still opened larger than 2000’s original X-Men, but the film still came in fourth among the franchise’s debuts.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up that, for the time being, is keeping things brief. Memorial Day weekend is one that Hollywood generally takes off, so news is light. That said, there was plenty of discussion and artful expression happening all weekend that didn’t require us to sift through the virtual pages of The Hollywood Reporter. Read: there’s some cool stuff in tonight’s edition. The Times has a report that, for some of you, can’t come soon enough. 3D is fizzling and Hollywood is scared. The report focuses on the lopsided box office of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which took in far more dollars in 2D despite a major push in the other direction from Disney. Even Kung Fu Panda 2, an animated 3D family adventure, opened soft in the additional dimension. Perhaps this will prompt some changes to be made. It probably won’t, but a guy can dream.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up that comes from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow. A-ah-ahh-ah! When it first hit the web, the consensus was that this red-band trailer for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was nothing more than an illegal leak of someone video taping in a European theater. But since then, after some inspection, speculation and hearsay, it’s now believed to be a strategic leak in accordance with the styles of Lisbeth Salander. That could be the case. Lending credence to that theory is the fact that the audio is pretty clean, there’s an MPAA warning on the trailer (which was supposedly recorded in Europe) and days later, Sony has not taken it down. Either way, it’s a wicked trailer. If it’s a plant by Sony, it’s a brilliant maneuver.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up column that didn’t mean to take the night off last night, but was forced into it by some “internet connectivity issues.” Which means, plainly, that its internet provider sucks sometimes. And things happen. Like trains — sometimes they get blown up in small town in Ohio, unleashing unknown terrors upon small-town, late-70s folk. Shit happens, y’know? My confession of the evening is that I was able to see Super 8 this morning. Reviews are under embargo for now, so I can’t share too much, but know this: whatever level of excitement you hold for it, you’re probably on the right track. Moving on, but not too far, Empire has a great interview with producer Steven Spielberg and Spielberg Jr., director J.J. Abrams. You can check it out after the jump. It’s not spoilery, as Abrams is a good keeper of secrets. But if you want to go in completely untainted, skip ahead and there’s plenty of other news to read.

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Criterion Files

In anticipation of Terrence Malick’s much-buzzed and much-argued-about Tree of Life, Adam and Landon are doing a two-part series on Malick’s films in the Criterion Collection. Part 1 – The Thin Red Line. The Thin Red Line (1998) is a film that accomplished many things. Least of which is the fact that, as the film was released twenty years after his previous completed work Days of Heaven, it established Terrence Malick as still a working filmmaker. While Malick had developed and abandoned several projects in the two decades that straddled his second and third feature films, the notoriously private director temporarily retired to France and workshopped a variety of screenplays and stage plays that, for one reason or another, never manifested. Though Malick’s sparse filmography hardly grants him a persona of being a prolific artist, his twenty-year filmmaking “hiatus” was never a hiatus at all, but was instead brimming with activity for potential projects. The Thin Red Line, then, should be thought of not as a decided return to filmmaking which assumes that the film is either a project twenty years in the making or the only thing he came across in twenty years worth making (as an academic who almost completed his doctorate and as a working journalist before becoming a filmmaker, part of the mystery surrounding the very private Malick is that filmmaking is simply one of several trades that define him – he’s like a far less public James Franco). The Thin Red Line may be more […]

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Culture Warrior

Yesterday the Twittersphere (a place where topics are only discussed in rational proportions) was abuzz with the news that Terrence Malick’s long-awaited magnum opus Tree of Life was booed at its Cannes premiere. While the reaction to Malick’s latest will no doubt continue to be at least as divisive and polarized as his previous work has been, for many Malick fans the news of the boos only perpetuated more interest in the film, and for many Malick non-fans the boos signaled an affirmation of what they’ve long-seen as lacking in his work. (Just to clarify, there was also reported applause, counter-applause, and counter-booing at the screening.) Booing at Cannes has a long history, and can even be considered a tradition. It seems that every year some title is booed, and such a event often only creates more buzz around the film. There’s no formula for what happens to a booed film at Cannes: sometimes history proves that the booed film was ahead of its time, sometimes booing either precedes negative critical reactions that follow or reflect the film’s divisiveness during its commercial release. Booed films often win awards. If there is one aspect connecting almost all booed films at Cannes, it’s that the films are challenging. I mean challenging as a descriptor that gives no indication of quality (much like I consider the term “slow”), but films that receive boos at the festival challenge their audiences or the parameters of the medium in one way or another, for better or […]

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as DogEatsHeart and 5Obstructions5 in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the pair apply some sun screen and some green screen in order to forecast how the movies of Summer 2011 might shape up. Is there a secret weapon to its inevitable success? Is its success inevitable? Anything would be better than last year, right?

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With a little less than a week to go until I land at Nice Airport and get the hugely unglamorous Hack Bus into Cannes along with my boys from ObsessedWithFilm.com to begin FSR’s official Cannes film festival 2011 coverage, now is surely a prudent time to offer my thoughts on the biggest and brightest films showing on the Croisette this year. You already know what films are showing, so I won’t exhaustively trawl back through the list, but I wanted to take the opportunity to announce what I am particularly excited about. This also gives me the opportunity post-festival to look back at happier, simpler times when my optimism at seeing four films a day wasn’t yet destroyed by watching three incredibly boring flicks in a row, followed by a blockbuster during which I fell asleep (as happened in 2009). Anyway, lesson learned, and this year I’ll be packing as many natural amphetamines as possible. If you’re heading out there look for me, I’ll be the guy with the grinding jaw, the sallow eyes and the notepad full of doodles/plans to change the future of cinema. So anyway, here’s what I’m looking forward to most.

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Holy Hollywood, the selections for this year’s Cannes Film Festival (both confirmed and mostly-confirmed) are a star-studded bunch so far, if the rumormongers are to be believed, anyway. The news is coming pretty quick-fire at the minute, so I’ll run down the latest… First off, yesterday French site Le Figaro announced that Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides will play on the Croisette out of competition on Saturday May 14th, before it opens to French cinemas on May 18th and in the US on the 20th. This is one I was half-expecting, given the coincidental release dates, and the fact that there are traditionally a couple of mainstream releases showing out of competition at the fest. The third out of competition (joining Pirates and Terrence Malick’s already announced Tree of Life) looks likely to be Kung Fu Panda 2, according to Thompson on Hollywood, who say the 3D Dreamworks sequel starring Jack Black will follow Jeff Katzenberg’s tradition of bringing a DreamWorks project to Cannes to take advantage of a “worldwide marketing blitz.”

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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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published: 12.05.2014
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