What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann
Well, it’s here. Terrence Malick’s much discussed THE TREE OF LIFE, winner of the grand prize (Palm D’Or) at Cannes and the unofficial huff-and-puff trophy of the season, given by me to the film that has provoked the most critical chatter. Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) is a man who grew up in West Texas, but went to Harvard and then to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He has translated Heidegger. So we have a guy with down home roots but worldly knowledge, and the movie draws on both.
A brief summary. Cinema convention calls for three acts in a movie: setup the story, develop an issue or conflict, and resolve it. Tree of Life adheres to this convention, but since it’s “attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives” (Roger Ebert), the first act is creation and the last is end-of-days, both told through images which will blow the minds of the right-brained among you, but puzzle left-brain literalists. The middle act, however, is a wonderful coming of age window on a family in Waco in the 1950’s. The father (Brad Pitt) is as you would expect given the time and place – stern, cold and strict. The mother (Jessica Chastain) is loving and tolerant, an angelic, ethereal beauty. The two sides of God? The children – three boys – lead an idyllic life in a town with no locked doors and woods to explore, sullied only by the harsh reality of the father, whom they careen between loving and wishing dead.
What can I say? Is it “an eruption of a movie, something to live with, think, and talk about afterward” (Nick Pinkerton - Village Voice). Is it “pretty much nuts overall, a manic hybrid folly with flashes of brilliance” (Andrew O’Hehir - Salon.com). Or is it “ridiculously sublime or sublimely ridiculous? Don’t be afraid to find it both” (David Edelstein – New York Magazine).
Guess you’ll have to see for yourself. That’s why the Tropic is here; to give us that opportunity.
Too serious for you? How about KUNG FU PANDA 2. That’s a bit more popular. To give you an idea, it opened the same week as Tree of Life, but has since grossed twenty times as much ($563 million compared to $29 million). In the battle for animation championship between Dreamworks (whic has the Kung Fu franchise) and Pixar (Cars, Toy Story), the real winner is the kids. They’ll love these further adventures of Po and the Furious Five, with voices from Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen and Dustin Hoffman, among others.
Or how about X-MEN:FIRST CLASS ($344 million, but it’s a week behind). Shift genres to action adventure, not animated, but it’s so CGI laden that it might as well be. The X-Men in case you don’t know it, are mutants with supernatural powers recruited by Professor X (James McAvoy) to save the world while battling another group of mutants under the control of Kevin Bacon. Did I mention that it’s based on a comic book? Now you get it.
The Monday Night Summer of Fun Classic is THE GOONIES (1985), a Steven Spielberg concoction directed by action man Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon). The favorite film of everyone who grew up in the 80ties.
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