Friday, December 16, 2011

THE BEST FILM OF 2011    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
The Tree Of Life         

Terrence Malick boldly explores life across species, time and galaxies with humans as a microcosm in "The Tree Of Life". 
Fox Searchlight 

Terrence Malick
, director, writer
2 hours 19 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some thematic material
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)
May 2011
Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler

Blu-Ray/DVD (U.S., Canada)

"The only way to be happy is to love.  Unless you love your life will flash by."

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, December 16, 2011

The best film to come along in the last 40-plus years, "The Tree Of Life" was by far the best film of 2011.  Terrence Malick's impressionist masterpiece (better than his "Days Of Heaven") dazzled, overwhelmed and provoked thought and divisive reaction like no other film this year.  To me that in and of itself is the hallmark of a great film, one that touches a nerve so powerfully. 

Set in 1950s Texas and focused on a family whose eldest son Jack (Mr. McCracken) thinks about the loss of one of his brothers and the relationship with his father.  The film, a non-linear narrative, shifts back and forth from the 1950s to the present (2008) where an older Jack (Mr. Penn) is thinking about his younger life.  Semi-autobiographical to the director, "The Tree Of Life" so deeply explores the meaning of life across the spectrum of species.  I saw the film seven times in the movie theater and plan to see it an eighth next week on the big screen. 

Both personal and universal, "The Tree Of Life" is a staggering cinematic achievement that will be appreciated even more widely in 30 years' time, precisely the way "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- of which this film is reminiscent -- was.  I love "The Tree Of Life" with such abundant passion.  The performances (especially of Mr. McCracken and Ms. Chastain) are glorious.  The stunning visual effects, production design and cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) are second to none.  As this new decade unfolded with its first year now almost complete, I am of the firm belief that nothing in the next nine years of it will transcend or surpass this profound brilliance.  "The Tree Of Life" should cost $40 a ticket.  I more than got my money's worth with this grand experience.

For as long as I live I will always remember the sensations and feelings that this wonderful film inspired within me.  I will always remember the poignancy, the joy, unrestrained zeal and curiosity for capturing the full glories and despairs of life.  The goose bumps felt when hearing Brahms and Wagner during sequences involving energetic (or sleeping) children.  This film cherishes each moment that it flickers so vividly on screen.

This film means such a great deal to me on a personal level, and even had I not become a first-time father this year I would still have treasured "The Tree Of Life" as deeply as I do now.  When I first saw this film in May my first word, upon being asked by a local publicist for my reaction was, "extraordinary."  I knew then that it would be number one on my ten best film list of 2011, and nothing that has followed since ever changed my mind.  It is difficult to eat popcorn during this film, and on the seven prior times I saw this film in a theater I could never do it.  I only heard one person do so in the seven theater experiences.

A wondrous vision in "The Tree Of Life".  Fox Searchlight 

"The Tree Of Life" is beautiful beyond words.  It reaches the deepest parts of the soul and for those patient enough to absorb it, is one of the most richly rewarding cinematic experiences ever.  In the cosmos before him, Mr. Malick aims to capture the unrestrained, to chronicle the unrecorded.  He succeeds almost always, and celebrates every single frame of his film with an earnest, sincere look at what it means to live, love, fall and die. 

Every ray of sunlight, each tree, each heartbeat, each blink, breath, step and shadow are lauded and given a dimension of character in its own right.  In filming "The Tree Of Life" -- and doing so way back in 2008 -- Mr. Malick asks us to value the wonderment of life that exists all around us.  He immerses us in it unapologetically and awakens us to the vast possibilities life has in store for us. 

The human journey is but a small slice of Mr. Malick's film.  In the previous four films he's directed Mr. Malick shows a profound interest in life beyond the human realm.  "The Tree Of Life" isn't pretentious in my estimation, even though every film inherently is -- but this one has a genuine inquisitiveness.  Mr. Malick doesn't take life for granted, and neither does his astonishing, breathtaking film, which is timeless and will one day be part of the National Film Registry.

Cinema is invented just for films like this.  In 2011 when so many movies were about nothing in particular, "The Tree Of Life" was about something, and something of value, at that.  Unlike many films that dissipate in the mind almost instantaneously, the experiences in Mr. Malick's film stay with you for many weeks.  Always enriching, meaningful and wondrous, there's new sensations and insights to be gained from each subsequent viewing of one of the great films ever made. 

Full review here.  YouTube review.  In-depth essay.

THE TEN BEST FILMS OF 2011       10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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