If Only God Were A Woman: The Tree of Life and Bridesmaids
I thought I would hate Bridesmaids--I tend to loath films that pander to women and end up digging them even deeper into the demeaning morass where they are forced to wallow by the prevailing misogynist culture. Instead, I liked it quite a lot--an excellent send up of the cliched wedding story, even if the satire wasn't as razor sharp as it could have been. But I laughed so much more than I thought I would--and much more by a long shot than I did watching The Hangover. The women were just plain consistently funny. I also appreciated that, though the men in the film were by no means front and center, at least two of them got some very strong, even hilarious, lines--a big difference from the male buddy movies in which the women are usually throw aways. And so Bridesmaids managed to be a good bad girl buddy film, full of stark and raunchy truths about us, while maintaining our moral superiority. Perhaps, Margaret, there is a God and she's got a helluva sense of humor. In truth, there was still quite a bit of pander in Bridesmaids (the premise itself, the cupcake business, the iheart moments), but there was quite a bit of surprising writing and acting with refreshingly little concern for the male gaze. I am convinced that contrary to what they preach in Hollywood, and the numbers back me up on this one, that men find the woman's perspective refreshing too (and erotic, and challenging, and intriguing). A little less fear from the powers that be and that green light is going to be getting a whole lot of action for women-centric films. (Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath. That's what everyone said after Thelma and Louise--how many years ago now?) In any case, a film that has a scene of a bride in a white gown taking a shit in the middle of a busy street deserves an Oscar (I know, in some other universe, maybe that one in which God is a woman).
As for The Tree of Life, I thought I was going to love it. I've never loved Malick to the degree others have (the way he's always so obviously reaching for profundity makes me cringe--boy was I in for it), but I have always admired his grand ambition and immense filmmaking skills. When I heard people were walking out of The Tree of Life saying the film was nonsense, my pretentious, antipopulist self decided I would love it. I actually found the film very funny, with all those exploding stars, primoridial muck, dinosaurs, Brad Pitt (of the rainbow brood) with the infant's foot and that final scene which made me yearn for more films like Last Year at Marienbad. But it's never really all that fun to be laughing when you're not supposed to be. And I found so much of it tedious--Malick pretending to be Spielberg trying to be Tarkovsky--brought to mind once again the lyrics from that great "Hair" song: And I'm a genius genius/I believe in God/And I believe that God/Believes in Terence/That's me that's me. Though I would tell no one it was a film that had to be seen (Bridesmaids on the other hand I would just), I never really wanted to walk out as it was on the whole nice to look at, the boys were wonderful, the music so very heavy duty Christian but still great to hear. Best comments from the blogosphere: "This film was complete and utter self-absorbed masturbation. American faux-angst, faux-reflection, emotionally-thin bullshit … The sighs of boredom, fidgeting and deflated expectation culminated in cinemagoers at the Curzon Soho today leaving with barely the will to live." -Socialsurgeon; "I think in his desperate search to make the perfect transcendental film, Malick is using a bigger and bigger canvas and taking longer and longer to say less and less. There is nothing in this film that isn't intimated with greater subtlety, sadness, and a truer sense of the sublime in his first three films." -Jeromenewton. As a female viewer, I felt almost entirely excluded, women really having no place at all in this film except as a male fantasy of the perfect mother. Always irritating. I did have a great thought though as I was leaving the cinema: If only God were a woman Malick might have made the epic he was hoping for.
Other films I've seen recentlyish:
Source Code: What a great old-fashioned yet au courant sci-fi thriller that made perfect sense in the end and didn't rely on too much schmalz. Concept brilliant--three cheers for the multiverse theory (did you know that William James coined the term?)--acting by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan adorable. Good chemistry. This was everything that other film with Leonardo di Crappio should have been but wasn't (Inception). Loved Vera Farmiga though the trailer for her new film Higher Ground in which she stars and directs has me worried she wants to be Terence Malick. What's with the God theme these days? Please someone make a film in which it's discovered that God is a lesbian.
Hanna: Opening sequence excellent. All down hill after that though the young actress playing Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) was mega watchable. Action scenes went on too long and blended into each other. First time I've seen Cate Blanchett not totally at the top of her game. Tom Hollander great as evil guy.
Pirates of the Carribean: I love Johnny Depp but even with the excellent decision to get rid of the fey Keira Knightly and bring on my heartthrob Penelope Cruz, this was still so very tired even Jack Sparrow seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes open.
Le Quattro Volte: An Italian version of The Tree of Life. An overdose of pretention. I actually should have walked out of this one it was so unbearable, though the detail of the shepherd ingesting the dust off the church floor to help cure his chronic cough was a nice touch.
Random list of films I've seen but haven't devoted a proper blog to with rating @ to @@@@@
The Vagabond (Directed by Raj Kapoor in 1951 when he was just 27, this steamy melodrama represents the birth of Bollywood. The incredible chemistry between Kapoor and his leading lady Nargis is irresistable. And I saw it at MoMA for free. I love New York.) @@@@@
Margin Call (Nothing new here, didn't get my blood boiling at all and the subject--Wall Street greed and arrogance usually does. Some good acting from a great cast but pretty forgetttable. I imagine the play was better.) @@
Young Adult (I think Charlise Theron might be my favorite actress at the moment. She's got talent plus diva quality. This film is one note but she's so fabulous.) @@@@
Shame (a shame, waste of Michael Fassbinder's considerable talents. Carey Mulligan singing New York, New York excruciating and not in the way intended. Plus is that New York? It occured to me while watching that Steve McQueen should watch Pasolini's opus and take notes.) @@
One Day (Help, the accent! Ugh. Anne Hathaway botched this one.) @
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Ryan Gosling, need I say more? Besides, it was really very funny at times. And the casting is just perfect.) @@@@
Ides of March (George Clooney's future may be as a director. This effort was admirable and entertaining. Plausibility a bit stretched but I didn't care much. Besides, Ryan Gosling, need I say more?) @@@@
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Second best film of 2011 for me. Gary Oldman channels Alec Guinness and I love the change of glasses to mark time. BBC series, however, still the best . If you want to read more about the book/film/series two excellent pieces, both in The New Yorker, are Anthony Lane's "I Spy" http://nyr.kr/uXIWBb and David Denby's "We are all Smiley's People" http://nyr.kr/zzS9vr) @@@@@
The Skin I Live In (Best film of 2011 for me--Almodovar pushes the form like no other director. Here he explores the pygmalion myth as only he can.) @@@@@
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (As a good a rendition of the book you'll get but ah, the book. Doesn't really translate to film. Maggie Smith great.) @@@
The Godfather (Hadn't seen it in years but what a flawless film. The horse head was a stroke of genius as was casting Diane Keaton as Al Pacino's wife. Marlon Brando, as always, was sublime.) @@@@@
Nowhere Boy (directed by artist Sam Taylor-Wood and also surprisingly mediocre. Straightforward biopic without any attempt at innovation. HBO would have done it better. Anne Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas saved it from total irrelevance.) @@
The Ghost Writer (directed by Roman Polanski and surprisingly mediocre. Ewan McGregor saved it from total boredom. Hitchcock touches nice but not enough-Ok plane fare.) @@
Frida (directed by Julie Taymor is gorgeous to look at but the script was not up to the visuals. Salma Hayek superb but not oscar material since though crippled her face remains beautiful.)
La Vie en Rose (Incredibly depressing--didn't want to learn so much about the Diva. Cotillard excellent, obvious oscar for portrayal of yet another fallen, defaced woman.
Notes on A Scandal (Thin but Judi Dench is superb. She totally outshines Cate Blanchett. Equation of repressed lesbian stalker with female statuatory rapist interesting. At least Dench didn't turn out to be a serial killer.)
It's Complicated (Perfect plane fare, especially while trying to avoid volcanic ash cloud. I laughed out loud at least twice. Fun to watch Alec Baldwin completely upstage Steve Martin.)
Bulletproof Monk (Not nearly as good as the phenomenal Kung Fu Hustle, but entertaining nonetheless. My 9 yr. old loved it.)
A Serious Man (Seriously boring but then again maybe I just didn't get it 'cause I'm a goy.) @
2012 (Blah disaster movie in which a novelist who sells only 500 copies is the hero and one of the chosen. LOL.) @
Defiance (Casting excellent-Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell-and story excellent--about class and morality among Eastern European Jews during holocaust--but script very mediocre.) @@
Two Loves (I always wonder how films like this one ever get made. No there there. Though Pheonix plays the icky vulnerable male with panache.) @
Inglourious Basterds (Like the kitchen sink after an inedible feast. Worse than a bad Cohen brothers film. Flaccid and unfunny.) @
Valkyrie (Don't bother. Boring, slow, flat. Such a shame as I really loved Singer's Usual Suspects. Cruise's fault no doubt.) -@
The Departed (Solid later Scorsese fare, lots of blood and plot twists but just barely holds together. DiCaprio surprisingly good and I always love Baldwin.) @@@
Word Play (excellent documentary about the NYTimes crossword puzzle geeks. It gave me serious nerd envy.) @@@@
Rachel Getting Married (cast evenly black/white yet black actors get no lines of any significance. Even Anna Deveare Smith only mumbles. Shameful.) @
District 9 (Sci Fi at its best. Philip K. Dick would approve.) @@@@@
American Graffitti (quite experimental and what a young Harrison Ford) @@@@
My Man Godfrey (Depression era romcom with the sublime William Powell and Carole Lombard. All too relevant.) @@@@@
Julia (unlikely thriller made great by uber actress Tilda Swinton) @@@@
The Eyes of Laura Mars (70s fashion thriller with Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones) @@@@@