Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's Watch: The Tree of Life

For tonight, we at Planet Blue have something very special.  We have Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life", well known for being the most pretentious movie of 2011.  Some people smell Oscar noms for this thing, even though it apparently makes no sense on any level and it nothing but a giant soup of symbolism.  Now, I love weird movies (check out my "End of Evangelion" image), but I also hate weird art films.  Just this summer, I had the worst theatre experience of my entire life sitting in "Another Earth", perhaps the most boring film ever made.  Terrence Malick is well-known for being a darling of pretentious film makers, he's in that circle of untouchable art house directors like Lars von Trier* or David Lynch**.  I happen to like my movies to be good, to have stories, to have characters, and to make sense.  But limiting art to being good is fascism, we live in a postmodern age!  Irony is the new good.  The more pretentious a movie can be, the better, apparently.

"The Tree of Life" is movie about everything, so says the press, everything from 1950s family issues to dinosaurs.  Its almost certainly getting nominated for best picture, I keep hearing it listed as one of the best movies of 2011, but I also keep hearing its beyond horrible.  Like, if you actual like watching movies, its supposed to be really bad.  What kind of great movie would not be enjoyable for somebody who watches movies?  Do these people even know what the Hell they're talking about!?  It sounds like the worst movie ever made, and everybody loves it?

So my film nerve is telling me that "The Tree of Life" is going to be bad.  And bad films, strangely are fun in a lot of ways.  I actually enjoy being angry, its fun.  One of my favorite films of 2011 is - no joke - "Twilight 4".  Since SOPA still is not in effect just yet, I'm able to watch Terrence Malick's creation on the Internet entirely for free and probably illegally.  I would never dare pay money to see this movie though, Terrence Malick doesn't need my support.  So I'm going to watch this movie, and in real time write down the notes for everybody to enjoy.  This way, my dear readers can journey with me through the Seven Circle of Arthouse Gibberish.  I have no idea what my reaction will be, and I have no idea where we're going.  Here there be dragons, get prepared.

So let us begin:

00:48 - The movie begins with a Bible quote.  This is actually a bad sign, unless your film is a Western.  And its from the Book of Job, everybody's favorite.

03:13 - Opening narration now.  Over scenes of a vaguely happy suburban family headed by Brad Pitt, a woman (the mother presumably) narrates about 'the Way of Nature' and 'the Way of Grace'.  Nature folks are total dicks, unable to be happy and endlessly selfish, Grace folks are vaguely wonderful and wise and holy.  Think 'the needs of the many outway the needs of the few', I guess.  I'm guessing we just got the main symbolism of the movie handed to us.  I am thankful, because maybe with these key rules I'll be able to follow the Malick philosophy.  By the way, I have a funny feeling people are more complicated than just 'selfish' and 'vaguely positive'.

07:00 - Bad news comes in the mail.  Momma freaks out and calls Papa Pitt, because presumably one of their sons is dead.  All this is said without dialog, and I'm going to admit one thing:  Terrence Malick can make a very pretty movie.  We now learn this film takes place in 1950s, because of Brad Pitt's massively dorky glasses with crew-cut combo.  And even though previously there were random shots of cows and stuff, the unnamed family lives in the suburbs.  Odd.

08:18 - The first line of true dialog is spoken by Papa Pitt.  Momma is still narrating, and her narration is getting on my nerves.  She's whispering.  Now, my computer has excellent speakers, but I can't get the sound up high enough to understand whatever the Hell she's saying.  Let's hope its not important.

11:14 - The movie still doesn't seem to have started.  Like, we haven't had anything I would call a "scene" yet.  Its all been very pretty and very sad, but now we got a black-out, which I hope means that we'll enter into the main plot... if Terrence Malick can allow plots.  Plots might be passe, who knows?

11:51 - Its Sean Penn!  Hi, Sean Penn!

13:45 - We're in the present day now.  Sean Penn lives with his wife in a super modern house where they apparently live in quiet desperation because they never talk to each other.  Sean Penn is the future-version of one of Brad Pitt's kids, and he's remember his older bro who died in the prologue.  He lights a candle on the kitchen table and stares at it.  Still no plot to speak of.

14:32 - Good news, the first conversation just took place.  Unfortunately I couldn't hear what was said because everybody is whispering, but I give Terrence Malick a point for the attempt.  Sean Penn is at work in a very visually-interesting office building and he looks over some architectural plans with some dude.  And......scene!  Now to move on.  I see this movie is no hurry to get anywhere.  When you got nowhere to go, take the scenic route, I guess.

16:30 - I am just about ready to diagnose Terrence Malick with ADD.  None of the shots in this movie make any sense.  Its like 'oo! That's a pretty picture, let's film that!'  But what does any of it mean?  Half the shots are establishing shots... when we've already established that Sean Penn is in an office!  I get it!  I bet there are like twelve hours worth of random images that Terrence Malick shot for "The Tree of Life" sitting in a bin someplace.  Worse, the dialog is too soft and the scenes (what few there actually are), trail off mid-sentence.  The only real information I learned:  Sean Penn is apologizing to his dad for something.  And he likes to remember his brothers.

17:18 - Sean Penn went to the beach... somehow.  And now he's back in his office... somehow.  He's now narrating the movie, saying cryptic things like "how did I lose it?" and "forgotten...".  Your guess is as good as mine.  Maybe Sean Penn did acid before coming to work today, that would explain all the flash backs and random trips to pretty nature areas.  He's also whispering, so I can barely understand what he's saying.  I fear this is going to last the whole movie.

19:44 - Blackout again.  Nothing is happening.  Every time the movie blacks out, we see some fiery... thing.  I don't know what its supposed to be yet.  So far this whole movie has been nothing but random shots and characters whispering random things.  Tragically Terrence Malick isn't awesome enough to have Sean Penn say "Dune... Arrakis... desert planet..." or "The Spice must flow...".   No joke, every character talks like that.

24:48 - Terrence Malick ultimately gives up pretending to make a movie at all, and instead just shows us a lot of random images of nebulas and space stuff.  Unfortunately, since I'm not currently baked, none of this makes any sense to me on any level, and it could not feel more random.  At first there's some lovely opera music, so I could at least pretend this was a weird music video, but then Malick stops putting in even that much work and the last two minutes have been silent and boring as Hell.  So I filled in the void personally by doing a one-man a capella version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra".  "2001:  A Space Odyssey" was two hours of exactly this kind of crap, one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

Note:  I need a beer.

27:50 - So that was three minutes of nature images.  This is not a movie, its a joke.  I hate to say it, but Terrence Malick has to be pulling my leg here.  None of these shots have anything to do with anything!  What am I watching?  You have to giggle at the sheer audacity of this guy.  A studio paid Malick millions and millions of dollars to put together basically a moving photography collection, and then they pretended to make a movie.  Its all an act - a lazy act at that one, to make really pretentious people watch it, suffer through it, and make themselves think they're so intellectual because they were able to "enjoy" not-movies like this.  All in all, I gotta say, they deserve this movie.  If your head is so far up your ass that you think this is a movie, you should watch nothing but "The Tree of Life".  Personally, I wouldn't force "The Tree of Life" on my worst enemies, but I'm a nice guy.  Still, purely in terms of that natural admiration you have for the biggest scam artists and scoundrels on Earth, I gotta say, Terrence Malick is an evil genius.

We're done pretending this movie has any kind of message, or actually means anything, its clearly bullshit.

31:08 - I'm getting ready to bail on this... Oh wait, DINOSAUR!!  Dinosaurs!  That explains why this piece of nothingness got good reviews!  I'm already feeling happier.

31:35 - Nope, the dinosaur is gone, as quickly as it came.  Back to random scenes of... things.  Basically this is all a rip-off of "Koyaanisqatsi", a 1982 film that used the same style but for a purpose.  It was meant to show the impact of human civilization with nothing but analytical shots of our own society.  "Koyaanisqatsi" is like watching America through the eyes of an alien scientist, trying to figure out humanity and our own insanity, its an interesting movie.  Hell, even "2001" is at least an exhibition of mankind's future steps out into the stars, or something.  Terrence Malick has no such purpose, as far as I can, its all very pretty, but what's the point?  What does any of this have to do with either Brad Pitt or Sean Penn's plotline?  Who gives a shit??

32:25 - Wait, a new dinosaur!  I hope he eats somebody soon, maybe Sean Penn.  This movie does have a chance of being good if it tries to create some kind of storyline using the dinosaurs, instead of just fucking wasting my time.  You can make a pretty damn interesting movie about dinosaurs, even without dialog.  Maybe be a wordless nature documentary on the day of a velociraptor, I don't know.  I'm just trying to help Terrence Malick out here.  "The Tree of Life" doesn't need to be a total turd.

34:40 - We're back in space again.  Its a total turd.  Can I at least get some music, please?

34:45 - Thanks, Terence.  Can I call you 'Terry'?  I think I will.

36:43 - Sweet salvation, Sean Penn is back!  Maybe that fifteen minute interlude of nothing was just a weird misstep.  Maybe the rest of the movie will actually be about... something.  And maybe Tifa from "Final Fantasy VII" will pop out of my PlayStation and marry me.  About equal chances of happening.

50:00 - Well... hello again.  The last fifteen minutes have been a seemingly endless montage about Brad Pitt and his wife having kids and raising them... slowly.  Its like watching the home videos of a family you've never met.  If you've never done that, then you're a smarter person than me, because this movie is horribly boring.  Actually its the most horribly boring movie ever.  I still got over an hour of this thing!  This is going to be a controversial call, but I gotta say it, I'd rather watch Michael Bay's movies than this.  I know Michael Bay is a hack and he's everything wrong with cinema but... he at least makes movies.  I don't know what this is...  It isn't anything.  Nothing is happening!  I can at least get offended at Michael Bay, there's something to work with there.  "The Tree of Life" is nothing.  Fifty minutes into this so-called "movie" and there hasn't been one scene.  Not one.

This may be one of the worst movies ever made.  And the critics loved it.

53:54 - Well, holy shit!  I just saw two scenes!  Remember scenes?  When characters interacted and had dialog and moved forward a story?  Remember back in the good old days when there were characters with emotions and had things to say to each other?  Dialog, what an innovation!  Terry finally did, because I just saw two.  I know scenes with dialog are hard to make, and Terry's fans don't want him to work hard and actually make a movie, but come on!  We people who like movies to be movies should get least get little scraps of something.

So here are the scenes:  Brad Pitt and his family ate dinner, and then Brad Pitt said goodnight to his son.  During both of these scenes, I guess Brad Pitt was supposed to be unlikable and overly strict, but I didn't see much of a bad person in him.  Everybody else seems to be a bit uncomfortable though.  This is miles ahead of the first fifty minutes of this movie.  So now, fifty minutes in, "The Tree of Life" finally started.  The first part was just all bullshit.

54:40 - Nope, spoke too soon.  Back to weird shit.  Momma is floating by the tree, all kinds of random meaningless shots.  I hate this movie.  We're not even halfway done.

60:33 - Through a montage (what else) we learn about Brad Pitt's character.  He wanted to be a musician, and instead works in a 50s job of some kind.  He also plays a mean organ, which reminds of me the Final Boss of "Final Fantasy VI".  Nobuo Uematsu basically wrote a symphony for the final battle there, it was incredible.  The entire suite of music is easily the man's masterpiece, a stunning composition for what is ultimately just a video game.  The level of dedication and love for such a "minor" medium stands out.  Video games aren't loved by avante garde art critics that love shit like "The Tree of Life", nobody is going to list Uematsu among the best composers ever because he did video game music.  But his work speaks for itself.  It sounds like you're ascending into heaven... only to reach the most foul demon the series had yet created.  "Final Fantasy VI" is incredible, its the little details that make the whole thing.  Some people might consider those musical talents wasted on a video game, but they're full of shit.   But every note of Uematsu's composition has more beauty and love in it than this entire film, which is just a fraud.

Its so bad, I'm talking about "Final Fantasy VI".  I don't want to be watching this movie anymore.  Name any thing, I would do it, just to not watch this movie.

66:25 - Brad Pitt tries to teach his kids to fight.  I wish my dad had done this with me before I got my ass kicked a few times in high school and had to learn with my blood oozing out of my broken lip.  However, for some reason this is like the worst thing in the world in the viewpoint of this movie, and the kids are total pussies about it.  The kids keep on glaring at Brad Pitt too, but then sometimes they play with him.  I don't know.  Still, nothing is happening.

72:19 - A kid drowned at the pool, Brad Pitt tried to save him.  It really says something for Terry's brilliant filmmaking skills that I thought it was one of the sons for about three minutes.  These characters really leave an impression.  Now we're back to these same boring montage with whispering narration this whole movie has always been.  I miss the dinosaurs.  I have no idea why there were in this thing, but they at least were dinosaurs.

You know what this movie needs?  A sad clown flipping a pancake.  It would make about as much sense as anything else.  But good news!  We're past the halfway mark!  Thank god!

81:57- Over an hour into this movie, I finally found something I like.  Brad Pitt is at the dinner table and says to his kid:  "for the next half hour, don't speak unless you have something important to say".  That's awesome.  I hate everybody in this movie, by the way.  I know that's a monstrous thing to say to your son, but these characters have it coming for being so boring.  Later in the scene, Brad Pitt gets pissed off, when the kid, of course, talks.  He has a tempter tantrum, he fights with his wife, its awesome.  I hope Brad Pitt kills them all with a hatchet.  Of course, I don't understand why he doesn't want the kid to talk, nobody ever talks!!  This is like a fucking silent film!

85:40 - Brad Pitt goes a trip, the rest of the family celebrates his absence.  They mock him behind his back, they frolic in the fields, they could not be more happy to see him gone.  And since Brad Pitt is the only character in this movie, and thus my favorite, they come off as a little bit despicable.  Not to mention I'm pretty sure those kids are fucking their mom.  At this point, incest would only improve this movie.

And will they stop fucking whispering!  JESUS CHRIST!  Any sane person would have turned this movie off long ago, but well... I don't know.  Its for the blog, I suffer for my art.  Art is pain.  And since this movie is apparently art, I should further inspire Terrence Malick by punching him really hard in the face.

100:00 - As an experiment, I skipped ten minutes further into the movie to see if anything of importance might happened during that time.  This is supposed to test if every moment in this bloated Holocaust of an art film is needed.  In a real movie, lots of things would happen in ten minutes, and missing it would mean losing major plot points and scenes.  "The Tree of Life" does not have scenes, and does not have plot points, so I think this will be fine.  Hilariously, I first see a shot of random nature, which is unsurprising considering this movie.

105:00 - Nope, I didn't miss anything.  The story is still as slow as ever.  Brad Pitt keeps getting more angry as the film goes by, so he has my sympathies.  My own grip on reality is breaking as this movie continues.  By the end I'll probably strangle the first living thing I see.  Brad Pitt and I are tandem souls.  We both don't want to be involved in this movie any longer, we're stick of these fucking kids, and we hate the awful turn our lives have taken.

What did I do to deserve "The Tree of Life"?  What have done to bring this upon me?  I gotta make a change, I can't keep living like this.  Where did it all go wrong?  I could have starred at a wall for the last one-hundred and five minutes and been equally entertained.

115:00 - Nothing happened for the last ten minutes.  Who cares?  But in "Dragon Quest VI", it turns out that the king of Somnus was actually a woman!  A woman who might be my mom!  See, I found the Mirror of Ra and brought it to the king, and he looks into it, and boom!  Gender bender!  And also, the game's resident Satan is actually the King of Somnus, somehow transformed.  This game is very strange, there are a lot of issues about dreams and dual-worlds.  This is certainly the most shocking twist a Dragon Quest game has yet created.

Yeah, I know I should be watching the movie, but literally nothing is happening!  Its just things... on screen.  They don't connect, they don't mean anything.  Brad Pitt lost his job, that happened, I guess.  Why watch this movie when I have a DS in front of me?  This whole movie could have been five minutes long - and that's keeping the dinosaurs.

And there's twenty minutes left.  I can't feel my brain...

125:00 - i am a Bluehighwind and i am a badass.  i watch movies for fun and make fun of smartiepants like terry malice.  people lik it wen i go crazy and get stupid for the site.  i used to be smrt but now its gone.  please kill me.

i want people 2 lik me.  i want to make them lauf and b my frend.  i am so sorry i watched this movie, it is so awful and awful awful and awful and awful and awful.

please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

131:08 - Its over.  The ending totally did not explain anything.  Basically all the movie was a giant overwrought metaphor about how our parents' dual personalities come together to shape our lives, or something.  The kid explained it all in a narration, so the whole movie could have just been that one speech.  Not that it matters, the ending makes no sense.  Of course it wouldn't make sense!  This movie was just thrown together out of random shots to begin with, Terry couldn't have even bothered to write a story.  The most mystery he makes in his fake movie, the more pretentious people will think its deep.  Even for a symbolic art film, this movie is intolerably long.  It didn't need to be over two hours long, it didn't need to be even ten minutes long.  This movie was horrible.

I'm feeling better.  The last ten minutes were again random images that might mean something in Terry's head.  But who cares?  Movies are a method of expression, you can tell a story, you can leave a profound impression in people's mind.  But Terry didn't do that.  He just babbled to himself for an extricating length of time.  Maybe this movie was so bad that it literally drove everybody who saw it into gibbering buffoons, so they wrote a positive review.  For now, I just skip ahead thirty seconds to see if anything interesting will happen.  And big surprise!  It doesn't.  Nothing interesting ever happens in this movie!

In all honestly, I don't want to meet the people who like movies like this.  They must be the worst people on Earth.  What do they eat?  People who like this movie don't eat food like I do, they must eat only calcified tree bark.  They don't breathe air, they breathe the gas that seeps out of leather tanning plants.  They don't drink water, they drink bacon grease mixed with donkey sweat.  And they don't have sex, they just kinda rub against velvet furniture for an hour while humming atonally.  What is this species of humanoid that is so close to man?  They are the true enigma.  Terrence Malick is just a classic con-man taking their money and making awful movies.  I can respect that.  As for his "fans", they are disasters.  Walking wretches.  And if you let them talk long enough, they'll probably infect you with the virus too.  The only way to solve the damage this movie is doing to the human race is to grab a shotgun and kill off the zombies.  We must fight for our freedom as human beings.  Movies like this must be stopped.

(Okay, maybe that's taking it a bit far... but this movie is seriously bad.  Don't kill its fans with shotguns, but please, do break any copy of it that you find.  Do them a favor.  If you see this movie in somebody's DVD collection, just destroy it for them.  Don't ask if its okay, just do it.  If they never talk to you again, it will be worth it, you're doing them the best service a friend can do.)

136:05 - It takes a special movie to have end credits that are exactly as entertaining and thought-provoking as the actual content of the film.  A bad movie.  "The Tree of Life" is a disaster.  I have never seen a movie this bad before.  And its not funny.  There's no enjoyment to be found out of watching it.  Maybe if you're a critic online, and you have a blog, you can at least enjoy the movie because it lets you write really silly things and go all-out against it.  But, as for just a regular viewer, for anybody who simply likes watching movies, "The Tree of Life" is hideously boring.  You could do anything else with your life, anything at all, and have more fun.  Hell, you could stage a better movie in your mind just by slamming your head against a wall until you pass out.  The visions you see will be more coherent, more entertaining, and better quality works of art than this... thing.

When you make a movie worse than Transformers, you've accomplished something.  This is beyond horrible.  I am out of words.  Name a movie, any movie at all, and I'd watch that before "The Tree of Life".  There is nothing in this world that is a worse experience.  I could not have imagined it would be this bad.  I am sorry to have seen it.

* Easily one of the worst directors working today.  The Cinema Snob said it best:  "Lars von Trier is a piece of shit."

** Oh look, another terrible storyteller!  David Lynch is really hit or miss.  When we wants to make sense, his movies will be okay like "Blue Velvet".  When he doesn't, they'll just be infuriating, like "Mulholland Drive", which has the single worst kick-in-the-balls ending of any movie ever.


  1. It's all right, Blue. I will lauf and b your friend. With a review this lively, how could anyone not!
    I'm not sure what posesses a man to put himself under this sort of duress, but I'm sure glad you have it. This has to be the entertaining thing I've seen all year.

  2. Oh god you poor man heres a internet hug for your troubles.

    -The 1 & only Uzuki

  3. Seriously, thank you. Because this was a hard movie to sit through. Maybe there was a deep message of some kind, but Terry really blew his chances for me to take this movie seriously after the fifteen minute rip-off of 2001 sequence. And after that... its so boring. There's nothing here.

    I needed that hug.

  4. If you want to see a movie about dinosaurs, try Umasou. It's anime and it hasn't been dubbed as far as I know, but it's still a great watch.

  5. oh god, that sounded like what Team Ico is for videogames, but at least they back their shit up with decent gameplay.
    I feel sorry for you Blue.