This is the movie that broke the camel’s back, to mangle the metaphor [BTW, I won't be giving it a thorough review here, plenty has been written already - for my opinion of the movie, read on]. I dislike DVDs, generally. Oh, they were great in 1990. They were okay in 2000. But this is the third millennium now for Christ’s sake people and we have Netflix, so why do we still need DVDs? Well, greedy studios claiming to bear the torch for the livelihood of movie-makers, but who are really just looking out for their profits are the ultimate culprit really, but reality is boring (so none other than Stanley Kubrick himself said – in greater or lesser words – I’m really too lazy to look up the exact quote right now…). The interesting thing is that, for someone with, shall we say, eclectic tastes, such as myself, Netflix and its ginormous database of old and forgotten films is a Godsend that almost obsoletes the DVD.
Almost. I can do without a lot of films that fall into a no-man’s-land category of mine wherein I want to watch it, but not badly enough to actually do anything about it if it’s not available for instant streaming on Netflix. One recent surprise was The Karate Kid (the original, not that unnecessary remake which, in all fairness, I haven’t seen yet). I wanted to watch it, but it wasn’t available for streaming. Ho Hum. Okay, I’ll live. I say surprise because, not to ruin the timeline of this story I’m telling you but, I eventually ended up adding the 1 at a time DVD plan to my Netflix account and, lo and behold, shortly thereafter, The Karate Kid was available to stream! Oh well… [It has held up very well over the years I must say - didn't really feel dated at all, despite looking quite a bit dated. The story was as fresh and exciting as ever, and that's the point and the reason I don't feel there was any need served by remaking it... But I digress. Back to the main action --]
The list of these movies-I-can-live-without-but-really-would-like-to-see [hereafter referred to as these movies(!)] steadily grew over time, but I didn’t get too upset (picture me calm and sedate, if you can!) and it didn’t topple over like a shoddy tower, raining debris on the populace and causing panic in the streets below. There were, and are, plenty of ripe pickings available for streaming to fill my available hours and then some, and all was right with the world.
Until The Tree of Life came along and caused me to open my wallet one more time to the greedy, hungry corporate world that eats and eats and pukes up and eats some more. I couldn’t find any indication that The Tree of Life was coming to streaming any time soon, and the thought of going on watching films and occasionally writing about them, without having seen this film, became more and more unbearable. It was a completely untenable position. My hands were tied and my options limited. I had foresworn against the purchase of DVDs as part of my master plan to, well, see a lot of movies without having to pay a lot, frankly. The way I see it, studios are holding off on releasing to sites like Netflix the streaming rights to their movies because they figure they will lose money because people won’t buy a DVD of a movie they can stream from the comfort of their bed or couch, right? Well, I says to hell with them! – I ain’t buying their DVDs anyway and neither should you. So if no one is buying their stupid DVDs anyway, maybe they’ll reconsider the situation regarding the streaming rights… [Anybody care to join me on this one?] Let’ s be real – who wants a pile of DVDs, that maybe we even opened to watch once, cluttering up our homes when we can just stream the movies when we feel like watching them? It’s in our best interests – screw the studio big wigs and all those poor people they claim will be put out of work by the streaming revolution. Things change – keep up or move out of the way. At least I don’t pirate, right?
So, anyways, I saw that Netflix would enable me to watch The Tree of Life. All I would have to do is fork over another eight bucks a month. I’m wealthy, I can afford it, so I breaks down and signs up for the DVD plan along with my streaming plan and first on the list – they call it a queue because they can – Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. And all was right with the world again :)
So, what do I think of it? I loved it, although I did have to watch it twice just to put the pieces back together again. I plan on watching it at least once more before I send that bad boy back to the great red envelop in the big blue box. It seemed very Space Odyssey-ish at times with all the space imagery and glorious classical music, but the characters were warmer and more vibrant than any character from that Kubrick masterpiece. I couldn’t get enough of the way the scenes floated seamlessly back and forth through time, leaving me scratching my head more than a few times trying to piece the thing together.
I no longer want to see movies where there is a clear, concise temporal flow from one event to another!
Oh no, for now on I want my movies to scramble the sequence up completely and then explain almost nothing directly – just show, no tell. I’m addicted. It’s a high for me and I don’t know what I’m going to do in the meantime until filmmakers start making their movies interesting and hypnotic like this. Crash threw a lot together in an interesting and compelling way, but nothing I can think of just scrambled the eggs like The Tree of Life – a complete success, in my view. Imagine if I wrote a post where all the sentences were mangled together and out of order. It would just be a plain mess. [Shut up, ye of little reading comprehension.] But with film, and this film in particular, it works. We can process the emotional journey on all the different levels and from all the various perspectives as we are lead along, guided by our primal senses: sight, and sound, and also by way of empathy. I could easily recall my own youth watching this film and thought of my own brother throughout, grateful for his continued presence among us.
To sum up:
Great music, stunning images and camera work, characters we love as family, superb acting, just plain win. Masterpiece.