Badlands (1973)

badlands1Starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint, Gary Littlejohn, John Carter

Directed by Terrence Malick

Expectations: Low, but very curious.


Badlands may be the debut film of Terrence Malick, but it was much closer to a modern Malick film than I had expected. It’s not quite so experimental and detached as either The Tree of Life or The Thin Red Line, but it is pretty damn experimental and detached. It defies genre classification because where you might expect a thrilling cross-country chase, Malick instead chooses to have his characters sit around a lot, enjoying nature and reading the paper. That’s OK, all films don’t have to be similar and derivative, but it does make Badlands a bit baffling from a traditional narrative standpoint. Finally seeing it sheds some light on why many are so obsessed with Malick, though; he’s one of the most singular and unique filmmakers ever to play the game. I give him credit for knowing exactly what he wants and being able to deliver it, but I can’t say that I enjoy the end results all that much.

This is easily the most narrative-driven Malick film I’ve seen, but it’s doesn’t exactly feel narrative driven. Things happen, leading to other things happening, but where that would traditionally constitute a plot, in Badlands it doesn’t really. It’s much more organic and free-flowing, like a dreamy slice of life, playing out almost like a tortured, realistic fantasy. The basics are that a 15-year-old girl named Holly (Sissy Spacek) lives with her distant father that never really loved her (or at least never showed it much). One day she meets a 25-year-old ruffian, Kit (Martin Sheen), who sweeps her off her feet with his bad-boy charm and his cool car. They manage to sneak around without her father knowing for a while, but when he does find out, he doesn’t take too kindly to it. One thing leads to another, and soon Kit and Holly are racing down the road in search of a place to hideout and get away from it all.

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The Tree of Life (2011)

This collage poster is such a true representation of this film.

Starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan

Directed by Terrence Malick

Expectations: Low. I don’t consider myself a Malick fan. I hated The Thin Red Line so much that it took fourteen years to even consider watching another of his films.

Within the first few minutes of The Tree of Life, I knew exactly how I’d feel about it when I arrived at the ending. I’ve only seen one Malick film prior to this, The Thin Red Line, and I thought it was an unintelligible mess. I was a teenager on a full diet of Hong Kong action films though, so lately I’ve thought that a re-watch as a thoughtful adult would reveal a better film. Cue the release of Malick’s latest film The Tree of Life, allowing me to give him another shot without the pain of re-watching something I previously despised. I knew I was in for a bad ride though, when only a few minutes into the film I got the same, confused feeling I had all those years ago in a cinema watching The Thin Red Line, wondering how the images on-screen were supposed to coalesce into meaning.

The Tree of Life‘s plot isn’t really one to bang out into a single paragraph at first glance, but on reflection there isn’t much of a plot. There’s also no real scenes in the classic sense. Or dialogue. The Tree of Life is probably the most high-profile experimental film of all time. It all opens with the death of Brad Pitt & Jessica Chastain’s kid, one of their three boys. Which one we don’t know, or if we do, I missed it. We then connect with Sean Penn, another of their children, now all grown up. Penn thinks back to his childhood and before you know it, we’re watching a nearly fifteen minute sequence depicting the creation of the universe before we jump into the real film at Penn’s character’s birth.

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From Around the Web… (11/6/11) Tree of Life Edition

In an effort to increase the regularity in which I visit other blogger’s websites, here’s a collection of awesome posts from awesome websites around the web.

This week is special though, as I have seen one of the most divisive films of the year, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. While my review will be up later in the week, I thought this week’s From Around the Web… would be a great place to showcase a bunch of other reviews from, well, around the web. And for the full Tree of Life effect, you should whisper-read only pieces of these reviews to yourself. Trust me, they’ll be more powerful that way.

The Tree of Life reviews (in no particular order):

Cut the Crap Movie Reviews
Anomalous Material
The Matinee
Cinema Sights
Bitchin’ Film Reviews
Marshall and the Movies
Paragraph Film Reviews
The M0vie Blog
Big Thoughts from a Small Mind
GMan Reviews
John Likes Movies

And finally, a piece of Tree of Life humor that is spot-on brilliant.
Check it out at: Green People Soup

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