4 Shots From 4 Terrence Malick Films: The New World, To The Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

To be honest, it’s always a good day to do 4 shots from 4 Terrence Malick films but today’s specific inspiration was the acclaim that has greeted Malick’s latest film, A Hidden Life, at Cannes.  Critics are saying that A Hidden Life marks Malick’s “return to greatness.”

Personally, I don’t think Malick had to return because he never left.  Even his more uneven works all have moments of greatness and visual beauty.  These four shots below come from four of Malick’s films that weren’t quite as acclaimed as Days of Heaven or Tree of Life.  These are four films that were not nominated for best picture.  They received mixed reviews.  However, regardless of what the critics may have said at the time of their release, there’s a beauty to all four of them and, watching them today, it’s hard not to feel that their statue will grow as time goes on.  All four of them reveal an artist unlike any other.  All of four of them remind us that Terrence Malick is an important and vibrant cinematic force.

As of right now, I am greatly looking forward to seeing A Hidden Life.  Until that film gets released over here in the U.S., here are….

4 Shots From 4 Terrence Malick Films

The New World (2005, dir by Terrence Malick)

To The Wonder (2012, dir by Terrence Malick)

Knight of Cups (2015, dir by Terrence Malick)

Song to Song (2017, dir by Terrence Malick)

 

Here Are The Nominations From The Houston Film Critics!


This year, Houston proved once again that Texas is better than the upper 48.  In the face of adversity, Texans came together and helped each other out and basically but the rest of America to shame.

Then to top it all off, The Houston Film Critics got together and came up with an intriguing list of the films and performances that they consider to be the best of 2017!

Love you, Houston!

Here are their nominations:

Picture:
The Big Sick
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
Logan
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director:
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

Actor:
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
Andy Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes

Actress:
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Brooklyn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Supporting Actor:
Willem Defoe, “The Florida Project”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Patrick Stewart, “Logan
Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name”

Supporting Actress:
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Dafne Keen, “Logan
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Screenplay:
“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Post,” Elizabeth Hanna and Josh Singer
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Cinematography:
Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Call Me By Your Name,” Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
“Wonder Wheel,” Vittoria Storaro

Animated Film:
“The Breadwinner”
“Coco”
“Despicable Me 3”
The Lego Batman Movie
“Loving Vincent”

Original Score:
Blade Runner 2049,” Ben Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer
“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“The Post,” John Williams
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
War for the Planet of the Apes,” Michael Giacchino

Best Original Song:
“Evermore” (“Beauty and the Beast”)
“I Get Overwhelmed” (“A Ghost Story”)
“Never Forget” (“Murder on the Orient Express”)
“Remember Me” (“Coco”)
“Visions of Gideon” (“Call Me By Your Name”)

Foreign Language Film:
“BPM”
“Blade of the Immortal”
“First They Killed My Father”
“The Square”
“Thelma”

Documentary Feature:
“Faces Places”
“Jane”
“Kedi”
“Step”
“The Work”

Visual Effects:
Blade Runner 2049
“The Shape of Water”
War for the Planet of the Apes

Poster:
Baby Driver
It
“Logan Lucky”
“Mother”
“The Shape of Water”

Texas Independent Film Award:
A Ghost Story
“Mr. Roosevelt”
“Mustang Island”
“The Secret Life of Lance Letscher”
Song to Song

Film Review: Song to Song (dir by Terrence Malick)


You’re watching a movie called Song to Song.  It’s about beautiful people in a beautiful city.

In this case, the city is Austin, Texas.  The people are all involved in the Austin music scene and they’re played by actors like Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, and Cate Blanchett.  A good deal of Song to Song was filmed at the Austin City Limits festival and several real-life musicians appear as themselves, though only Patti Smith is on screen long enough to make much of an impression.  To be honest, both the music and Austin are almost incidental to the film.  Though the movie was sold as an Austin film and it premiered at SXSW, it could have just as easily taken place in Ft. Worth.

The film is made up of short, deliberately obscure shots.  The camera never stops moving, floating over images of sunsets, sunrises, and oddly empty streets.  Because the film was shot with a wide-angle lens, you’re never not aware of the expanse around the characters.  At times, all of those beautiful film stars run the risk of become specks on the landscape, as if the film itself is taunting the characters for thinking that they are more important than nature.

Who are the characters?  It’s not always easy to say.  There are plenty of voice overs but it’s rare that anyone directly states what they’re thinking or who they are.  When the characters speak to each other, they mumble.  The dialogue is a mix of the banal and the portentous, a sure sign of a film that was largely shot without a script.  Eventually, you turn on the captioning so that you can at least understand what everyone’s muttering.

Michael Fassbender plays Cook.  Cook appears to be a music producer but he could just as easily be a businessman who enjoys hanging out with and manipulating aspiring stars.  People seem to know him but nobody seems to be particularly impressed by him.  Cook spends a lot of time standing in front of a pool.  Is it his pool?  Is it his house? It’s hard to say.  Cook is obsessed with control or maybe he isn’t.  Halfway through the film, Fassbender appears to turn into his character from Shame.

Ryan Gosling is BV.  BV appears to be a lyricist, though it’s never made clear what type of songs that he writes.  At one point, you think someone said that he had written a country song but you may have misheard.  BV appears to have an estranged relationship with his dying father.  BV may be a romantic or he may not.  He seems to fall in love easily but he spends just as much time staring at the sky soulfully and suggesting that he has a hard time with commitment.  BV appears to be Cook’s best friend but sometimes, he isn’t.  There’s a random scene where BV accuses Cook of cheating him.  It’s never brought up again.

Rooney Mara is Faye.  Faye contributes most of the voice overs and yet, oddly, you’re never sure who exactly she is.  She appears to be BV’s girlfriend and sometimes, she appears to be Cook’s girlfriend.  Sometimes, she’s in love and then, just as abruptly, she’s not.  She may be a singer or she may be a songwriter.  At one point, she appears to be interviewing Patty Smith so maybe she’s a music journalist.  The film is centered around her but it never makes clear who she is.

Natalie Portman is Rhonda.  Rhonda was a teacher but now she’s a waitress.  She might be religious or she might not.  She might be married to Cook or she might not.  Her mother (Holly Hunter) might be dying or she might not.

And there are other beautful people as well.  Cate Blanchett plays a character named Amanda.  Amanda has a relationship with one of the characters and then vanishes after four scenes.  There’s an intriguing sadness to Blanchett’s performance.  Since the first cut of Song to Song was 8 hours long, you can assume her backstory was left on the cutting room floor.  (And yet strangely, it works that we never know much about who Amanda is.)  Lykke Li shows up, presumably playing herself but maybe not.  Berenice Marlohe and Val Kilmer also have small roles, wandering in and out of the character’s lives.

There’s a lot of wandering in this movie.  The characters wander through their life, stopping only to kiss each other, caress each other, and occasionally stare soulfully into the distance.  The camera seems to wander from scene to scene, stopping to occasionally focus on random details.  Even the film’s timeline seems to wander, as you find yourself looking at Rooney Mara’s forever changing hair and using it as a roadmap in your attempt to understand the film’s story.

“I went through a period when I thought sex had to be violent,” Rooney Mara’s voice over breathlessly explains, “We thought we could just roll and tumble, live from song to song, kiss to kiss.”

As you watch Song to Song, you find yourself both intrigued and annoyed.  This is a Terrence Malick film, after all.  You love movies so, of course, you love Malick.  Even if his recent films have been flawed and self-indulgent, he is a true original.  You want to support him because he’s an artist but, as you watch Song to Song, the emphasis really does seem to be on self-indulgence.  The images are beautiful but the characters are so empty and the voice overs are so incredibly pretentious.  Should you be mad or should you be thankful that, in this time of cinematic blandness, there’s a director still willing to follow his own vision?

At times, Song to Song is brilliant.  There are images in Song to Song that are as beautiful as any that Malick has ever captured.  Sometimes, both the images and the characters are almost too beautiful.  The music business is tough and dirty but all of the images in Song to Song are clean and vibrant.

At times, Song to Song is incredibly annoying.  It’s hard not to suspect that the film would have worked better if Natalie Portman and Rooney Mara had switched roles.  Mara can be an outstanding actress with the right director (just check out her performance in Carol) but, in Song to Song, her natural blandness makes it difficult to take her seriously as whoever she’s supposed to be.  Portman has much less screen time and yet creates an unforgettable character.  Mara is in 75% of the film and yet never seems like an active participant.

At times, the film is annoyingly brilliant.  Malick’s self-indulgence can drive you mad while still leaving you impressed by his commitment to his vision.

And then, other times, the film is brilliantly annoying.  Many directors have mixed overly pretty images with pretentious voice overs but few do so with the panache of Terrence Malick.

Even fans of Terrence Malick, of which I certainly am one, will probably find Song to Song to be his weakest film.  Even compared to films like To The Wonder and Knight of Cups, Song to Song is a slow movie and there are moments that come dangerously close to self-parody.  Unlike Tree of Life, where everything eventually came together in enigmatic poignance, Song to Song often feels like less than the sum of its parts.  And yet, I can’t totally dismiss anything made by Terrence Malick.  Song to Song may be empty but it’s oh so pretty.