Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Films and Fish UPDATE

UDATE: Tree of Life and Fish

First, thanks to those who made donations. The Bear will be getting emails out, but has been under the weather. Next, a new movie you might enjoy very much: Tree of Life.

Tree of Life

"There are two ways in life. The way of nature, and the way of grace."

You know you're in for something different when the first fourteen minutes show the creation of the universe and the formation of the world. There is even a significant encounter between two dinosaurs. It is lovely, with both flowing, abstract lights, then more concrete Hubble-inspired images. followed by volcanoes, trees, and finally, a beach. "Where were you?" a woman's voice asks as the universe emerges, echoing God's question of Job?

The film stars Brad Pitt as a tough, but loving father, and a radiant Jessica Chastain [corrected; how could the Bear have typed "Lang?"] as an idealized mother. It is set in 1956, when the two brothers (whose story this is) play at running through the clouds of DDT from the mosquito abatement truck. This is an example of the slices of life that comprise this film.

A sense of unspoken regrets and innocence at risk hangs over the film. But it is really a slow meditation on law and grace. The story unfolds in vignettes, rather than a linear plot.

Director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have fashioned a work that can only be described as visually perfect. The way they film Jessica Chastain -- possibly the most talented and versatile actress now working -- is breathtaking. They turn her into an angel, even as she remains planted firmly in this world as a mother. That alone is reason to see it. You can't help but love her, and it is likely you will never forget the magical way she is filmed.

As mentioned above, this is a slow paced movie with a running time of 2 hr and 19 min. Sometimes it's the little things that are significant, so the viewer has to stay engaged. There are no big payoffs, but, rather, a cumulation of clues. It is a bit challenging. In fact, you might say it is a "love it or hate it" movie. The Bear loves it for it's stunning and memorable visuals, its questions that are not always answered, it's overarching theme of grace, and Jessica Chastian's performance. Brad Pitt is completely believable in a somewhat less sympathetic role.

If there's a jarring element, it's the brief appearance of Sean Penn, the older of the two boys, now grown, looking dissatisfied. The very end may be uplifting for some, but it felt a bit silly to the Bear. Even so, these flaws are not enough to spoil the experience. 

It was nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Director, Best Cinematographer, and Best Film, plus it won numerous other awards, many recognizing Lubezki's unparalleled cinematography.

The Bear gives it 5/5 fish. The trailer gives a fair taste of the film.

The Bear has subscribed to Hulu. It is a good source of older classics such as were mentioned about in the Great Catholic Movies article. Seems worth ten bucks a month. He's watched Ikiru, Tokyo Story, the Passion of Joan of Arc, and Au Revoir Les Infants. All fantastic movies you should try to see, and won't find them streaming at Netflix or Amazon. (And thanks for the great recommendations!)

Then he sprung for the the cheapest Netflix DVD plan at five bucks, because that's the only way he can see a lot of films, like Calvary (2014) with Brendan Gleeson. The problem is, at the moment the Bear seems not to own a DVD player or a television. And his nice little Macbook doesn't play DVDs. It doesn't even have so much as a USB port.

But the Bear is inspired by the story of Fr. Jorge Bergoglio's record player. He showed his faith by buying Aqualung back in 1971 before he had a record player. He is confident he will be able to resolve his technical difficulties.

A Discrete Bit About the Salmon

The "extras" in the Bear's life are largely made possible by your kind support.

With all the worthy causes out there, it's hard for a disreputable, washed up old circus Bear on a small military disability pension to stake a claim on your sympathy. The Bear can't even play the ol' "Without your help, SCB will have to shut down," card. If they cut off the broadband, the Bear will trundle off to Panera to broadcast his ephemeris. As we say in the circus, "The show must go on." (Usually after some calamity of ursine origin.)

But it would be a lie if the Bear implied that the long association between performance and reward does not persist. Trick, fish. Trick, fish. He's conditioned. It's nice to get salmon once in awhile. So, if you really enjoy this ephemeris, and have the means, please consider kicking in ten or fifteen bucks worth of salmon. Or less. Even a couple of bucks makes the Bear happy.

The Bear was happy to get salmon from someone new today. It seems like the same very few folks are making donations. Thanks to you, the Bear's patrons -- you know who you are -- very much. And whether you toss the Bear a salmon or not, thanks to all his readers. They also donate who only sit and read. And comment.

The Bear believes he does something unique here. It is indeed a circus where you never know what you're going to find, although mordant humor is frequent. "Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward." -- Carol Channing.

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