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Can’t Be At Cannes 2011, Tuesday Edition

Can’t Be At Cannes 2011, Tuesday Edition (photo)

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It sucks not being at the Cannes Film Festival. To keep you up-to-speed on all the latest developments with the minimum amount of pain and jealousy, we’ll be providing frequent roundups of all the biggest news and best reviews. This is the third; for additional installments, along with all our Cannes coverage, can be found here.

Drew McWeeny’s lead to his review of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” on HitFix is a perfect summary of the press corps’ reaction to the long-awaited, deified-before-it-was-even-released film:

“This is what happens when we turn our filmmakers into religious figures.”

Indeed, critical response to Malick’s fifth film has divided Cannes into true believers and atheists. McWeeny falls into the later category, describing “Tree of Life” as “a pretty crushing disappointment” that’s “a beautiful, at times infuriating, undeniably indulgent new effort that comes dangerously close to self-parody.” He is not alone either. J. Hoberman from The Village Voice wrote one of the earliest and harshest critiques of the film so far:

“‘The Tree of Life’ has plenty of incident but, despite Pitt’s memorably bullying performance, very little human interest. (The best bit has a bunch of boys launching a frog in a bottle rocket.) Malick’s craftsmanship may be everywhere evident but, however flashy and intermittently beautiful, his filmmaking can be shockingly banal. Inspired scenes (a toddler relating to a baby) or shots (a mega close-up of a can kicked out of the frame) arrive as morsels floating in the movie’s primeval soup… ‘The Tree of Life’ is less profound than profoundly eccentric, while too solemn, pompous, and genteel to be truly crazy. The movie disengages the mind, even as it dulls the senses.”

All the the religious metaphors are particularly apt here because the film itself is apparently something of a cinematic prayer. In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis says Malick “seeks to affirm the beauty of a world in which God is present in all things.” She also gives us more of a plot description without encroaching into too many specifics.

“Running 2 hours 18 minutes, it is a personal, impressionistic work — beautiful, nonlinear, trippy, flawed — that unfolds largely in fragmented flashbacks, tracing not only the arc of a single life but also that of creation itself. As the title suggests, Mr. Malick has nothing less in mind than the origin of life, a beginning (or Beginning) in which vaporous swirls, gurgling lava and fiery explosions give way to the sight of a meteor hitting a planet (presumably Earth), an explosive vision that Mr. Malick audaciously, riskily, joins with the image of a pregnant woman’s belly.”

Given the intensity of people’s excitement, vitriol was inevitable. Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir has one of the more refreshingly measured responses to the film, which includes an acknowledgement that “‘Tree of Life’ was bid up way too high in pre-Cannes speculation, and was bound to disappoint many people.” He also addresses the film’s parallels to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which has been a point of comparison in many early reviews:

“One of the many reasons to admire Malick is that he is far less reliant than other major directors on other people’s movies. I mean, I’m sure he’s seen plenty of them, but he never seems obsessed with quoting obscure genre films or sequences out of Eisenstein or Michael Powell, or making work aimed at fellow directors and their legions of fans and followers. So the fact that ‘The Tree of Life’ clearly has a relationship to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ feels both deliberate and carefully considered. You could almost call it a remake or a reverse-engineered version of Kubrick’s massive head-trip, one in which humanity begins in space and then returns to Earth. I’d put it this way: If the cosmic astronaut God-baby from the end of ‘2001’ came back to earth and made a movie, this would be it.”

As O’Hehir also notes, it’s not just the film itself that’s being fiercely debated. Immediately following the screening, the conversation shifted to exactly how the press reacted to the film. O’Hehir says that first press screening was met “by a small but lustful chorus of booing… which was then drowned out by applause.” Hoberman’s piece mentions boos, as does David Fear’s in Time Out New York: “A symphony of loud boos, emanating from somewhere along the right side of the Théâtre Lumière’s orchestra section. A round of shushing followed, then more boos, then sporadic applause.” McWeeny, though tweeted earlier today his own perspective on the crowd’s response: “When people say “Cannes booed ‘The Tree Of Life,” that’s not true. I was in that screening. ONE GUY at Cannes booed the movie.”

Having attended controversial screenings at the Lumiere Theatre in Cannes, I can say from experience that there is often a surprising amount of disagreement about crowd reactions to movies. After “Antichrist”‘s first Cannes screening, people compared what they heard — smatterings of boos or applause or laughter — like they were examining the Zapruder film for a second gunman. And because that theater is so large, where you sit can influence the sort of reaction you hear (or have, I would argue, but that’s a conversation for another time).

Let’s get back to McWeeny’s intro, because I think he summed the whole thing up so well. People revere Terrence Malick in a way I find slightly crazy; I spoke with several colleagues in recent months who told me, in all seriousness, that they had already pencilled in “The Tree of Life” as their favorite movie of the year. With that attitude, anything less than an absolutely masterpiece becomes a disaster.

After you wait as feverishly for a film as these Malick partisans have for “The Tree of Life,” there’s only a few possible reactions: genuine love; convincing yourself you loved it because you’ve expended so much energy in anticipation (see: many geek’s initial reaction to “Star Wars: Episode I”); or disappointment at the film not living up to expectations. Though it’s slightly soul-crushing not to get to be at the Cannes Film Festival, I’m kind of glad I’m getting to see “Tree of Life” after this first wave of backlash. Now that the discourse has evened out I get to see “Tree of Life” as a movie, not the movie.

Back with more tomorrow because, contrary to what Twitter might have you believe, other films have screened at Cannes in the last few days.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…