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The Terence Malick Effect

[ 86 ] April 24, 2013 |

This is an interesting essay on the Malick Effect, which can be summed as up people copying Terence Malick by having hands run through grain for effect:

That Green was initially able to pull off this plagiaristic trick is somewhat amazing, given what a careful balance Malick strikes between poetic inquiry and narrative plotting. But as evidenced by Undertow, his third film, even Green found that mimicking Malick posed the threat of reducing the director’s work to just its rudimentary building blocks, a problem that’s also undercut many subsequent copycats. Sean Penn (who co-starred in both The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life) performed a pale impersonation with his directorial job on 2007′s Into the Wild, wielding pseudo-Malick landscape cinematography and accompanying voice-over blabber in a thoroughly blunt, leaden manner. Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford gussies up its Malick-isms (meditative and mournful narration over naturally lit vistas of the West and its existentially wounded characters) with smeary visual expressionism that makes the film play, in large part, like a beautiful cover song. However, at least Jesse James has a clear sense of itself; last year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, on the other hand, comes off as the nature-is-ugly-yet-magical stepchild of George Washington, a third-hand piece of recycling made by someone who knows the moves but has none of the mysterious soul. By the time John Hillcoat — an accomplished director whose The Proposition also commingles natural beauty, violence, and religious turmoil — helmed this Levis ad, it was clear that, for many, Malick had become merely a collection of tricks and devices, the simple sum of various parts. Just ask Zach Snyder, whose initial Man of Steel teaser trailer, with its portentous narration, soaring music, and shots of sun-dappled butterflies and clotheslines swaying in the breeze, awkwardly evokes what a superhero blockbuster helmed by a second-rate Malick might resemble.

Unfortunately, Malick himself has moved closer to self-parody with each passing movie in his latter phase of actually finishing films. The brilliant The Thin Red Line devolved into the decent The New World which then devolved further into the largely unwatchable The Tree of Life. The reviews on To The Wonder do not sound promising, although I suppose I’ll watch it. Unfortunately, with The Tree of Life, Malick fully gave into his most self-indulgent impulses (more dinosaurs and galaxy shots in a movie ostensibly about growing up in the 1950s please!). It’s too bad because Malick is indeed so brilliant and does have so much to offer other filmmakers in terms of style, even if they misuse his methods for their own self-indulgent ends.

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  1. I consider myself a card-carrying film snob, but Malick’s work–at least since her returned to film 20 years after Badlands and Days of Heaven, both of which are tremendous movies–has never fully engaged me. I thought Thin Red Line was pretty good, but not great. The New World bored me. Tree of Life‘s recreation of the worldview of a boy growing up in a family with brothers the 1950s was so truthful and wise and real that it more than made for the metaphysical pondering (which many of my co-religionists thought profound, but I found a distraction–I understood why it was there, but it was unnecessary, as the story of the boy growing up already contained everything that needed to be said). The reviews for To the Wonder are, as you say, pretty bad, and I can’t say I have any pressing desire to get out to the film to prove them wrong.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      There was the core of a really good movie in Tree of Life, but he needed an editor like no one has ever needed an editor before.

      • Randy Paul says:

        I would make that argument about virtually every Paul Thomas Anderson film.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          I was just thinking about Anderson the other day and wondering if anyone will remember his films fondly. I mean, I like all of them more or less. And I’d argue that There Will Be Blood is pretty close to great. But Magnolia is already irrelevant, The Master flat did not work, and Punch-Drunk Love is minor. Boogie Nights, not sure. Need to see it again. I might actually like Hard Eight better than any of them.

          • Randy Paul says:

            In every one of his films, as I’m watching it, I get to a certain point where I say to myself “now would be a good time to wrap it up” and it goes on for another forty-five minutes.

          • Decrease Mather says:

            I was just thinking about Anderson the other day and wondering if anyone will remember his films fondly.

            And with this post, Eric Loomis looses all credibility.

          • Lev says:

            Boogie Nights is perfectly fine. The scene in Alfred Molina’s apartment is brilliant. But the rest is good but not remarkable. I think that movie happened to come out right before pornography rapidly became part of mainstream culture, probably helped that along actually, so there was sort of a transgressive charge to it at the time that was very hip and generated buzz. At this point, though, it’s a well-made film about a dysfunctional surrogate family that’s very heavily influenced by Robert Altman. The only real novel aspect to it was the subject matter, which now is not too novel.

          • TribalistMeathead says:

            BN is pretty much the only one I can rewatch over and over again. Magnolia is great if you just accept the fact that it so thoroughly ripped off Short Cuts and move on, but Julianne Moore’s scene in the drugstore is probably one of the worst of her career. PDL would’ve faded into obscurity were it not for the whole taking-one-of-Adam-Sandler’s-idiot-manchild-characters-and-putting-him-in-the-real-world thing. I haven’t seen Hard Eight in years and need to rewatch.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          I now see that Anderson is next directing an adaptation of Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.

          Calling All Editors! Calling All Editors!

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I would make that argument about virtually every Paul Thomas Anderson film.

          I can’t quite agree. Boogie Nights in nearly perfect, and Hard Eight and (at a lower level of achievement) Punch Drunk Love are tight and well-executed. There Will Be Blood is pretty amazing, although it had more duff scenes.

          The Master and especially Magnolia, I’ll give you.

          • nixnutz says:

            At the end of The Master I was unsure whether what I’d just seen was very good, and didn’t really feel like thinking or talking about it, but the experience sitting there watching it was as enjoyable as any theater-going experience I’ve had in many years.

            I’ll add that my mom brought me to see Days of Heaven when I was 10 or 11 which may have given me a taste for that mode of letting films wash over me without much understanding or probing.

          • Randy Paul says:

            Well I did ay virtually.

          • Randy Paul says:

            And for the record, the fact that he I feel he needed an aggressive editor on some of his films doesn’t mean that the films aren’t good. There Will Be Blood was excellent, but there were placs where I felt it dragged as did Boogie Nights.

  2. snarkout says:

    I’m sure this makes me a Philistine, but I think it’s all downhill after “Badlands”. (That’s quite a height to descend from, don’t get me wrong; I think “The Thin Red Line” and “Days of Heaven” are beautiful, but “Badlands” just slays me.)

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I have nothing but positive things to say about both Badlands and Days of Heaven.

      • Billmon says:

        The final scene of Days of Heaven – where Linda runs away from the school, to strains of Camille Saint Saens’s The Aquarium – is still one of my all time favorites. Like something out of John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy.

      • kgus says:

        Saw Days when it came out; after half an hour I thought “this is one of best films I’ve ever seen,” after an hour it was “one of the best American films,” after the end it was “one of the best this year.”

        The seeds of all you dislike in his later work is there in Days. (Which reminds me of my favorite movie review ever — Alistair Cooke on Mr, Deeds Goes to Town.)

    • Jay B. says:

      I’m totally with you. I thought the Thin Red Line was ponderous (nature is despoiled by war!), but Badlands was a great film.

  3. Decrease Mather says:

    I thought the Malick Effect was the up-the-nostril shot, perfected in Days of Heaven (and, yes, I love the movie).

    But Malick shouldn’t bear the full burden of these American film-making sins (nature/violence/beauty, excess narration, meditative mournfulness).

  4. Lev says:

    I mostly liked The Tree Of Life, but I think Malick’s style is best appreciated in 1.5 hour increments. His first two were about that length and were just about perfect, but since the ’70s it seems like the over/under for his movies stands at two hours and forty-five minutes. That makes for a lot of nature shots and whispered narration. And I’m not sure his style works with complicated stories with multiple plots, the simpler the better in my opinion.

    Then again, I can’t say I’ve even disliked any of his movies. He knows exactly how to make his style work, even in movies where that style was propping the rest of it up. To me, though, Robert Redford is the worst Malick plagiarist because he took all the wrong lessons from Malick. Shame, too, because Ordinary People is an excellent film. He should have done a few more like that.

    • Jberardi says:

      I mostly liked The Tree Of Life, but I think Malick’s style is best appreciated in 1.5 hour increments. His first two were about that length and were just about perfect, but since the ’70s it seems like the over/under for his movies stands at two hours and forty-five minutes. That makes for a lot of nature shots and whispered narration. And I’m not sure his style works with complicated stories with multiple plots, the simpler the better in my opinion.

      As long as we’re discussion the Malick influence on Assassination of Jesse James, it might be worth noting that Andrew Dominic’s original cut of that movie was four hours long.

      That I’d actually like to see that version speaks to the depths of my Roger Deakins fetish…

  5. Pinko Punko says:

    The quote does not motivate me to want to read the essay. The quote indicates that Mallick somehow has a trademark on an entire genre- let’s just call it beautiful cinematography. This seems almost meaningless. First, directors are not allowed to influence other directors- how many films are enjoyable even when someone is working in an aesthetic pioneered or promoted by another director? Because TAOJJBTCRF was too beautiful it was just a pale imitation of Mallick? So where does Kurosawa’s Siberia movie come in? Was that copying Mallick? What about “Jeremiah Johnson”? THere were a lot of mountains in that movie and not a lot of talking.

    I consider “Assassination” to be superior to Thin Red Line (which was amazing but uneven) because to me it was already showing Mallick being mannered and indulgent at times, and could have used editing. Some consider The New World to be superior to Thin Red Line, and there are advocates for The Tree of Life. The quote and the rest of the post don’t even make me want to discuss these films. Of course aesthetic judgement is subjective and people have their own opinions. That being said, the assertion-heavy argument here is off putting.

    Magnolia is irrelevant probably in the same way every film in that genre is irrelevant. Doesn’t make it a bad film. Punch Drunk Love was minor, but excellent. How many films of recent years are not minor? Films always fade, except when they grow stronger with time. Either of those things takes time, and for most films for them to grow in estimation they maybe need to be not appreciated widely at their release. Similarly for films to fade in our view, they generally need to be praised widely at the time of release and then reevaluated. These things take time. The longer the history of cinema, the harder it is for films to climb into the pantheon.

    But is all this as annoying to meas Matthew Yglesias blatantly trolling the world?

    Take your pick (“OK that other countries have different safety standards”):

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/24/international_factory_safety.html

    Or the Economics of Game of Thrones (no link- I would love to attack this trope but SEK did the same thing about military strategy in GoT, and maybe that is all fun and games but when some cobag brings Econ 101 into it- I have had it).

    • Vance Maverick says:

      “Beautiful cinematography” does an injustice to the specific virtues of Days of Heaven, as with the pioneer farmers playing football in the golden hour. It’s been a long time since I saw it, but I remember it as a gamble that a whole movie could be hung on such a very 1970s hippy-dippy kind of “beautiful”. And a largely successful gamble at that! But as limited by that premise as was L’Annee Derniere a Marienbad….

      • Pinko Punko says:

        I love 70s Mallick, though the DVR ate Days of Heaven before I could watch it, so that means I love the hell out of Badlands. I have seen Badlands a number of times, twice on the big screen. Phenomenal.
        I found the dismissal of “Assassination of Jesse James…” as a Mallick carbon copy trite in the excerpt. It is a Mallick copy of what I think people want Mallick movies (at least the last few) to be, but aren’t actually. How many Mallick movies are Mallick movies, if most of his oeuvre is him descending into his own stereotype- and was Dominik worse or better than that stereotype. If the number of universally agreed Mallick masterpieces is two, and the themes are so broad as to be contemplative integration of the natural world with major questions about human nature, where exactly does the pee circle owned by Mallick end and general cinematic language begin?

    • James E. Powell says:

      But is all this as annoying to me as Matthew Yglesias blatantly trolling the world?

      In other words, never mind that shit, here comes Mongo!

    • brewmn says:

      Or the Economics of Game of Thrones (no link- I would love to attack this trope…

      Check out Crooked Timber.

  6. Brian says:

    So good that someone finally picked up Noone’s philistine mantle. Now there’s some self indulgence, if not abuse.

  7. partisan says:

    It does seem that the history of Malick’s reputation is one of critics dropping off from his bandwagon. Starting off with Pauline Kael as a minority dissent against Badlands, then with many critics finding Days of Heaven pretty but insubstantial, then with Charles Taylor quite unimpressed with The Thin Red Line, and Stuart Klawans thinking a war against fascism shouldn’t be full of pantheist gust, we then see Jonathan Rosenbaum being impressed with The New World, and his two most recent films finding new critics. Having said all that, I’m inclined to find The Tree of Life the best movie made in the past 10 years or so. I haven’t seen Magnolia since 2000, but it would hard to think of another American movie in the last quarter century as rich or ambitious.

  8. Ronan says:

    Yeah ‘the tree of life’ is abysmal, but I always thought ‘the new world’ was very underrated, as far as i can remember it..just thought I’d share

    • Ronan says:

      Though he could have done without casting Colin Farrell in it

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Colin Farrell was a really bad casting choice.

        • Bill says:

          For all his virtues (and I think The Tree of Life was mostly tremendous), Malick has always made terrible casting choices

        • witless chum says:

          I felt like The New World’s problem was that, like a lot of movies that concern Native Americans, you got a much better sense of the culture of the English and Jamestown than you did of the Powhatan Confederacy. The girl playing Pocahontas was good, but Malick didn’t give her much to play. The movie seems to be trying to consider the clash and melding of two cultures, but it doesn’t have any clear sense of one of them.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

            For all it’s faults (way too long, casting, and the point you mention which I hadn’t thought of before but agree with) it was still a visually stunning film. The lengthy sequence at the beginning where the English are arriving and sailing up the rivers amidst the pristine backdrop was breathtaking.

        • firefall says:

          As far as I can tell, Colin Farrell is always a terrible casting choice … unless you’re looking for an actor whose range seems to extend from anxious to constipated and anxious

          • Ronan says:

            I think he has the potential to be a decent comic actor (going solely on In Bruges, which I really liked)..or probably more accurately, he does a good job of playing himself..in general though, I tend to agree

  9. cpinva says:

    Badlands was pretty darn good, Days of Heaven a visually stunning, thematically ho-hum film. The New World proved anyone can do bad disney, along with disney. i have special contempt for the The New World, being a native virginian, and amateur historian of the commonwealth. at least we all knew the disney version was, by definition, going to be ridiculous. there is zero historical evidence for any romantic involvement, between john smith and pocahontas, especially considering the fact that smith was a 27 year-old man, and pocahontas was probably 12 at the time. they were probably fond of each other, in a kind of (maybe) big brother-little sister way, but that was it. did malick do any actual historical research for this movie, or just watch disney’s pocahontas movies?

    • cpinva says:

      the sad part about The New World, and all the other “founding” movies, is that the story of the jamestown colony is pretty damn compelling drama, all by its lone self, with no need for artistic license to make it so. if you’ve ever had occasion to go to the original colony site, and envision it as the first colonists would have seen it, upon first landing, it’s easy to imagine both the excitement, and probably paralyzing fear that many of them probably felt. it didn’t get better, for a long time. to say these guys had balls is a massive understatement.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I’m not so sure I would dismiss the idea of a 27 year old man and a 12 year old girl in a politically created relationship so out of hand.

      As an environmental historian, one of my minor problems with The New World is that the corn the Indians were eating was way too large. Those were modern ear sizes probably 5 times the size of what people actually had in 1607. This complaint is of course ridiculous but still.

      • cpinva says:

        “I’m not so sure I would dismiss the idea of a 27 year old man and a 12 year old girl in a politically created relationship so out of hand.”

        again, there is no historic basis, for the assumption of any kind of romantic relationship, between john smith and pocahontas. no doubt, there was a “relationship” between the two, but not of the type popularized by both disney and malick. her father, who wanted to get rid of of the colonists, was certainly not going to let his daughter marry one, which would have conferred a legitimacy to the whole colony (because hey, they’re now family.) that he sure didn’t want. she may well have had a young girl crush on smith, who has been described as “dashing”, and he no doubt took advantage of that for, as you say, political purposes. and, he probably was fond of her.

        “As an environmental historian, one of my minor problems with The New World is that the corn the Indians were eating was way too large.”

        especially since, at the time, there was a substantial drought going on, which in turn hurt the colonists, in their attempts to grow their own food. those ears would have been much smaller, both because they hadn’t yet been genetically modified, and they were grown in drought strained circumstances. good call. this shows, again, a lack of attention to detail on malick’s part.

  10. Ragging on Tree of Life for its Creation sequences is like dismissing 2001 because “I thought this was a space adventure sci-fi movie, what are all these monkeys doing here?”

    • Kurzleg says:

      Yes. Placing the archetypal 50′s family in the context of that “creation” story was a way of helping us place our own lives in that context and inviting us to consider what that might mean. I didn’t find it distracting at all.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I’m happy to say bad things about 2001 if you’d like.

      • Watch it, Erik. 2001: A Space Odyssey is cinematic scripture.

        The comparison between 2001 and Tree of Life fall about, I think, in the sense that Malick’s metaphysical ponderings were, in my view, astonishingly literal. One dinosaur arbitrarily snuffing out the life or another? The resurrection of the dead symbolized as walking through a door? 2001 made use of a visual language for the depiction of man’s confrontation with the infinite which conveyed a truly opaque mystery, but didn’t dwell upon that opaqueness, instead moving forward. Malick’s camera, by contrast, dwelt at length on particular moments, underlining the message, then underlining it again.

        As I said, and as Erik agreed, there’s a wonderful story at the heart of Tree of Life, one that was expertly and elliptically sketched out, and was full of beauty and meaning. I admire the balls of a director who was thought he could use the story as a platform for talking about time and eternity, but it just didn’t work for me.

      • Okay, that screwed up. Let me try it again:

        Watch it, Erik. 2001: A Space Odyssey is cinematic scripture.

        The comparison between 2001 and Tree of Life fall out, I think, in the sense that Malick’s metaphysical ponderings were, in my view, astonishingly literal. One dinosaur arbitrarily snuffing out the life or another? The resurrection of the dead symbolized as walking through a door? 2001 made use of a visual language for the depiction of man’s confrontation with the infinite which conveyed a truly opaque mystery, but didn’t dwell upon that opaqueness, instead moving forward. Malick’s camera, by contrast, dwelt at length on particular moments, underlining the message, then underlining it again.

        As I said, and as Erik agreed, there’s a wonderful story at the heart of Tree of Life, one that was expertly and elliptically sketched out, and was full of beauty and meaning. I admire the balls of a director who was thought he could use the story as a platform for talking about time and eternity, but it just didn’t work for me.

        • Kurzleg says:

          As I said, and as Erik agreed, there’s a wonderful story at the heart of Tree of Life, one that was expertly and elliptically sketched out, and was full of beauty and meaning. I admire the balls of a director who was thought he could use the story as a platform for talking about time and eternity, but it just didn’t work for me.

          This summarizes my feelings on the TOL pretty well. The Sean Penn stuff was flat-out annoying, but I actually liked the “creation” portions. Also, the dinosaur scene you mention I found pretty powerful.

  11. Adam Roberts says:

    I watched Thin Red Line once and thought ‘pretty in parts, but, Jeez Terrence: Show don’t tell! Too much pretentious voiceover! Too much meandery nonsense!’ Then I didn’t see it for a while. Then I watched it again, and I found myself thinking: ‘this is much better than I remember it being.’ I’ve now watched it half a dozen times, and I would put it in my top five all-time films.

    I watched Tree of Life and thought: well that was a bunch of deliberately mystifying neocon wank. So, then, remembering my earlier lesson, I watched it again. I was wrong! Turns out it’s achingly boring deliberately mystifying neocon wank.

    • Kurzleg says:

      I think “Thin Red Line” suffered because it came out after “Saving Private Ryan.” I think the average film-goer was expecting “SVP in the Pacific” and was surprised when that turned out not to be the case.

      • cpinva says:

        i honestly can’t remember which film i saw first, ryan or line, both of which i watched on HBO. i do recall thinking “Thin Red Line” came far closer to being a close to realistic portrayal (in the Full Metal Jacket, vs Platoon vein), than Saving Private Ryan did.

        maybe i’m prejudiced, because my dad’s a retired marine, and i grew up with all the south pacific/korean war stuff.

        • Kurzleg says:

          SVP came first in theaters and had that visual and audio onslaught of the D-Day landing that really packed at punch to kick off the film. I don’t recall TRL having anything remotely similar, and if it did, it suffered from not being the first to portray that type of scenario.

        • The first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan are quite possibly the best thing Steven Spielberg has ever done. The rest of the movie was good, but nothing special.

          • Kurzleg says:

            And it’s that portion that set the bar so high for subsequent war movies since, in a way, it honored the bravery of those who served in WWII by more or less accurately portraying the chaos and grim reality of combat that confronted them. From what I can recall – I’ve only seen it once or twice – TRL doesn’t similarly honor the soldiers and doesn’t have anything so viscerally impacting. People may have been willing to accept a war film that sought to examine different themes, but Malick’s film isn’t focused enough to deliver that sort of experience.

        • firefall says:

          It’s also quite faithful to the book, at least the feel of it, even if the mystical viewpoint gets transferred to a different character.

    • Ronan says:

      Who am I? Is this bird a ghost? I see you, when I dream. I dream under a broad canvas. Who am I? Am I a ghost? Are you my brother? Oh my soul

    • witless chum says:

      I watched Thin Red Line once and thought ‘pretty in parts, but, Jeez Terrence: Show don’t tell! Too much pretentious voiceover! Too much meandery nonsense!’ Then I didn’t see it for a while. Then I watched it again, and I found myself thinking: ‘this is much better than I remember it being.’ I’ve now watched it half a dozen times, and I would put it in my top five all-time films.

      I had the exact opposite experience. The first time I watched it, having not seen a Malick movie before, I was blown away by the combination of beauty and the amazingly well-staged World War II combat. Plus it was a World War II movie that didn’t maunder on about The Good War or pretend that the U.S. fought the thing because we were outraged by the Holocaust.

      Watching it again, years later, I couldn’t get past the voiceovers. But still, it makes me shake my head, whearas anything past the beach in Saving Private Ryan just makes me angry to see Spielberg’s cornball nonsense applied to World War II.

      “Earn it”? The fuck, Spielberg? That just seems trite to the point of being disrespectful, given the pointlessness and random horrific absurdity of industrial war on an individual scale. Basically, Kurt Vonnegut got to me first and I can’t stand to hear that kind of stuff in World War II movies.

      I like to think Inglorious Basterds was made entirely to taunt people who ate up the last two hours of Saving Private Ryan.

      • FMguru says:

        The twenty minute D-Day sequence in SPR might be the best twenty minutes ever put to film, it’s that good. And I have a lot of love for the confused final battle, especially the way it starts with the Good Guys hatching a Desperate Plan that is So Crazy It Just Might Work…only to have it collapse completely and turn into a bloodbath about 30 seconds in.

        But the middle portion is dreadful – long, disjointed, full of scenes cribbed from other movies including a number of Spielberg’s own (giant nazi tank from Last Crusade, rumbling ripples in the water from Jurassic Park, etc.) and a whole bunch of talky dorm-floor nonsense that no actual soldier in WWII would have ever said. Plus, the wrapper story is just appalling and shows Spielberg’s utter contempt for his audience (who apparently couldn’t be trusted to Get It and needed an aged Ryan breaking down weeping and begging his wife to tell him he’d lived a worthy life in order to drive the point of the film home).

        It’s a mixed bag, but the good parts are really, REALLY good. And it’s been hugely, almost overpoweringly, influential on the way we remember and interpret WWII ever since it came out.

        • John F says:

          Plus, the wrapper story is just appalling and shows Spielberg’s utter contempt for his audience (who apparently couldn’t be trusted to Get It and needed an aged Ryan breaking down weeping and begging his wife to tell him he’d lived a worthy life in order to drive the point of the film home).

          The only part of the wrapper story that didn’t suck was the intro right before the fadeout, where you here a voice say in the background, looking at all the grave markers, “I didn’t now there were so many…” as the camera panned up to the sky.

          The end part of the wrapper story was just a horrendously foul note… like when he had Oskar Schindler break down and cry at the end of Schindler’s list.

          • ajay says:

            The only part of the wrapper story that didn’t suck was the intro right before the fadeout, where you here a voice say in the background, looking at all the grave markers, “I didn’t know there were so many…”

            e dietro le venìa sì lunga tratta
            di gente, ch’i’ non averei creduto
            che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.

      • Kurzleg says:

        “Earn it”? The fuck, Spielberg? That just seems trite to the point of being disrespectful, given the pointlessness and random horrific absurdity of industrial war on an individual scale.

        I had the same problem. It almost seemed uttered out of spite, which doesn’t put the best light things.

        • witless chum says:

          If Hanks’ character had been spiteful and bitter at Ryan at the end, y’know, I’d understand.

          The plot of Saving Private Ryan wouldn’t have been out of place in Catch 22, really. GIs march through Normandy randomly looking for one guy for propaganda purposes to give him his ticket out of the war and he refuses it, getting most of them killed. You could have played that story as black comedy.

          • Kurzleg says:

            If you view the story purely on the surface level, sure. But Ryan is really a metaphorical character, so to me the spitefulness seems out of place. It just seems strange to try to honor the selfless sacrifice of these soldiers with your movie and then tack that on towards the end. It’s practically a “You ungrateful kids!” moment.

  12. Kurzleg says:

    Speaking of Malick, I ran across this yesterday (there’s also a good story about Adrien Brody getting completely cut out of the film):

    The Thin Red Line (1998)—“Pvt. Peale”

    So John C. Reilly got it and had to spend six months in Australia. Then he had, like, two lines in that movie, too, if I remember correctly. I had a six-month-old baby at the time, which I wasn’t really happy about the prospect of leaving for six months. Then they called me five months later and said, “Boone, do you want to go to Australia?” I’m like, “What do you mean, what for?” “Well, for this guy Peale.” I looked at my script that I dug out from somewhere, and it was a really good little bit, and I said sure.
    I went over there for three weeks and shot, like, seven scenes, and that really good scene that I thought I was going over there to do never made it into the movie. The little pieces of me here and there from seven improvised scenes [did].

  13. TribalistMeathead says:

    Didn’t Malick write and/or direct some Sopranos eps? Or am I going crazy?

  14. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    I re-watched Thin Red Line on Erik’s repeated recommendation, and still think it isnt much of a movie.

    • SamR says:

      I’ve only watched it once, but that was more than enough. “What’s this life for?” Ugh. Rivaled by Crash in terms of being a terrible movie with a ton of critical acclaim.

  15. Randy Paul says:

    I like the Thin Red Line if for no other reason than to test the installation of home theater systems. When the shells are being launched against the Japanese positions on the hillsides, it positively thunders – and the bullets whiz right past your years from the rear channels to the front chanels.

    War porn to be sure, but it is dramatic.

  16. Randy Paul says:

    And for the record, I would still prefer to watch a failure by Terence Malick than most of the dreck that comes out these days.

  17. Mike McKegney says:

    Erik I recommend you see “To the Wonder” – it’s more modest and more successful than “Tree of life”. No creation-of-the-universe and NO dinosaurs!

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