REVIEW: To the Wonder

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To the Wonder
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick (screenplay)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem

To the Wonder is the quickest turn-around of the legendary auteur Terrence Malick’s career, coming out a little less than two years after 2011’s The Tree of Life.  For a director who famously took 20 years after 1978’s Days of Heaven to resurface, that is quite a 180.  This is also significant when examining this latest film because, though it contains moments as transcendent and beautiful as anything he’s ever done, those moments are trapped inside many less significant ones.  It doesn’t feel fully formed, and though it’s by no means lazy or even bad, several parts feel out of place and sloppy.

Malick’s camera, aided by the infinitely gifted cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, washes over any landscape with lightness and grace, tilting, panning and maneuvering around endlessly twirling and writhing bodies.  He speaks a language of pure cinema, enhancing each gesture and glance with a swell of music and a matching camera movement, and then using his trademark narration to an almost entirely expressionistic effect.

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And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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Our (Belated) Best Male Performances of the Decade

1. Daniel Day-Lewis- There Will Be Blood– Towering doesn’t even begin to describe Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic deconstruction of the American Dream.  He commands the screen with a ferociousness and method that makes him peerless among other living screen actors.  As Daniel Plainview, he creates a vision of greed as a replacement for love that is ferocious, haunting, and uncompromising.  Though Anderson was the visionary behind the camera, it would not have come to full fruition without the help of Day-Lewis.  Who else could belch the line “I drink your milkshake!” and make it sound like the coming of the apocalypse? Key Scene- In a three hour movie where he appears in every scene, it’s hard to choose one.  In the end, I decided between two confrontations between Plainview and the preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano).  The infamous “milkshake” scene actually takes second place the the excruciating baptism Plainview is ordered to endure to get the land he wants.  Now in Sunday’s arena, he is forced to pay for the sins of his past, namely humiliating the preacher by smacking him around in the dirt.  Now getting the sin slapped out of him and water thrown in his face in front of the whole congregation, Plainview loses that ever-important control.  In a surprising release of emotion, he appears to reach out to the son he abandoned.  Whether he likes it or not,  he’s been gotten to, and there will be… well, you get the idea.

2. Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight– A short-lived career bore many fruits for the late, great Ledger.  His performance in The Dark Knight won him a rare posthumous Oscar, though he would win the award almost any year he was nominated.  Nolan’s realistic retelling of Batman called on a new take for the Clown Prince of Crime, and Ledger answered with a vengeance.  Wielding a smile carved into his face, chipped paint, and mangy hair, he managed to create a definitive image of an already legendary character.  It’s an unforgettable performance that will haunt you forever.  Key Scene- The best scene in the entire movie is when Joker and Batman muse in a grim prison interrogation.  Ledger is terrifyingly real in the scene, laughing  as Bale’s Batman pummels him.  “You have nothing!  Nothing to do with all your strength!” he bellows.  It’s one of the best movie scenes in years thanks to his artistic dedication to this larger-than-life villain.

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