Well, things have been a little busy in Joeland, finally got some down time to catch up on some more current Oscary movies before we get back to randomness:
My Week with Marilyn
In 1956, Marilyn Monroe went to England to make a romantic comedy called The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, who also directed the picture. Of course, by 1956 Olivier was Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn was pretty much the chairman of the board of sex. As the film tells it, it was not a match made in Film Heaven. MM was trying to be a great actress and was followed everywhere by her film coach Paula Strasberg, wife of the Method guru Lee Strasberg. SLO despised Method Acting. MM was also addicted to pills at this point and in her third doomed marriage to Arthur Miller. To SLO’s great consternation, she was often late to or absent from shooting.
The movie is told from the point of view of Colin Clark, who was the third assistant director (or, as he describes it, a “gofer”) of TPatS. Colin is 23 years old, manor born, but determined to make it on his own and pursue a career in his beloved cinema. He, of course, falls in love with MM. I’ll spare the spoilers and leave the details of how far that goes to your viewing.
Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh are fine as Colin and SLO, but the real star of the piece is Michelle Williams. She doesn’t channel Marilyn, but she perfectly portrays her vulnerability, her pain, and the pressure she must have felt being an icon. The movie is worth seeing for Williams’ performance alone.
As with all biopics, there’s a very good chance that it’s all complete bullshit. MM, SLO, and Miller are all dead so they can’t argue with Colin Clark’s portrayal of them. Miller comes off as over his head at being married to MM. SLO comes off as an insecure brat, in spite of all of his success.
The Prince and the Showgirl was pretty much a flop, but SLO and MM would both go on to better things. One of SLO’s next films was 1960’s The Entertainer, an amazing performance that rejuvenated his career. Sadly, by the 80s he was making drek like Inchon and (the original) Clash of the Titans. He died in 1989. MM’s next movie was the 1959 classic Some Like It Hot, she was great in it. Five years later she was dead, a victim of her pills and her demons.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
Like I said, My Week with Marilyn is worth seeing for Michelle Williams as Marilyn. I’m giving it a…
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My Week with Marilyn is a peccant, uninflective, record of a movie! Michelle Williams is exchanged!!!
The Tree of Life
This is one of the more controversial movies of this past Oscar season, not because of it’s content, but because of what isn’t in it. As in, an explanation of what the point is.
But I loved it. Maybe because I had already heard some of the grumblings and knew not to expect a plot and meaning to be handed to me. Had I watched it without that understanding maybe I would have reacted differently. Remember The Big Chill? There’s a scene where one character is watching a movie on TV, another friend comes in and starts asking questions about the movie: What’s happening? Who’s the bad guy? What did he do? His friend says, “You’re so analytical! Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.”
I thought about that a lot when The Tree of Life was flowing over me. Who really knows what was in Terrence Malick’s mind when he was making it, he is one of our most famously secretive filmmakers. Not very prolific either. In 38 years, he’s made only five movies, so when he releases something you know he thinks it’s pretty important.
There is a story in TToL, Sean Penn plays a man in the present day who is remembering growing up in Waco, TX in the 60s. His father (Brad Pitt) is an ex military man and is very strict with Jack and his two brothers. The father is very bitter about mistakes he has made and the people who have more than he does.
Their mother is played by Jessica Chastain, she is the exact opposite. She is playful and warm with the boys, she encourages them to embrace life. Chastain is amazing in this part, of course it isn’t spelled out, but I believe that she is the titular Tree of Life to her sons. The mother’s warmth and the father’s stern approach are challenged by a tragedy.
The film doesn’t follow a strict narrative. It goes back and forth through time (Not only Jack’s lifetime, but even back to the age of dinosaurs!), through inner and outer space, and features some of the most amazing nature photography you will see anywhere. All of it is in service of the questions that Jack and his mother ask of God:
“Where were you?”
“Who are we to you?”
“You’ll let anything happen. Why should I be good if you aren’t?”
“Why do I do what I hate?” A question directly out of Paul.
Of course the answers to these questions aren’t easy. And they are different for everyone, just as everyone will have a different reaction to this movie. That, I believe, is the point.
You may see it differently, and I hope to hear from others who do, but I think The Tree of Life will live on alongside other films, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, that people will talk about for years and ponder the meaning of. I’m giving it a perfect…
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The Tree of Life is a noninterventional, liked, packaging of a movie! Brad Pitt is shaved!!!