Dear Lovely Treeks,
I don't want to leave our tree house. But that is the great thing about the Internet. I can still visit you guys any time I want!
Dennis, you wrote in your beautiful latest: "This past year I discovered that I have faith, if you will, in my ability to see what’s in front of me, to put less stock in mythology and predigested interpretation, be it applied to matters of art or the spirit. And I still think there’s room for faith in the movies too. "
What a wonderful concept. It's a fun challenge, isn't it, to come to all of these movies as fresh as we can, while still, of course, filtering them through our own life experiences. That's what the movies are all about. Stories are projected up onto the giant screen. Audiences gather in the dark (or they sit in their homes watching), and while, of course, they see the story up there, they also see parts of themselves, their own stories, dreams, memories, reflections, regrets. I had what can only be described as a profound experience, watching both Melancholia and Tree of Life this year, and it is difficult to talk about because it was so profound (although you all have done wonderful jobs articulating it. Jason and Steven, your words on the creation sequence in Tree of Life gave me goosebumps!) Both films provided different types of transcendence, but all I know is, while I was watching them I was somehow catapulted out of "Self" and into another realm entirely.
I was not fully normal (well, I am never fully normal) for a couple of hours after seeing both films. After seeing Melancholia at a screening room in the middle of Times Square, I emerged into the rain, dazed and dazzled by the crowds around me. I was in a private huge space of my own, and yet felt somehow connected to the everyday throngs jostling through the streets. I didn't have an umbrella. I hunched my head down and walked to the bus, and I am lucky I didn't get run over by a cab, I was so far elsewhere in my mind. I treasure experiences like that and I was lucky, I had two of them this year in the movie theatre. Both films are also films I continue to visit in my mind. They have woven themselves into the fabric of my thinking. Out of nowhere, I will remember Kirsten Dunst running in slow-mo through the woods in her wedding dress. Or I will think of all of those flame-filled balloons being set off over the lawn, one of the most beautiful images in the film.
Out of nowhere I will remember Brad Pitt's chunky tough hands clamped down on his son's neck, and will think of my own father, how much I love him, how much I miss him. I wrote in my review of Tree of Life that those childhood sequences are filmed and edited in the way that memories actually work. It's a collage, it's sense-based (memories come to us through the five senses), and it's not linear. The same images repeat, although with different focus, different angles. I did not grow up in Texas in the 1950s, but that was irrelevant. The film gave me a vast amount of space to project my own life up there, my own memories, and there were moments when I thought watching it, "Yes. Yes. That is just what Memory is like." I can't think of another film, off the top of my head, that nails the ephemeral fleeting and yet powerful feeling of memory so accurately. It wasn't just beautiful to look at. It rocked me a bit.
When it comes to your box office challenge, Dennis, I come up a bit cold. The majority of my movie-viewing is done at home, and very few are current releases. I can barely keep up with my Dana Andrews obsession, my Joseph Cotten obsession, and now, my Elvis Presley obsession, let alone all of the movies released in any given year.
In looking back over my viewing for the year, however, I do want to recommend Cold Weather, a film that is pretty near perfect. After doing the festival circuit of 2010, it got its release here in New York in February of 2011. It is the third feature by director Aaron Katz. It tells the story of a brother and sister (Doug and Gail) in Portland. Doug had been going to get a degree in forensic science but he dropped out of college and moved home to work in an ice plant. He is a bit aimless, which may set up the expectation that this may be just another independent film featuring aimless kids talking about life and the world over endless cups of coffee. But Aaron Katz is up to something else. Doug is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. He loves the books. He gets together with an old girlfriend for coffee, and she seems ... weird. Like she might be hiding something. Soon after that, she disappears. Nobody knows what happened to her. And aimless Doug (played beautifully and simply by Cris Lankenau) suddenly finds himself in the middle of a real-life mystery. He ropes in a colleague at the ice plant, Carlos (Raúl Castillo), who is also a DJ and a Trekkie. Carlos becomes the Watson to Doug's Sherlock.
My review of this odd lovely little film describes my passion for it. Once the mystery comes into play, you think - because you have seen so many crime movies - that you know how it is going to go. There will be shootouts and tense car chases. People will hide in closets. Secrets will be revealed. None of that occurs. What a pleasure it was to watch events unfold and to have no idea what was going to happen next! Cold Weather is not an ironic wink about genre films. Aaron Katz had been working on a script about a brother and sister, because that relationship fascinated him and he felt that movies don't often portray it accurately or well. At the very same time, Katz was becoming obsessed with the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, so he decided to throw that into the mix and see what would happen. Cold Weather actually is a mystery. The film has it both ways: it is a genre film, and it is a comment on the beauty of genre films. It is also a beautifully shot tender independent film, about the wary love between a young-adult brother and sister. There's a magic to Cold Weather. It's moody, somber, suddenly funny, and has a great ear for the cadences of how young people talk to each other. In the middle of a tense moment, Carlos says desperately to Doug, “Dude, you know about these kinds of things.” Doug asks, “What kinds of things?” “Mysteries, man.”
Cold Weather is one of the gems of the year.
Sheila O'Malley is a playwright, actress and freelance writer who blogs with passion at The Sheila Variations.
TREE HOUSE #16: FAITH LOST AND FOUND
TREE HOUSE #15: MALICK'S GOD, CORNISH'S MONSTERS
TREE HOUSE #14: ACADEMY LEADERS
TREE HOUSE #13: SPIRITS AND INFLUENCES
TREE HOUSE #12: THE MOVIES MUST MOVE US
TREE HOUSE #11: REVOLUTION AND SHOW BUSINESS
TREE HOUSE #10: MESSAGE FROM THE MANAGEMENT
TREE HOUSE #9: WHERE'S MARTIN YAN WHEN YOU REALLY NEED HIM?
TREE HOUSE #8: RARIFIED REACHES
TREE HOUSE #7: BOMBAST, BIG BUDGETS, BREAKFAST BURRITOS
TREE HOUSE POST #6: DISCOVERY THROUGH A SECOND LOOK
TREE HOUSE POST #5: PEDIGREE "BETTER THAN" HYPE?
TREE HOUSE POST #4: CHURCH OF THE MULTIPLEX
TREE HOUSE POST #3: FESTIVAL FAVORITES AND NETFLIX NUGGETS
TREE HOUSE POST #2: AGONY, ECSTASY AND THESPIAN PRIDE
TREE HOUSE POST #1: INTRODUCTIONS AND AN OPENING SALVO