The Tree of Life (2011) -vs- The Fountain (2006)

July 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

The universe is full of mystery: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? If God exists, why does He allow evil? And perhaps most perplexing of all, how did not one, but two Hollywood productions in the last five years attract major financing for projects tackling those kinds of questions without linear stories that film critics, not to mention common moviegoers, could understand?

Well, the good Lord works in mysterious ways, and in the case of writer-director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (now in theaters) and The Fountain (2006), written and directed by Darren Aronofsky with help on the story from Ari Handel, we are arguably better off for it.

Reactions are all over the lot on Malick’s latest opus, and so is the film, which examines a Texas family’s extended life and reaches for an emotional link connecting it to all of creation. Aronofsky’s metaphysical missile, on the other hand, describes a parabola between life and death, attempting to shed light on life’s essence through a sort of tag-team narrative, part of which deals with a literal search for — wait for it — the tree of life. […]

Cold Souls (2009) -vs- Synecdoche, New York (2008)

February 25, 2010 Sherry Coben

Nothing tickles this aging English major more than a good challenge, a film I can’t predict, a movie that leaves me with food for significant thought. These gems are rare indeed for reasons so obvious they needn’t be mentioned, but I’ll mention them anyway. Never underestimate the low esteem with which Hollywood regards the American film-going, ticket-buying audience. Teenage boys simply don’t flock to the latest dialogue-driven dramedy of ideas. But I do. “Cold Souls” is a beautifully made extended short story; its scale stays personal even when it goes international. “Synecdoche, New York” is an undertaking so massive that you need reference books to fully appreciate its depths. Neither film got a wide release, and I’ll bet you missed them both, but luckily for you, they’re both available on DVD. Grab your dictionary and come with me. I promise I’ll hold your hand.
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