For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
To the Wonder 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch okcmoa.com 236-3100 $6-$8
Malick either inspires or bores. There isn’t much middle ground when it
comes to assessing the famously reclusive filmmaker who has made only
six features since his 1973 debut, Badlands.
His Tree of Lifein
2011 earned praise and derision alike for its ambitions and meandering,
largely plotless tale. It was my No. 1 film that year, but I had no
idea at the time that it would look like Iron Man 3when compared to his follow-up, To the Wonder.
Screening Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, To the Wonderis
a meditation on faith, God, love, relationships, forgiveness — you name
it. Malick does not want for artistic aspirations. Coherence, however,
is another matter.
The story, such as it is, concerns a romance between Neil (Ben Affleck, Argo),an Oklahoma native who doesn’t talk much, and Marina (Olga Kurylenko, Oblivion),a
Ukrainian single mother living in France. The couple frolics — there is
much copious and literal frolicking — amid the streets of Paris.
Eventually, Neil brings his lover and her 10-year-old daughter back to
the Sooner State.
Coupled with the always-moving camera of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who lensed Malick’s The Tree of Lifeand The New World, the
movie offers some of the most spectacular views of Oklahoma you’ll see
outside an energy company commercial. “A land so calm, honest, rich,”
she also finds her new home to be isolating, especially with Neil busy
so often with his job, something about surveying environmental problems.
The alone time allows
Marina to twirl through grocery stores and practice flopping onto her
bed. It’s not enough. When her visa expires, she and her daughter return
Neil finds solace with Jane (Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), an
old flame whose ranch is in financial trouble. “You make me laugh. You
make me happy,” Jane tells Neil in one of the film’s more inadvertently
hilarious moments, considering that the man says little and broods much.
While the Neil-Marina-Jane triangle slogs on, To the Wonderincorporates a Bartlesville clergyman (Javier Bardem, Skyfall)having a crisis of faith.
of faith are contagious here, especially when it comes to trusting that
this fog of pretentiousness is going anywhere. Characters appear and
disappear without explanation, a likely by-product of Malick reportedly
having left reams of material on the cutting-room floor — including
entire scenes with such names as Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain and
remain is first-person, largely whispered voice-over containing such
nuggets as, “I in you. You in me.” The Beatles said pretty much the same
thing in “I Am the Walrus,” and in under five minutes.
Malick’s artistry is unequivocal in To the Wonder. Its
painterly visuals are impressive, as is the sheer audacity of what’s on
its mind. But loftiness needs a little weight to keep it from floating
away. In the end, its lack of focus and discipline inspires more boredom