Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tree of Life

So the other night I went to the movies with my youngest son and oldest son's girlfriend. We had a bit of a hard time choosing a film, but I has seen and heard good things about "Tree of Life" and so we settled on seeing it. In my family, I am sometimes known for being the one who drags everyone to quirky independent films on occasion - with two distinct results which are usually either "Wow! I never would have gone to that movie, I'm so glad you made me go!" or "Geez that was weird/awful/boring/slow/sad/odd/bizarre, why did you choose that?!" I'm never sure which reaction I'm going to get which is why 99% of the time, I go to the movies by myself. And even though I sometimes am not enamored of a film myself, I'm often very happy to be sitting there enjoying it all by myself without having to worry about whether someone else likes it or not. It can totally ruin the whole thing if I love it, and the person I'm with really hates it. So I knew Tree of Life was a bit of a risk.

So let me give you our takes on the film:

Tree of life is this beautiful little piece of artistic brilliance. It's poetic and visually gorgeous. It's challenging, but not unduly so. It has an emotional resonance which I thought was astounding. How is the director able to convey so much with little dialogue? The characters emotions are so true, you really do feel that they capture real people having real emotions. It's epic. In the sense that it attempts to capture everything from the creation to death to birth to all the big existential questions of life. And yet, it's quiet. It is soft and visual. It's a visual journey that you just let go, and let wash over you like waves. Every frame, every shot, is a little piece of art in and of itself. Hands being washed in tap water, a lit candle, wash hanging on the line, curtains flapping in a window breeze - it's all beautiful. Which is part of what I felt the film was meant to convey. We have all these BIG QUESTIONS - we have issues of faith and the pull and tug of logic vs. spiritual knowledge, happiness and sadness, loss, love. The big WHY questions we don't have answers to most of the time. And yet...

We are surrounded with beauty literally everywhere. Even the amazing scene where young boys are playing and dancing around in the big billowing smoke clouds of all DDT chemicals being pumped out of a truck by the city of Waco on to the suburban streets. That scene could be interpreted in so many different ways. It's gorgeous. It's dangerous. It's naive. But the image is stunning in it's simplicity and complexion.

Mother is grace and truth and beauty and forgiveness and love. Father is ambition, complication, striving, yearning. Mother is grace. Father is nature. Mother is the spiritual world. Father is the earth. Mother nudges us towards God. Father reminds us to keep ourselves grounded here on earth. It is the eternal push pull. It is the internal push pull.

Do I sound like I loved it? I did. Ultimately it is about how we find faith, when we don't know how to find faith. What faith really means. THAT is an ambitious topic and I feel like this movie encapsulates it in a way that really truly works, when most movies can't even attempt to answer a question that big.

Now of course remember I had two other people with me.

My son actually loved it. His head is very comfortable with science and logic and yet he has a spiritual side, a softness, and big love for humanity and all living things. This film spoke to him.

My older son's girlfriend is smart and articulate and ambitious and fun and funny and great fun to be around. Ans she said "what was all the water about?" "why did she get a letter that her son died?" "which one died?" "I was getting so antsy with all those images in the middle...why were we looking at all of that?". Even the next day she was texting me her questions about the film. For her, a type A personality and linear thinker, the film was just this somewhat baffling array of imagery that in the end made little to no sense at all.

I've seen it again since the first time and noticed new things and saw little bits of subtle symbolism I didn't notice the first time. I saw it with a friend who is an artist and who is very smart.

We had a long discussion about it afterwards (I had tried to warn her it wasn't very linear but I figured as an artist the visual aspects of the film would be a good payoff). She appreciated some of it, but some of the explorations of the family dynamics felt painful to her, the camera angles made her feel queasy at times, and ultimately she felt like maybe it was all just a little too ambitious - a little too much.

Which leaves me to believe that every person might get something a little different out of Tree of Life. Much like a great piece of art - a poem, a painting, Tree of Life is to be experienced, and not everyone is going to come away with the same thing.

Just for fun, I thought I'd look up another review as I was about to publish this blog. So to further give you some insight, here's the review by the New York Times:

TERRENCE MALICK, the reclusive filmmaker who dislikes having his photograph taken and has not given an interview since the 1970s, could hardly be more out of place than amid the swarming media circus that is the Cannes Film Festival. But thanks to his scarcity of output, his sphinxlike reticence and the near-religious fervor of his fans, the elusive Mr. Malick also provides exactly what Cannes thrives on: mystique and anticipation.

His new film, “The Tree of Life” — which had been expected to show at last year’s festival and is only his fifth feature in 38 years — was finally unveiled on Monday to an eager press corps, before its United States release on May 27. “The Tree of Life” has big stars, celestial spectacles and a few digital dinosaurs, but it is no one’s idea of a summer blockbuster. Even more elliptical than Mr. Malick’s previous two films, “The Thin Red Line” (1998) and “The New World” (2005), the film tells the story of a 1950s Texas family (the parents are played by Brad Pitt and the relative newcomer Jessica Chastain) whose oldest son grows up to be a morose Sean Penn. But it also tackles, metaphysically speaking, the whole kit and caboodle: the origins of life and the history of the universe.

The intrigue surrounding “The Tree of Life” has much to do with the stories and rumors of its long gestation. Before he vanished off the filmmaking map in the late ’70s, after two well-received films, “Badlands” (1973) and “Days of Heaven” (1978), Mr. Malick, who turns 68 this year, had been developing a movie called “Q,” for which he reportedly dispatched cinematographers to far-flung corners of the world to capture an array of natural phenomena. (Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer of “The Tree of Life,” confirmed that some images in the new film date from earlier periods of exploration.)

Mr. Malick’s films have returned to the mythic premise of a lost Eden, but while they have linked the metaphorical Fall with historical eras — the advent of the industrial age (“Days of Heaven”), the establishment of the American colonies (“The New World”) — “The Tree of Life” treats the loss of innocence as part of the eternal human condition. It’s safe to assume that this passion project is also, for its fiercely private auteur, a deeply personal film. Some aspects of the movie correspond with the morsels of biography that have surfaced over the years: the Texas childhood, a strict father, the death of a brother.

“I was shocked by how personal the story was when I first read it,” said the production designer Jack Fisk, who has worked on all of Mr. Malick’s films and has known him since they were students at the American Film Institute. “But when I watched the film I just think how universal it is.” A recurring refrain among Mr. Malick’s collaborators was the degree to which his scripts are mere starting points, extensively revised, even discarded, once shooting begins. Bill Pohlad, a producer of “The Tree of Life,” compared the film’s screenplay to poetry; Mr. Lubezki likened it to a Russian novel.

Since “The Tree of Life” is less bound to dialogue and plot than Mr. Malick’s previous films, Mr. Lubezki, who also shot “The New World,” said he was able to more fully embrace Mr. Malick’s preferred approach, avoiding traditional camera setups and instead emphasizing handheld mobility, natural light and the search for the unrepeatable moment. Because the interior spaces are not lighted, Mr. Fisk typically adds windows to houses or cuts holes into ceilings on Mr. Malick’s sets; on “The Tree of Life” Mr. Lubezki consulted paintings by Vermeer, in which shadowy rooms are illuminated by a window’s soft light. Three houses were used for the principal location; the production moved from one to another depending on the direction of the sun. “Terry’s not really a stickler for continuity,” Mr. Fisk said.

Despite his reputation as a perfectionist, Mr. Malick by all accounts strove for a documentary-style spontaneity on “The Tree of Life.” “It’s more found than planned,” Mr. Lubezki said. “Terry would say, don’t worry about getting a piece of dialogue or an interaction of the actors, but try to get the feeling of the first time being in a room with them.”

The mood on the set matched the subject of the film: a heightened alertness to the world. “When you’re shooting with Terry, everybody’s very aware of their surroundings,” Mr. Lubezki said. With their birdsong soundtracks and their signature images of nature and the elements — light through treetops, windblown grass, flowing water — Mr. Malick’s movies are both more concrete and more abstract than most. They pay close attention to the sensual materiality of flora and fauna, places and things (“Tree of Life” locations include the California redwood forest and the Utah salt flats), but they also seek “to put emotions on film,” Mr. Lubezki said, “which is something there’s no manual for.”

It can be hard for actors to find their place within the willful, perpetual flux of a Malick production — some members of the large ensemble of "The Thin Red Line" were unexpectedly sidelined, or even eliminated.

“Actually, he’s an imperfectionist,” Mr. Pitt said of Mr. Malick, speaking in an interview at the Carlton Hotel here. “He finds perfection in imperfection, and he’s always trying to create the imperfection.” He added that working with Mr. Malick was “liberating but exhausting,” a rare opportunity to fulfill what he called “this actor’s quest of always trying to be in the moment, which is a bit precious but very true.”

Mr. Malick often calls for his actors not to create a character so much as embody a concept or a feeling. Ms. Chastain said that her audition consisted mainly of “acting out behaviors, like putting a baby to sleep or looking at someone with love and respect.”

It also falls upon the cast to deliver Mr. Malick’s distinctive voice-overs. In “The Tree of Life,” as in “The Thin Red Line” and “The New World,” the hushed, dazed narration — handed off from one actor to another — has the tone of a prayer. From the start Mr. Malick has tried to find uses for voice-over that go against and beyond the traditional explanatory purpose. “When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in clich├ęs,” he said in a 1975 interview with Sight & Sound, referring to Sissy Spacek’s narration in “Badlands.” “That doesn’t make them laughable; it’s something tender about them.”

Ms. Chastain recalled that when she told Mr. Malick she wouldn’t have time to memorize the long monologues that he would present to her minutes before shooting, his response was that she should “just say whatever you remember because that’ll be enough.” But Mr. Malick’s insistence on freedom does not preclude obsessive fine-tuning: after the shoot, he called her in — by her count, more than 30 times — to record new lines and re-record old ones.

As Mr. Malick’s films grow increasingly allusive and amorphous, he seems more than ever to find them in the editing. “Our focus was to make it more of an experience and not about plot,” said Mark Yoshikawa, one of the five editors who worked on “The Tree of Life.” “The flow of the film was an ever-changing animal.” Without a linear story to guide them, the editors had to integrate live-action scenes that shift between two time periods (and more than one reality) with nature shots and special-effects sequences. Mr. Malick, an avid birdwatcher, had previously used computer-generated effects only once, to add a now-extinct parakeet to the Virginia wilds of “The New World.” “The Tree of Life,” which depicts the Big Bang, the beginning of precellular life and the Mesozoic age of dinosaurs, called for extensive effects work.

Dan Glass, the senior visual effects supervisor, said that the guiding principle was realism: “There’s not a shot that doesn’t have something natural or organic in it.” Even though entire movie worlds are now routinely digitized from scratch, Mr. Glass and his team worked with existing satellite and space-probe imagery and used optical tricks, like manipulating film speeds and camera lenses.

For the astrophysical sequences, Mr. Malick turned to the filmmaker and special effects veteran Douglas Trumbull, best known for his work on “2001: A Space Odyssey.” They set up a lab in Austin, Tex., where Mr. Malick lives, and essentially conducted chemistry experiments: photographing paints and liquids (like fluorescein dyes and half-and-half) in tanks of water at high speeds, which produced images that could be digitally composited to resemble astronomical phenomena like interstellar clouds. “With computer graphics everything is based on some algorithm and there’s often a predictability to it,” Mr. Trumbull said. “Terry and I wanted randomness and irregularity that seemed truly natural.”

“The Tree of Life” deepens and complicates Mr. Malick’s view of nature. Detractors make him out to be a moony New Ager, but his films are not just awestruck paeans to nature, nor are they simple assertions of man’s place in nature. “The Tree of Life” distinguishes the way of nature (equated with the father) from the way of grace (the mother). Ms. Chastain interpreted her character as a personification of “the spiritual world,” a contrast to the natural world, “which is all about survival of the fittest,” she said, and which, in the movie takes the form of Darwinian natural selection and American bootstrap capitalism.

Mr. Malick’s work has long been discussed in philosophical terms — his background as a Heidegger scholar is often invoked — but increasingly his films bespeak an unfashionably overt interest in spirituality. Biblical references run through the films, and “The Tree of Life” opens with a quotation from the Book of Job. But Ms. Chastain, who prepared for her role by studying paintings of the Madonna and practicing meditation, said she does not see it as a film about Christianity. “I consider him more of a spiritual person than a religious person,” Mr. Fisk said.

Mr. Pitt described Mr. Malick as someone with “a strong belief in God but also in science.” Watching “The Tree of Life” again at its Cannes premiere, he found himself leaning toward an agnostic interpretation. While we “try to comfort ourselves and pillow ourselves with religion,” he said, “maybe the real peace and beauty is to be found in the unknown.”

Mr. Malick has already shot — and is starting to edit — his sixth feature. Set in the present day, the still-untitled film stars Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, and has been described as a romance. As always, everyone is tight-lipped, but Mr. Lubezki and Mr. Fisk, who both worked on it, said it is his boldest film yet. “It makes ‘Tree’ almost seem old-fashioned,” Mr. Fisk said.

Growing more radical with age, Mr. Malick seems intent on evolving the language of narrative cinema, on finding a form free and flexible enough to encompass the big, unanswerable questions of human existence. “Every film now is almost a frustration, because Terry doesn’t know if he’s said enough,” Mr. Fisk said. “But I also think he’s finally making movies exactly the way he wants to.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Paint Picks - Part 6

It's a our final entry on this subject!  I bet you never thought we'd get here (I was starting to think maybe we wouldn't...quite frankly, I'm ready to move on to another topic!)  Still, of all the paint choices we've talked about so far, this one is by far the most ubiquitous and most trendy and most used color of 2011.  And obviously, I'm a little bit prone to trends myself (even though I often think I'm really not) because even I painted a room this color in the past year, and I never thought I would paint a room gray.  I've already blogged this color a few times in the past 6 months or so, but here are some images I had left in my files: 

I'm always super hesitant about wallpaper - just because it can be tricky to hang, and a major pain to try to remove.  But this one is a keeper.  I feel like this feminine and slightly shabby thing seems fresh here because of that gray paper on the wall. 

I must really like this because I saved it twice.  I love the orange (another of our top trending colors) with that gray.  Another trend?  The ever present map motif, as seen on the floor. 

Another trend check - maps? yes, yellow and gray? yes, smidge of tiffanyesque blue? yes - this room has it all.

I love how they've added a lot of colors with the gray in this room (another trend? lavendar)

Decadent and gorgeous

When you start looking for the right gray you realize very quickly there are an endless amount of them - everything from bordering on blue, purple, brown, white and black it can be really hard to choose the right one.  This one is lovely. 

I'm probably heavily influenced by the idea of taking a nap in that bed, but this is nice.

maybe my favorite of all these images.  I'm such a sucker for that Hermes orange with that gray paper. 

Gray and white is such a nice combination. 

big smiles here with the eames rocker and the orange

lovely & trending with purple too

I don't see it in kitchens all that often, but it's very good here.  And with that SMEG fridge in that color?  so great.

This is the darkest gray charcoal you can get to without veering into black.  Love it w/ all the yellow.  It's a very restful contemplative space.  

I wonder what trends 2012 will bring? I like to analyze what I see the least of to get an idea of where the trends might go. I rarely see much red these days, even though there was that moment of sort of coraly - pinky red. I wouldn't be surprised if Red makes a comeback in the next year. Any predictions?

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Paint Picks ~ Part 5

We're almost finished with our top paint colors for 2011, next up, purple.  Purple is really hard to pull off.  I've used it outside, and that's a little easier, but inside, it can quickly over-power a room.  But with some careful decor choices, and just the right shades it can look great.  It is a color that will get a lot of attention if you dare to choose it, simply because you don't see it very often at all.  But just because you don't see it that often doesn't mean it's not a trend.  I would venture to say a few years ago you really didn't see it at all, unless it was in your great aunt Edna's bathroom.  The trend tends towards and eggplant or a plum, and it's often an accent color.  But I do see some lavenders working their way in there too.  If you have impeccable taste, and a sense of adventure, I bet you can make it work.
Here we see it with the ever ubiquitous gray, and I LOVE that headboard. 

If I can't get a Jacobsen Egg Chair in Hot Pink, I'll take two Swan Chairs in Purple, thanks.

Something about all the textures elements and the color here, makes this room very sexy - it's both masculine and feminine in equal parts. 

the same effect is achieved here, it's both masculine and feminine at the same time with a cozy clubby feel to the space, the lavender lends it a softness that would be sorely missing otherwise with almost any other color. 

I love the lightness of this and the pops of burnt orange.  Such a coooool tone in the color scheme. 

blues are a great as an accent with this tone.

love all the different prints going on here

daring - but because it's so neat and tidy, it really works

Opulent and beautiful, I want to live here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Paint Picks Part 4

Bold yellow is a big trend this year - on it's own, or as accent, especially popular with grays and blues. I happen to love yellow so I'm a fan of the trend.

Lots of awesome going on here (though I can totally live without the lamb/sheep thing - I know they are expensive but not a fan of those dudes) what I love is that turquoise yellow furniture with the yellow wallpaper - that color combination has a cool retro vibe that I love.  I ADORE the artwork on the wall, which also has a retro feel to me, but then the floor is very now. 

Very clean lines here, I love the style of the couch and the pillows make it great. 

red and yellow also look great together - and here I love how just that little rim of color makes a big impact. 

I'd like this even more if the yellow were more bold, but I still like it.

I dig this idea of painting the insides of the shelves!

This couch and that artwork are sooooooo fab. 

Such a fan of this, I'm pretty sure I used it before (And recently too) but I can't get enough of the mid century modern vibe here.  

I love the clever mixing of prints here with the unique yellow wall. 

yellow and gray is such a major trend right now and this room makes it super fun and cheery.

In my opinion this yummy buttercream-ish yellow is very hard to achieve, but if you can find the right shade for your room, I don't think you can beat it for cheerful AND serene. 

So fun - love the bold stripes, but I also adore that print on the yellow pillows and then the fact that they've paired it with houndstooth. 

I think it's hard to go wrong with yellow.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Have a Favorite Things Party

I saw this idea on the internet (pinterest) one day and I loved it.  It's a reason to have a party when you really don't have any reason to have a party.

I started with a list of women who I really like - I thought of people in the 20s up to women in their 60s.  Fun doesn't really have an age.  I sent out an invite explaining the idea - which is that you bring 5 of your favorite thing costing $6 or less to the party, when you leave you'll have 5 favorites from other people.  I invited about 25 women in total.  (I could have invited more but you've got to draw the line somewhere - so if you're reading this and you weren't invited but you might have liked to have come - I probably would have loved to have had you there!  If I invited everyone I loved/liked the list would have been well over 100 women...but I was not quite up for throwing that large of a party!)  In the end there were 17 of us at the party. 

I thought for a while about the menu, I wanted it to be things that I really like since we're talking    about favorites.  Lately I've been making my own little pizzas that I really like.  They are pita pizzas with goat cheese, sweet corn, sun dried tomatoes, mozarella, garlic salt, spinach leaves and a little olive oil infused with garlic.  They are easy, but yummy.  I also bought fresh & easy hummus (my favorite store bought hummus), wheat pita quarters, made fruit kabobs with pineapple, cantaloupe, and strawberries and threw together a ceasar salad.  For dessert I bought some red velvet cakes from the Hermosa bakery (also available at Fresh & Easy).  I also made a punch I really love.  It's raspberry lemonaid with 7-up and frozen berries.  I think the food was pretty yummy and easy to eat and not too heavy.

It was a lovely evening in my backyard (I had planned to take photos of all of this but I was too busy with the party to be taking photos!).

Eventually we gathered around and everyone passed out there favorites.  It was so fun to see what people brought and fun to anticipate having your name drawn to see what you would get.

Here are a few of our favorites (this is not an all inclusive list - some of the ladies read the invitation to say that they should bring 5 different things and not 5 of one thing, in that case I just chose one of their items to list here):

Three ladies brought different types of lip gloss - this photo is the brand retreat but not the actual lip gloss brought to the party.  But apparently ladies care about their lips being nice and soft based on the representation of different options to do so among our favorites. 

we also like our homes to smell good.  two favorites were fragrant wall plug in from bath and body works and gold canyon candles (it seems like there is some fudging going on with pricing - especially with the candles but it's because the woman who brought these sells them)

We also realllly like tasty things, Fresh & Easy short bread, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Urban Cookie cookies & cupcakes, Trader Joe's chocolate, Zoyo Frozen Yogurt and homemade blackberry jam were among the foodie items represented.

we also like to keep things nice and tidy, the magic eraser made an appearance (and these ARE pretty great) as did silver polishing cloth, which I was very happy to get to take home with ME. 

We also like our beverages - one of the ladies brought 5 glass goblets for everyone.  She said she loves to collect them but she chooses one every day to drink her water with ice out of.  I love that because I do the same thing.  The metromint water was brought by me, I love it because it is zero calorie water but has the taste of mint.  It's very refreshing! 

Who doesn't love old navy flip flops?

The woman who brought the sharpies is very artistic and has great hand writing - I love writing with sharpies too! 

So there you have it, a successful "favorite things" party!  I'm definitely doing this again sometime.  (I also gave away a few extra favorites by asking the ladies to put their favorite movie, book, etc. in a bag, then I drew out of the bags for the extra gifts.  For fun I thought I'd list our favorites)

Favorite Movie

Pride & Prejudice (with 3 votes!  who knew?)
Mama Mia (2 votes)
Notting Hill
Raising Arizona (my friends have good and funny taste :) )
When Harry Met Sally
Freaky Friday
Waiting For Guffman (see?  my friends are awesome)
About a Boy
Sound of Music
Ferris Beuller's Day Off
To Kill a Mockingbird
Wizard of Oz
Fool's Rush In

Favorite Vacation Destination  (for a bunch of ladies who live in a warm climate, we sure like to vacation in other warm climates!  Probably says something about people who don't mind living where it's Hot)

Rocky Point (4 votes)
The beach (3 votes)
Hawaii/Kauai (2 votes)
San Diego
Road trips to see new things!
Cruise to the Bahamas
Universal Studios
Sun Valley Idaho (apparently we have one skier in our midst)
New England

Favorite Restaurant

(with only one vote each, we have no consensus here, but Mexican won hands down with 5 restaurants...again, living in Arizona, you gotta love Mexican food!)
Reyes De Las Tortas
Carlos O'briens
Chino Bandido
(Japanese came in second with three places)
Cherry Blossom
(and all the rest are all over the map)
Lone Star
California Pizza Kitchen
Texaz Grill
Melting Pot
Herb Box
Prospector's Skillet
La Grande Orange

Favorite Childhood TV Show  (we have a tie)
Bewitched with 2 votes
Little House on the Prarie with 2 votes
I love Lucy
Big Valley
The Monkees
Sigmund and the Seamonster ( a Sid & Marty Kroft fan but they don't pick HR Puffenstuff?!)
cinderella  - the annual one with what's her face (I have NO CLUE what this means)
Gilligan's Island
Charles in Charge (methinks someone has a Scott Baio crush)
Wallace & Ladmo
Sesame Street
Familes Ties/Cosby Show
Quantum Leap
Brady Bunch

Favorite Book

To Kill a Mockingbird (3 votes)
Pride & Prejudice (2 votes)
Life of Pi
The World to Come
Guernsey Litearay & Potato Peel Pie Society
Grapes of Wrath
The Kite Runner
Harry Potter (series)
Red Tent
Les Miserables
Cry The Beloved Country
The Help
The Hiding Place

(we're a pretty literate crowd...makes me happy)

It was awesome!

(if you're interested in seeing how this went my second year of doing it, check out that blog post HERE)


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