Scott Tobias tweet: “Fair warning Toronto press folks: If you boo the Malick, I will punch you in the back of the head. Rhetorically.”

Wellshwood reply: “Don’t let Tobias intimidate you, Toronto press corps! If To The Wonder is a meandering, airy-fairy wank then boo at will. Slap it down.”

  • fitz-hume

    Booing at movies. Really fuckin’ civilized behavior…

  • Ray DeRousse

    TO THE WONDER does sound like a mess. It’s mostly narration? Sounds tough to sit through.

  • Jericho Cane

    Pretty much all of Malick’s stuff is like 90% narration. How is this such a huge deal?

  • lazarus

    How dare someone make narrative films differently than 95% of directors?

    Conform! Conform! The herd disapproves!

    Tobias & Friends: Punch harder, or try using a 2×4.

  • lazarus

    From Peter Bradshaw’s review at The Guardian:

    “When To the Wonder ended, there was the now traditional storm of hissing and booing at the Venice film festival. Malick gets this treatment, while the most insipid, unadventurous movies here can fade to black and roll credits in respectful quiet. I can only say that I responded to its passion and idealism.”

  • Jericho Cane

    I can imagine a lot of these hoity-toity critics valuing cinematic comfort food over something challenging or unconventional, which seems baffling as all hell. Some of these rubes probably lull themselves to sleep every night with THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and then get up the next day writing vitriolic reviews about some art flick that flew over their heads.

  • Jericho Cane

    I really want to see a Wells and Tobias bitch-slap fight posted on YouTube.

  • Carl Kolchak

    Of course challenging and uncomfortable is good, but that’s not enough by itself. Look at Kubrick, always challenging but fucking great movies that are a pleasure to sit through.

  • Gaydos

    Forget Malick for the moment.

    My beef isn’t with the characters who boo films, tho not my wont. It’s with the ones who write rave reviews about films that should have been booed, OR at least analyzed by standards that include some basic knowledge of cinema and dramatic arts and crafts.

    Which means: The Holy Season of the Consensei if upon us.

    Any independence and/or dissent from the purveyors of commercially-calculated handicapping meets “serious” critiques of Officially Ordained Awards Season Fare is a welcome relief.

  • Tristan Eldritch2

    I’ve got very mixed feeling about Malick post-Badlands, but he surely has yet to make a boo-worthy picture. Even as arguably flawed as his movies may be today, they’re still pretty essential viewing. Don’t get critics booing and hissing at movies anyway. I mean, you guys most likely don’t pay to see the film, and guess what? You have a public forum in which to express your views about the film in a more intelligent fashion, which the general public hasn;t got. It’d want to be a pretty egregious movie to justify the privileged and damn lucky few who are fortunate enough to get paid to watch movies threwing an uncouth hissy fit in a theater.

  • K. Bowen

    If it’s a bad film, then by all means slap it down.

    But if you find yourself booing because deep down you’re really just a filmgoer/writer/critic who is unadventurous or unwilling to put in the proper intellectual effort appreciate it, then keep it to yourself.

    The problem with Malick detractors is that deep down, too many of them really just want more movies like Bridesmaids.

  • Bob Hightower

    Some of the greatest films have been met with literally violent reactions against them — L’AGE D’OR, THE RULES OF THE GAME, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, et al.

  • Jericho Cane

    ‘Of course challenging and uncomfortable is good, but that’s not enough by itself. Look at Kubrick, always challenging but fucking great movies that are a pleasure to sit through.’

    Good point, but how often do Kubricks come along? Not nearly enough.

  • The Thing

    The problem with Malick isn’t that’s he’s adventurous or makes uncomfortable films that break conventions. The problem is that his films of the past decade or so have been a series of pretentious, self-indulgent wanks masked as delving into deep philosophical and existential themes.

    As Carl Kolchak said, Kubrick was able to make innovative films that broke conventions and blew minds. Hell, I feel like Gaspar Noe can also fall in that category. Except their stuff can be enjoyed as entertainment, as well as something for your mind to gnaw on.

  • The Thing

    @Jericho Cane

    “Good point, but how often do Kubricks come along? Not nearly enough.”

    I don’t see your point. Are you saying that we should laud Malick for trying to be a Kurbrick-type, but not quite living up to it, because he’s here now?

    Not saying you can’t make a valid point, I’m just looking for a little clarification.

  • Storm Serge

    Inane tweets both.

  • Jericho Cane

    I’m just saying that we don’t have enough directors who make challenging yet accessible films.

  • cyanic

    Great art should be entertaining. Any movie that’s homework can fuck off.

  • Jericho Cane

    “Great art should be entertaining. Any movie that’s homework can fuck off. ”

    This is exactly why I despise Antonioni. If that makes me a simpleton I’lll wear that badge with pride.

  • K. Bowen

    So you don’t care for Malick or Antonioni. How bout Tarkovsky?

  • K. Bowen

    “The problem is that his films of the past decade or so have been a series of pretentious, self-indulgent wanks masked as delving into deep philosophical and existential themes.”

    There are volumes of writing on the philosophical elements and influences of Malick’s films, both 70s and recent. If you don’t care for them, that’s one thing. But to dismiss them as pretentious wanks is not particularly convincing.

  • Jericho Cane

    Whuh? I absolutely adore Malick. I’ve defended TREE OF LIFE on here before but I don’t blame you for not remembering. Tarkovsky was a genius. One of cinema’s true visionaries. I miss him every day.

  • Jericho Cane

    Watching Antonioni is like studying for an incredibly boring exam. Can’t stand the dude but I can admire his eye for composition.

  • K. Bowen

    Well, good. The Tree of Life is a first-order masterpiece.

    As far as To The Wonder, as a deep admirer of Malick, I’m perfectly willing to accept that it might not be up to par. After ToL, it’s all playing with house money, anyway. It’s hard for me to imagine him making a better film.

  • cyanic

    Bowen, why is Tree of Life a first-order masterpiece? I ask as someone who likes the movie.

  • jasonb

    ‘This is exactly why I despise Antonioni.’

    Despise? Is this a site for the film haters?

  • JD

    You only get back as much as you put in. If you make no effort to generate insight or keen observations in response to a piece of art, Malick’s films will leave you feeling empty, but they’re overflowing with nuance and depth. Of course, they’re not made for passive/complacent viewers. If you just sit there, waiting for the films to explain themselves, of course they’ll leave you feeling unfulfilled. As a viewer of ambitious cinema, you have a responsibility to school yourself and bring something to the table. The greatest shortcoming of modern American culture is the degree to which most people have erased art — and, more specifically, abstraction — from their lives. If you can only digest the literal and the practical, you’re not in a position to grasp art.

  • Rashad

    Even if you like the farts Malick is putting out, aren’t you all getting tired of the same schtick? Nature shots, narration over dialogue, lame poetry. This is the opening line of the movie:

    “Newborn. I open my eyes. I melt into the eternal night.”

    Come on now. At this point, the most artistically fresh thing for Malick to do is to make a straight film again like Badlands.

  • Jericho Cane

    “Despise? Is this a site for the film haters?”

    Last time I checked, Mr. Wells was known to project a fair amount of negativity.

    If you can mount a convincing defense of Antonioni I’m all ears. Er, eyes.

  • JD

    Rashad: We’re talking about cinema, not poetry. Just as song lyrics shouldn’t be judged separately from the songs they belong to, we shouldn’t judge a line of narration without considering its cinematic context (visuals, audio, performance, etc.). I don’t even think Malick would defend his poetic voice-over as stand-alone writing. It’s there to support and affect dozens of other variables.

  • J. Ho
  • nakedman

    I really don’t care for the douchebags that try to attach all types of insults to anyone that doesn’t appreciate Malick’s work.

    Maybe he’s just overrated in our minds. If it makes you feel superior, and if you need to feel superior in order to get out of bed in the morning, then go ahead with your ridiculous assumptions.

    I happen to believe that many of those that say they adore recent Malick are full of shit.

  • Rashad

    JD: A bad line is a bad line. A lot of my beef with Malick is his narration, and dialogue, so it’s hardly unfair to criticize it.

  • JD

    Nakedman: “I happen to believe that many of those that say they adore recent Malick are full of shit.”

    So if you can’t see it, it can’t possibly be there? Is that how it works? Nobody’s pretending to like or dislike Malick, we simply see different things and have different sensibilities. Why this need to see fraudulence in anyone who values something you don’t? What incentive do anonymous commenters on a movie website have for pretending to like something?

  • Stewart Klein

    I really think there are two types of serious movie people. Those who get turned on by great visuals and drop dead cinematography, and those who get jazzed on a tight story and great performances. It’s not a matter of “getting it”. or accessibility it is a preference like sex with men or women. . As I have said on this blog before I am not a Malick supporter. I wouldn’t go across the street to see ” To The Wonder ” let alone Venice. But That’s just me. Nothing Malick has ever done including Days of Heaven and Badlands, could ever have the visceral impact of films like A Separation or City of God or El Norte. Or for that matter Fargo, Goodfellas, and anything by PTA. By the way Kubrick’s films with the exception of Paths of Glory and The Killing, for all their greatness, were chilly motherfuckers. About as full of real emotional impact as anything Tim Burton has done.

  • jasonb

    If you can mount a convincing defense of Antonioni I’m all ears. Er, eyes.

    If “Blow Up” or “Zabriskie Point” doesn’t excite you as a cinephile then I don’t know what. Have you let Criterion and film fans, critics and scholars around the world in on the fact Antonioni sucks?

  • JD

    Stewart: people who dislike Malick only see beautiful visuals, but the real admirers recognize that the visuals are there to get you somewhere deeper. Malick is essentially a philosophical filmmaker. The greater your knowledge of philosophy, the greater your understanding of Malick will be. (I’m talking about actions, gestures, omissions, etc., not the poetic narration.) As a result, his films are obviously not for everybody — most viewers recoil at the slightest hint of philosophy — but they’re not remotely shallow or superficial.

  • cyanic

    I wish people didn’t need their taste validated. Everyone should have a mixture of high and low culture. Nostalgia junk food, critically acclaimed classics, and niche audience curiosities.

  • Jesse Crall

    I’m surprised to see so many either/or thoughts on Malick. To me, The Tree of Life was half brilliant, half wankish. Same with The Thin Red Line. He gets such tender performances from his actors and can capture human behavior in the most moving, anguished ways that when he has people interacting with others and themselves, his films can shine.

    Linda Manz’s narration in Days of Heaven stands out, especially when she witnesses a group of people at the banks of a river and remarks that they must be running from something. Her entire experience was shaped by flight and transgression that it altered even her plainest perceptions. Phenomenal stuff.

    Then you get dinasaurs pawing at each other and it’s like “Da fuck?” I don’t disagree with Jeff when he says Malick could use a Bert Schneider to streamline his work. Yeah, it’s a controversial anti-auteurist sentiment, but Malick’s best when his work stays on the lean side. In my opinion, obviously.

  • Stewart Klein

    JD.. took a few philosophy courses in grad school.
    The line between philosophy and bullshit is extremely thin.

  • JD

    Some philosophy IS bullshit. Doesn’t matter. I’m talking about a type of thought that Malick’s films encourage. People always bring it back to easily-described traits like beautiful visuals and moving performances — certainly a big part of the equation — but I’m talking about the practice of giving the audience clues then forcing them to think their way through the film. Any substantive conversation about The Tree of Life (aka one that isn’t based on qualitative judgements) invariably goes to fascinating places because the film is overflowing with ideas.

    As for the non-verbal emphasis of Malick’s films, some people seem to think that dialogue expands meaning, but it actually contracts meaning, making a film more limited and easier to digest. Most films derive their meaning from action, what the characters do. By minimizing dialogue, Malick simply allows the meaning of that action (and the film’s structure, visuals, etc.) to guide your understanding. This is pure cinema, unlike the dialogue-driven films (and TV shows) that get so much respect, in spite of their footing in a more conventional, literary tradition.

  • Gaydos


    (sung to tune of Jacques Brel classic)

    If you boo away on this summer day
    Then you might just take Oscar nom away

    All the words that flew in blogosphere
    When OF LIFE was new and d’Azur was near

    When the Oscars loomed and Moneyball led
    When we all wished Kubrick not dead

    If you boo away, if you boo away, if you boo away

  • Jericho Cane


    Now I’m going to watch L’AVVENTURA and convince myself that it is as great as Pauline Kael thought. BECAUSE CRITERION, YOU SEE.

  • Jericho Cane

    Oh yeah, ZABRISKIE POINT is incredibly masturbatory bong-soaked hippie era bullshit. But my opinion doesn’t matter because I DO NOT WORSHIP THE CRITERION COLLECTION and see spines as an ARBITER OF QUALITY.

  • K. Bowen

    Then you get dinasaurs pawing at each other and it’s like “Da fuck?”

    See that’s the really funny thing. Because when I saw the dinosaur scene, I didn’t think “Da fuck.” Strangely, “Da Fuck” never crossed my mind during the entire duration of the film,

    Would you like to know what I thought? I thought, “Wow, what a brilliant little way to recreate Heidegger’s state of nature, and then to use it to critique the state of nature, and the rise from it, expressed in the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyessey. In 2001, consciousness arises from intelligence borne for the purpose of violence. In this film, it arises from empathy borne of the first sensations of love. It’s an incredibly provocative reply to Kubrick’s pessimism.”

    The funny thing is that other people saw the same thing, even some who didn’t care for the film. But we’re probably all delusional or making it up. Because obviously, we just want to feel superior.

  • Jesse Crall

    Isn’t the general idea of the Criterion Collection to revamp interest in passed over flicks? By that idea, their releases are sort gambles in a way, since most great modern movies maintain a measure of interest.

    I might be way the fuck off here, though…There’s a critical subset that believes that any piece of art that generates widespread appeal is thus too mainstream to be a legitimate masterpiece because it can’t fully penetrate the minds of the chosen few or something…

  • K. Bowen

    Jesse, I apologize. I’m getting too emotional about this.

  • Jericho Cane

    That’s the general idea of Criterion, Jesse, but it doesn’t explain TINY FURNITURE.

  • Jesse Crall

    @K. Bowen: See, I’m more of a “Wow, Pitt’s bringing it and the disconnect between a father and son that wavers between love and fear is incredible and I’m tired of losing that thread for space gas and dinosaurs and Sean Penn staring out of a glass skyscraper” kind of movie-goer. Not being snarky here, either. Just saying there’s a big difference in our viewing approach .

    If you were moved or provoked during those scenes, fantastic. I envy you. But to me, Heidegger was dull in High School English and unless his notions of existentialism are used only to underscore human passages, I’d rather a movie without them. Again, sincerely, glad you dug it. But I see film’s as entertainment and artistic ambition joined together and the dinosaur, space gas, and lonely Sean Penn left me checking my watch.

  • K. Bowen

    Just listen to JD. He’s got it going perfectly.

    As to the point about his dialogue. Malick made a really interesting observation in one of his few interviews in the seventies about how people speak. He said that when people try to sum some up something meaningful, they tend to end up something common or cliche, expressing it not with a flurry of originality but borrowing from the common forms of expression.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for that observation. But it occasionally ends up in clunkers.

  • Jesse Crall

    @ K. Bowen: No need to apologize! Tree of Life has been doing this for over a year now, which might say more to me about its power than whatever was put to film. And it’s almost always better to be arguing from a “Pro” perspective regarding a film than a “Nay,” which is why I’m trying to be careful when I semi-trash Malick’s recent output.

  • K. Bowen

    Well, I like entertaining movies, too. At the same time, I think we’ve gradually reduced the notion of entertainment to a single easy concept of often facile amusement. Maybe it’s good old days symdrome settling in.

    I shouldn’t put myself out there as a philosophy expert, because I’m really not. But I know more than some, and my interest in film, criticism and in Malick has expanded my understanding of it. Tree of Life fprced me into Kempis and Christian mysticism. And I find that to be entertaining.

    To use a different example, I saw Cosmopolis last week. And while that film admittedly has so many ideas that it can seem turgid, I walked out of the show behind a couple of young critics whose reaction was just snarking on it. I found it really unappealing. Cosmopolis is sort of a buffet line of ideas, not all of them great, and not all of them fit together. But that sort of the nature of novels of ideas. And i have to say, it bugged me that they would rather snark on it than take time to try to engage it.

    If there is superirority to be found in being a Malick-phile, it’s not so much in knowing it immediately as it is in willingness to engage it and grow as an intellect and a person.

  • Ghost of Kazan

    Second Siskelonians chapter 4, verses 17-19:

    Since the size of animals generally decreases as you go from top to bottom of the food chain, the number of animals increases even faster than the total mass. The result of these factors is that the food chain is a pyramid: a small number of large animals at the top and a much larger number of small animals at the bottom.

    He who has ears, let him hear.

  • JD

    The thing with Cosmopolis is its defenders give Cronenberg credit for DeLillo’s ideas. If you read the novel before you see the film, you realize that Cronenberg brings almost nothing to the table.

  • Jericho Cane

    Did you mock the snarky young critics, Bowen? I would’ve found it irresistible. I’ve got a funny story about some lunatic loudly riffing on the TREE OF LIFE standee after the show was over, but the discussion here has been way too thoughtful for me to befoul it with my not-very-thoughtful remarks.

  • Jesse Crall

    @K. Bowen: I don’t think loving/respecting Malick films makes someone superior especially since elements of TOL have very engaging aspects that have stuck with me (and Badlands and Days of Heaven are wonderful). I do think that certain critics have a tendency to take brilliance within a film and let it overshadow weaknesses, flaws, failures etc etc. Same deal with panning a film because an individual component doesn’t work for you. I think Malick has an exceptional eye, collaborates with bright people, draws out emotional and honest work from his actors, AND has major indulgences in his storytelling that detract from his substantial strengths.

    I wish you’d used an example of a film that I liked because I HATED Cosmopolis. Sorry. But from the recent auteur pile, I though Killer Joe was fantastic, although the philosophy to that was little more than “Being stupid doesn’t pay.” Next time TOL plays on a big screen (it’s sure to be a revival house fave) I’ll check it out and see if my views on it change.

  • Rashad

    “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”

  • jasonb

    And fuck ‘em for trying!

  • Luke Y. Thompson

    I do find it pretty hilarious that a guy named after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in END OF DAYS is arguing the case for Malick.

  • Jericho Cane

    When I made this account I named myself after The Rock’s alter ego character in SOUTHLAND TALES, which might strike you as even more perverse. Saw END OF DAYS later and fell in love.

    I’m hardly arguing the case for Malick, compared to the discussion Bowen and Jesse were having up there. If anything I’m soiling the sanctity of one of the few civil H-E threads in recent memory. :|

  • Sasha Stone

    Gaydos, it’s an odd phenom, like a snake eating its own tail. Peeps go to fests expecting to see “Oscar movies.” When said movie fails to live up to those expectations it is written off — I mean, I kind of think this is so with a certain group of people, usually bloggers who get their first. They aren’t critics. But serious film critics still do look at films outside the prism of Oscar, don’t they?

  • Princess of Peace

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I think that booing a movie that you don’t like is downright disrespectful. I am a Malick fan and it sounds like I will love To the Wonder. I loved The Tree of Life. But I know many people who hated it. Fine. But I didn’t hear anyone laughing or carrying on when I saw it. It seems that these bloggers who are lucky enough to go to the festivals, act like spoiled children when a film doesn’t meet their expectations – which means “Oscar worthy.”

    I hope that good films are being made for the sake of art and not Oscars. If not, then if we take away the awards we would be getting mostly tentpole, superhero and comic book films (along with dumb comediies). And as far as I am concerned there are already too many of these as it is.

  • Gaydos

    Sasha, your thoughtful question is at heart of my comment. And Jeff’s recent piece on ARGO is a reminder how much Awards season – as well as the gig of professional film critic – has changed in past decade.

    All this coincides with the almost complete exit of the major studios from the biz of manufacturing adult dramas, putting further pressure on their annual solo or precious few serious entries to compete with the indies. AND the indies are also making less adult dramas and more computer-modeled programmers.

    So its never been more important for sharp indepemdent critical voices to stand up, speak out, look past hype and fashion and pressure to annoint “champs,” but even for what’s left of the ranks of “serious” critics that’s never been a more difficult task. That is if u want a paying gig.

  • jasonb

    Then when Malick is no longer with us, the whiny haters will wail, “Another comic book film? Where’s the Malicks of yesterday?”

  • Gaydos

    Jasonb: Can I take a peek at what’s behind Door #3?

  • Jericho Cane

    We’ll always have David Gordon Green, I suppose, if you need bland store-brand Malick.

  • jasonb

    Jericho loves END OF DAYS and despises Antonioni. It all makes sense now.

  • Jericho Cane

    Why don’t you try to CONVINCE me that Antonioni isn’t responsible for some of the most LIFELESS and STUPEFYINGLY BORING movies EVER MADE. Also try to enjoy trash cinema every once in a while instead of devoting every second of your spare time to jerking off over your floor-to-ceiling piles of Criterion blu-rays. Maybe you wouldn’t be so god damn uptight. But WHAT WOULD I KNOW, I happen to ENJOY ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER MOVIES. Clearly I’m suffering from ACUTE COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT.

  • Jericho Cane

    Christ, #1 ANTONIONI FANBOY here declaring a fatwa on me, I’m fucking ROLLING.

  • Jericho Cane

    “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them.” -Pauline Kael (a lady who absolutely adored L’AVVENTURA, by the way)

    Jason just wants to be interested in movies so he can pull prime tail by drooling over BLOW-UP.

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  • roland1824

    Slap downs of the written variety are fine – McCarthy absolutely eviscerated TTW in THR – but booing at a fucking screen – what Tobias is warning against – is altogether different and positively moronic.

  • Jericho Cane

    This thread went directly into the crapper. I’m sorry for even trying to engage with Jason. Clearly he is a COLOSSAL DOUCHE THE SIZE OF THE SEARS TOWER who is also a PISS POOR TROLL. I’ve seen much more intelligent and witty barbs coming from lobotomized 8-year-old Call of Duty players in the GameFAQs forums. But I can already feel my IQ points slipping away with every word I type in this window. I’M FINISHED.

  • Krillian

    I miss Kubrick. And I like some Malick (Badlands, New World). Still haven’t seen Days of Heaven. I liked the middle third of Thin Red Line. Tree of Life, I felt like I was watching a wonderful visual exercise but also one that would have been so much better if he’d had a little plot. Jessica Chastain has maybe two lines? Did Sean Penn speak at all?

    So to hear To the Wonder goes further off the narrative reservation, cutting out half his cast completely and reducing alleged lead Ben Affleck to a minor part in favor of Olga Kurylenko…. I think I’d spend the whole movie wondering how brilliant this would have been if he’d had a producer who knew how to say “no” a little more.

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