(We interrupt this Oscar countdown for an announcement: Tomorrow — that would be Friday — I’ll be hosting a live chat about the Oscars, right here, at noon. Please join me! I’ll be lonely if you don’t.)
And now, in our alphabetical wanderings through the the Best Picture nominees, we come to the most divisive of them: Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” Malick’s film — his first since 2005’s “The New World,” and only the fifth feature in his long career, which began with 1978’s “Badlands” — was one of those about which absolutely nobody felt lukewarm: people loved it, or they hated it. Clearly enough Academy members loved it to get it onto the ballot (best picture candidates, this year, had to get at least 5 percent of the first-place votes to advance), and I’d argue that it belongs there as a beautiful and unique creative work. Here’s my review, if you’re interested; here’s a response sent to me by a reader, which speaks for itself:
Having lived through six decades of film viewing . . . I must tell you that “Tree of Life” is the “Crowning Turd” in the sewer pipe of worst films ever made on my own list. Perhaps only “Night of the Lepus” even compares as being oppressively boring and preposterous as entertainment.
OK then. Let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?
Total U.S. box office: $13.3 million (lowest of the nine nominees)
Total Oscar nominations: Three, for best picture, director, and cinematography (by Emmanuel Lubezki.
Best chance for a win: Not a chance in the top categories, but I think Lubezki, a five-time nominee who’s never won before (previously nominated for “Children of Men,” “The New World,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and “A Little Princess”), has a decent shot — the cinematography is the one element about “Tree of Life” that’s not controversial. Or is it?
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: The famously reclusive Malick probably won’t even show up, so if some extraordinary upset happens and he wins a top award, nobody will know what to do — which is always entertaining. But it won’t happen.
Where I’d rank this film among the nine nominees: 4
Brad Pitt in “The Tree of Life” (photo by Merie Wallace; courtesy of Fox Searchlight)