(a) The “Soviet montage theory” editing – combining shots of the universe intimate family moments and whispered thoughts, the constant movement of the camera – I suspect this style will be imitated a lot in the coming decade.
(b) My wife pointed out to me, this as clear a dramatic depiction of motherhood as either of us have seen, especially the nature of mothers and sons.
(c) Haven’t seen The Artist, but I’m genuinely surprised it beat Tree of Life for Best Picture. It strikes me that a very forward-looking picture lost out to what seems like a very backward-looking silent picture.
(d) How Malick used classical music shows the strengths and weaknesses of relying on classical music for a score. By cherry picking masterworks, you can get enormous emotional power and depth…for the first 60-90 seconds of a given scene. But then there is often a tendency for the emotions of the drama and the music to drift away from each other. The other problem is that the masterworks tend to be than longer film scenes, so you end up with awkward fadeouts. Also, using multiple masterworks means a score without a unified theme, and that can make a film feel a little more like hard work to watch than it would otherwise.
(e) I agree with many that the universe sequence near the start of the film was too long. Felt indulgent. Maybe handing the audience a little bit more narrative along the way would have helped…we were away from the family’s story for quite a while there.
(f) Malick is clearly a fan of Fellini and Kubrick.
(g) I loved, loved those cavernous shots of the atriums and skyscrapers in Sean Penn’s sequences.
Even with quibbles, I thought TOL towers over recent Oscar winners (King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker). I suppose the one thing you could say is that those films are great stories, and The Tree of Life isn’t much of a story. But exploiting the medium of filmmaking…I was ready to be bored by an ambitious, arty film, but instead I was often astonished and rapt.