Travels with Oscar, Smithville TX shines
This article is from the Orange County Register, Feb 23, 2012
People tend to either think Terrence Malick is one of the few artists left working in film, or the maker of insufferably obtuse movies. I have to admit I’m conflicted.
Though I’m a big military history buff, I couldn’t endure the endless shots of waving grass in “The Thin Red Line” and dropped out about 45 minutes into it. I know a lot of people didn’t make it that long into “The Tree of Life,” Malick’s defiantly nonnarrative rumination on the battle between the states of grace and nature over endless time. The opening sequences of the creation of the universe (dinosaurs?) and the corner of the world where Brad Pitt and family will live out their lives feel a lot like the start of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Maybe “The Tree of Life” just hit me at the right moment – it’s my favorite movie of the year. Battling congestion one late night in January, I popped “Tree of Life” into the DVD player. Maybe it was the combination: cold medicine, alone, dark and quiet house, Blu-ray on high-definition TV. I couldn’t take my eyes away.
The heart of the film is the town where Pitt alternately hugs and bullies his boys. I was transfixed by the simple beauty of the town – the trees, the houses, the shadows, the road and the faces. At the end of the movie, I scrambled to find where the film was shot. Though some shots were done in other parts of Texas, the core of the story is told in Smithville, just outside of Austin. I’ve explored the Hill Country west and north of Austin but never ventured to the east. The town of wide streets and an old-style downtown has been featured before, in “Hope Floats.” I want to go, though I don’t know what I’ll do when I get there or what I would see. Just life, I guess. Sounds like a Malick film.
P.S. Our B&B, the Katy House is eight blocks from the house used in “Tree of Life” The Smithville Chamber has a new brochure listing most of the places in town used in the movies filmed in Smithville.