Archive for the ‘Brad Pitt’ Category

TueJun201121

Smithville, TX Goes Hollywood

 Who would have thought that we would get to meet movie stars and have them stay in our Bed and Breakfast?  Check out  this new  article from the Houston Chronicle. I love the last line: “They are beyond film-friendly,” Patterson says. “There’s something almost magical about filming in Smithville.”

Texas’ quaint Smithville goes Hollywood

By MELANIE WARNER SPENCER
Copyright 2011, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

June 21, 2011, 12:09AM

 Road trippers, business travelers and other rambling types who have driven the stretch of highway between Houston and Austin likely have spied the big “Smithville, Home of Hope Floats sign off of Texas 71. Despite the town’s proud history with the 1998 Sandra Bullock movie, Smithville likely isn’t the first place to spring to mind when most people think about Texas film. Since 2008, however, when Texas writer/director Terrence Malick shot much of his Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or award-winning opus The Tree of Life in Smithville, the sleepy hamlet has served as the backdrop for nine feature films and a variety of shorts, commercials and Web series. “It’s a beautiful town,” says John Patterson, location manager for The Tree of Life. “For six weeks, we filmed in one neighborhood. Part of the idea was having a neighborhood in the ’50s where the boys could run yard to yard without fences and without knowing whose yard they are in.”The film is set in the Midwest and focuses on the relationship of the eldest of three sons, Jack (played by Sean Penn), with his father (Brad Pitt). It tackles questions about relationships, faith, innocence lost and the meaning of life. Smithville offers a wealth of virtually untouched ’50s-era architecture, as well as Victorian, ’60s, ’70s and contemporary suburban streetscapes.The former made it a natural location for the movie, but according to Patterson, Smithville had much more to offer than just a great look. “We really got to know the town,” Patterson says. “Some of the cast and crew lived right in town and rented houses and rode their bikes to the set. It’s a pretty unique way to make a film.” Rather than using the ubiquitous trucks and trailers for hair and makeup, wardrobe and stars dressing rooms, they rented out a house for each department or actor to use as a base. While logistics and location are key, there is one thing that comes up every time you talk to a person who has worked on a film in Smithville: “It comes down to the people who live there,” Patterson says. “They all know it’s a special place. They are happy to be there and happy to show it off.” Quenby Iandiorio, a wardrobe supervisor and set costumer who moved to Austin from Los Angeles in 2010, has worked on three movies in Smithville in the past year: Beneath the Darkness, a thriller starring Dennis Quaid; Doonby, a drama featuring John Schneider; and Natural Selection, a dark comedy starring Rachael Harris by writer-director and Houston-native Robbie Pickering.The latter swept Austin’s South by Southwest film festival in March, nabbing the Grand Jury Prize for narrative feature filmmaking, the festival Audience Award and jury prizes for music, editing and screenplay, as well as breakthrough performance honors for Harris and Matt O’Leary. Iandiorio has both commuted to Smithville and lived there during production. (Beneath the Darkness is due in theaters in October; Doonby and Natural Selection are awaiting distribution deals.)”I totally dug it,” Iandiorio says. “It was a small town, and it’s really easy to get to work every day and change locations. When I was living there, it was magnificent. To be able to ride your bike to set blew my mind, coming from L.A.”While it was at times challenging to find clothing at the last minute, Iandiorio says it’s just part of doing this kind of work in Central Texas. “No matter how much you prepare for a trip, something comes up,” Iandiorio says. “Even in Austin there aren’t the resources that I’m used to having (in L.A.). It’s more challenging to get what the director wants if it’s not already in your collection. But nobody is going to have everything. … You have to shop for it and go secondhand and vintage.”Echoing Patterson’s sentiments, Iandiorio says it’s all about the residents, who are quick to assist the crew and for whom hometown hospitality is matter-of-fact. “Everyone lends themselves to the production,” Iandiorio says. “The small filmmakers wouldn’t be able to do these productions without their assistance. Film commissioner Sheila Tamble really rolls out the red carpet for people and opens up her house. Her husband’s cooking is amazing. Robert would cook for 70 people for lunch at night when we are shooting.” For Tamble, a Smithville native and real estate broker who got into the business quite by accident after showing a house to Malick prior to the shooting of The Tree of Life, it’s about bringing something unique to her community. “What I like is exposing our youth to different opportunities,” Tamble says. “They use the kids a lot in the films. They see the hair, the wardrobe. Our school district, like a lot all over Texas, can’t afford the arts. It’s the best way to show the children up front what it is.”Tamble and other enterprising community leaders in Smithville also recognize the economic benefits of being a film-friendly community. They have made permitting, security and other processes and procedures quick and easy for filmmakers. The mayor allows crews to office out of and hold casting calls at City Hall, and the police department is available to lead directors through the proper steps of a crime scene investigation. In return, thousands of movie-making dollars flood into the town and into the hands of its business owners and residents, who rent out their businesses, homes and guesthouses to crews. They have been known to lend or lease personal property, including planes, vehicles, a bottle of champagne in the middle of the night, farm equipment and even livestock to productions. Tamble’s rooster, Colonel Sanders struts his stuff in Doonby and Five Time Champion. (The latter was an indie favorite at SXSW and Dallas film festivals.)Local nonprofits reap the benefits from the industry, too. Tamble says producers from The Tree of Life, donated fruit trees to the community gardens. During the filming of Beneath the Darkness, Quaid participated in a Blue Santa benefit that raised more than $10,000. And Darkness director Martin Guigui is planning to return in October for the Smithville Music Festival. “The economic impact is something we see more because we are a small community,” Tamble says. “Tree of Life’s impact was about $725,000, not including what cast and crew spent on their own time.”The chamber of commerce has also gotten in on the action, creating a city map that pinpoints locations from the various movies and revamping its website, http://www.smithvilletx.org/, to include up-to-date details on current and past movies. Its tagline is: “A film-, family- and business-friendly community.” “They are beyond film-friendly,” Patterson says. “There’s something almost magical about filming in Smithville.”

melanie.spencer@chron.com
Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/7618946.html#ixzz1Pwdol9q9


TueMay201124

Smithville, TX is proud of “Tree of Life”

Here is a wonderful review of  “Tree of Life.”  Our little town, Smithville  has had movies filmed here before.  The first was “Hope Floats.”  Reading the review below  makes me want to see the movie at least twice.  And I wish we didn’t have to wait till June 3rd.  We had the three boys that played the three brothers in movie,  and their families,  stay with us at our Bed and Breakfast last September when they came to town again.  For more info. on Smithville visit the Chamber page at http://www.smithvilletx.org/   and visit our web page at http://www.katyhouse.com

This review is from the web site: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49760

Nordling here.

Audiences who engage with Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE may find that it will be impossible to watch without bringing their own personal history, their emotional baggage, their own family experiences with them to the film.  The film’s considerable power comes from Malick’s ability to go to a universal place and yet still make the film seem very personal and relevant to each individual who sees it.  It is possible to view the film empirically.  Just from the one viewing that I had, I feel it is a masterwork, but it resonates with me with such force that I find myself unable to think about the film without it being filtered by my own life experiences.  I do not think I will be the only one who feels that way about this film.

THE TREE OF LIFE is absolutely not for everyone.  It’s quiet, contemplative, and it rewards patience and understanding.  Many moviegoers will flat out hate it – they will hate Malick’s refusal to tell his story with a conventional narrative; they will hate Malick’s flights-of-fancy that will come off to some as incredibly indulgent; they will hate the fact that Malick devotes most of the film to a portrait of a family in small-town 1950s Texas and think that it is not a subject deserving of so much time and attention. The criticisms put against this film – it’s indulgent, pretentious, too long – could be valid for a moviegoer unused to working with a film the way Malick requires.  The film is as full and as long as Malick needs it to be; critics of the length remind me of AMADEUS’s Mozart asking which notes he should take out of his opera.  He has a journey in mind, and he will not skip any step, because as so many have said before, the point isn’t about where you arrive but how you got there.  But Malick tells this story the only way he can, and how audiences respond to it is very much what the movie is about, as opposed to any kind of linear narrative path.

We begin with a Bible verse of Job 38: 4, 7 – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  But the film doesn’t approach religion from a strictly Christian perspective (although its influence on Malick is clear).  The film’s theme is specified in the opening dialogue from Mrs. O’Brien – “There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow.”  Nature, we are told, is selfish and full of itself.  Grace is love, and the giving of oneself to a higher calling or power.  From there we are taken on a journey through the very foundations of the universe, and into the inner workings of the human heart.  Malick’s film suggests that the difference is miniscule.

Each scene in THE TREE OF LIFE doesn’t play out in a traditional narrative sense – we are either in someone’s inner imaginings, or we are dropped into a remembrance without any pretense.  However, the film is not without plot.  Instead of laying out each scene with a narrative precision, the film puts us in the emotional perspective of the character.  This film isn’t so much watched as it is lived through.  Brad Pitt plays domineering but loving Mr. O’Brien, who is a strict taskmaster to his children and seems unable to express into words his deep, stirring inner feelings.  On the other end of the spectrum is Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) who isn’t so much a character as she is an ideal of motherhood.   Jack (Hunter McCracken as a child, Sean Pennas an adult) is very much the product of these two powerful figures in his life.  The film is bookended by modern day sequences in Houston – and I’ve never seen Houston look as beautiful as how Emmanuel Lubezki shoots it here, all glass and sunlight – as Jack remembers his conflicted youth, and the loss of his brother.  In the film’s opening, Mrs. O’Brien receives a letter, a telegram that shatters the O’Briens – the death of their child R.L. (Laramie Eppler, who looks uncannily like Pitt) when he is 19.  It is assumed, because of the time and the manner of the telegram that he dies in Vietnam, but I think Malick deliberately left this vague, especially in today’s present circumstances.  It doesn’t matter how he died – what matters is that his death sends the family into a deep questioning of their faith and why it happened.  Mrs. O’Brien, in particular, takes R.L.’s death hard, asking God why, and receiving little comfort.  

It’s in this part of the film that Malick takes us into the depths of Creation and into the beginnings of life on Earth.  Audiences may struggle with the meaning behind it, but that’s the point – when we are given difficult moments in our lives, we question why, and our thoughts may turn to the very foundations of the universe to find our answer.  This 20-minute sequence takes us from the creation of everything to the pool of water where the first life takes shape, to dinosaurs on the beach and in a forest, and in all of this we are shown the aspects of Mrs. O’Brien’s argument of nature and grace.  Huge in scope, Malick himself seems to search for the truth as much as Mrs. O’Brien.  Nature can be cruel, as demonstrated in a sequence where two dinosaurs meet in a forest, one dinosaur putting his heel to the other, fallen dinosaur’s head, almost teasing, much like a brother teases his younger. 

From these origins of the world we go to Waco, Texas, and a loving couple, as they fall in love and have children.  The three O’Brien boys, Jack, R.L., and Steve (Tye Sheridan), behave as children do – they play, they do their father’s bidding, they grow.  R.L., especially, seems a sensitive youth, into music (in one of my favorite scenes of the film R.L. sits on the porch outside playing guitar as his father quietly accompanies him on the piano).  The youngest, Steve, is quiet and unassuming.  But it is Jack, the oldest, who is the most tempestuous, questioning his father’s authority and his own place in the world.  The film portrays childhood wonderfully and truthfully – never has a film captured quite so well what it is like to be a young boy with the infinite summer ahead of him.  In the meantime, Mr. O’Brien is struggling; feeling rejected by his peers and neighbors, he is increasingly tougher on his children as they grow older.  In his rebellious nature, Jack starts to push back, and this becomes the central conflict of the film.  Will Jack go the way of nature, or of grace?  Is he his father’s son, or his mother’s, or both?

Brad Pitt is amazing in his performance.  It is a simplification to say that he’s a simple abusive father.  For Mr. O’Brien, his children are his hope to achieve in ways that he has not, and he truly loves them.  At the same time, every moment of anger pushes them further and further away, and he is incapable of articulating the storm of emotion within him.  Jessica Chastain is terrific as well, although as I said, her character is a very broad portrait of motherhood as opposed to anything specific.  She seems to live to serve her husband, and only when he is gone away on a trip that she comes to life with the children, playing and enjoying life.  Young Hunter McCracken’s Jack doesn’t feel like a performance – it feels like a life.  His curiosity, his imagination, and his love for his family all shine through.  It is an entirely genuine performance.  Sean Penn isn’t in it much, but his performance is essential as a touchstone to the audience, especially in the film’s ending, which will either send filmgoers out either enraptured or just confused.  I felt that the ending was Malick’s way of making peace with loss, and found it very effective.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s camerawork is transcendent.  It’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen.  The way he captures the light, the angles, and the playful movement – it’s cinematography on a level that seems larger than any accolades that could be thrown at it.  Alexandre Desplat’s score is triumphant, and as the focus of the film shifts from cosmic to intimate in a breath’s time, his music accentuates the shift and stays cohesive.  The effects work of the Creation sequence is immaculate – Douglas Trumbull of 2001 and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was a consultant on the visual effects, and it shows.  There is a real weight to each vision, and as we go from the very foundations of the universe to present day Texas, it feels effortless.

But it is Terrence Malick, the master filmmaker, who creates something truly amazing with THE TREE OF LIFE.  The film is a prayer, without being any specific religion (although the underpinnings seem decidedly Christian).  The film’s portrayals of spirituality and our relationship to the universe and each other are very universal, and yet, I felt the film was intensely specific to my own life.  I imagine my experience with THE TREE OF LIFE will not be unique.  The film is both epic and intimate, both grandiose and personal, and challenging to the extreme.  There will be those who will not be open to what the film offers.  Because the film refuses to follow a traditional narrative, because the film wears its emotions on its sleeve, and because of the length, if you are not a diehard film fan, willing to take risks, I cannot recommend this film.  As for me, I’ve seen it once, and I know I’ll be seeing it again.  This summer will be full of action films, and superhero films, big budget effects extravaganzas that will promise an experience never seen before.  But if any come close to what Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE does, then they may have something to brag about.  It is a difficult film, an ambitious film, and not for the casual filmgoer.  THE TREE OF LIFE, for any true film fan, must be seen on the biggest screen that can be found.  It is a celebration of life, hope, family, and a singular, transformative film experience.

Nordling, out.


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