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Tornado Chasers (2012)
Nothing Else Like It Anywhere
Since Discovery's decision to cancel its Storm Chasers series, Reed Timmer's Tornado Chasers has become the only game in town for a truly immersive storm chasing experience.
The great thing about the show is that it's not JUST about intercepting and punching the core. As a viewer, the easiest thing in the world to do is search You Tube for insane tornado videos. What Tornado Chasers does is offer perspective. The viewer gets to see firsthand how unbelievably difficult it is for chasers like the TVN crew to actually get to where tornadoes happen. All day drives, gas station food, and the gut-wrenching "busts" of picking the wrong region to chase in or the wrong storm cell to pursue are documentary aspects you're not going to see anywhere else.
And then there's the science. While most chasers merely document tornadoes and other violent weather for commercial purposes, Reed's crew repeatedly mentions throughout the episodes that saving lives is the ultimate mission statement. Intercepting tornadoes will allow meteorologists to get a better understanding of how tornadoes work; which will then lead to a more advanced warning system. This will save lives.
If you are interested in heavy weather and cutting edge science, you won't find anything in the same ballpark as Tornado Chasers.
The Tree of Life (2011)
The Tree of Life Completes Malick's Trilogy?
Just as Los Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire represent a thematic, non-linear trilogy for David Lynch, I think the precise same thing can be said of The Thin Red Line, The New World, and The Tree of Life.
The Thin Red Line, at its core, questions the role of violence in nature and, more importantly, whether MEN (human beings) are the only life forms in the world that are inherently violent.
The New World touches on similar themes but is careful to depict that not ALL men are inherently violent. In The Thin Red Line there is a very brief scene at the beginning where Jim Caviezel and some other American GI are AWOL and living amongst a tribe of peaceful aborigines on some Pacific island. But in the New World, the girl's entire tribe, aka "The Naturals," are inherently peaceful and indigenous people. The arrival of Sir Christopher Newport and John Smith and the founding of Jamestown re- introduced us to the "malignant" aspect of man's being. The dark half. The girl (Pocahontas), philosophically, represents complete purity, or, at any rate, as pure as a human being can get. The fact that she unwittingly betrayed her people by falling in love with Smith, thus spoiling their collective "purity," as well as her own, is depicted rather brilliantly in that film. After Smith deserts her, she hesitatingly agrees to marry John Rolfe a few years later. Her visit to Europe to visit the King and Queen resulted in her contracting some European disease that quickly killed her. The wholeness of the "corruption of purity" allegory is magnificently captured in The New World. Of course, 90% of people who see it just think it's an odd, slow- moving period piece about Pocahontas.
The Tree of Life almost combines all the elements of the first two films. In The Thin Red Line, Malick went back to World War II. In the New World he went back to the 17th century. In The Tree of Life he combines the post-war 1950s along with the Big Bang and the creation of the galaxy (and the Jurassic period which is probably about midway between the two points). I think the thesis of The Tree of Life was that line muttered early in the film: the way of grace vs the way of nature. The sum total, in my opinion, is that in life, we are all influenced by BOTH of these factors. The rough and tumbling father (Brad Pitt) obviously represented "nature," and Jessica Chastain clearly represented "grace." As he does in all of his films, these characters are PURELY analogous. As the boys are growing up in Waco, Texas, we see that the fight between nature and grace runs about 50/50 in terms of influencing their upbringing and the construction of their value system. But it's not until the middle child dies that the concept of "love" is genuinely introduced. The adult version of Jack (Sean Penn) is clearly lost and passionless in modern society. He drifts through the day looking like a lost soul who was claimed by NEITHER nature nor grace. But the dream sequence in which his whole family was walking through the water toward that tree seems to me that the concept of love (beyond parental rearing, which is also common in animals) is what separates people from apes.
Like any great auteur, Malick certainly doesn't attempt to clearly answer any of these questions. If anything, he's merely posing them. And in the end, I don't think there is a clear answer. We are sometimes violent and angry (as shown by young Jack) and sometimes we are loving and caring (as seen by adult Jack during his daydream sequence). Our upbringing, and our childhood influences, will go a long way to determining what kind of people we grow up to be. In and of itself there's probably nothing particularly earth-shattering about that knowledge, but Malick really goes all out to dissect the world (universe, too) and our place in it. He doesn't argue in favor of God's existence, nor does he argue against it. If anything, he probably just wants people to examine their own existence a little more closely and where they fit in into the vastness of space and time. If people do that, maybe they'll be able to put things into perspective a little better and stop worrying about 4G smart phones and iPads, etc.