News Update :

SXSW: The Strokes show how it’s done

Written By johny on Friday, 30 December 2011 | 11:28:00 p.m.

The main strip in South by Southwest (SXSW), the musical festival held in Austin, Texas, teems with small, dingy dive bars hosting the most important musical acts of 2011. On any corner you could run into Bob Geldof – the festival’s keynote speaker this year – Simon Le Bon, Jack White or Odd Future, the most exciting act in the world at the moment.

Guitar rock rules here. After many pale imitations, the talking point was the Strokes, who played in a riverside park outside the main area. The band, who are releasing their fourth album, Angles, today, performed at twilight before a backdrop of sci-fi skyscrapers and flitting bats. They sounded fresher and crisper than any of the indie bands playing at the festival.

Julian Casablancas’s molasses-slicked voice and rock-star presence showed up many of the pretender bands and even the poorer songs from the new album were enjoyable. Most of the crowd stopped tearing into their enormous turkey legs as soon as they started. The fireworks at the end of the set provided an apt finale.

Legends of synthpop Duran Duran headlined on the first evening and, again, showed their progeny how it’s done. A synth (and a tattoo) in Austin is a standard accessory and the carbon new wave copies can get tiresome. But the lengthy queues for the Brummie band were deserved. They proved why they’ve been so popular for decades.

The highlight, the show that was talked about for the entire weekend, was Odd Future. They’re a macabre, lyrically knifesharp hip-hop collective in their late teens. They played in a skate park in the blazing sun and climbed on top of the speakers and the roof, rapping over the crowd before launching themselves like flying squirrels into the pit and continuing their songs, held up by their loyal fans.

Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona in Santiago Bernabéu

Barcelona were the comeback kings at the Santiago Bernabeu as the champions recovered from conceding within the first minute to defeat bitter rivals Real Madrid 3-1 in the seventh and final Clasico of 2011. Jose Mourinho’s men took the lead after only 22 seconds when Karim Benzema grabbed the quickest goal in Clasico history. The home side were pegged back on the half hour mark when Alexis Sanchez grabbed an equaliser in his first league appearance against Madrid.

A Xavi volley took a fortuitous deflection off Marcelo to give the visitors the lead, before Cesc Fabregas’ header finished off a wonderful team move in the 66th minute in what proved to be the fixture’s final strike. The victory sends Barcelona level on points with Jose Mourinho’s men and to the top of the Liga table due to their superior head-to-head record against Madrid, who have a game in hand.
In one of the most astonishing starts in the history of the Clasico, Real Madrid were a goal to the good within 22 seconds. Victor Valdes’ poor clearance fell to the feet of Angel Di Maria who drilled the ball into the penalty area only for Sergio Busquets to block its progress. Mesut Ozil’s attempted volley deflected off Busquets into the path of Benzema to fire home six yards from goal.

Madrid were left to rue opportunities to double their lead when Barcelona drew level on the half hour mark with Messi on hand to turn provider. The 24-year-old bypassed several challenges before sliding a weighted through ball to Alexis Sanchez, who calmly slotted past Casillas from the edge of the area to bring his side back into the game and all square at the break.

After a edgy opening to the second period, Barcelona were handed the lead thanks to a large slice of fortune on 53 minutes. Xavi’s speculative volley 25 yards from goal took a massive deflection off Marcelo, fooling a wrong-footed Casillas with the ball spinning off the post and into the back of the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who had in the first half skewed a shot wide of the target when Di Maria was perhaps better placed to his right, then squandered a golden opportunity to level the contest. Xabi Alonso’s cross found the Portuguese completely unmarked inside the area, but his header drifted wide of the post.

Madrid were made to pay, as Barca extended their lead in the 66th minute after a breathtaking counterattacking move. Messi slid the ball out to the right for Dani Alves to whip a beautiful cross towards the back post where an unmarked Cesc Fabregas was on cue to coolly head the ball into the far corner in what was to be the final goal of a pulsating encounter.

Next up for Real Madrid is a trip to Ponferradina on Tuesday as they look to defend their Copa del Rey title. Barcelona now head to Japan where they will feature in the Club World Cup. Their first task will be a semi-final meeting against either Esperance or Al Sadd on Thursday.

Source :

Julian Pavone is World’s Youngest Professional Drummer

Guinness World Records has recognized a U.S. boy as the youngest professional drummer. Julian Pavone was certified as of March 21, 2010, when he was 5 years 10 months and 3 days old, Guinness announced Tuesday.

The rules for London-based Guinness say a drummer must play on at least one commercial record and be paid for the work. The drummer also must have given at least 20 concerts of 45 minutes or longer within five years. Julian is 7 and lives outside Detroit.

His drummer-father, Bernie Pavone, said Julian’s percussion background dates back before birth. “I used to play music on my wife’s stomach all the time when she was pregnant with Julian,” Guinness quoted the father as saying.

Julian has appeared on about 150 television and news shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Martha Stewart,” “The Maury Show,” “FOX News Dayside” and “Inside Edition.”

The previous record holder was Tiger Onitsuka of Japan, who was recognized at age 9 years, 9 months.

Source :

Boxing Legend ‘Smokin’ Joe’ Frazier Dead at 67

joe frazier

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, who was known for his personal and professional battles with Muhammad Ali, has died at the age of 67 after a brief fight with cancer.

The youngest of 12 children, Frazier was born in 1944 into a working-class family on a farm in the racially-segregated southeastern U.S. town of Beaufort, South Carolina. Frazier dreamed of becoming a prize fighter from an early age, watching boxing matches on his family’s black-and-white television.

After fighting as an amateur for several years, Frazier won a gold medal for the United States at the 1964 Olympic Games.  But “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier really made his name in the 1970s during his epic rivalry with boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Frazier became the first man to beat Ali, winning the heavyweight title in 1971 in a dramatic, 15-round unanimous decision at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dubbed the “fight of the century,” an estimated 300 million people worldwide viewed the match, which left both men hospitalized.

After Ali responded with a 12-round victory in 1974, the two men met in the Philippines for the famed “Thrilla in Manila,” considered as one of the most famous sporting events in history. After battering each other for 14 rounds, Frazier was forcibly held back by his trainer after nearly being blinded by Ali’s punches. Ali later said the match was the “closest thing to dying” that he had ever experienced.

The no-nonsense Frazier was often overshadowed by Ali’s more aggressive and charismatic personality. Frazier resented being verbally attacked by Ali, who referred to him as a “gorilla” and accused Frazier of being too accommodating to the white-dominated society.

The two men remained bitter enemies for decades. But in later years, Frazier came to forgive Ali, saying he felt no bitterness against him for his attacks outside the ring. Ali also later apologized, saying the insults were only meant to promote the fights. Ali said in a statement late Monday that “the world has lost a great champion,” and that he will always remember Joe with “respect and admiration.”

Frazier’s aggressiveness, close-range style and devastating left hook compensated for his relative small size. He weighed just 93 kilograms – considered small for a heavyweight boxer. Frazier retired in 1976 with a record of 32 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw.  The boxing icon’s family said late Monday that he died in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia – one month after being diagnosed with an advanced form of liver cancer.

Source :

Drinking 8 Glasses Of Water A Day Is ‘Nonsense,’ Doc Says

Written By johny on Thursday, 29 December 2011 | 9:10:00 p.m.

The health recommendation to drink six to eight glasses of water a day is “thoroughly debunked nonsense,” a doctor wrote this week in a commentary in the British Medical Journal.

Many health departments and organizations tout the need to drink that much water every day, but there is no high-quality scientific evidence to support the recommendation, wrote Dr. Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner based in Scotland.

Some organizations backed by bottled-water makers — such as Hydration for Health, created by the makers of Volvic and Evian — say that it’s important to drink 1.5 to 2 liters (about 6 to 8 cups) of water a day, and that being even mildly dehydrated plays a role in disease development, McCartney wrote.

However, no such claims have ever been confirmed in studies, she said, and drinking too much water can actually be dangerous by causing low blood sodium levels (a condition called hyponatraemia) and exposing people to pollutants in the water.

“People still think that we’re all going to die or our kidneys will shrivel up if we don’t drink eight cups of water a day,” McCartney told Postmedia News. “From what I can see, there’s never been any evidence in the medical literature about it.”

The first recommendation to drink six to eight glasses of water a day has been traced back to a 1945 U.S. research paper, but even that isn’t for certain, Postmedia News reported.

The Guardian reported that humans’ thirst mechanisms are so sophisticated that if our bodies are in need of water, they’ll let us know by making us thirsty.

What to Eat to Beat Skin Cancer

You got the pale-is-the-new-tan memo years ago and have the sun smarts to prove it. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and women age 39 and under have a higher probability of developing its most serious form, melanoma, than they do any other invasive cancer except breast cancer.

Yep; knew that. Slather on waterproof sunscreen before you exercise, sport floppy broad-brimmed hats at the beach, stay out of midday rays, and steer clear of tanning beds. Check; do all that. Still, despite your savvy and diligence, there’s a new stealth skin saver you may be missing: your diet.

“The research is preliminary but promising,” says Karen Collins, RD, clinical dietitian and nutrition adviser for the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. “In addition to limiting your sun exposure, eating certain foods may help reduce your risk.”

Get in Fighting Shape with Mayweather and Mosley

Floyd Mayweather was dressed in a nice suit, standing on a stage in Manhattan in front of journalists and fans. His soon-to-be opponent, Shane Mosley, was equally dapper and only a few feet away. The press conference to announce their May 1 fight had just had just ended, but Mayweather was already pumped. Already competing.

We asked him for his favorite workout, the one he’ll turn to as the fight day draws near, and he said, “Every day I go to the gym, the first thing I do is shadowbox. I probably shadowbox, I don’t know, 10 minutes.” He paused. Thought about what makes him a champion. Then he withdrew: “If I give my own gameplan, I’m giving the world my remedy on how I train. I can’t give the world my remedy.”

Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? Floyd Mayweather is a hell of a boxer. A fierce talent. Could his workout be that important to his success? You’d be surprised at the answer. A smart plan separates a strong body from an imbalanced one, and a top athlete from an injured one.

These guys may be protective of their secrets, but we snagged a few from them anyway. We spoke with Mayweather, his trainer, and Mosley’s trainer, to give you the six keys to getting in top condition. Use them to succeed in any sport.

3 US ships in Vietnam to train with former foe

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — Three U.S. Navy ships were welcomed Friday by former foe Vietnam for joint training, despite China’s irritation following weeks of fiery exchanges between the communist neighbors over disputed areas of the South China Sea.

U.S. and Vietnamese officials have stressed that the seven-day ship visit and naval training are part of routine exchanges planned long before tensions began flaring between China and Vietnam in late May. China has criticized the port call as inappropriate, saying it should have been rescheduled due to the ongoing squabble.

The U.S. visit, however, did send a message that the Navy remains a formidable maritime force in the region and is determined to build stronger military ties with smaller Southeast Asian countries.

“We’ve had a presence in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea for 50 to 60 years, even going back before World War II,” Rear Adm. Tom Carney, who’s leading the naval exchange, told reporters. “We will maintain a presence in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea as we have for decades, and we have no intention of departing from that kind of activity.”

He spoke on the pier in central Danang, once home to a bustling U.S. military base during the Vietnam War, in front of the diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard. American and Vietnamese flags flapped in the steamy air from the ship, and two guided missile destroyers — USS Chung-Hoon and USS Preble — were visible off the coast.

The two navies will hold exchanges involving navigation and damage control along with dive and salvage training. No live-fire drills will be conducted.

Vietnam and China last month both announced their navies held such maneuvers individually in the South China Sea after relations hit a low point when Hanoi twice accused Beijing of hindering oil exploration within Vietnam’s economic exclusive zone.

China responded that Vietnamese boats had endangered Chinese fishermen in a different area near the contested resource-rich Spratly islands, claimed all or in part by both nations and several others.

Tempers appeared to be cooling after Chinese and Vietnamese officials met last month and announced they would work to negotiate a peaceful resolution. But Vietnamese state-run media and a border official on Wednesday accused armed Chinese soldiers of attacking and chasing a Vietnamese fishing boat near the disputed Paracel islands claimed by both countries.

The Philippines has also recently sparred with China, alleging similar interference with its energy exploration efforts in the South China Sea. The U.S. last month conducted similar joint naval exercises that included live-fire drills with the Philippines, a treaty ally.

On Monday in Beijing, top Chinese Gen. Chen Bingde criticized his U.S. counterpart for going forward with the exercises in Vietnam and the Philippines, calling it bad timing in light of the ongoing spats. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the decision saying the exchanges were pre-planned.

“I don’t know when an appropriate time would be for these kind of activities, which are designed to promote friendship and cooperation,” Carney said from the Vietnam pier. “But I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to do those kind of activities.”

Washington has said that the South China Sea, home to major shipping lanes, is in its national interest. China, which has an expanding maritime influence, has designated the area as a core interest — essentially something it could go to war over. Worried smaller neighboring countries have looked to the U.S. to maintain a strong presence in the region.

“The U.S. has made its point and will continue to do so if pressed, but does not appear to be looking for a fight with Beijing on this issue,” said Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank. “It is not likely to heed or back down as a result of Chinese ‘warnings,’ however, which will likely make Washington feel more compelled to respond.”

The current U.S. visit to Vietnam involves about 700 sailors and builds on the first postwar port call in 2003 made to the former Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. Since then, military relations have continued to grow with high-level defense visits and exchanges.

The two sides recently began working together to clean up dioxin contamination from the defoliant Agent Orange. It was mixed and stored at the U.S. air base in Danang and remains one of the lasting legacies of the Vietnam War that killed some 58,000 Americans and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.

The war ended in 1975 when U.S.-backed South Vietnam fell to northern communist forces and the country was reunified. The U.S. and Vietnam shook hands in 1995 and established diplomatic relations, signing a landmark trade deal six years later. Today, the U.S. is Vietnam’s top export market, while Americans are among the country’s leading foreign investors.

India doesn’t let blasts derail Pakistan talks

NEW DELHI (AP) — India brushed off speculation tying the Mumbai bombings to Pakistan and said Friday it remained committed to recently renewed peace talks with its rival neighbor. The moves showed how little appetite New Delhi has for escalating tensions in the region while it focuses on maintaining economic growth in the South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.

While future revelations about the culprits in the blasts that killed 17 people Wednesday could still sabotage relations between the countries, the Indian government so far has rejected opposition demands for a heavy response against Pakistan.

On Friday, India said it was working out dates for the next round of negotiations expected this month between top officials from both countries. India doesn't let blasts derail Pakistan talks “The talks with Pakistan are on schedule,” foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

Pakistan’s leaders had quickly condemned the blasts and have welcomed India’s measured response. In a statement Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “expressed satisfaction at the resolve of both Pakistan and India to continue with their bilateral dialogue, and not get deterred by terrorists’ designs to derail the dialogue once again.”

The coordinated triple bombings were the worst terror attack in India since 10 Pakistan-based militants rampaged through the city in November 2008, killing 166 people.

Investigators examined forensic evidence and footage from closed circuit cameras Friday for clues about who orchestrated the blasts. “People are being questioned on the basis of our previous database and known linkages. We also have identified the scooter in which one of the bombs was planted,” India’s Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters in New Delhi.

He also said investigators had intercepted an email sent from outside Mumbai but declined to give details. Intelligence analysts say the attack bore the hallmarks of the Indian Mujahideen, a shadowy Islamic militant group.

A former top Indian intelligence official told The Associated Press that Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group has been providing ideological and physical training to the Indian Mujahedeen since 2004. Leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party strongly criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for not taking a harder line with Pakistan.

“Manmohan Singh, sir, what is the nature of your relationship with Pakistan?” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad asked angrily at a news conference Friday. Government officials have refused to take the bait. Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said Thursday that investigators were not ruling out the possibility the attacks were aimed at scuttling the talks.

G. Parthasarthy, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, said it would have been counterproductive for the government to overreact, especially on something as important as peace talks, before a culprit was named. “If concrete proof emerges, I have no idea what the government will do,” he said.

The talks, though unlikely to produce concrete results because of political weakness on both sides, at least will lower the temperature between the nations, said Ashok Mehta, a retired Indian army general and leading strategic analyst.

“They’ve tried both talking and not talking, and the experience has been that talking is the most viable option,” he said.

In addition, cutting off talks would be a politically damaging admission of failure for Singh, who is already fighting off a raft of corruption allegations against his government.

“The prime minister has staked his reputation and his political fortune on being able to change Pakistan’s behavior and get them to live as peaceful and friendly neighbors,” Mehta said.

India and Pakistan, nuclear powers that have fought three wars since independence in 1947, had been engaged in reportedly fruitful negotiations before the Mumbai siege nearly three years ago.

India quickly broke off the peace talks, demanding Pakistan crack down on those accused in the attack, including Lashkar-e-Taiba. Last month, a Pakistani-American testified in a trial in Chicago that Pakistani intelligence was directly involved in plotting and funding the Mumbai siege, a charge denied by Islamabad.

Though India remained unsatisfied with Islamabad’s tepid effort to bring those responsible for the attack to justice, the two countries decided in February to restart a full-fledged peace process and have since held talks about the disputed region of Kashmir and the continuing threat posed by terrorism.

Pakistani political analyst Khaled Mahmood said India has in the past been quick to suspend talks or consider military options, but that they “didn’t gain anything out of it.”

This time, “the government’s approach has been more mature,” he said. “It’s a good development. The process is already on. If this would be interrupted, then it would take a lot of time and effort to resume it.” But Parthasarthy, the former ambassador to Pakistan, said India’s patience has limits.

“Tensions will flare if there is one more terrorist attack,” he said. “I don’t think next time around our response will be as Gandhian as it was in the past.”

Mexican authorities find massive marijuana plantation

Tijuana, Mexico (CNN) — Hidden between tomato stalks, the Mexican army found what officials describe as the largest marijuana plantation in the nation, a top military official announced Thursday.

Gen. Alfonso Duarte Mugica said the plantation six hours south of Tijuana is 168 times larger than the soccer field in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium. It spans for 120 hectares (about 300 acres), he said.Mexican authorities find massive marijuana plantation

Tomatoes growing there hid marijuana plants that were up to 2.5 meters (8.2. feet) tall, Duarte said. Authorities detained six people this week during the operation to seize the field, which is located in the area of Ensenada, Baja California.

The takeover means drug traffickers will not receive 1.8 billion pesos ($153 million), he said, apparently referring to an estimated sales value of the crop. Duarte said 250 soldiers will destroy the drugs seized within the next week.

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration began in December 2006, officials have destroyed more than 83,251 hectares (206,000 acres) of marijuana, according to a report from the country’s defense department.

Bridesmaids Movie Review by Anna Smith at Empire

Anchorman, Superbad, The 40 Year-Old Virgin… Producer Judd Apatow has helped make the last seven years a lot funnier. Meanwhile, fans of mainstream female-focused comedies have mostly been offered insipid J-Lo vehicles and Sex And The City movies. Thankfully, Apatow has turned his attention to the fairer sex, although most members of this bridal party are far from coy. Kristen Wiig’s Annie has a blunt wit, a regular fuck-buddy (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) and could drink Bridget Jones right under the table. She also has a tendency for self-doubt and a problem with organisation, both of which come to the fore when she’s asked to play Maid Of Honour for Maya Rudolph’s Lillian.

Co-writer Wiig has created a heroine with bitterly funny, relatable character observations and a genial, down-to-earth performance. Annie is no clotheshorse tripping in her heels, nor is she man-obsessed. She may go for the wrong kind of guys but her main concern is a female friendship, and it’s this that makes Bridesmaids stand out from the regular chick-flick crowd.

Lillian’s engagement is a wake-up call for Annie, casting a spotlight on her singledom. The last thing Annie needs is an immaculate rich bitch upstaging her at every opportunity. Enter Rose Byrne as Helen. The mistress of the backhanded compliment, Helen’s always on hand with a patronising comment about Annie’s bridal party preparations. She also gives the nervous flyer something to calm her down on a plane, leading to the film’s funniest scenes.

At its best, Bridesmaids is proper, laugh-out-loud, sides-clutching, grin-at- your-mates funny. The airplane scenes see a sky-high Annie trying to sneak into first class to join her friends, even failing in her attempts to insult the air hostess. Meanwhile, each character has a subplot building, including Megan (Melissa McCarthy), who’s confidently cracking onto a man she’s convinced is an air marshal. When these strands come together, it’s explosively hilarious — just like the bridal shop scene where the girls get sudden, debilitating food poisoning. Like many a guys’ comedy, the film isn’t afraid to flirt with gross-out, but doesn’t throw in toilet humour for the sake of it. It makes it relevant to both plot and character and, just possibly, funny to women who normally hate that kind of thing.

Regular Apatow fans will be on the floor at this point, and that’s another thing that makes Bridesmaids unusual: it appeals to men too. Yes, a lot of the humour revolves around female rituals and neuroses, but the writing’s strong enough to bridge the gender gap. It’s no surprise this has been compared to The Hangover, a buddy-wedding-comedy that drew fans from both sexes. Bridesmaids even has its very own Alan in Megan, the outspoken, overweight and somewhat deluded sibling of the groom.

It’s a shame, then, when Bridesmaids shoehorns in a romance, even if it is with the lovable Chris O’Dowd. Playing a kindly cop, O’Dowd provides a shoulder for Wiig’s character to cry on but their scenes cost the film its pace. Even Matt Lucas (Annie’s flatmate) feels like he’s wandered in from another film, albeit a very funny one. Still, while Bridesmaids isn’t perfect, it does have moments of comedy perfection. And precious little in the way of Manolos.

The Tree Of Life Movie Review by Ian Nathan

For his fifth film in 40 years, you wonder whether magisterial slowcoach Terrence Malick took stock of his recent output — such abstruse meditations on war, colonialism, and the ineffable fabric of nature as The Thin Red Line and The New World — and felt it was high time he brought a halt to this worrying slide into crass commercialism. After six years chewing over a bit of Heidegger with his Weetabix, and smothering his intentions in a blanket of secrecy like an impenetrable hybrid of J. J. Abrams and J. D. Salinger, he has summoned forth a dizzyingly impressionistic study of family life that doubles as a vaulting enquiry into the very nature of the universe and the possibility of God.

Kubrick’s 2001 comes close, but Malick’s philosophy pines for the salve of love and spirit, and comes light on psychotic super-computers. Even the hardy concept of dialogue falls prey to his exquisitely aloof vision. Against the constant murmurings of nature, we catch only odd lines and whispered voiceovers querulously calling to a hard-of-hearing deity: “Where were you?”

In other words, the kind of highly personal filmmaking where we must first pass though the dawning of time — literally nebulous bodies billowing cloudlike against the black veil of the universe; raw planets spewing gas and lava, primordial pools fecund with boiling matter; sparks of life in the nuclei of swarming cells, dancing proto-fish spinning lightwards, and a wounded plesiosaur on a desolate beach as a meteor strike scours the surface clear for the birth of mankind — before we get to what is commonly referred to as a scene. Cycles of life and death on a cosmic scale contrasted with the intricate dynamics of family.

Actually, instead of beginning at the very beginning, the film kicks off in the mid-1960s with news of the death of R. L. (Laramie Eppler), our protagonist Jack’s (Hunter McCracken) brother, aged only 19. How he died remains elusive, but Malick’s younger brother is reputed to have committed suicide at 19. This shudder of grief will reverberate like a meteor crash through the film, stirring the first of so many questions: what does the loss of a loved one mean against the backdrop of eternity? Much, it transpires.

It is this unshakable heartache, as bitter as the taste of a madeleine is sweet, that casts Sean Penn’s grown-up Jack down a Proustian time tunnel from the metallic canyons of present day Houston, by way of the aforementioned Creation, to the sun-softened enchantment of his childhood. Jack and his two brothers (all three actors wonderfully naturalistic unknowns) are nurtured in an Edenic youth recalled via an organic pulse of ‘memories’: fragments of story, grace notes, wisps of emotion, the odd flicker of Lynchian weirdness. Together an uncanny distillation of how human memory stirs its keeper, awash in Malick’s transcendent imagery: light cascading through leaves, the kiss of a breeze on wild grass, filigree curtains billowing through window frames, dogs running wild.

Theirs is a harmony held in balance by the opposing poles of their parents. A luminous, angelic mother (Jessica Chastain), made holy by the exaltation of Jack’s recollection, bestows a lilting ideology: “The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you follow.” She is exemplified as grace. While the astonishingly mature Brad Pitt as Jack’s terse patriarch — a soul damped down by quashed aspiration, veering between brutal discipline and astringent love — espouses the doctrine of nature: nothing can be achieved without will. Even without the scaffolding of story, this is a sublime evocation of the tides of ecstasy and torment flowing through an American boyhood.

Malick conducts his five editors the way great composers conjure art from thin air, creating an unforgettable symphony of beauty, introspection, and wells of unabashed feeling. And to accompany such cinematic inspiration, not for this director the dreadnought snarls of Nickelback, but extracts of Couperin, Berlioz, Brahms, Mahler and Bach, interposed with Alexandre Desplat’s yearning score. The very execution poses its own spiritual enquiry — how can such beauty be created in a meaningless void?

The result is so disarmingly unironic, and therefore open to mockery, it’s easy to see why it was met with a chorus of boos from Cannes’ sincerity-phobic critics. Sure, at times it lifts off too far, becoming too remote and self-involved to fully grasp. And the closing images of Sean Penn blundering across a metaphorical beach in his sodden Armani suggest a potential afterlife as drunkenly off-kilter as that rum-do at the end of Lost.

It is equally clear why The Tree Of Life landed the Palme D’or — against the brute attack of modern cinema it feels heaven-sent. A film awestruck by life: why are we here? What are we for? Where did it all go wrong? And where could it yet go right? Malick doesn’t pretend to have actual answers. But then neither, one suspects, does Transformers 3.

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