Throughout December, Ben Sachs and I will take turns writing about our ten favorite films that had their Chicago premieres this year.

No movie in 2011 inspired more debate than Terrence Malick’s metaphysical epic The Tree of Life: people either loved it or hated it, including the many readers who commented on our review. Malick tells the story of two fathers: an angry middle-class man in Waco, Texas, in the 1950s, played with great compassion and restraint by Brad Pitt, and God Almighty, whose creation of the earth is evoked in staggering optical-effect sequences by Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner). I must admit that, when Malick’s prolonged creation reverie culminated in a sequence of dinosaurs foraging on a riverbank, I did think, “Hmm, this is getting out of hand.” But you have to give Malick credit: some directors won’t work with animals or kids, much less dinosaurs.