Friday, January 11, 2008

There Will Be Oscars

That headline is too flip, but it's late. I saw this movie tonight, and I'm still digesting it, but I can say this: if culture is your religion, there is a new holy book, and it is There Will Be Blood. Seldom do movies live up to this kind of hype. The reviews have been over the top, and it's on most top 10 lists for '07.

I don't gush. Well sometimes I do, but I never use words like "masterful." But that's what I kept thinking as every shot unfolded, every scene added layer after layer of complexity and interest. Walking out of this film, people were buzzing, trying to figure out subtle plot points and the characters' deeper motivations. I saw it with Mike, and I'm sure we could have talked about it all night.

Daniel Day Lewis is 100% committed to the character Daniel Plainview. It's a physical, visceral performance; comparisons to Citizen Kane abound, but for me it evoked the best of Coppola--The Godfather or Apocalypse Now, and the best classic westerns, the way the meaning and themes hinge on the moral and spiritual ambiguity of the main character. These characters are diabolical, but acting out some ancient (unknowable) wound, and not without a certain amount of grace and affection, however despicable their actions. You will hate Plainview at times, but I guarantee his conniving ways will beguile you, and his relationship to his son will move you. It will be forever hard to imagine him as a fictional character.

Over the years I have admired Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love), but often found him slightly self-indulgent. Usually his movies are just a bit too long and could use a disciplined cut here and there, but this one is different. He earns every minute, and his occasional indulgences (the ministers' histrionics, the derrick fire--an apocalyptic vision of hell) work well.

If I were nitpicking, I might single out the soundtrack. Sometimes minimalist in a Philip Glass way, and sometimes symphonic, but often intrusive, it was composed by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, so it's getting a lot of attention. That factoid is just cocktail party chatter. Judge it on its own merits. I guarantee you'll notice it, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

What a great year it was for movies: Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, The Bourne Ultimatum, Superbad, Lars and the Single Girl, Across the Universe, Into the Wild, Zodiac, and No Country For Old Men. Those are my top 10 in no particular order. Thanks to my loyal blog readers!


Jeff said...

I drink your milkshake...I drink it up!

Anonymous said...

I love that milkshake line. I agree with your comments about the music. It reminded me of Ry Cooder's score for "Paris Texas;" dissonant and lonely.

I've read reviews that talk about Plainview hating all men, including himself, and using his son as a "sweet face" and a pawn, discarding him when he was no longer useful. But I think he did love his son, a lot. Did I miss something?

It was gorgeously shot, and DDL was amazing. His best work ever I think.

Anonymous said...

One of my friends loathed this movie because of the soundtrack. He said the music jarred him throughout and it sapped his entire enjoyment of the film. He was kind of angry when he left the theater.

I thought the music was exciting and interesting. I'd actually like to own the soundtrack.