Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson has created a frustrating movie experience.

Equal parts brilliant and maddening, i'm not quite sure how to feel about it. It will split the audience down the middle because it doesn't care about what the audience thinks. It's uncompromising, overlong, and boring. But never less than fascinating.

This thick, dense narrative allocates 158 minutes that questions the nature of hate and greed, of religion's purpose and the ellusive power of the dollar. These trappings paint the moral shadings of a man with a black heart. This is a movie about the landscape of the soul, and Daniel Day Lewis portrayal is one of cinema's greatest. He's fucking intense, and frightening in full on asshole mode His performance never hits a false note until...Anderson lets the chips fall.

And it all falls apart at the end, but more on that later. I've got a movie to review here.

Day Lewis portrays Daniel Plainview, a man on a mission to get rich by all means nessesary. He's an oilman, divide conquer are me putting this man's obssesion modestly. He cares about no one, heck he even raised an Orphan as one of his offspring simply because it added a face of innocense behind his ruthlessness. Thats fucking insane, a man using his child as a tool, but it works for him. He takes him to every deal, and as we see later, his bond was only based on nessesity. Plainview doesn't give a fuck about anyone. He's built up his hatred for people one inch at a time and is devoid of compassion.

In other words, he's an asshole. You'll be spending 3 hours in hell if you expect a likeable character, because likeable he is not. He's a mess of contractions: Ruthless, fair, cunning, charismatic, and condescending.

The movie opens with a lenghty, wordless scene establishing this man's greed and the lenghts he will go to find oil. During the leisurely pace we get to see how the chips stack up, and how they eventually fall. Power corrupts. Absolute power is blood on everyone's hands, and that is the basis of the film's title. He's mining for gold in a shaft he has dug into the ground of his Texas property. He finds what he's looking for, and perhaps more. Several years later, he has shifted his focus from gold to oil and he has been able to hire some hands. When an accident results in a death, Daniel finds himself with an infant orphan to care for. He raises the child, known as H.W., to be his own. By 1912, Daniel has become a well-known oil man, and he his looking to expand his empire. Accompanied by his partner, Fletcher (CiarĂ¡n Hinds), and his son (Dillon Freasier), he travels to California to follow a promising lead. What he finds there astonishes him. He seeks to buy large parcels of property, but he is impeded in his goal by the evangelist preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), who wants Daniel to donate $10,000 to the local church before he sells. After the contract is signed, however, Daniel reneges on the deal. Shortly thereafter, once the first drill has become operational, there is an accident that results in an explosion that fuels a major oil fire and costs H.W. his hearing.

This is where things go from bad to worse, and one can interpret the events as the makings of someone devoid of faith or just the result of greed rearing it's ugly head. God is in the details. There is no trust in business, no friends in riches.

This is a powerful, timeless statement.

There's a development in the second half where a man who claim to be his brother shows up, only for Plainview to discover that he's an impostor. I won't give it away, but the speech he gives during his only moment of opening up his emotions cut right to the bone, in a way what he says makes his case logical.

It seems like the moral fabric of this country's foundation is a topic that's ripe for exploration, given the current state of things. The other film that covers similar thematic territory is The Coen's No Country For Old Men, which I found to be the superior of the two. The frightening thing about there will be blood, and why I found it so maddening, is that it makes the case for greed as an allegory for evil better than any film i've seen, yet the film feels underwhelming as a whole.

This represents a change of pace for PTA. I always through he is the best director of his generation, better than Tarantino and all those overrated retards. The man is an undeniable, gifted storyteller. This is an ambitious film, and his direction is very mature. There is nothing here that feels like one of his prior movies, it's almost like if Stanley Kubrick directed Citizen Kane and based it on the early days of the Oil industry. There is no showing off, no crazy camera movements. The focus is on the character, and the spiritual link to Citizen Kane is more than evident. Once you've attained everything, what have you got to show for it if your hatred for people consumes you alone?

With all these great thematic elements it should all have led to something great, and it doesn't.

I'm a film editor, so of course i'm going to pay attention to scene construction. The film's first quarter is poorly focused, and the last quarter suffers the same fate. This makes the proceedings feel strangely unsatisfying, because I know the material would have benefitted from readjustment. The pacing is uneven, and Anderson lets scenes go far too long. There is a scene near the end where he's at a restaurant with is son and for real it felt liek they used up the whole magazine. The editing was choppy, and that's surprising coming from him. But that's minor compared to the major, and that's the film's resolution. You get the feeling the film was setting up Plainview for a royal downfall, and once we get to the scene Anderson commits a major mistake in direction: He lets it go over the top and the actors lay it too thick during the final confrontation.

It almost reduced Day-Lewi's performance as a mere stunt, and Paul Dano, who was also so great, both turn up the volume too high. Worse of all, the end result felt like a slap in the face.

Day-Lewis' performance is There Will Be Blood's biggest selling point. It's intense and on point, at least for two-thirds of the lengthy picture, a brilliant depiction of Daniel's complex and conflicted personality. Great films carry their themes to the last frame, and here Anderson got too indulgent on the lenght. A film that has no climax and no ending WTF? If i'm going to spend 158 minutes on a character study make his lose a leg at least or close up the movie in a satisfying way.

The resolution with his son was the film's true closure, and what follows felt very hollow and unsatisfying.

The best thing about the movie was the score. This is by far the most original film score i've heard since Requiem For A Dream. It's fucking brilliant, and saved the movie's ass on many occations where the scenes did not gel.

I don't recomend this movie, fuck it'll be awhile till I sit through this slow ass shit again. However, I respect PTA's talent and Day-Lewis and Paul Dano's plotline was great. What it needed was more focus in the first and last half, and in many ways that is the trade of doing of a character study: You run the risk of losing perspective of the story since everything is invested on one person.

There will be blood is a good movie, but nowhere near as satisfying as it's Oscar competitor NCFOM. Fascinating and disturbing, it's the perfect allegory for the moral fabric of our dear America, that's it's greatest achievement.

3 stars with tough love. I'm Alan and i'm out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Frame 3: No pants day!

Today was a fun day, like everyday should be but unfortunately isn't always the case.

I joined about 100 other pantless people in enjoying a little civil liberty, and I kept a straight face about it.

I was on the train on my way home and wasn't going to do it, until I saw these chicks strip right in front of my eyes. Suddenly the train was packed with pantless people. I got off on 14 St and took mines off. We took the train to 42nd St and walked the station. If anything, the look of people's faces was priceless. Everyone played along, minding like nothing's wrong, which made it funnier. Children laughed, others didn't.

We went to union sq and had a rally there, urging others to do the same. Some did, some didn't.
Overall it was fun participating in a group, and to do something for the hell of it felt very free.

When is shirtless day? Sign me up.

Frame 2: No negativity zone campaign 2008

Fuck the presidential campaign, things never change unless it's from within in this world.

Negative energy is a cancer aflicting our senses everywhere we go, that having peace of mind is right at the core of what is to be our sanity. Think i'm crazy? add up the things in your life that you deal with everyday that are negative and see how they stack up against the postive ones and you'll find your answer.

Take this picture and paste it everywhere you come into close contact with negative energy. Well, at least it will get a reaction, right?

The goodwill police is in full effect.

Frame 1: Have a sense of humor.

Having a sense of humor is soo important in this day and age, so I made a little video about it just for kicks.

It will be up for the remainder of the month. Maintain the sense of humor for the rest of the year and beyond please.