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There were two movies that I saw late last year and early this year that sent me into a film-loving spiral: There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.
See, with No Country, I had no idea who the Coen Bros. were though I had seen O Brother Where Art Thou and The Ladykillers. And then, suddenly, I wanted to know everything about them. By mid-summer, I had seen all their films. I just saw Burn After Reading (maybe a review of that soon…) and so, now, I’ve seen most all their movies save Intolerable Cruelty which just scares me in how smug it seems.
But with There Will Be Blood, I hadn’t seen any of PT Anderson’s films and I had no idea who the fuck he was. But, once I saw Blood, I knew I wanted to see everything he’d done.
And Boogie Nights was my final entry into seeing all of his films.
Boy, was it a naughty little movie.
Based on an earlier short film that Anderson did when he was 17 (he even quoted Dirk Diggler in his Sr. yearbook), this is a movie about porn and cocaine and one very large penis all based around John Holmess life.
All the usual suspects are in this film: William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, and Luis Guzman, but the central character is played by Marky Mark. This time, though, his Funky Bunch is all in his pants.
It goes from the 70’s through the 80’s, with a rise and a fall and a refrain, and it’s all done very well.
But this review stands solely that I can discuss this one scene: Dirk’s first foray into cocaine. See, what I was expecting was the typical, slow-motion, close-up, THIS FUCKING MEANS SOMETHING shot when we see Dirk do his first line. Instead, though, it’s simply a passing shot like, “Oh, well, here’s Dirk doing some coke for the first time.” It was interesting to see how the cinematography didn’t act as if this was a central point in the movie but, rather, a passing scene. And I absolutely loved that. It threw me for such a loop that, even a couple weeks after seeing the film, I am still throttled by the way it was shot–much like the lighting in a scene of the movie Adaptation where Meryl Streep is saying all these things about wanting somebody and needing to feel alive and the lighting is done in such a way that our eyes are drawn towards her wedding ring.
There are just some things that give me chills in film. And those two scenes were definitely up there.
But don’t get me wrong, the rest of the movie is just as fabulous. It’s all very well done and very meticulous.
So if you haven’t heard the story yet, Adam Sandler has made a movie that proves he has a soul.
See, in Punch Drunk Love he doesn’t play the infantile man-child suffering from Arrested Development. Instead, such social and mental handicaps are forced upon him by his suffocating sisters—of which he has seven.
However, one of them does introduce him to a woman played by Emily Watson who is attracted to his childish, medication-necessary, antics (one running joke is about him throwing a hammer through a glass door as a child). She, strangely, is completely drawn into this world because, as I’m willing to purport, she sees the great and caring guy underneath.
That element of the film—the element of “holy shit, a woman is actually falling in love with this guy?”—is played out in a manner that doesn’t allow it to fall prey to the formula of having a turning point scene that sticks out blatantly. In Billy Madison, it was when he sticks up for a kid who pissed his pants. In Big Daddy, it was having a child show up at his door.
The other element that makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s film well done is that it’s not a high concept film (like Billy Madison’s “dumb guy goes back to school” or Big Daddy’s aforementioned random child appearing). It’s a simple film. Boy meets girl type of film done in such a different way that it makes it feel different from any other romance story I’ve seen.
One thing that I noticed in this movie that is done very well is the use of silence. It, mixed with the cacophonous soundtrack, add to the emotion of the scene. Such boredom and such dread sometimes mix with these two elements.
And what definitely adds to the silence and soundtrack is the cinematography which utilizes excellent, long, tracking shots up towards and away from subjects and objects either innocuous or belligerent. The only time that the camera movement stops is when Sandler’s life stops and isn’t as chaotic as everything around it. P.T. Anderson does a good job of marrying the images and the sound to give the effect necessary to pull off this movie in such a way that it keeps it from being like every other Adam Sandler film.
There’s also a nice little sub-plot involving Philip Seymour Hoffman and one of his call-girls, but that whole thing is so ridiculous that I leave to your viewing to experience all that excitement.
I could have sworn I reviewed this movie. I guess not.
If you don’t remember what this film is about, let me refresh your memory: Morally Ambiguous Oilman vs. Morally Ambiguous Prophet (The Fight of the Fucking Century only on PPV [after Girls Gone Wild: First Timers])
It might even be better that I haven’t written about this film because, unlike some of my reviews (Blood Simple, Magnolia, Platoon, Boondock Saints), I’m writing after multiple viewings. Therefore, it’s bound to be less reactionary and more reflective or analytical.
I first saw this film when it was in the limited stage of its platform release. I was packed into a theater in Pasadena because I really wanted to see Paul Dano tear the motherfucking roof off. I really liked him in Little Miss Sunshine and the scenes we see of him in the trailers are awesome in its most absolute sense.
If you remember the show Carnivale that used to be on HBO, he reminds me a bit of Brother Justin who was a preacher that turned out to be very evil inside. And that’s what I see in Dano’s character Eli Sunday. A lot of facade and a whole lot more of evil and greed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted to see this film because of Paul Dano and not Daniel Day-Lewis. Hell, I’ve never even seen Gangs of New York (Scorsese is tough for me).
What I got from Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing and writing was a film built more upon facial expressions and subtlety than upon dialog. A film that it takes multiple viewings to finally understand some things. It’s like a bizarro David Lynch film like Lost Highway or Mulholland Dr. (Inland Empire has no meaning. It’s three hours of existential crises that make Samuel Beckett jealous) except instead of the twists being within the plot, they’re within the face. There are many things that could’ve been said but, instead, Anderson chose for them to be expressed.
Which is the pacing complaint arises. When there’s no dialog and just two people looking at each other on screen, most people are bound to get bored–especially upon first take. But these “boring” moments are where the film excels. The cold stares of Day-Lewis and the conniving or sniveling, desperate, looks of Dano speak louder than any word could have. Anderson acknowledges the adagecliche that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and, in a movie where things are composed of 24 pictures per second, why fucking bother with words sometimes? You can’t cram 24,000 words into a second of film–but you can at the same time if you take to the adage as Anderson has.
This film excels at speaking depths while silently rolling towards its anti-climax. It is a character study taken to its highest level. It nearly throws plot by the wayside in favor of showing, slowly or quickly, just what Day-Lewis is doing at each and every second. The movie’s pace slows enough for us to take in every single piece of the character. It’s so beautiful, and it’s only upon multiple viewings do you realize such a thing.
Another aspect of this film that really excels is the scoring by Jonny Greenwood. He swirls and moves his pieces like a horror film so as to accent the tension in each scene he’s needed. (Fun Fact, by the way: The movie is 158 minutes while the score is only about 50 minutes) Some of his pieces sound like an orchestra simply tuning up before the big show–and it works because that’s exactly what this movie has. A lot of tuning before a small piece.
And you haven’t listened to his piece “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” you really should (I found a link where you can stream it in Real Audio, which is kind of a shitty format, but it’s a good piece of music that deserves a listen). And listen to Radiohead, he’s pretty good at guitar too.
After I saw There will be Blood, I knew I had to see another Paul Thomas Anderson film. Blood was so beautiful and so rich that it seemed like Anderson had the potential to have other movies as great and effecting as that.
So my first venture into his older films was his 2000 film Magnolia, a three-hour film about the semi-intersecting lives of six people in the San Fernando Valley.
Usually, I don’t enjoy films about semi-intersecting lives. To name a few, I did not like Crash, Babel, or Amores Perros. These were films that tried desperately to get you to see that all our lives are connected. To see that our actions effect the lives of others. We get it.
But the beauty of Magnolia is that this film only uses those coincidental intersections for cohesion, not to show that our actions effect others, not to show that all our actions mean something. Instead, this movie is a character study about these people who are slowly descending into loneliness and madness. And, because of these intersections, the movie becomes a movie instead of six vignettes–instead of something along the lines of Coffee and Cigarettes. And the cohesion sinks deeper than accidents, it is a chain and a link that is evident through the characters’ pain and their personalities. Their stubbornness to reveal the past (for example, we only find out about the past of John C. Reilly’s cop character in the last third of the film), their desperation, their sadness. Each character has their own poignant scene that shows just what they are feeling. And what they are feeling is what the other five people are feeling. And maybe, just maybe, it’s what someone in the audience has felt. That’s how you make a connection–through emotion since we are all the same at the bottom of everything.
Magnolia hosts an all-star cast featuring the likes of William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Alfred Molina, John C. Reilly (Surprisingly, only once I thought, “Dewey Cox is a cop?!”), and many others. No matter how much I hate his acting abilities, Tom Cruise’s character was one that was so well-written to the person that it is scary.
Cruise’s character is a sexual-motivational speaker under the mantra of “Respect the cock and tame the cunt.” He’s a hardass who’s showing you how to get any woman you want. His character is a heartless, soulless, bastard… For awhile. See, that’s where it starts to break down. During an interview scene, the character begins to crack and suddenly Cruise’s acting abilities come into question. He is an actor who simply cannot show sadness. Blame it on L. Ron Hubbard, whatever. He’s one who can do pensive, angry, and other emotions that one would associate with the color red. However, when he gets into the blue emotions–sadness, depression et al–Cruise begins to crack and his on-screen presence begins to pull you out of the film.
Luckily, he’s only one-sixth of this film. And one-sixth of three hours is only 30 minutes. And he’s only blue for about fifteen of them. So for the other 165 minutes, you’ve got other actors who can do blue and red swimmingly. And you’ve got a director who knows how to cull the best from most actors. You can tell that these people are genuinely sad and genuinely guilty and genuinely unfit for life.
But the problem with a film of this scope and length is that there’s only so much sadness that a person can take before the apathy and the boredom sets in. And that’s usually around the 90-minute mark. So what Anderson has done rather brilliantly, is to offset some of the sadder moments with music in the background–like a scene where William H. Macy is in a bar, drinking himself silly and bearing his soul to those who will listen. It’s an effecting scene, but one that is overlaid by what is pouring from the jukebox which is typical barroom fare. By doing so, the watcher is allowed a bit of a rest from all the Kafka-esque deprivation and the spiraling towards hell that this film deals with.
There is so much more I could write about Magnolia, but it’s so layered and so thick that to explain it would be like giving someone the bottom layer of a wedding cake without the wedding and without the rest of the cake. You have to see this film to truly appreciate its beauty and depth.