Decades Blogathon – There Will Be Blood (2007)

Well, we’ve arrived at the final day of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition. Just as with the previous two years, it’s been a lot of fun with a host of fascinating and diverse reviews from across the board. Thanks to everyone who has taken part this year; you are all on my Christmas card list! However, my biggest thanks must go to by fellow blogathon buddy Tom – his site Thomas J is one I have followed as long as I’ve been doing this blogging game and his talent for insightful and engaging reviews has only grown over the years. This year’s blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade and for this final day, you’re getting a review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood from yours truly. See you again next year!

Just as cinema became the preeminent art form of the 20th century, there can be little doubt its dominant source of energy has been oil.

As the Age of Oil begins its slow march towards death as the world’s reserves are sucked dry, Paul Thomas Anderson’s complex, frightening and wildly ambitious masterpiece There Will Be Blood shows us how this modern capitalist world came to be.

There Will Be Blood Poster

It also reveals to us how religion has, in turn, allowed itself to be perverted and ultimately usurped by unfettered capitalism and, in its final act reveals to us that, once there is nothing more left to consume, such a system will finally turn on itself.

Based loosely on Upton Sinclair’s satirical 1927 novel Oil!, Anderson’s Mephistophelian figurehead is Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a singularly driven man whose insatiable hunger to possess what he doesn’t have and destroy whatever stands in his way are laid bare in the film’s incredible opening 15-minute salvo where nary a word is spoken but the intentions are clear.

Accompanied by an unsettling, otherworldly score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, this first reel is startlingly reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as Plainview helps to usher in the Dawn of (Oil) Man. Just like the black gold he so covets, Plainview is a primordial force summoned out of the ground; in this case a makeshift mine.

There Will Be Blood

At times we see hints in Plainview there is more to him than pure unadulterated avarice. He takes on the guardianship of a baby he names H.W. after the boy is orphaned following an accident, while he takes in a man claiming to be his half-brother Henry (Kevin J. O’Connor), at one point opening up to reveal to him that: “I have a competition in me; I want no-one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

However, any hope of salvation or humanity is snuffed out on both counts, with H.W. being deemed by Plainview as little more than a prop to sell himself as a ‘family man’. Indeed, when a freak explosion robs H.W. of his hearing, Plainview is more focused on the “oceans of oil” the incident has revealed exist under their feet.

There Will Be Blood

The majority of the film takes place in a small Californian town which Plainview is first drawn to by Paul Sunday’s (Paul Dano) boastful claims of oil. There he encounters Paul’s twin brother Eli (also Dano), an evangelical preacher who understands what Plainview represents.

There is an argument that Eli and Paul Sunday are not twins at all but one in the same character. Although unlikely, there’s a logic to this theory insomuch as while one is a pastor and the other a businessman, both are opportunists.

Eli, like Plainview, is a salesmen, in this case one who hawks religion to a community ripe for exploitation. Plainview is also content to use religion to his own ends, stating that it is “the Lord’s guidance” he has arrived, referencing “the good Lord” as he makes lavish promises of grain, water and shared wealth to townsfolk who seemingly crave God’s love and material wealth in equal measure.

The film ostensibly follows the power struggle between the oil man and man of God. However, in reality the war is over before it begins as Plainview rhetorically enquires to an official “can everything around here be got?” and proceeds to get to work when given an enthusiastic endorsement.

The one time it appears Eli has bested his foe when he attempts to humiliate Plainview in front of his congregation by getting him to kneel and seek the Almighty’s forgiveness for abandoning H.W. is revealed as the hollow victory it is when he realises it’s merely served to shore up the support of the town – the look of anticlimactic disappointment on Eli’s face speaks volumes.

There Will Be Blood

That victory is itself revealed as empty in the film’s memorable final moments, however, when a desperate Eli comes to Plainview’s mansion years later foolishly seeking to sell a plot of land. Plainview’s demeaning taunts (“Drainaggggeee!”) and elaborate milkshake metaphor (“I drink it up!”) may be the final nail in Eli’s coffin, but the cost to a savagely alcoholic, embittered Plainview is plain to see.

Day-Lewis has been criticised for his scenery-chewing by some, but there can be little argument this is a titanic performance; one for the ages and then some. From his magnetic, full-throated drawl (inspired by John Huston so it’s said), to his coiled, wounded gait and full-blooded moustache, Day-Lewis’ Plainview leaves everyone in his wake, including poor Dano who gives it his all but, like his character, is paper standing up to a force of nature.

Anderson’s masterpiece will be studied by generations to come as a hypnotic account of how we came to be and what awaits us as the oil begins to run dry. It’s a work of pure cinema and one we should continue to cherish.

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Decades Blogathon – Jackie Brown (1997)

Welcome to the penultimate day of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and my partner in crime Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today I’m very pleased to welcome Natasha from it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from Life of this City Girl who is too-cool-for-school in her choice of QT’s Jackie Brown.

Jackie Brown Poster

Plot: A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119396/)

A quick peek over at Tom’s blog alerted me to the fact that it was time for his and Mark’s annual Decades Blogathon. In the past I’ve been too petrified to take part – some seriously talented bloggers writing over here – but this year I knew I would have to take a shot at it. I chose Jackie Brown, one of the only Tarantino films I haven’t seen as my choice.

So I sat down with Jackie Brown. The film is very Tarantino – the long winding conversations characters have that seemingly have no point, the extremely long duration of the film, the presence of Samuel L. Jackson and a strong female character.  It lacks his typical violence and his perplexing need to appear in every movie he directs, but you won’t hear me complaining about that.

The cast is wonderful. Pam Grier as Jackie Brown was entertaining with her fast and sharp dialogue, her attitude and her sassy personality. What a woman. She was equal to every man on screen and smarter than all of them combined.

Jackie Brown

Samuel L. Jackson is back again as Ordell Robbie, the man with questionable hair and even more questionable morals. Ordell is an interesting guy. He has some of the fastest dialogue and sharpest wit and his choice of the women he keeps are so different that it only serves to make him more interesting. There’s Melanie (Bridget Fonda), by his admission his blonde surfer girl, who has zero ambition and zero class; Sheronda (Lisa Gay Hamilton), a country girl taken off the streets by him and who doesn’t seem all there; and Simone (Hattie Wilson), who is an older lady with a lot of curves. I don’t know, it was an interesting part to his character that he’d want such a different range of women in his life. He’s also a criminal who is smart and dangerous and doesn’t care to take out an employee if he himself is in danger of exposure. His only real affection is for Louis (Robert DeNiro), a man who has just been released from prison. Louis is quite a loser of a character, an excellent performance by DeNiro who manages to look pathetic and washed out.

More notable cast members include Michael Keaton (Ray Nicolette) and Michael Bowen (Mark Dargus), the two cops that are tasked with capturing Ordell. They are both eager and very young, and Keaton especially shows that energy of a young and optimistic police officer. The last important character, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), reminded me of old Hollywood with his classic handsome look and persona. He seems like a hero from the early 1950s, and his character was one of the cleanest and most honorable in the movie.

The movie moves quite slow. Once again, typical Tarantino. It requires constant attention or you might miss something, and the director again takes his time getting through the elaborate plan he has set out for his characters. Even at the end they were still leisurely discussing things and there were a few moments where I could feel the grey hairs forming on my head. On two hours twenty minutes I was convinced that they weren’t ending the movie. Would there be more blindsiding? Would Jackie turn her car around and return to Max? There were a few seconds where I thought she would kill him, but that would have been against her character.

Jackie Brown

I really enjoyed Jackie Brown despite the long, long, LONG time it took to get through the film. The strong female characters, Tarantino’s disregard of what movies usually look like and the typecasting they subject to, the sharp dialogue and the ’90s tone to Jackie Brown made it worth the watch. I am also now really close to having watched all his films, and of this feat I am rather proud.

Thanks for hosting me Tom and Mark!

Decades Blogathon – Zodiac (2007)

Welcome to Week 2, Day 5 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from the one and only Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger who, unlike director David Fincher only needs one take to nail the 2007 true crime classic Zodiac.

“I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.” – Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people – via IMDB.

Ha! So Mark and Tom were hosting yet another rendition of their super successful Decades Blogathon, and I absolutely just had to participate again. It took me moments to decide I just had to do Zodiac, and I was pleased as punch when I heard that nobody else had taken it. Anyway. Enough waffling. Let me get to it.

Zodiac is absolutely brilliant. I loved it when it came out, I loved it in subsequent rewatches, and I still love it. Why? Because it is put together extremely well, the cast carrying this movie is fantastic, and it looks amazing. There is really just too much to love about this and nothing to complain about. It’s atmospheric, engaging, well-acted and constructed brilliantly and just flows. These are just some super quick points listed about what contributes in making this movie awesome.

Jake Gyllenhaal never disappoints and his Robert Graysmith is really interesting to watch, like a dog with a bone. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as prick crime reporter Paul Avery, and showcases how he really has more talent than just Tony Stark/Iron Man. I really miss when he used to take other roles. The final big player here is Mark Ruffalo, and I always enjoy watching the man in anything. His detective character David Toschi is also a big draw, and I really like how these three characters each had their own obsession; they all danced around one another, were all similar but completely different. I think the movie really runs home the point of obsession, and how it interacts with everyday life, which is very interesting. Not only that, the movie is obviously shot phenomenally because, well, David Fincher.

The script it also tight, laying out all the pieces of evidence you need in the case of the terrifying Zodiac killer, who freaked people out beyond anything, even though he was never caught. I think that Robert Graysmith did a great job of investigating and seriously has the strongest case stacked against Arthur Leigh Allen. Zodiac is engrossing and mesmerising and demands your attention throughout, and barrels along at such a pace that you are not left behind, but are gripped, and does not allow your attention to wander for even a moment. It’s also extremely atmospheric, and I really love that.

One cannot miss that immense amounts of work, interest and passions that went into the film, everything from costume design to the sets that were done, and reading up on the trivia for it, all this is confirmed. I have not read Graysmith’s book, but I will most certainly be looking into it as soon as possible. If you have not seen Zodiac, it is high time you rectify that.

Decades Blogathon – L.A. Confidential (1997)

Welcome to Day 4 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and my blogging brother Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for today I’m welcoming Anand from Delighted Critical Reviews, who turns his sights on the 1997 neo-noir L.A. Confidential.

Curtis Hanson’s L.A.Confidential begins with an establishing sequence so rare in thrillers nowadays who want to dive head first into the action rather than utilize time for character development.

L.A. Confidential Poster

These establishing sequences are also a fitting introduction to the underbelly of Los Angeles, and three policemen who masquerade through it. The first is Officer Bud White, a righteous officer with utmost respect for women and who adheres to the principle of violence whenever it deems necessary. The second is Edmund Exley, the hard-molded principle man whose only aim is to get to the top of his game. The third is Jack Vincennes, who would put Don Johnson’s James Crockett from Miami Vice to shame with his panache.

While all of this may seem very fancy and in terms with the neo-noir approach, in these opening shots lies all there is to know about the underlying conspiracy set to unfold. So pay attention, because this is not one of those mindless action cop flicks which Hollywood generates every fortnight. This is L.A.Confidential.

L.A. Confidential

I won’t explain the plot here, for I don’t want to give anything away to you. This is one of the movies where walking into the theatre without any knowledge of the proceedings set to unfold is the best option. But, I can say this and I say this with utmost pride that if I were to ever compile a list of the best screenplays ever written in the history of cinema, L.A. Confidential would definitely hold one of the most prominent places on that list.

The first half in itself is so convoluted and staunch in nature that it is enough material for a material for a stupendous movie. But once the first half concludes, a rug is pulled to reveal the whole plot was about something else from the beginning and what you saw was just character development set in the midst of all the action materialising.

L.A. Confidential

L.A.Confidential is one of the most acclaimed movies ever made, but in some ways, I detest the fact that almost none of the critics seem to have noticed its brilliance as a cop movie. Consider the dynamics between the three principal characters and there is enough dramatic tension to accentuate the overall thrill to mind boggling heights.

L.A. Confidential is one of the best thrillers ever made. L.A. Confidential is one of the best cop movies ever made. Simply put, it is one of the best movies ever made.

That’s it for this week! Join us again on Monday for more Decades Blogathon action!

Decades Blogathon – The Lost Boys (1987)

We’re onto Day 3 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and Tom from the brilliant blog Thomas J. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for today we’re tracking back to a movie where the hair was biiiig and there was death by stereo in 1987’s horror comedy The Lost Boys, covered by Catherine from Thoughts All Sorts.

Those ’80s. They were something weren’t they? I had a real good chuckle while watching The Lost Boys (1987) again. Had forgotten about the hairstyles, clothes and general ’80s feel. Remember those big Swatch wall watches?

The Lost Boys Poster

This is one that I probably watch more for nostalgic value than anything else. I clearly remember being allowed to rent two videos from the video store (remember those?) with some friends one weekend (many, many years ago).

My Science Project and The Lost Boys were the two lucky selections. The latter was the only one that I remembered from then and has even made its way into my DVD collection. Oh boy, not sure if I should smile or cringe.

The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys has Corey Haim and Jason Patric as brothers Sam and Michael moving to Santa Carla with their divorced mother. If moving in with their weird and wacky grandfather isn’t enough, they need to find their way around a town seen as the murder capital of the world and plastered with missing people posters.

Michael is smitten with a girl he sees one night and so becomes involved with a strange gang of bikers (who avoid the sun for other reasons than sunburn) led by a very young Kiefer Sutherland as David. Sam befriends the Frog brothers Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander). Convenient having vampire hunters as friends. You never know when you’ll need them.

The Lost Boys

More comedy and fun than horror, The Lost Boys was directed by Joel Schumacher and has some great music. From the awesome People Are Strange (Echo And The Bunnymen’s cover of The Doors) to the exploding vampires (in gunky chunks of flesh that splatter entire rooms or goo that seeps through all your water pipes) you’ll be smiling and having a ball. But then, maybe it’s just me.

Thanks to Three Rows Back and Thomas J for taking me back 30 years for their Decades Blogathon.