It’s been forty plus years in the making. No, no, it didn’t take me 40 years to write the script, though if I had written something as an infant I might’ve been a literary genius by now.
Some of you know my life’s been consumed by my short film project lately. Well, I had just launched the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the film, so I thought I’d share the journey of how I got here…
It feels as though I’ve been wanting to make a film for as long as I remember. Even in grade school, whenever the recurrent question ‘what do you want to be when we grow up?’ came up, I always proudly answered that I wanted to be a screenwriter. Yep, even long before I knew what a screenwriter was! For some reason, I had always had this longing to follow my late dad’s footsteps, who…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.