Week Five: There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano
So, this movie, right? It’s fucking fantastic.
See you next week!
Okay, seriously, we’ve all seen the clip on YouTube of Day-Lewis schooling Dano at the end of this film. It’s one of the best scenes in recent American film history, a scene which could have elevated a lesser film into the attention of a wider audience. But when it comes at the end of a masterfully shot and hauntingly scored film like There Will Be Blood, it becomes something like transcendent. Outside of the context of the other two hours of the film, the scene is a spell-binding depiction of a man whose whose apparent triumph over his opponent has sent him over whatever railing remained between himself and complete mania. Given two hours of setup, it becomes something even more: the character of Plainview has triumphed over the Christian god. He has accomplished everything he has set out to do in his selfish, manipulative life, and is now basking in his ultimate victory.
Last week I wrote a bit about my inability to sit still for a feature-length film. It probably says something about how dumbfounding this one is. The hook got set the instant the film opened with a prototypical “western” landscape and some string instruments being played in a manner that expresses the thought SHIT GON’ GET FUCKED UP IN HERE DAWG. Our first encounter with Plainview has him dragging himself along this landscape after breaking his leg in a mine accident, on his way to cash in some precious metals. He turns those proceeds into business capital and starts drilling for oil, and in the process becomes the caretaker of an orphaned boy. This boy is passed off has Plainview’s natural son for most of the film, leaving the audience wondering when and how this reveal will take place. It takes place, in a scene that doesn’t come up because the only scene to really trump it is the aforementioned milkshake sequence. Eventually Plainview and his boy are given an astounding offer on some virgin territory which is allegedly bursting at the seems with oil, around the area of Little Boston, California.
This city becomes a spiritual battleground between Plainview and Dano’s Eli Sunday, whose brother Paul tipped Plainview off to the find in the first place. Sunday is running a Pentecostal church, the sort where people are slapped and licked, and casts a cynical eye on Day-Lewis. Rightly so; Mr. Plainview is a cold man fond of his flask, impatient with other people, and frustrated enough with his son (who becomes deafened in a drilling incident) to trick him into leaving for the coast on the rail. To achieve his long-term goals of getting the tons of oil he has found out to the coast, Plainview is eventually made to humble himself to Sunday. It was revealed to us beforehand the depth of his competitiveness, and second half of the film could be interpreted as Daniel Day-Lewis placing the blame on his humiliation on the rest of the people in his world, and working out his cold, calculated revenge on all of them as a result.
There’s also a lot that could be said about this film’s explicit anti-clerical stances. I’ll boil it down to a simple question: Out of Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday, which is actually evil? Both? Neither? Plainview is manipulating people to advance his own wealth, and is basically a lizard man. Sunday, on the other hand (and with the added caveat that you do not accept the existence of a higher power), is living a lie and dragging people down with him. He is also revealed to be something of a fraud at the end of the film, as he is compelled to play out a reversed scenario of Plainview’s earlier humiliation prior to his undoing.
You could also read this movie as some sort of indictment of the inherent grossness of the oil industry. Here is a class of men with more wealth than entire nations, whose profits are made at the expense of local environments and standards of living, whose taxes are probably less than my own in some cases, and whose collusion with our governments has played a part in a lot of armed conflicts in the last few decades. Is Plainview just a preview of what was to come?
Maybe, maybe not. I think those are interesting questions, the sorts of questions people probably should be talking about in their small groups after watching a movie like There Will Be Blood. Me? I concern myself with two questions about each of these films, so let’s get to those.
IS IT ANY GOOD. Yes, yes, and yes. This film vaults over A Serious Man on my current list to become the standout of this series. It is comparable to Citizen Kane in terms of its story, performances, and its durability against time. I don’t know how many movies from the last decade will be as viewable as this one in twenty or fifty years.
SHOULD IT HAVE WON? They flipped a coin this year. I will confess to thinking Juno is alright (it has a strong association with a girl I once loved a lot), but it wasn’t going to bat against both this and the year’s winner, the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men. Likewise, Atonement was a damn period piece with a woman who can’t act. I can’t vouch for Michael Clayton, but its relative draught at the show leads me to believe it was added onto the list to fill it out. So the Academy had to choose between the Coen Brothers in top form, and one of the standout performances of the last decade. I wager one of the had a quarter, and the others were betting men and women. Either choice would have been correct.
Next week, I don’t care who won. Next week, I’m just going to write about how Children of Men was better than the movie I plan on watching. It’s The Queen, by the way.
- I am resolved to see Django Unchained before it leaves the theater down the street. Though I’ve complained about Tarantino’s movies in the past being immature and schlocky, I think I’ve expanded my pallet and grown a little older since I’ve last tried one. Also, Django sounds like it could be a hell of a film even without the Tarantino touch. I am interested in seeing DiCaprio and Sammy L. Jackson as evil pricks, so that’s also a plus.
- So I’ve been watching this Twin Peaks program on the Netflix. I just got through episode three. I am trying to decide when my brain will be ready for the next episode, because holy balls. Everything about how good that show appears in the first season is making me dread what I understand to be a real turn for the worse by mid-second season.
- This week LP Archive recommendation is The Dark Id’s playthrough of Drakengard.
Drakengard is a terrible game — absolutely awful. It isn’t fun. At all. There is no fun to be found here. Look elsewhere for fun. It is a muddy hybrid of a half-assed Dynasty Warriors clone meets a poor man’s knock off of Panzer Dragoon coupled with an unbearably dull grind fest.
So, why should you care? I’ll tell you why. Drakengard is a product of the Enix half of Square-Enix (it was developed prior to the merger). However, the actual development was farmed out to a little company called “Cavia Inc.” Cavia is a little development sweatshop which Enix, Capcom, and assorted anime license holders throw games to for a quick buck. Capcom, in particular, commissioned a game which is near and dear to my heart:
Those familiar with that particular spin-off title ought to know of the depths of we are diving to. For those unprepared…strap in…
Posted on 2 Feb 2013, in Almost Oscars and tagged academy awards, Almost Oscars, Daniel Day-Lewis, God, Oil!, Oscars, Paul Dano, Paul Thomas Anderson, religion, Upton Sinclair. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.