(March 15th, 2008 edit: my opinion changed drastically about the film. I wrote a new post that corrects several points of this review here.)
"Sigh". I lost count of how many times I said that as I stared at the screen, a headache starting to pound my brain. This is a movie I'll never understand why it was so critically acclaimed, and I'm fucking serious. You might say I went to see this movie with very high expectations. Wrong. I went to see "No Country for Old Men" and "Sweeney Todd" with way higher expectations. You'll notice I loved them both.
The movie's about the life of fictional character Daniel Plainview, a monster who pretends he's sincere and nice so he can drill on other people's lands. He even uses his adopted son, cute little HW Plainview, as a way of gaining the sympathy of his customers.
That could be a great story. But director Paul Thomas Anderson can't seem to find the balance between humor and drama. Clearly self-indulgent, Anderson insists in incredibly long shots. If a character's walking across the desert, it'll take thirty seconds until Anderson cuts to... another angle of the character walking across the fucking desert. Most of the movie's made out of long, silent shots where nothing happens or dull dialogue scenes. There's two or three good scenes, but they're good just because they contrast with the tedious rest of the movie: the gas explosion scene, the scene at the church (hilarious) and the ending.
When the humor does show up in the movie, it feels heterogeneous, out of place, because it's been preceded by many scenes with no humor at all. Instead of keeping the whole movie in a careful balance of humor and drama (as the Coens brilliantly did in "No Country for Old Men"), "There Will be Blood" has some far between funny scenes that are not enough to make me regain my interest.
Anderson's script has one or other memorable dialogue ("I drink your milkshake. I drink it up."), but it's mostly made out of dull, by-the-numbers dialogue. Anderson's direction is even worse: I lost count of how many times the camera slowly zooms in the face of a character as he speaks. The cinematography received lots of compliments, but not from me. The shadows of "Sweeney Todd" are far superior. "There Will be Blood" has no interesting visual logic (like Sweeney Todd had, going from monochromatic to hot colors) and the shadows constantly hide a character's face, making it hard to see their expression. "Oh, it's because we wanted to portray Plainview's dark nature". Oh really? How fucking subtle and original.
Of course, Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic. He's the one who keeps this movie bearable. If it wasn't for him, this movie would simply suck, but Lewis saves it with his amazing work. Also, I have to mention Paul Dano, who does a great job too. But as good as Lewis' work is, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem were in better movies, playing more memorable characters and doing it brilliantly. (For some reason, Javier Bardem wasn't considered the leading actor in "No Country for Old Men",which he fucking IS). This academy award belongs to Depp.
After one hour of "There Will be Blood", I found myself wishing the movie would end, and every time it seemed it would, a new scene popped up and my headache pounded harder. It gets better at the ending, but this movie failed to capture me emotionally and intelectually. In the end, I felt like I wasted a night at the movies.
Like a really big medium-rare cheeseburger with steak fries, not the fast-food nonsense... The ones its hard to bite because its so big, and you're always in danger of getting the juice all over your nice shirt. The sort of thing you get at a fancy restaurant, or an upscale diner where the ketchup comes in little dishes rather than in the Heinz bottles. The kind of burger that you're not sure you can finish, but you know you have to...
Fucking college cafeteria food. I'll be lucky if there's a charred piece of pizza left for dinner when I get over there.
The following boring stuff was posted to the doomspace. I know I'd promised to crosspost this crap, but holy hell this was a boring one.
While you read that and scratch your head, I'm going to go have another cup of coffee and get ready to face the world. Today I'll be talking to someone about things related to the proposed workblog (only in a friendly context mind you, not in a professional one- it's Saturday, dammit).
If the workblog is deemed acceptable by the audience (doesn't seem likely), I'll elaborate on that chat later.
If the backlash continues ("i thought this was a project not a blog", "you stopped telling stories!?!!", "i liked the mystery :("), I'll keep the work related stuff to a minimum.
You could always put it to a vote ...
Been getting some morbid e-mails asking if I'd killed myself.
I mean, I don't think so.
Lately I've been a bit quiet. Scheming, busy, telling stories, but seemingly absent. Believe me, I'm here.
A while back you may remember I had a function for exclusive content for Subscribers. You may also recall we broke that feature when a whole lot of you showed up and subscribed and exceeded the limits of the Preferred List function.
It was recently suggested to me by the fabulous and stunning Ms S that it could be put to good use again as a workblog function. She made the following argument:
1.) A lot of you have no desire to know anything about me, and therefore would not be interested.
2.) Some of you are only here for the stories, and really are tired of my hyperbole anyway, and would be unlikely to show up for a workblog entry.
3.) None of you have received an adequate explanation for why I've suddenly stopped posting on a regular basis.
These are all excellent reasons to do a workblog, since it seems like I'd only be annoying a few of you with the mundanities of my storytelling routine. On the other hand if there aren't enough of you interested in that sort of thing I'd just be annoying the Subscribers with e-mail notifications that would turn out not to be stories, but more of my complaining.
Here's what I have in mind: 1.) A workblog that isn't about me, but is about the things I work on and where I'm at in the process of getting things done.
2.) Snippets of explanations and insights into the stuff I've done already, stuff I'm having to revisit and take a second look at for various reasons.
3.) A realistic view of why it takes me so long to get back to you, and what's occupying my headspace when I'm not here posting or answering requests & messages.
Note: These entries will be locked and will only be viewable to a specific list of people who *do* want to see that shit. It will not be inflicted on everyone, I promise.
We're going to put it to a vote. If this blog entry reaches 20 'kudos' (that's where you comment and click the little buttons marked 1 or 2 'kudos'), I'll consider that an answer in the affirmative.
Negative opinions welcome. (I'll try not to bother you with this shit again, by the way, I know I'm ruining the ambiance here.)
The voting booth is open.
(Edited to fix formatting that didn't carry over.)
On the one hand, it's work, lots of sitting around in boardrooms, drinking bad coffee and pretending to be a mature, civil, human being.
On the other hand, the expereince is bookended by all the trappings of a Holiday, getting up at quarter to balls in the morning, buying strange currencies at inflated prices and having your belongings bombarded with X-rays by people who really wish they did better at school.
Going to Paris on Valentines day, with work, added an extra layer of sureality to proceedings.
Seriously. I'm becoming slowly used to the pidgeon English circus that is getting a restaurant table (discovering Parisian's hilarious grasp of what vegetarian means is an especially French experience), but trying to do it, as a party of six blokes, on Valentines day is like wandering around Israel trying to get a bacon sandwich.
Most of the time that I was in Korea, I explored the downtown-y areas of Seoul rather than the area that I was living in. I'm still not sure why. Something tells me that it was the way the city was designed. Pulled you straight away from the outskirts and pumped you through the heart. It might have also been because the closer to the outskirts of town we got, the more hostile people got. Jen would get more and more hoots from random dudes on the street*being a tall blonde woman with blue eyes in Korea is hot shit apparently* and people looked you in the eyes less and less.
Despite this, we made a trek one afternoon to our local temple, having heard good things from a neighbor of ours. It was mindblowing just how close we were to the forest. A two minute subway ride and a five minute walk. Yet it had taken us at least eight months to get the nuts to do it. It was beautiful, and there was a very nice path wandering through the trees.
The first thing that we noticed about the temple was the thirty foot high bhudda. Carved into the side of a single stone that the monks had split in two hundreds of years ago. Possibly more. It was breathtaking. And ok, silly. You could see the other half of the rock they had split. It looked like it had rolled down the hill a bit, only to flop to rest maybe forty feet away. Still, a good enough reason to make a temple as any. They built a temple directly above the split rock, and below the carved one. Seeing it in my mind, I imagine a split pea with a little temple inside.
Damn, I loved the soundtrack more than I imagined. I'm now addicted to it. The story of the film is so strong it overshadows the music, which is good. Giving priority to the soundtrack resulted in Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera, remember? Also, I'm amazed at how well Depp and Carter sing, with no training (Depp, at least). "Oh, their voices were edited to sound better!". So was Gerard Butler's on Phantom. Did it do any good? Nope, so shut up.
"No Country for Old Men", "Sweeney Todd", not to mention DVDs I've watched (and reviewed here)... all excellent movies, "No Country", "Sweeney", "Mr. Vengeance", "Lady Vengeance"... masterpieces. I'm a happy man right now.
Every alternative history has the decision point, an axis where everything changes and things start evolving in different directions.
It's just that I got the one I needed for Zephyr Dray from Antiques Roadshow on PBS.
It is always interesting to see what kind of bits of history or otherwise shows up on that show. One time they had the original stop motion marionettes of the Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV specials.
What was interesting was what someone showed a unused wedding certificate. Davy Crockett's unused wedding certificate, which he and his bride not-to-be both filled out, and later she got cold feet and bolted. He later married and became the person legends turned him into.
But what if that wedding had taken place, what if the name of Davy Crockett belong to modestly successful but otherwise unremarkable yeoman farmer?
Could the migration into the Ohio river valley, Kentucky and Tennesse have happened without the men that lead the path and blazed the trails across the Appalachian Mountains? Daniel Boone for instance blazed the trail of the Great Wagon Road through the Cumberland Gap. What if those early trailblazers simply didn't do so?
Just finished the Serenity Adventure. 21.5K words, but it is pre-first draft, it is the word vomit edition, now I have to turn it into something people will recognize as English.