2. Atonement [Wright, 2007, theater]
3. I Know Who Killed Me [Siverston, 2007, DVD]
4. There Will Be Blood [Anderson, 2007. theater]
I didn't intend my first post of 2008 to be about my favorite film of 2007, but here we are. Why not?
I first saw Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood in mid-November and I knew I'd seen something great. That's not to say I wasn't thrown, I was-- the tone of it was not what I was expecting; certain performances didn't quite mesh for me; fuck, it just felt alien. But in the hours and days and weeks that followed, I couldn't get the damn thing out of my head.
Nearly two months later, I saw the film again, this time without anticipatory jitters and with a roadmap of where the movie was headed and it's an even greater, and more paradoxical, film than I remembered. When I say that Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the greatest screen performances I've ever seen, I'm not being hyperbolic. Daniel Day-Lewis disappears so completely into Daniel Plainview that for long stretches I forgot that I was watching an actor. And yet the performance is huge, grand, at times completely over-the-top... so actorly. How can [a] coexist with [b]? I dunno, but it does.
Just as after a second viewing, the film's cinematic heritage is even more apparent (Kane, 70s Kubrick, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and yet it feels even more organic, original, like it sprang fully-formed from Anderson's brain all Athena-stizz.
And without giving anything away (as all four or five of you faithful readers probably have yet to see the film), let me just say that the, uh, controversial ending feels exactly right to me. Anderson has always been one for the big, jolting finale followed by a declarative statement (cf. Boogie Nights: "I'm a star"; Punch-Drunk Love: "Here we go") and Blood is no different. It's also clear (especially after that repeat viewing) that the film is building to this release.
And that's that. I'm finished. For now.
I've read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild twice: once in 1996 and again in 2001. So it's been a while, but I'm fairly certain that Sean Penn doesn't get it. The story of Chris McCandless is tragic, no doubt. Here's a kid who seemingly had a lot to offer, had much on his mind, but was so full of that early20something hubris (mixed with an unhealthy Thoreau/Tolstoy/London obsession) that he walked into the Alaskan wild woefully unprepared and, well, died for it. There's no glory in that. As much as Krakauer romanticized McCandless, I think he fundamentally understood this. Penn doesn't. Was he worried that if he made the McCandless character in the least bit unlikable the ending wouldn't resonate? That it'd be less tragic? Emile Hirsch is great as McCandless, but could've been richer if Penn had allowed us to see that the kid was not only charitable and in love with life and a searcher, but also clearly selfish and stubborn and, well, stupid. You know... human. Penn's problems aren't limited to the screenplay-- as a director he's way too fond of slow motion and golden shots of sun-dappled [fill in the blank: wheat, waterfalls, waves] and really shitty original songs by Eddie Vedder.
I Know Who Killed Me: yup, it's that bad. I actually feel kinda bad for Linds, because, you know, she's giving it her all... but her all includes, well, this.
Am I the only one willing to admit that I really don't like Ian McEwan's Atonement? Saturday, On Chesil Beach-- I'm way down with those. (Sadly that the breadth of my McEwan familiarity.) Atonement... not so much. But as a big glossy melodrama starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy? There are worse ways to try to beat le malaise than by watching Keira's modest bosom heave.
About the blog's name... It was either this or "funerals and snakes," but someone had already taken it.
- My Best of '07 list. (As always, world cinema is woefully absent. Somehow I managed to see the second Fantastic Four movie but not Syndromes and a Century. Sigh.)
- Glenn Kenny on fathers and sons in There Will Be Blood. (Plus the greatest LOLmovie bit ever.)
- Memo to Paramount Vantage marketing: you're doing a lovely job with There Will Be Blood. (Love those new TV spots.) But I think you've missed a really excellent pullquote. Here it is: "[Daniel Day-Lewis's] Plainview is the most remarkable movie performance since Eddie Murphy's Norbit trifecta."--Armond White, NY Press.
- Editing: the invisible art.
- Theater directors on film directors.
- The Wire's David Simon says "Fuck the average reader."