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    So Skunkcabbage and I finally made it out to see There Will Be Blood. Those of you who have seen it know that it's a pretty intense film, with a pretty intense final reel. Right as the credits started rolling, we were treated to Bonus Intensity: a middle-class-looking man in the row right behind us stood up and declaimed, to seemingly no one in particular, that he had a "white dove" above his head "that was sent by Jesus Christ." From there he began quoting the Bible, particularly the much-beloved-by-insane-people Book of Ezekiel, declaring that he "in this jacket" was the amber at the midst of the fire described in that book. And from there he went on to say that within the next 121 days he would be shot to death by Osama bin Laden.

    "So," I said to H., "the movie actually drove someone insane."

    It is perhaps my testament to the film's strength that I don't find this thesis entirely improbable.


    PS: It has been a real pleasure, over the last ten years or so, to watch P. T. Anderson's emergence as a filmmaker: last night as I was falling asleep I realized that I'm hard pressed to think of another Promising Young Filmmaker who doesn't have at least one dud or disappointment among their first five features. Hell, I'm hard pressed to think of any filmmaker working in the last ten years who released five great films in a row. Discuss?


    PPS: My capsule review of There Will Be Blood, along with many other films, is on my 20 Most Recent page.



    Saturday, January 26, 2008
    10:36 AM


    Yea, that thesis is strangely believable. I was certainly profoundly unsettled in the first few minutes alone in the dark after Plainview's ambiguous "I'm finished."

    I wouldn't say Anderson's quite made five *great* films, but definitely five films that are all at least good and worthwhile, and steadily improving with time. His last two, especially, have been quantum leaps forward, totally original films in which he's finally distilled his influences into his own unique voice. And the gulf between Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood reveals a thoroughly eclectic cinematic intelligence. I hope the vague rumors are true and his next project is a horror film.
    Not a big fan, really. I thought Magnolia was a complete ripoff of Short Cuts, and a pretty poor one at that. I could go on and on about all the things and performances I didnt like in that. Punch Drunk Love was mildly interesting. Boogie Nights had its moments, especially towards the end. And I havent seen There Must Be Blood. I'm only counting four. Is there one of his I've missed, Jeremy?

    Despite certain misgivings I have about Wes Anderson, I'd say he's had a better run, with Rushmore and Royal Tannenbaums outright masterpieces. Even though Life Aquatic was mediocre.

    Also, I want to see Spike Jonze direct another full length. BJM and Adaptation were flawed, but great in their own ways.

    BTW, on a completely unrelated note, I watched Godard's Vivre Sa Vie for the first time this weekend. Make that 3 times in a row. What a movie! Absolutely my favorite Godard without a doubt.
    You missed his first film, Sydney AKA Hard Eight. A pretty modest character study with some flaws (mostly Samuel Jackson's character) but a good debut nevertheless.

    As far as the relative merits of the Andersons, I'd go with PT any day. Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums are great films, and Bottle Rocket is a fine debut comparable to Sydney in terms of quality. But Life Aquatic was a definite step back towards the dilution of his style into pure surface aesthetics, while the other Anderson just keeps getting better and more mature as an artist.

    I wouldn't mind seeing Spike Jonze do more, but it's very hard to tell with his films how much is him and how much is Charlie Kaufmann. I don't know how much directorial voice he actually has apart from his screenplay collaborator.

    Vivre sa vie is a masterpiece, one of Godard's best 60s films.
    Maybe it is overstating to say that P.T. Anderson's first five films are all "great," but I do stand by the claim that there isn't a "dud or disappointment" among them. Both Magnolia and Boogie Nights are derivative in ways, but they're often better than what they're derivative of. Boogie Nights is more than a little bit like a big, sprawling Scorsese epic, but it's markedly better than Scorcese's most recent attempt at the form (Casino).

    Jonze has real possibility as a Five in a Row filmmaker-- I own a copy of both Being John Malkovich and Adaptation --but that leaves three more to go, and the Kaufmann factor is substantial.

    I'm a strong believer in Wes Anderson as a promising filmmaker, but Life Aquatic bordered on the dreadful. I haven't seen Darjeeling Limited yet, and I probably should.
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