There Will Be Blood (2007 film)

You just have to wait a bit….

This movie is superb on many levels. If it weren’t for “No Country for Old Men” being released at almost the same time, “There Will Be Blood” would have probably swept the Academy Awards. Daniel Day Lewis deservedly won best actor for his spellbinding performance as Daniel Plainview, and Robert Elswit also got a nod for best Cinematography. Johnny Greenwood should have won for best film score, but was disqualified from a nomination on a lame technicality. Speaking of the amazing score, here’s a fun exercise to try out at home(especially if you’ve never seen the movie). Watch the first ten minutes of the film on mute. Then go back at watch it with sound. There is absolutely no dialogue, just a staggeringly ominous score to set the mood. And the only sounds we hear are exactly the ones Plainview would have experienced. The barren solitude of an isolated man in the desert, and his burning passion for the acquisition of power and wealth at any cost. The opening scene is just fantastic filmmaking. It’s this up close and personal quiet time with characters, that has become a hallmark of Paul Thomas Anderson’s genius. Using no words, in one scene, PTA can give an audience more insight to a character than most filmmakers can muster in 2 and a half hours of blunt dialogue.

Fucking Religion.

Daniel Day Lewis reflects a character in such an intricately detailed and genuine manner, that it makes me question whether or not he’s entirely human. People are supposed to be fallible. His performance is flawless. One of the main values that movies provide is that they serve as an escape. When filmmakers and actors can make you accept what you are watching as reality, the illusion is complete, and real emotional responses from the viewer can occur. While this movie didn’t really provoke too much emotion from me, it did make me feel like I was watching late 19th century reality.

It is a compelling storyline driven by the metamorphosis of a complex and twisted character in Daniel Plainview. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Daniel definitively chooses running to save his oil rig over continuing to watch over his injured son. Spattered in oil, firelight beaming on his face, this catalyst moment is one that resonates with me whenever I think about TWBB.

Just like the American Psycho Leto axing scene, the symbolism is obvious, but well executed nonetheless.

Pretty much every scene Lewis shares with Paul Dano is thoroughly entertaining. Paul is intensely amazing as Paul/Eli Sunday. Their back and forth as personifications of the two things that bother me most in America(Greed and Religion) build to a crescendo, where the ending is a spectacular delivery or the title’s promise. There’s really not much more I can say that wouldn’t be simply reiterating how fantastic a film this is. So, I’ll just end with the words of Mr. Plainview : “I’m Finished”.

Overall Rating :  10/10

– JA

Looper (2012 film)

If you flip this poster upside-down, Bruce Willis gets the lead, and the movie is now titled : “Repool”. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean anything.

Time travel movies never make sense. No one has ever written anything that doesn’t have at least one big plot hole. “Looper” is no exception to this rule. However, Rian Johnson (writer/director) did a fine job in avoiding the vast majority of common pitfalls that come with incorporating time travel into a plot. If you aren’t careful, you can easily get mired down in sorting through the details of logical impossibilities, and subsequently, the movie falls apart quickly. By choosing to acknowledge the existence of these fallacies, and politely ask the audience to not dwell on them, Johnson succeeds in keeping the plot intact just enough to deliver a compelling storyline. There are two scenes where characters assume the voice of the writer, essentially speaking to the audience when they say : “Don’t try to understand time travel, it will only make your head hurt. So, just accept that it’s real, and enjoy the ride”. While not a terribly creative solution, it is nonetheless, an acceptable and effective one.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays young Joseph Simmons, while Bruce Willis plays old Joseph Simmons. The make-up was convincing enough to bridge the gap between the two actors who really don’t look much alike. Also, for this particular character, a natural, cutesy Gordon-Levitt baby face would not have looked tough or haggard enough for the part. In short, the make-up was a double win.

Jesus, don’t look too closely!

The acting in this movie was pretty excellent across the board. The biggest risk in a project with this kind of budget, is to cast an untested child actor in a central role. With Pierce Gagnon playing Cid(The Rainmaker), this gamble paid off big time. He was outstanding. With the wrong casting for this role, this movie could have easily drifted off into a sea of cheese. Pierce showed the full range – first, evoking some serious rage, and then squeezing out the waterworks. Pretty cool to watch.

Emily Blunt played the role of Sara(Cid’s Mother), and did well enough. For some reason, the scenes where she hacked away at a stump, stood out to me as unintentionally hilarious. If someone told me that I chopped wood “like a girl”, I imagine this is what it might look like. It seemed like it took every ounce of strength she had to swing a 6 pound axe.

Reenforcing female stereotypes one swing at a time.

Jeff Daniels plays “Abe”, the only character in the movie whose motivations made no sense. As a side note, I can’t seem to detach Daniels from his role as Harry Dunne in “Dumb and Dumber”. It’s much the same way I can’t separate Keanu Reeves from his “Ted” Theodore Logan character. I guess if you do a convincing enough job playing a dumbass, I can’t erase the echoes of that character from my memory – no matter how big of a departure you make. But, that’s my problem. The problem with the “Abe” character, is that it’s unclear why he would give a rat’s dick about following the orders of his future bosses. Why wouldn’t he simply go find the baby versions of his bosses and kill them? Or, if they weren’t born yet, go and kill their parents. I mean, he’s supposed to be a conniving, murderous criminal, right?? Or better yet, if you have knowledge of everything that will happen for the next thirty years, pull a “Biff” from “Back To The Future 2”, and basically take over the world by having more money than anyone else.

“Someone please explain to me why I don’t make any sense.”

I think they could have been a bit more thoughtful with that aspect of the story. But, whatever. I guess this is a minor point, and since the filmmakers were mindful enough to concede defeat, I’ll let it go. So if you go to see “Looper”, and you can find this forgiveness Rian Johnson so delicately asks of you, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to thoroughly enjoy the rest of this uniquely crafted thrill ride.

Overall Rating :  8.4/10

– JA