Film # 1: There Will be Blood
Method of viewing: DVD at home, with cats. The DVD was kind of a skippy one, which was annoying, but the cats were awesome.
I passed on this film for years, despite glowing reviews by critics I trust, because it’s a Paul Thomas Anderson film, and I still haven’t forgiven him for Magnolia. Fucking Magnolia. But TWbB opens promisingly, with atonal strings played over an inhospitable landscape; it struck me immediately as similar to The Shining (a comparison I'm happy to argue that the rest of the film bears out, in surprising ways).
What happens? (Spoilers) Briefly, an early 20th century oil prospector, Daniel Plainview, exploits a small, oil-rich town in the middle of nowhere, coming up against the local evangelical preacher (whose brother initially tipped Plainview off to the local oil) in his efforts to take control of the area. As he sucks the oil from the ground he makes a fortune but loses his soul.(/Spoilers)
There Will be Blood is a long, dark film and wholly grounded by Daniel Day Lewis’ astonishing performance as Daniel Plainview. He transforms himself into a lumbering, tobacco-chewing monster, a man whose hatred and fury leaks from every pore. Paul Dano gives the film its balance, providing a counterweight to the titanic Day Lewis despite significantly less screentime and their final confrontation is jaw-dropping.
But I never really connected with the film. Perhaps this has to do with the utter lack of female characters (more on that below), which immediatley irritated me. But it's more than that; There Will be Blood is a bleak and angry movie. I'm sorry I didn't see it in the cinema, which I'm certain would have been an intense experience; there are limits to watching a film at home, and connecting with such a brutally chilly film as this is made that much harder when I'm watching while comfortably squashed on the bean bag with the cats. Without surround-sound and darkness, and with distractions aplenty, There Will be Blood was simply not the overwhelming tour de force it should have been.
There Will be Blood is an unmistakably capital-s superb film. It's sometimes extraordinary, and occasionally not, and always exquisitely, meticulously crafted... but cold. As a side-note, these same complaints are regularly lobbed at The Shining - and yet I count The Shining as a favorite film, while I just can't get beyond the chilly craftsmanship of There Will be Blood.
There are more obvious comparisons to be made between There Will be Blood and Citizen Kane, and similar ‘making of America’ films. Certainly it has something to say about the making of modern America, and certainly it's a film we’ll still be talking about in fifty years... though I expect it’ll be a long time before I see it again.
Hookers, Victims & Doormats: there are hardly any women to speak of in this film at all, presumably because, y’know, this is an Important Movie about Man Stuff. But no, perhaps you're saying; it’s historical; there aren’t any women in the source material; there wouldn’t have been women involved in the burgeoning oil business, etc. Whatever. There are almost no women at all in this movie, and for no discernable, reasonable reason.