Provocative "There Will Be Blood" is the Best Film of the Year
Well, it's 2008 and the best movie of 2007 has finally arrived. Thanks to a 2-market opening in December, Paul Thomas Anderson's monumental picture "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis, is eligible for 2007 awards consideration. This weekend it trickles out to more theaters across the country, and even more next week. Eric and J.D. agree on one thing (besides Y&T's "Summertime Girls"-- confused? Watch the video!): Their On-Camera Instant Review of the best movie of the year is above or at the [Scene-Stealers YouTube channel]. Eric's movie review (that's almost as long as the movie) is printed[ here].
It is a more than a mere humble beginning for the wiry man covered from head to toe in dirt, as he mines silver by himself from a deep, dark hole in the ground. His climb upward is slow. Soon it will be literal. The sheer determination and physical pain of years of back-breaking work that it takes for prospector Daniel Plainview to build his oil-drilling business from nothing but dirt must be admired. Through fractured bones and tragic accidents, Plainview perserveres. When the dot in the upper right hand corner appears twice on the screen and the sequence cuts, it becomes clear that one entire film reel (over 15 minutes) has passed without the benefit of dialogue. At this point, if you are not sucked into "There Will Be Blood," there probably isn't any blood coursing through your veins.On an Californian ranch in a small town called Little Boston, Plainview hears about oil that bubbles up to the surface and covers the ground. It is a perfect metaphor for the all-encompassing stranglehold that that valuable crude has on our country today, and in case anyone should forget how we got to this point (or forget that the corrupting nature of money and power will always be present), writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's new epic "There Will Be Blood" is here to set the record straight.The work ethic professed by single-minded oilman Daniel Plainview (as played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who himself is a ferocious oil gusher and unstoppable force of nature) is a very American one. From "Citizen Kane" to "Wall Street," the cinema has been a fantastic forum for examing the frayed edges of unchecked ambition and greed. The dark side to this particular American dream is not knowing when to give it a rest."There Will Be Blood" is fierce, bold filmmaking, adapted very loosely from Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel "Oil!," which was concerned with the Harding administration's many oil-related bribes and scandals. Politics doesn't interest Anderson, however. The movie is purposeful instead about identifying the plague that lies behind human disregard. What kind of a man could be so unforgivingly cruel without a moment's pause? Plainview plainly states, "I look at people and I see nothing worth liking." His cutthroat competitiveness and subsequent inability to feel anything for his fellow man makes for an uncompromisingly bleak, yet fascinating and eye-popping, vision.The aesthetically-pleasing factor comes from director of photography Robert Elswit. While Anderson's script explores the complete inner failures of men's souls, Elwit's gorgeous anamorphic cinematography explores the outer reaches of the sprawling desert. Shot with enough "magic hour" natural light to rival Terrence Malick's famously ethereal "Days of Heaven," "There Will Be Blood" is the second movie this year (following "No Country for Old Men") that could exist on a purely visual level and still be moving. Unlike "Days," however, the narrative chugs forward with horsepower, like a train gathering steam from a cold start.In deep, convincing tones at a town meeting, Plainview offers locals "the bond of family." It turns out he's just playing up to the unwitting locals, promising to create a prosperous community so he can buy their land and reap the profits. His son and "business partner" H.W. (a magnetic Dillon Freasier) gives him the air of being a family man, and sometimes he even believes he is one. The movie's emotional setpieces feature Plainview trying to convince himself that he can muster some feelings other than contempt, but the only thing that gets Plainview's blood pumping is the constant struggle to get to the top and remain there.If Plainview stands firmly on the side of corrupted ambition and lust for money, than preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, showing massive range only hinted at in "Little Miss Sunshine" last year) holds up another American pillar that can just as easily corrupt. Though outwardly the men are at opposite ends of the spectrum, inwardly their goals are similar. Plainview's disgust and distrust for Sunday comes from the fact that he believes he can see right through him, which is an astute view, since Plainview isn't even around for the blistering moment when Sunday lashes out as his cowering father, foaming at the mouth and screaming that God "doesn't save stupid people!" What Plainview does not realize is that he is looking in a mirror.Much has been written about the movie's portrayal of religion. Certainly, religion can be used to further one's own selfish agenda, and there are untold cases of this throughout history. But Sunday's predilections are no more an indictment of the entire institution than Plainview's abuses are an indictment of all of capitalism. New York Press reviewer Armond White criticized the movie for not being a "formidable dramatization of the struggle between power and faith." He misses the point. "There Will Be Blood" deals in extremes. Like Plainview's single-minded struggle to grasp what is always just beyond his reach, these men reside on the outer reaches of society, and whether anyone wants to admit it or not, they exist. Any towering institution is capable of producing monsters, even if none of them are as far removed from human frailty as Plainview and his pitiable nemesis.As grim as Anderson's story is, it is also full of humor-the sinister, shocking kind. Seeing the faÃ§ade behind which Plainview hides, we are privy to all kinds of knowledge about his true intentions. The lengths he will go to further his business often intersect uncomfortably with his undeterred sense of pride, such as a startilingly funny scene that turns unexpectedly poignant once Plainview enters a church to be saved.The distubingly dissonant score (from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood) is like a call to arms-an alert that something is rotten in the state of California. Even though the setting is the turn-of-the-last-century, the music is decidedly nowhere near there. Using provocative non-traditional music is a Brechtian choice that calls to our attention that we are watching a film, just like Anderson did in the opening scene by purposefully withholding dialogue.The world created by "There Will Be Blood" is rich and detailed and complete and enveloping, but the movie also reminds you that somebody as willful as Daniel Plainview is present behind the scenes. Who says storytelling has to be invisible? With "There Will Be Blood," Anderson challenges our notion of how a movie connects with an audience. And through his and Day-Lewis' ferocious force of will, the film's bizarrely fitting conclusion had the hair on my arms standing on end. : http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=SceneStealers" title="Scene-Stealers YouTube channel : http://www.scene-stealers.com/print-reviews/provocative-there-will-be-blood-is-the-best-film-of-the-year/" title="there will be blood movie review eric melin