Sunday, February 24

There will be milkshakes.

For the first time in, well, maybe ever, I have seen all five of a given year's Academy Award nominees for Best Picture before the awards are given out. I completed the -- what? quintifecta? -- Thursday night when I saw "There Will Be Blood" with my friend Michelle.

How do I put this? I would say I didn't get it, but that would be an understatement; "I didn't get it" doesn't accurately portray the plane of not-getting-it I achieved. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I don't get why so many people are calling it the best movie of the year. I mean, the cinematography was outstanding, and there was some interesting Biblical imagery that definitely merits further discussion, but none of it seemed to add up to much; the pacing was leaden, the character development was negligible, and despite the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis is being talked up as a shoo-in for the Best Actor award, I didn't think his performance was anything special (honestly, the one I was most impressed with were 13-year-old Dillon Freasier, who played Day-Lewis's adopted son).

Of course, this is all just an excuse to post last night's "Saturday Night Live" send-up of several of this year's Best Picture nominees, "There Will Be Blood" featuring most prominently among them.

Personally, I think Day-Lewis's Best Actor candidacy has a lot of holes blown in it by the fact that Bill Hader was able to do such a spot-on impression of him (and with only a week's worth of rehearsal to boot). But your mileage may vary.

Anyway, my vote for Best Picture is still split between "No Country for Old Men" and "Michael Clayton"; it'll be interesting to see which one takes home the statue (or if neither of them do). Anybody got any favorites for the Oscars tonight? Or can anybody explain "There Will Be Blood" to me? The balcony is open . . .

MINOR UPDATE: YouTube totally stole NBC's boyfriend so now NBC won't let YouTube display clips of "SNL" episodes, which means I'm now using NBC's embed-able viewer instead. Whatever.


Kanu said...

TWWB is the only on that I have yet to see, so I can't help you there. Saw JUNO Fri night and NCFOM last night.

Call me crazy, but for me personally I thought MICHAEL CLAYTON and ATONEMENT were the two best.

It will be interesting tonight, as it seems totally wide open.

And although I only saw 2 of the Best Doc category {Sicko, WarDance}, I'm really hoping that WarDance wins- it is flat out amazing.


Reed said...

For me, TWWB is easily the best movie of the year, and the best film I've seen in quite a long time. I'm not sure I can wholly explain why, but I'll give it a shot.

The movie a study in greed. Overwhelming greed to the point that no one else is even allowed to have anything of their own. Daniel Plainview shows no interest in women, expresses no joy over anything than business success, and is perhaps the most utterly ruthless character since Vilos Cohaagen. The role his son plays for him is another example. Of course, he's a self-described "oil man" which could therefore mean that the movie is at least somewhat allegorical to our current dealings with "oil men" in the ruthless pursuit of capitalistic success. But furthermore, the character is far more interesting than your summary. There's a reason people are quoting so many of his lines. He is a commanding presence - as stunning to me as Anton Chigurh, yet delivers ironic humor (in the baptism scene especially). Early in the film, we feel drawn to his success and persuasive approach. By the end, we understand his complete character.

Plainview's adversary is the equally greedy, but far less cunning and ruthless Eli Sunday. He is possibly allegorical to the Ted Haggards of this world.

Finally, I felt like I was watching a modern-day Kubrick movie. Between the piercing, avant-garde score (by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood), the cinematography (particularly in that bowling alley), and all the facial close-ups, the homage was clearly intentional.

It took me the better part of a day to truly appreciate the movie - it is far more rich and layered than any of the other nominees I've seen (didn't catch Atonement). In sum, I can't wait to see it again as I know there will be more to appreciate.

Oh, and the second-best movie of the year was Ratatouille. I'll have in-depth 20/20 hindsight reviews of many of the films in the next week on my blog.

Universal Remonster said...

I don't wholly dissagree with you, although I think there is a good deal more substance in the film than you give it credit for.

But DDL deserved the oscar.

The fact that his roles are easy to emulate don't make them any less miraculous. If anything, I think his ability to create iconic characters is a testament to his ability to take the character off the page and turn it into something fully realized.

Anonymous said...

I will admit that I have only seen the trailers for TWBB, but as a general rule, over-the-top characters are easy to play; the only real danger for the actor is you might be so bombastic that your performance is just one big pig thigh. Nuanced, controlled characters show greater skill, imo, and comedy can be very difficult because timing is frequently critical. Still, even by my standards, I am not sure there was any one actor this year that should have won instead of DDL.

Anonymous said...

The character has to be enormous - he is the physical manifestation of the American empire that was born out of the unrepentant greed of the capitalist system.

Plainview is a stand-in for the devil himself.

I would argue that dead-on impersonation of a character would require next to zero skill. Painting the Mona Lisa was a hell of a lot tougher than reproducing it. And, frankly, being able to imitate Plainviews voice (the only thing Hader shows here he can do) isn't very impressive.

In my opinion, the film would be great if it had confined itself merely to Plainviews story. But because it goes on to explore the absolute corruption money creates even in the holiest of places it has a place among the all-time greats.

One more thing - how can you say the character development wasn't there? I think maybe you just mean that the characters didn't change, which isn't the same thing, no matter what Robert McKee would have us believe.

Plainview starts as a silent prospector, grows to a skillful businessman, reveals his inner nature bit by bit (but still finds odd moments of empathy such as stopping little Mary's beatings) has what amounts to a confessional with his "brother," then finally sheds his careful exterior to reveal the full-bore evil that resides within him. No character development?