January 28, 2008

A day of movies

Yesterday I saw two very different movies. The first was Rescue Dawn, the Werner Herzog-directed Vietnam feature, starring Christian Bale as a U.S. bomber pilot turned P.O.W. The second was There Will Be Blood, nominated for eight academy awards including best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and best picture. I loved both.

Rescue Dawn was great because very rarely does a movie evoke such a wide array of emotions at their extremes. Happiness and grief, sheer terror and anger. Christian Bale is fantastic and inspiring, and Steve Zahn is equally wonderful as a prisoner-gone-mad.

There Will Be Blood was one of the most amazing movies I've seen this year. I mean in the past year, not in 2008. I've pretty much seen 3 movies in 2008.

Danieal Day-Lewis was amazing. His character, Daniel Plainview is a heartless and ruthless (without Ruth, my grandmother) businessmen with an incredible mustache. It reminds me of Citizen Kane, whose title character, Charles Foster Kane is obsessed with his material possessions. But Kane longs for Rosebud, his youth, which is not a part of Plainviews' M.O. in the least. Plainview only desires for more. More wealth. More land. More oil. And at any expense.

Day-Lewis's portrayal is stunning. He creates a character who on his facade is an honest man who prefers "plain speaking," and often, Day-Lewis makes us believe that. But so often we see Plainview go to great lengths, including personally humiliating himself in front of a congregation. This was one of the most poignant scenes, although it was hilarious. Plainview agrees to be baptized. He accepts the blood of Christ and admits to abandoning his son. At no other point in the film do we believe that Plainview is being fully truthful, but we come to find out otherwise. Daniel Day-Lewis's ability to make his character seem honest and dishonest, good and evil, all at once is remarkable.It can't go without saying that the film's original soundtrack, composed by Jonny Greenwood (the guitarist from Radiohead), is paramount. At the opening it is overly cacophonous, giving the impression of impending doom. Throughout Blood, the music makes us feel as if we are constantly building towards something, with great tension. At points, the soundtrack is so crucial that without it, we might not even get a sense of what is coming. It's an inner monologue of sorts, because without it, we would only be seeing Plainview's strictly-business front.

There Will Be Blood is not only about Plainview's thirst for fortune. His foil, Eli Sunday played by Paul Dano (who is originally from CT) is a young man interested in spreading the word of God and using Plainview to help procure money for his church. In their final showdown, Paul Thomas Anderson (who also wrote and directed Magnolia which I highly recommend if you can spare 3 hours) reveals to us what he thinks of human nature: that we are all, even the holiest among us, are greedy, self-indulgent beings.

I couldn't help but draw parallels between this movie and the 21st century world. There are obvious notions of America's ravenous thirst for oil, which many people have at one time or another thought was the reason we are fighting a war in Iraq. (I don't know what the real reason is. I don't think many people do). There are parts that seem to symbolize the war between religions, and the pressing of religion on the people, as the U.S. government seems to do more and more these days. If I had to guess, I would say that Paul Thomas Anderson is a liberal.

I've now seen 3 of the 5 films nominated for best picture, and am hoping to see the other two, Michael Clayton and Atonement, this week. At that point, I just might do a Best Picture post, but the three I've seen, No Country for Old Men, Juno, and Blood, have all been great. See all three if you haven't.


Dabiv Dagis said...

I thought "Rescue Dawn" could have been better, given the source material. Not really a misstep for Herzog, but not too big a step forward. I suggest you watch "Little Dieter Needs To Fly", the movie (also put together by Herzog) "Rescue Dawn" was adapted from.

I don't know. I thought it worked on a lot of levels and the acting (Jeremy Davies is my boo) was more than incredible at turns, but that whole ending really made me feel weird inside. All in all, now I know what trying to survive off of one grain of rice at least LOOKS like.

Don't know how familiar you are with Werner Herzog, my boo and the king of all cinema, but you should definitely Netflix "Aguirre, The Wrath of God" if you haven't gotten a chance to see it yet.

As for "There Will Be Blood", those last twenty minutes are gut-wrenching and hilarious at the same time, a quality only P.T. Anderson can pull off as convincingly.

Why do you think he cast Paul Dano as both Sunday brothers? At first I didn't think I would like him, considering the only other role I've seen him play was the mute kid in "Little Miss Sunshine". He turned out to be great, though, as the fake passion that turned him inside out was his ultimate burial.

It was no "Boogie Nights" or "Punch Drunk Love", but it didn't have to be. There is a reason why great directors like Anderson take years in between pictures. If they can see perfection, they can see the patience needed. I agree with you and your appraisal of the film's politics, and I might even go as far as to say the film's religious message might be, "Don't take advantage of relgiion, lest you be held accountable as a new spokesman."

Oh, and didn't Daniel Day's stache look Boratesque at points? Signing off...

Vinnie said...

I get what you're saying about Rescue Dawn. I guess we aren't really made to believe what living in a prison camp feels like but only how it looks. And the ending, in retrospect was a little cheesy. Dieter was in the camp for roughly 5 months, but it was his patriotism and camaraderie that made him want to go back to his ship so quickly.