There Will Be Blood…? 8 nominations… really?

A modern day Citizen Kane. These are words that I would NEVER USE to describe this film.

I liked Magnolia. I have not seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s other films but I am sure I would like a few more of them. I liked what I saw of Boogie Nights. And you know, I’m sure he’s probably a really nice guy on top of everything else.

I did not like There Will Be Blood. Not even a little. In fact, I’ve never been so frustrated in a movie in all my life (and I’ve seen Valentine). I’ve only been moved to write a review about two films. This one, and Star Wars Episode III. I did not like Star Wars Episode III at all, but I prefer it 100 fold over There Will Be Blood.

At no point am I going to rag on any particular individual involved with this film. I will say that in my humble opinion, nothing really worked. Again, not trying to be a jerk – just in my opinion nothing really worked… at all.

BEING UN-CONVENTIONAL
The friends that I saw this film with said It wasn’t bad, it was “un-conventional.” Let me explain something. If you make a film that is un-conventional, that does not give you a free pass to avoid criticism. Movies can be un-conventional AND terrible. There is an important category that must be paid attention to. The quality category: that is “good” and “bad.” An example of a “good” and un-conventional movie would be Memento.

THE PERFORMANCES:
Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible. I loved his performance, and nothing bad can or should be said about it. Not too excited about anyone else. I guess the translator was pretty good.

THE SCORE:
It sounded in some sections like the THX logo was about to come up. In other sections it sounded like a musician fell into a closet full of instruments. No kidding… at one point a teenager came into the theater ringing some Christmas bells and… I am seriously not kidding… I thought it was part of the movie. Totally out of place, completely strange and I didn’t even realize it was not supposed to be there. No kidding.

THE STORY:
Movies are storytelling. Some stories are not worth telling. Maybe I’m crazy… maybe I’m alone in this but I just didn’t care. If someone walked up to me at a party and started to tell me this story about this guy who was a gold miner and then got into oil drilling and went from town to town looking for land that had oil under it and one day he found a crazy religious guy who caused him no end of trouble but he took his advice anyway and then made a lot of money but- right about here I’d probably just give them the back of my head and walk away. I don’t care about this story. At two hours into the movie, I still didn’t care.

THE CHARACTERS:
Everyone was a Jerk. I couldn’t root for anyone; I didn’t care about anyone, and I really didn’t care what happened to them. So incredibly boring.

THE GOOD PARTS:

TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BAD PARTS:

  • Whenever the characters started to get violent with one another the majority of the folks in the theatre I was in began laughing. I don’t blame them. It came off funny. I don’t know if it was supposed to; I really don’t think so, at least not most of the time.
  • Why did I have to watch him look for gold in the beginning? I suppose to show that he started a man by himself; just a one man show that by the end has a mansion and tons of money? I feel like we would have gotten that anyway. If not cut that, then please cut something – or pick up the pace. Way too slow; way too long.

I feel like I’ve ranted enough for now. Long story short, great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, but that’s all I have to say. He was a flower growing out of a pot of dirt (no offense to anyone – just saying it like it is). Yes, I know it was nominated for lots of awards. I have two words for you: English Patient. Not many folks liked that movie, but it still won Best Picture in 1996 over Jerry Maguire.

Where am I going wrong here?

-dm

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12 comments so far

  1. Michael Mack on

    I agree with everything you said. I went to the theater with three other people and we all agreed. Hated it. Serial killer music while a guy drives a surveyor stake. Terrible.

  2. george f.r. on

    I have not seen this film. Based on your review I have made up mind to not watch it. At first glance or from the trailer it shows hopes this film would offer itself as a character piece. Do you think at the very least, “There will be Blood” gave that much to ponder on?

  3. davidmay on

    George f.r,

    Thanks for reading. The film may actually be worth seeing solely for Daniel Day Lewis’ performance – there are some memorable moments (milkshake).

    And yes, it’s a character film – but there are good character films and bad character films. I’d agree that the Daniel Day Lewis character is what is MOST successful but it’s just not enough to make the entire film “good” in my opinion.

    Let me just say this: even the folks I’ve talked to that liked it say they’d never see it again, and none of them were able to offer any reason WHY they liked it short of Daniel Day Lewis’ performance. To those of you who know people who liked this movie… just ask them why. My theory is that it’s the old “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation. I think people are saying they like it just to feel “highbrow.”

    Keep in mind, this is all just my opinion and I could be way off (but I doubt it).

    -David May

  4. george f.r. on

    David,
    Hey, no problem. I’m always looking for new places to discuss film.
    On about character pieces. I suppose that by nature these kinds of films tend to sway towards becoming difficult and unaccesible in many ways. You had mentioned the supporting characters or the vilains in this case,(The opposition). The supporting characters always seem either bland or overly played I think. Probably because the main character outshines the rest of the characters in a film about one person’s journey to wherever he/she is headed. I guess thats where the story should take over and make the film carry-on more enthrawling and captivating to an audience. Maybe, thats just my opinion because of my predisposition to more accesible films. But, i’m trying to broaden my horizons as it were.
    Daniel Day Lewis is a great actor! He can almost do no wrong. One because he is very choosie in terms of which films he will work on. He definitely does not over indulge in quantity. Thats refreshing in todays Shia Lebouf world. I mean nothing against the kid. I think he’s great and has potential and the chops for acting and comedy. But, Daniel Day is an under the radar type of guy and I like that.
    Who knows maybe i’ll retract my decision about watching, “There Will Be Blood” and give it a shot. Anyhow,enough of my nonsense.

    take care

    G.F.R.

  5. davidmay on

    George F.R.

    I agree with your astute remarks about character pieces. I agree that by nature these films can be unaccessible and that is one of the problems with TWBB in my opinion. I think the supporting characters are bland or overly played and I think you’re right – the main character DOES outshine them in just about every way. I think you’re right – that is where the plot should have come in.

    Some friends and I were talking about the film just now and one friend of mine said that he liked it because the character changed so much (I’m paraphraising the conversation). In other words, he seemed to like Daniel Day Lewis’ arc. My point was that yes, character arc is something that makes many films great, but 90% of the films out there are able to create a character with a solid arch AND STILL have something happen to that character – i.e. a specific plot complete with conflict and circumstance. In fact, most films intertwine the two; the arch has to do with the plot – they feed off one another.

    Now I know I’m backing myself into a corner; the obvious objection to my above statements is that PTA was trying to do something more unique. That just brings me back to one of the talking points in my blog: different can still be bad. Kudos for trying something less conventional – you don’t get a free pass from criticism.

    This friend of mine also mentioned works by Upton Sinclair as if reading Sinclair was some sort of prerequisite to seeing TWBB. I have read “the Jungle” but unfortunately that completes the short list. My answer is the same answer I give to the “Harry Potter” folks. A film should be able to stand on it’s own two feet. Whether one has read the associated book or not should not dictate the viewing experience of the film.

    I too enjoy any venue for discussion about film; thanks for providing me that environment!

    -David May

  6. davidmay on

    There are other folks that didn’t like TWBB; and to name a few:

    Popwatch

    Estew Art Artist

    The New Republic
    (or)
    The New Republic 2

    (and so on)
    -dm

    *also* here’s a web based movie review show in which I talked about TWBB.
    http://vidshadow.com/video_player.asp?videoid=8304

  7. george f.r. on

    Thanks for those suggestions. I’m sure to visit all of them now with some frequency. I made sure and added the sites as my favorites for easy access to them later. I have to admit though. I suffer from what I consider a, “wandering mouse clicker”. See I logg on-line nearly every night, I get on and I have full intentions making the most of my many hours of sifting through endless amounts of web pages. Somehow always end up watching music videos on Youtube or some other lo-life form of mindless entertainment I passive aggressively endulge in. But, not tonite David! Tonite i’m going to be disciplined answer all my e-mails, check out all the important sites, do my on-line courses for about an hour or so and call it a night.

    I’m not saying it’s always bad to just wander & see where the clicker takes you. It’s not always bad. It’s like driving around aimlessly. Driving boundless in Orange county or L.A. County for that matter without a destination in mind. I might end up eating at some great new Italian trattoria or find great places to take photographs, (L.A. is great for that btw). Or a better analogy would be this scenario. You get a call from your buddy at 10pm and he tells you, “Hey, get up, get dressed, you’re going out w/ me”(ala Ferris Bueller) He takes you to this God forsaken dive bar that even my own grandfather would consider a shit hole. You go in, throw a few brews back figure this is it, you’ve just spent the night staring at the t.v. screen that plays the late night sports show and watch our budy slap the back of everyone in the joint as if he’d known them all since childhood. You put up with it only because there is that one, that one cute girl with her chubby friends down at the other end of the room. Then by some spectacle or miracle you end up getting that girl to come home w/ you. Probably , because she was feeling the same way. Anyhow, moral of the story. I veer off subject a lot, but it always works out for the best. Well, again thanks for the offerings. I will leave you w/ some of the sites I frequent.

    http://www.superherohype.com

    http://www.simplysyndicated.com/moviesyoushouldsee/blog

    http://www.simplysyndicated.com/thedefinitiveword/forum

    and

    http://www.filmsinreview.com/index.html

    Take care.

    G.F.R.

    BTW, will you be attending the L.A. Film Group Meeting this Sunday?

  8. John on

    Boy, you nailed it. I walked out of that picture muttering to myself, doesn’t anybody in this town know how to tell a story anymore?!? (Thinking also of the last 15 minutes of No Country for Old Men.)

    What I really don’t get are the several critics I respect – like J. Hoberman of the Voice and David Denby of The New Yorker – who basically bought into this movie hook, line and sinker. Are they grokking something I completely missed? I don’t think so. There’s no there there… though there are a few good scenes.

    BTW, loved your comment about the THX. What a riff-rip that was. That how I stumbled on your review — by googling ” ‘There Will Be Blood’ THX “. I just found it hard to take the oh-so-serious music seriously after that stolen riff snapped into memory-focus.

    On Day Lewis — some excellent moments, but a frustrating hammishness in several scenes, too, that I also thought ruined his Bill the Butcher performance. So I don’t give him top marks here. Although that scene where he beat up Eli, pushed his face in the mud — there was a raw emotional power there that was very real and very potent, and nothing I’ve ever quite seen before in a film. If the whole film had that emotional immediacy… that’s what I kept thinking, as I was watching nicely shot but emotionally dead scenes — how PTA consistently failed to bring his material to life with that wonderful idiosyncratic richness and poetry that infused every moment of Boogie Nights. The delicious patina of the film’s old-timey look worked to conceal this deadness under a layer of caramel. Maybe that’s what suckered in Hoberman and Denby… though they’re usually far savvier than that.

    Story-wise, we were given a rather one-note, cryptic character, who takes dramatic leaps (murder) that seemed totally unjustified and out-of-the-blue. A great filmmaker could maybe make that work — offhand, Bresson’s L’Argent comes to mind. But PTA falls well short in this effort. I really wanted this picture to work. Was looking forward to it. It was not a travesty, by any means, but a definite disappointment.

  9. davidmay on

    I agree with you, John. You should watch our review on “the Watch” http://vidshadow.com/video_player.asp?videoid=8304.

    Thanks for reading.

    -dm

  10. Kat on

    When I saw this movie with a friend of mine we exited the theater and he said, “maybe I’m dense… but I don’t get it.” First of all, he is not dense – he just didn’t take anything from the movie. I did and I found the scene in the bowling alley very moving. It was as though there were two evils in the world and these were the choices – almost a directors commentary on what options Industry has left us with. You have the religious hypocrites or industrial evil. I certainly don’t want to demonize all Industry but the film, I thought, did and excellent job of taking a man from discovery and heroic effort to a dark hallway so empty and bored he uses his material things as target practice. Lewis’ acting was spot on even as his actions became more and more predictable. Glimpses of a lost humanity were depressing but then, I believe they were supposed to be.

    All in all this was commentary film made from a commentary book. There’s no need to watch it again because it’s not “that” kind of film just as we don’t need to relearn our ABCs. It either becomes a part of your conscious or fails. That’s not to say the viewer fails if they don’t enjoy it… it’s just a perception. It would have been very easy to glitz up Sinclairs work and appealed to more people. I, personally, prefer the way this film cam across. Lewis should win for his role but the film should probably not – momentum asside this film is a good film but I personally found Michael Clayton a better fit for best picture.

    Just my opinion. Thanks for your blog! I enjoy reading other people’s take on films. 🙂

  11. davidmay on

    Kat,

    Very astute; you have some great observations in my humble opinion.

    I think you’re right – PTA was trying to “say something.” Apart from that being clear in the allegory, it’s something we can simply expect from PTA based on many of his movies in the past. There’s actually a great post about “Magnolia” here:
    http://www.culturesnob.com/2003/09/magnolia_and_meaning.php

    I think, however, that the fact that there was such a… dare I say agenda… to this film is what actually hurts it at the same time. As they say in the business “if you have a message, leave it at the beep.” Naturally I don’t agree with that statement completely and think that films really should say something, or at least have some heart to them. On the other hand, it is true that some messages ruin films.

    Let me put it this way.

    I feel that the film should come first, and the moral or lesson should come out of the film… like a nursery rhyme.

    What we have with TWBB is a message, that a film was being forced out of… these types of things works MUCH better as a book if you ask me.

    I talk about this briefly in my video review with Dan from “the Watch.”
    http://vidshadow.com/video_show_player.asp?ShowID=1226&videoid=8304

    Then there is the issue of the message itself – I didn’t really take anything from it, honestly. I’ve never in my life felt that I have to choose between religious hypocrites or industrial evil; that prospective is not accessible to me. You’re right; that is probably another reason I came down so hard on TWBB. I acknowledge that there are certainty religious hypocrites and industrial evils in the world, but there are a lot of things in the world – why did I hear about these two? And, what solution was presented? Was the goal just to tell me that there are religious hypocrites and industries of evil out there? I already know that.

    At the end of the day, you’re completely right. It really isn’t definitively a “good” or “bad” movie because what authority would be able to deliver such a conviction. What we can say is “I thought it was terrible” or “I loved it.” Having said that, I thought it was terrible.

    -dm

  12. […] “There Will Be Blood” was like the fable “The Emperor’s New […]


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