Sunday, January 6, 2008

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Great Acting. Every five or six years, Daniel Day-Lewis comes out of whatever real-world life he's living to kick acting ass. And because he never lets you see himself, only the part he's playing, I have no idea who this guy is in real life, and how many other actors can you say that about?

There Will Be Echoes. DW Griffith. Greed. John Huston as Noah Cross in Chinatown. John Wayne in Red River (complete with adopted son). Captain Ahab, complete with limp. Ebenezer Scrooge without the ghosts. Charles Foster Kane without the sled (although I can so totally see Plainview's son starting up a newspaper--a muckraking daily that Upton Sinclair would have loved). Weirdest echo of all: Sweeney Todd. (And Johnny Depp.) It's instructive to see these two movies within the same week. You get a sense that the titans of industry in early 20th century America are only one step away from penny dreadful villains--that the desire for money is just as soul-corrupting as the desire for revenge. But if vengeance is the knife that turns on its owner, money is the drill the owner uses to drain away somebody else's future, to make his own secure.

There Will Be A WTF Ending. It's been a great year for those, hasn't it? No Country For Old Men? WTF. Gone Baby Gone? WTF. Michael Clayton's Queen Christina close-up? HFS. 3:10 to Yuma's final explosion of violence? JMAJ! Is it a sudden epidemic of reality? Is it everyone in Hollywood tapping into the same mood at the same time, like when six studios announce their own upcoming Che Guevera movie? Is it the no-good-way-out war in Iraq filtering its way into pictures that were filmed two years ago? I have no idea, but the two-part ending of There Will Be Blood goes to a place you could have predicted and another place you never could have predicted in a hundred years. Think Orson Welles shooting Joseph Cotten instead of rewriting his bad review. HFS indeed.

There Will Be Greatness. Is it a great movie? Yes. Does it feel like it was supposed to be a great movie? Yes indeed. Does that take away from it a little? I think so. There's a certain self-importance to Great Movies, a smugness which, like termites, will eat away at a film over time until in a generation it will cease to have any greatness at all. (I dare you to watch Crash in twenty years. Hell, I dare you to watch it in April.) There's a whiff of that in this film, and you can hear it in everyone's reply when you ask them about it. "You have to go see it," they'll say. And that can be the kiss of death. Only time will tell if will be watchable in the future the way, say, McCabe and Mrs. Miller is still watchable. In the meantime? You have to go see it.

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