“You’ve got a serious artist crush,” Marcy remarked — a statement, not a question — when I sent her a link to a gallery of adorably geeky photographs of Paul Thomas Anderson during the Hard Eight period. Guilty as charged: I’ve been rewatching and reassessing and obsessing over all five of PTA’s films, reevaluating Punch-Drunk Love (which I originally hated), rediscovering the ending of Boogie Nights (much different from what I remembered), and unable to resist the pull of Magnolia even on a matchbox-sized iPod screen.
Sez Dennis Lim:
If the Altman comparisons seem grossly reductive, it’s because Anderson is liberal when it comes to borrowing from the greats. Why not combine Altman’s panoramic outlook with Stanley Kubrick’s formal bravura with John Cassavetes’ messy candor? While Anderson fits the profile of a “hysterical realist,” to evoke the pejorative literary buzz-phrase of a few years ago, his films never indulge in excess for the sake of excess. He’s a born showman—his first three films bore the Barnumesque credit “A P.T. Anderson picture”—but his go-for-broke tendencies are tied to an expansive, humanist impulse.
Lim’s entire appreciation of Anderson is spot-on, and before I swipe his video clips, I’d just like to expand on his last point: seems to me, the unifying theme underlying all of Anderson’s films is the desperate need for human connection. Yes, that’s a cloying phrase, and perhaps that’s why it’s dressed up in such unlikely garb: the incendiary monologues, the sweeping steadycams, the assaultive music, the undulating colors. What all of Anderson’s characters really need is a family, but their real families rarely work: in Hard Eight, Jack’s father is dead, Dirk Diggler’s mom throws him out, everybody in Magnolia is messed up six different ways, Barry Egan’s seven sisters are worse than the furies, and we all know that Daniel Plainview’s an oilman, not a family man.
Instead, Anderson’s heroes create impromptu families. Jack finds a father figure in his father’s killer, porn gives Diggler not just a dad (Burt Reynolds) but a sister (Heather Graham) and a mother (Julianne Moore), too. In Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler and Emily Watson start their own family, and Magnolia ends in an orgy of characters coming home to each other. And Plainview? His salvation would have been an impromptu family with a bastard from a basket for a son and a brother who wasn’t his brother-from-another-mother. That he refused them is the tragedy of There Will Be Blood.
Can’t leave you without another word about Anderson’s breathtaking audacity, and you better believe I’m lazy enough to quote Lim again:
The prominent bursts of music—and the way the narratives rely on musical principles like rhythm, tone, and phrasing—result in a kind of delirious synesthesia. His movies set off a crazy multitude of sensory triggers, leaving the impression that Anderson is working from a larger palette than most filmmakers.
Hard Eight/Sydney. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996. ***
Boogie Nights. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997. ****
Magnolia. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999. ****
Punch-Drunk Love. Paul Thomas Anderson. 2002. ****
There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007. *****
More from Stu VanAirsdale, who kept notes on his marathon Anderson retrospective. After the jump, videos with choice clips from Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love.
Via idrinkyourmilkshake.com, where Blood obsession is still in full swing. Some recent favorites:
- Incredible revelations: the Peachtree Dance and Henry’s diary are both derived from East of Eden.
- Eli doesn’t get to bless the well, but he blesses Daniel’s house. More on the Greystone Mansion.
- Napkinface: “There is no sex.” More.
- Drinking, eating, smoking in There Will Be Blood, with screenshots.
- Running into this painting… and the way There Will Be Blood is infiltrating our lives.
- We still can’t agree it’s water, what Daniel says after the baptism, why he sleeps on the floor, and why H.W. sets the house on fire.
- Daniel Plainview as anti-hero.
- Best non-milkshake line?
- The Bible, Kubrick, and the opening sequence.
- David Bordwell takes a close look at Paul.
- And, of course, the Oscars (“Robbery! A base crime! WTF is wrong with these people?“)
- Milkshakes all around! SNL, NPR, Lego, and the New York Press.
I made it back to New York and just posted my final Berlinale piece on About.com. Below is a list of all Journal entries as well as an overview of the thirty-odd movies I saw.
Also: the official Berlinale site has video from the There Will Be Blood press conference — around 40 minutes in, you can watch me ask Paul Thomas Anderson about “I drink your milkshake!” I sure wish there was a wide shot of the podium so we could see Daniel Day-Lewis giving me the thumbs up, but it’s a nice record anyway. The site has been featured all over the web as well as in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, but this was my favorite milkshake moment by far.
Films Covered, Sorted by Rating
- United Red Army. Wakamatsu Koji, 2007. ****
- Night and Day. Hong Sang-soo, 2008. ****
- Megane. Naoko Ogigami, 2007, ****
- Jesus Christ Savior. Peter Geyer, 2008. ****
- Sparrow. Johnny To, 2008. ****
- Wonderful Town. Aditya Assarat, 2007. ****
- Quiet Chaos. Antonio Luigi Grimaldi, 2008. ****
- Black Ice. Petri Kotwica, 2007. *** 1/2
- Julia. Erick Zonca, 2007. *** 1/2
- Another Love Story. Lúcia Murat, 2007. *** 1/2
- Auge in Auge. Michael Althen and Hans Helmut Prinzler, 2008. *** 1/2
- Transsiberian. Brad Anderson, 2008. *** 1/2
- Gegenschuss. Dominik Wessely, 2008. ***
- Heavy Metal in Baghdad. Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti, 2007. ***
- I’ve Loved You So Long. Philippe Claudel, 2008. ***
- Katyn. Andrzeij Wajda, 2007. ***
- Filth and Wisdom. Madonna, 2008. ***
- Be Kind Rewind. Michel Gondry, 2008. ***
- Chiko. Özgür Yildirim, 2008. ***
- Happy-Go-Lucky. Mike Leigh, 2008. ***
- Lake Tahoe. Fernando Eimbcke, 2008. ***
- Standard Operating Procedure. Errol Morris, 2008. ***
- Gardens of the Night Damian Harris, 2007. ***
- Elegy. Isabel Coixet, 2008. ***
- Kirschblüten – Hanami. Dorris Dörrie, 2008. **
- The Other Boleyn Girl. Justin Chadwick, 2008. **
- Shine a Light. Martin Scorsese, 2008. **
- Lady Jane. Robert Guédiguian, 2008. **
- Shiver. Isidro Ortiz, 2008. **
- In Love We Trust. Wang Xiaoshuai, 2007. **
- Ballast. Lance Hammer, 2008. *
- Beautiful. Jaihong Juhn, 2008. *
- Elite Squad. José Padilha, 2007 *
- Coupable. Laetitia Masson, 2008. N/R
- Asyl -Park and Love Hotel. Kumasaka Izuru, 2007. N/R
- Restless. Amos Kollek, 2008. N/R
- Leo. Josef Fares, 2007. N/R
- Divizionz. Yes! That’s Us, 2007. N/R
- Yasukuni. Li Ying, 2007. N/R
The promising first half of George Stevens’ Texan epic sets up a tiresome three-and-a-half-hour descent into mediocrity. Displaced northern bride Liz Taylor slowly fades from the center of the story, nouveau riche James Dean is woefully misused, children come and go, and Rock Hudson’s stubborn cattle rancher is granted an improbable redemption. Giant keeps pulling its punches, and in the end, it’s home sweet home and upstart Jett Rink lies under a table where he belongs. After 201 minutes, we have arrived in the cornball fifties, cheated out of any kind of pay-off, and that’s the real tragedy.
No doubt There Will Be Blood owes more to Giant than just the Marfa location; in fact, Anderson’s film feels like Giant’s evil twin, made up of all the scenes the other movie suppressed: the real drama, the truth of the matter. You know, the good scenes. After the jump, screenshots from both movies that seem to talk to one another, in the spirit of Kevin Lee’s influence spotting. Don’t click if you haven’t seen the movie yet: There Will Be Spoilers. For more Blood talk, I Drink Your Milkshake.com is the place.
Giant. George Stevens, 1958. ***
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have traveled over half our state to get here this evening. I couldn’t get away sooner because my new site was coming in at idrinkyourmilkshake.com. That site is now flowing at two thousand hits per day, and it’s paying me an income of five thousand dollars a week. I have two others uploading and sixteen producing at About.com. So — Ladies and Gentlemen — if I say I’m a web man, you will agree.
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