Sunday, February 24, 2008

There Will Be Blood: the cult of the over rated


Tonight it's Oscar time, and the conventional wisdom has it that Daniel Day Lewis has a lock on the Best Actor award for his oxygen-hogging performance in There Will Be Blood, a film I was not thrilled with. Director and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil wants to do something very epic and very different from what one expects from Hollywood, but the film's pace is glacial, nearly static, with it's visual scenes of wide open rocky terrains populated by goat farms, oil derricks and rusting tools arranged in such a way that we have the effect of the world's longest Flickr slide show.

It's obvious, to me at least, that Anderson's influence here was Terrence Malick's grand Days of Heaven, set in a similiar time and location; Malick achieved the feeling of an epic with his long takes without torturing the audience with his extended adulation of the imagery; the film was a mere 97 minutes in length, and the director still dealt with the character's within those huge vistas. The texture of the historical every day wasn't lost in gauzed recollection.Anderson settles for caricature leaving it to Lewis's overly studied performance as the Plainview character, who in Blood's disconnected scan, is losing his mind and humanity as he barks out stilted and exclaimed lines remindful of John Huston. One sees the rehearsing , not the seamlessness of performance that would have been a wonder indeed. It's almost as though he performed Plainview in this way so that he could have the line of the movie year, "I'll drink your milkshake!" If that was Lewis's intent, it is the only place where the film achieves an intended end.

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