So, you’re an oilman

Ok, as most — if not all — of you know, my friend Heather has a brilliant mind. I respect her opinion on all things and way more times than not, I agree with her. So it is with heavy heart and some confusion that I confess that I thought that There Will Be Blood was a terrific movie. Maybe her scathing review helped me. I saw the movie today, in the afternoon, and armed with a large diet Coke. I expected a slow, methodical movie and that is what I got. I also got a movie that I sum up as fascinating. Here’s why.

I agree with Heather that the movie was slow. I suspect that it is because she prepared me for the pace that I enjoyed the film. This movie reminded me some of Citizen Kane, but with even fewer women and definitely less dialogue. Like Charles Foster Kane, Daniel Plainview is a madman who has built himself quite an empire. Unlike Kane, though, there is no Rosebud and Plainview is plainly insane. At least that’s my take.

For those of you that haven’t seen it, the movie begins at the turn of the century when Plainview finds oil in the desert. The oil comes up inky and thick and people start getting hurt. This is a messy, painful business. The movie goes from there, with Plainview building his fortune. One day, a young man comes to him and sells him information on where a great deal of oil can be found. This leads Plainview to the community of Little Boston, California where he starts buying up everyone’s land. In exchange for the first tract he purchases, he is to give Eli Sunday, the son of the owner of the land, $5000 to get Eli’s church off the ground. Eli is a Jesus man. Daniel is not.

The movie continues as Daniel builds wells and pipeline in Little Boston and Eli builds a congregation. They come to blows more than once during the film, and Eli is no match for Daniel. No one is, really.

I wouldn’t say that the film has a moral center, though Daniel’s son H.W. is probably the closest the film gets to one. And while I really can’t say that I understand the “point” of the movie, if there is one, I still think it was a great epic tale about a man’s madness. And it cannot be said too often: Daniel Day Lewis is a tour de force and I think he, once again, deserves the Oscar.

For those of you that have seen the movie, I’d welcome your thoughts. Let’s talk.


11 Responses to “So, you’re an oilman”

  1. 1 Kristin February 21, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Oh boy oh boy, I have not seen this but I can’t wait. I definitely will before Sunday.

    I have seen that one scene: “I’ve abandoned my boy!!!” Man, that one stays with ya.

    Great review, BTW.

  2. 2 Heather February 22, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I don’t disagree with your review, but I just did not find his insanity interesting. or, really, believable, in that for the first half of the movie he’s not really insane. and maybe he was always on the brink, and what happens to his son tips him over. still, it did not feel like he was a well-drawn character. most of his reactions to things are reasonable, he’s just a little crazy sometimes. or compeltely crazy sometimes. which, i guess does make him insane, but it just seemed random and not drawn on much. which is a form of insanity, i suppose, but just not an interesting one to me. or, as kent williams says (the only credible–or is he really credible after that review of lions for lambs?- reviewer) who agrees with me) too mysterious for me. and, as he also says, PTA worries to much about making an epic and forgets to entertain us along the way.

    interesting comparison to citizen kane, though, as he was a bit of a cipher as well (along with being an epic movie and having a capitalist empire) . but, to me, more interesting, and probably with better direction (the movie, i mean, not the character). although seeing that movie 15 times in film classes probably helps me appreciate it.

    and what did you think of the soundtrack? i found it really distracting. it will probably win an oscar.

    maybe we’re just at different places/moods in our lives. i saw american beauty recently and actually thought it was kinda funny and didn’t hate it. I also saw before sunrise and thought it was really silly and pretty annoying. i think i am definitely not in a place where i like movies with madmen that take place in the west/southwest. except in the valley of elah–has anyone seen that? it has the desert, oil (sort of), and a certain form of insanity (and don’t forget tommy lee!). it’s great but hard to recommend as it is truly depressing.

    I think I’m going to try to see either U2 3D or atonement this weekend.

  3. 3 kateandgracie February 22, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Oh, thanks. I felt like it was a little light. I’m still nervous about posting stuff — you know, it’s a little embarrassing and feels self-indulgent, but it’s fun and I feel like I’m talking to you.

  4. 4 kateandgracie February 22, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Ok, somehow my response crossed with Heather’s so it looks like I’m ignoring hers, but I’m not. I just read it and feel like I need to reread it.

    I just did think his character was well-drawn. I will not disagree with you, or Kent, that it was not the most entertaining movie ever made. But, I will say I was rather inthralled. Not as much as I was in No Country For Old Men (which I think is a better story and better story-telling), but I was still taken for a ride. I do not think this movie should win Best Picture (I still think NCFOM should — I’m saying that having not seen Atonement), but I really did like the story of his insanity. And I did believe it as insane. I think the reason it increases throughout the film is two-fold: one, that’s just sort of the way an untreated mental illness would go, esp coupled with the heavy drinking and heavy heart and two, as time passes he gets more of what he wants (money) and less of what he wants (folks obeying him — nature, his son, Eli, etc). Additionally, I think the betrayal of the “Henry Plainview” character really took a toll on him. I mean, without giving anything away, his reaction to that really took him to a new level.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I certainly am not saying that I thought it was a Citizen Kane or a Lawrence of Arabia, but I thought it was quite good. Certainly the only thing I have ever seen from PTA that I enjoyed and felt was compelling.

  5. 5 Kristin February 22, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Speaking of Atonement. I have not seen this either, but the reactions I have heard to it have been sooooo varied. From “I fell asleep” to “it’s the best movie I’ve seen oh my god I loved it.” I mean, like really opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m fascinated to know how we (the discerning movie lovers that we are) would react. To be fair, there have obviously been very mixed reactions to NCFOM and TWBB as evidenced by your convo here, but for the most part most people seem to feel that there is something, at the least, artistically ambitious about those two films. I have seriously heard people say that they thought Atonement SUCKED, was boring and vapid, not worth sitting through etc. And then others who were so, so moved by it and think it a work of genius.

    Fascinating, I tell you.

  6. 6 Heather February 22, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I guess we will have to disagree. I did think your review was well-written and thoughtful.

    As for atonement, i have generally heard positive things, but really only from mothers (mine and kate’s). my mom thought it was beautifully done. but, she had also read the book and really liked the book. i don’t think i can be the guinea pig for atonement, though. i’d like to see an uplifting movie (although we may rent michael clayton tonight as dale hasn’t seen it).

    who are people’s oscar picks? both yours and the academy’s.

    also, has anyone seen raging bull? should i see it at westgate this weekend? my guess is not the uplifting movie i’m looking for, but possibly a masterpiece that’d be nice to see on the big screen.

  7. 7 kateandgracie February 22, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Raging Bull is, I think, supposed to be a lot like Juno — charming, sweet, heartbreaking and damn cute. I say, see it!

    I filled out the Isthmus Oscar contest ballot. Did you Heather? I think NCFOM should win best pic, as I’ve said. I think Daniel Day should win Best Actor. I don’t really have a feeling much about the women. I heard that Casey Affleck was outstanding, so I guess I’ll back that. I wish Jennifer Garner had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress because I thought her performance was A+. I assume Julie Christie will win Best Actress, but I haven’t seen that movie and I don’t know if I can bear it.

    I read about fifty pages of Atonement and really could not feel it. In fact, I abandoned it to Sarayu in the Salt Lake City airport. I wonder if she got anywhere with it…

  8. 8 kateandgracie February 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I was thinking of There Will Be Blood this morning and, not to beat a dead horse with this topic, but I was thinking about the lack of dialogue. As Kent Williams aptly stated, the beginning scene of the film is without any dialogue, as if to cue us that words will be sparse throught out the movie. I think this is really important. It seems that one of PTA’s themes is actions are more important than words. From all of Daniel’s “I believe in plain speaking” and “I’d rather not say,” we learn that a character’s actions are more significant than any words he could utter. Eli is the character who probably talks more than any other. But he really says very little. Daniel talks about education coming to Little Boston and the children are our future, but when trouble comes to his own child, he ships him away without a word. Or, rather, with a lie: “I’ll be right back.” And it’s H.W. who, with the loss of hearing loses the power of speech as well. But when he returns to Little Boston and lays into Daniel, more is said than any words could.

    What all this means may be nothing, but it was just something I was thinking about.

    And I know Heather and I probably actually agree on more than we disagree on with this movie. It seems we ultimately just disagree on whether it was really worth much. Kind of an important point, I grant you. And maybe it really does just come down to us being in different points in our lives. Ugh, ugh.

    On a brighter note, did anyone see Saturday Night Live last night and the milkshake skit about TWBB? Genius.

    Ok, here come the Oscars…

  9. 9 Heather February 24, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Another insightful comment about TWBB. Excellent.

    I’m bummed that I missed snl.

    To answer my own question in the nick of time as people are probably already strolling down the red carpet:

    My pics:
    picture: NCFOM (I think)
    actor: DDL
    actress: Ellen Page (I haven’t seen the others)
    s actor: bardem (although i do love the afflecks)
    s actress: amy rayn (most support the wire, always)

    My predictions:
    picture: NCFOM
    actor: DDL
    actress: Christie, although I’m sensing upset here
    s actor: bardem
    s actress: cate blanchett

    Hmm, I guess I am like the academy, which is making me develop a late case of oscar fever. damn el dorado, the rents, and the wire!

  10. 10 kateandgracie February 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Shoot. I can’t remember who I predicted for BSActress. Who are the other choices? Oh, maybe Cate Blanchett. Damn. I can’t remember.

    I made this chicken chili for the Oscars, but I fear it’s too salty.

    Also, I did not see Atonement and I don’t even feel bad about it. Until someone on this site can tell me that I can’t live without it, I’m not interested.

  11. 11 Kristin February 25, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Well. As Kate knows I saw TWBB yesterday before the Oscars. It was my pic for best picture in my office pool, but obviously I was wrong about that. Now I really do need to suck it up and see NCFOM.

    But, TWBB. I have to say, I loved it. It’s sunk in today, although I did know I was loving it as I watched it. Of course it was the acting. But just as much as the acting it was the cinematography, and the scenery itself and just the choices made as far as color etc. (that’s produciton design, right?). And the crazy-ass music which was definitely destracting, but for me just added to the whole thing as a work of art.

    And there’s the story. I didn’t know what was going to happen to H.W. (although obviously I knew something would), but I didn’t expect that when it did I would be so, well, moved. Oh my god, I cried when the accident happened (embarrassingly cried, I might add, packed in that theater with all the other New Yorkers getting it in before the red carpet). And when Daniel and his assistant guy are watching the well burn, and the assistant asks if H.W. will be all right, and Daniel says no, with that gleam in his eye because he’s not really thinking about H.W. in that moment but about the money he’ll make? Ugh. I knew that was the moment where he broke.

    That H.W. man, he broke my heart. I continued to annoy my neighbors as I sniffled through almost every scene with the boy until Daniel sent him away. Whoo boy.

    (An aside – things were not looking too good for my emotions anyway due to the first preview, which was for The Dark Knight. I mean, maybe you guys knew this, but this is not a Batman movie. This is a Joker movie. Which means all Heath, all the time. And he is sooooo crazy and creepy. But it made me cry. Because I am a sucker for gone too soon, hot actors, as you well know.)

    Anyway, I thought it was a great story, with an insane ending. I will think about that ending for a long time to come. I only wish I knew where the hell Eli’s brother Paul was for the whole movie. ?? That bothered me a bit. If anyone can tell me the answer to that I’d be much obliged.

    As far as other Oscar stuff – so glad that little Frenchie won as she was wonderful in La Vie en Rose. I thought Julie Christie would take it, so wrong again in my Oscar pool. And the Irish songwriter guy – who’s cuter than him?

    And finally, John Stewart’s funniest line of the night “I know some Spanish from high school, and I believe Javier Bardem just asked his mother where the library is.” That made me cry too, this time in a happy way.

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February 2008

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