Saturday, April 05, 2008
Written by Puño Estupendo
Very few times in my life have I actually agreed wholeheartedly with Oscar nominations let alone Oscar winners. After watching the two-disc DVD set of director Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis' win for Best Actor not only seems like a rare case of the award going to the right man, but also leaves me bewildered as to why this film didn't blatantly sweep the statues up entirely. Not only does Anderson prove without any doubt that he is one of the best filmmakers working today, but he's coming close to solidifying his place as one of the best of all time.
Day-Lewis plays an independent oil man at the turn of the 20th century named Daniel Plainview, who lacks neither ambition nor intelligence. He has charisma when he needs it and a single-mindedness that seems to insure his success. A young man named Paul sells some information to him about a town he comes from, Little Boston. Paul assures him that there is oil there and that the land can be had on the cheap, particularly the Sunday Ranch, which Paul's family owns.
Plainview travels up to the Sunday Ranch and a story of greed and guile, church and business, success and tragedy plays out. This is a true American portrait reflecting the ruthless ambition which offends us on certain levels, but reminds us that our country couldn't have been built without it. This is the crux of the film for me. Though it seems like you should naturally want to damn Plainview, hate him for some of the things he does, you also have to deem him a necessary evil at times. Though he takes advantage of situations and people, he is a catalyst where there was nothing. It's a "for better and for worse" situation, and it plays out brilliantly.
Equally brilliant is the cinematography (which won the film's second Oscar) and the sound. A surprisingly perfect fit is an eerie score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. If I had heard the music separately, I would have never figured it to work, but it does more than just work. It blends with the story and compliments it at every turn.
The only disappointment here is with the second disc, the extras. Not much to say because there's not much there. You get a 15-minute slideshow of reference material just in case you didn't realize how authentic the movie is. There's a couple of trailers and a couple of deleted scenes, really kind of underwhelming as far as a second disc of extras goes. One thing of interest is the inclusion of a silent film from 1923 which gives a breakdown of the oil business in the early 1920's which I found to be perfect for inclusion with this film.
I have intentionally left many of the story details out because it would probably fall short in description anyway. What I am trying to say is that this is damn well a perfect film, but I figured I had to write more than "This movie is perfect and you should see it".
To be clear though, that last statement sums things up pretty well.