Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: Movies

A few weeks ago, my soon-to-be wife and I went out to a local mall to catch the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I’d mostly looked forward to the flick, but only “mostly”–I didn’t enjoy the same rush of breathless anticipation I saw many others experience. I largely avoided most discussion of the movie, as I didn’t want either the storyline or the experience to be ruined, but I went in with hopes higher than I perhaps should have, for a very simple reason: I hoped watching the final installment and seeing the full story would cast new light and understanding on the second installment, The Dark Knight, which I’d found problematic for several reasons.

Sequels are notoriously difficult movies to make–it’s the rare sequel that turns out to be better than its predecessor. And where sequels are difficult, second installments in trilogies are nearly impossible. The few shining examples–The Empire Strikes Back, for example–only highlight how difficult it is to make a proper second installment.

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Everyone’s doing decade-end top-ten lists, and I keep reading them and not seeing anything I thought was awesome, so I decided to do my own, one each for movies, music, and books. I’ve decided to post them in that order, if only because the book one will probably be the most difficult. Always is. Love books, after all.

Rolling Stone named There Will Be Blood as its number-one movie of the first decade of the millennium, which I think disqualifies the rest of the list (which, in addition, ends with the mind-numbingly endless Lord of the Rings trilogy, or, as I like to refer to it, “That Fucking Day I’ll Never Get Back”). It’s filled with the usual suspects, No Country for Old Men and A History of Violence and Mulholland Drive; lots of, you know, arty sort of movies people always mistake the boringness of for things like subtlety and craft.

Gag me with a spork.

This past decade was pretty awesome for movies, though you wouldn’t know it from most top ten lists. There was a lot of stuff blowing up in ways we’d never seen shit blown up before. There was a whole lot of being really, really ridiculously good looking (spoiler spot!). We didn’t just believe a man could fly; we believed a man could build a suit that would enable him to fly.

Which was totally rad.

So I started to think about a top-ten list. I started to make up a top-ten list, in fact. And then it got long, when I realized how many absolutely awesome movies had been made in the last decade, and how many were going to go ignored. So I’m going with two top-ten movies of the past decade list: the absolute top ten, and then the top ten movies that didn’t make the top-ten list itself. I figured I’d start with the latter, all of which you can call number eleven.

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Today being a day off, I decided I’d check out There Will Be Blood. I’d heard lots of good things about it all over the place. I know it was nominated for, like, every award known to man.

In retrospect, I should have gone in hedging my bets. I’ve never liked any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies; I thought Punch-Drunk Love was meandering and tried too hard, while Magnolia was meandering and just a mess. I’ve never seen Boogie Nights. I also should have reconsidered Daniel Day-Lewis; I think I used to like him. I remember renting The Boxer back in the day solely because he was in it, and I know I’ve seen My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, but for the life of me, looking back, I don’t think I actually really liked any of those movies. I’m sure he gave commanding performances, but I don’t really recall any of them. Well. Except for My Left Foot; I remember that chalk board thingy.

So I started watching There Will Be Blood.

Barely two minutes in, I started my personal running commentary. I wanted to Mystery Science Theater it. And then I figured, “Why not?”:

2:00– Okay, so we’ve got Daniel Day-Lewis in a hole.

2:30– with dynamite. Oh, dear. This can’t be good.

–I’m totally surprised he just made it out of the hole in time.

–But oh noes, he no can pull up his bukkit!!11!!

–And down the hole he falls. I knew that was going to happen.

–So what’s with these rocks he’s spitting on? There’s no real visual cue to tell us what’s going on.

–But he’s broken his leg? What is this, “My Right Foot (In the Desert)?”

–What’s with the swelling violins on the mountains? It sounds like the THX logo.

–Okay, cup of rocks…

–Oh! It’s silver and gold! He’s Yukon Cornelius!

–But I thought this movie was about oil?

–1902. Four years past. Which means that the director just telegraphed that aboslutely nothing of import to the story happened in half a decade.

–And he’s crankin’. And dude falls, which sends it down.

–Ten minutes in (10:12) and oil finally makes an appearance. I knew it was about oil!

–So easy way to cut this movie down from more than two hours is to lop off the first ten minutes. Start with the thingy falling. I think the point was that it was supposed to be a silver mine but ended up being an oil well, but in which case, it’s still kind of vague. Easier just to have Day-Lewis say so, later. “Oil? Wasn’t that supposed to be a silver mine?” “A-yuh. Lord works mysterious.”

–By the way: is this a silent movie? No dialog ten minutes in? Seriously? It’s not like the visuals are rich, or anything. So far it’s a couple of shots of a mountain and a dusty mine shaft. Woopdedoo.

–Oh, no, wait. Dude’s wearing a slicker, and Day-Lewis is too happy about the slick for it to have been a surprise. By the way: minute 11.

–Dude! Watch gettin’ oil on the expensive, high-def video camera! Seriously.

–And buckets of oil into a makeshift wading pool in the dirt. Except: there are no girls in this to go wild, yet. But seriously, whose first thought is to transfer oil from one hole in the ground to another?

–Okay, besides Daniel Day-Lewis.

–(does he hyphenate that, by the way? I’d hate to be getting his name wrong. I’ll check before I post this)

–Yeah, let’s baptize the kid’s forehead with oil. I’d like “Heavy-handed symbolic correlations between religion and capitalism for a thousand, Alex.”

–Why are they moving the oil? Can’t they just mine the fucking well? They’re wearing more of the stuff than is coming out of the hole.

–You know how you know your movie sucks? When a giant beam of wood falls down the oil well, but the audience doesn’t worry, because you haven’t set up any of the characters, yet, and even if the audience did care about any of the characters, it can’t worry because it has no idea who the damned beam just hit because of your stupid awkward camera work.

–And by ‘audience,’ I obviously mean: me.

–And then I think it’s Day-Lewis, but the next shot is of the baby, so it’s baby’s father who just baptized the infant with oil, anyway? And I’m thinking, well, yeah, but he’s a retarded father in the first place.

–And thirteen minutes in and the first word of dialog is “eeeeaaaeeaeaae.” Because the baby is the first character to make a damned sound.

–Woo! Words! “Ladies and gentleman.”

–Which we all know is throat-clearing. And it’s almost fifteen minutes in. And it’s voiceover.

–I say this with all sincerity: w. t. f. ?

–Fifteen-thirty-two. Danny boy is delivering some speech, sounds like to a prospective customer. Sounds like he’s trying to sell it. Only: he’s a sucky salesman, with no pitch whatsoever.

And given that sales and oil are correlated, verbally (pitch), and given that good salesmen are said to be ‘slick,’ this guy is full of major FAIL.

–Fifteen-40: “We’re wasting time.” Unnamed, unshown prospective customer says the first intelligent thing all movie. Provided, that ain’t sayin’ much, considering there’ve been about seventy words spoken so far.

–17:50. A lease? What are they talking about? What the hell’s he trying to sell? What the fuck is this movie about? Who wants what, and what are they willing to do to get it?

If you can’t answer those two questions, nearly twenty minutes in: major fail.

–18:02. “I’m not going to waste your time, and I’d certainly appreciate it if you wouldn’t waste time.”

You know what, DDL? So would I.

–If someone says “yes,” when you call “Mr. Plainview,” chances are they are, indeed, Mr. Plainview. Otherwise he’d probably say, “No, I’m Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m here to cobble some shoes.”

–21:41. “I’d like it better if you didn’t think I was stupid.” You know what? So would I.

–And a minute-long shot of an old car driving near some tracks, a building, a farm, and then stopping on some dust. Somebody explain why we couldn’t have skipped 59 of those seconds to get to the car stopping? Or even skipped the whole car all together? 25:56… this movie has four more minutes to convince me to watch more than half an hour.

–Oh, good, thirty seconds of dudes walking. I was worried it might speed up for a second there. Phew.

–Quail hunter my ass. Now he’s a liar?

–If you find oil, how do you buy land from a family who thought you were quail hunters?

–“Do you see that?” Well, sir, I see that you’re treating H.W. as audience by proxy. Which makes sense, but even still this fucking movie is incomprehensible.

–“I believe in plain speaking,” which is why I completely lied to you about being a quail hunter.

I believe in plain speaking, too; I can’t think of a single reason to continue watching this movie.

If anyone knows of one, leave a comment, and maybe you can convince to me watch the rest.