Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 08, 2008

There Will Be Blood mixed with OIL!

I was finally able to catch one of the major contenders for Best Picture in this year's Oscar race,There Will Be Blood,which also has the front runner for Best Actor as it's star,Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis plays the part of Daniel Plainview,a self made oil man during the early days of the big oil boom in America who has unofficially adopted an orphaned child of one of his workers as his son and partner.

The boy,H.W.,goes around with Plainview on his business trips and adds to his image as a "family man" in his hustling and scheming to buy up potentially oil rich land as cheaply as possible.

During their travels,a tip about some very viable property comes from a young man named Paul Sunday,who knows plenty about it since it's his pious but poor family's homestead. The Plainviews check it out and find the Sunday farm worth buying but run into a little interference from Eli Sunday(Paul Dano,who plays both of the Sunday brothers),the wannabe preacher of the clan:

This is only the beginning of the clashes that these two have with each other,as Eli seeks to gain his own fortune thru the influence of his growing ministry and getting what he can from Plainview,who not only blocks him at every turn but becomes more emotionally withdrawn and paranoid over time. Things get even murkier when a tragic event affects H.W. for life,and the helplessness that Plainview feels over that drives a wedge between the two.

Eli finds a way to exploit Plainview's pain about that to his advantage for which Daniel despises him even more than before:

I'm not a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson but this movie made me a believer. When I saw Boogie Nights,the first big movie of his that generated quite a bit of hype,it felt a little flat to me. While I enjoyed many of the scenes(my favorite has to be the Sister Christian drug deal bit),by the time the film had reached it's conclusion,I felt disconnected to the entire thing. The sum of the parts didn't fully gel together to form a truly cohesive whole. Magnolia sounded like more of the same,so I avoided that film altogether.

With There Will Be Blood,it was the exact opposite. Everything clicked together in perfect harmony,from the slow but steady pulse of the soundtrack(created by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood) to the amazing cinematography and down to the actors themselves who worked well with each other,like cogs in a well oiled machine.

That's not to say that the performances were mechanical,if anything,they were the life's blood of the story. Daniel Day-Lewis has been well praised here for his work and rightly so. He has the rare ability to make an over the top character not just a
platform for him to strut around on,but to bring forth the humanity of that character as well,making him more real and relatable without compromising his true essence or making apologies for him:

Paul Dano is excellent as well,and I really think he deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Eli. Some have said that Day-Lewis overwhelms him here but in my opinion,his tempered meek and mild persona for the character is a fitting contrast to Plainview's bluster and brass tacks approach to life. Dano definitely holds his own and then some:

To sum this up as succinctly as I can,the movie is flat out brilliant and one of the best films I've seen in a long,long time. It has honestly earned each and every one of it's eight Oscar nominations and I hope that we can have an Academy Awards ceremony this year just so that we can hear Daniel Day-Lewis' acceptance speech(and maybe PTA's,too).

I've been reading the Upton Sinclair novel upon which the movie was based,called OIL!,which was written in 1927. PTA loosely based TWBB on the book,changing the names of the characters(Daniel Plainview's original name is J. Arnold Ross,for example)and while most of the early dialogue and situations are from the first 150 pages of OIL!,the rest of the movie's plot sprung solely from the imagination of PTA.

Does that mean that the book was lacking and shouldn't be bothered with? Certainly not! If anything,this is a great opportunity for those like myself who have always heard how wonderful Upton Sinclair's work is but felt too intimidated by his prose to give it a fair try. OIL! is extremely readable and just as interesting of a character study concerning the nature of greed and commerce upon society as the film is.

I can understand how adapting it straight from the text might not work out for the best for a full length feature film(even one with such a long running time as TWBB turned out to have)and instead,we are given a pretty sweet and savvy two for one deal. Enjoy the film and rediscover the book or read the book first and then savor what the film has to offer.

The most common debate over book to film adaptations is which one is better than the other. In this case,the point is moot. Both are compelling tales of the pursuit of wealth and prominence in America and the price a person is asked to pay,both in professional and in emotional life. Talk about an embarrassment of riches,folks. Whatever timetable suits you best,experience both the film and the novel. You won't regret either one.

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