An oil driller clashes with a small-town preacher in turn-of-the-century California.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, and Dillon Freasier
Review by Jon Kissel
For my money, Paul Thomas Anderson’s never made a film that deserves less than an A-. He’s made more A+ movies, at three, than any other filmmaker. That kind of consistency makes him my favorite director, and though it’s not my favorite of his films, There Will Be Blood is the thing he’ll be most remembered for. It’s won the most Oscars, made the most lists, and found a place on the Sight and Sound list only five years after its 2007 release. This is his objective masterpiece, though I prefer the raucous Boogie Nights and the mysterious Master. It’s no surprise that a film this overwhelming and epic and ostentatiously important would receive the most critical acclaim. There Will Be Blood stomps around in its frontier setting and therefore can’t help but have something grand to say, set as it is in a grand environment. In his homage to the expanses of John Ford and the chilliness of Stanley Kubrick, PTA gets the most prestige-y of pictures checked off his resume.
Stephen King’s particular brand of nostalgia gets its most straightforward representation in Stand By Me, one of the best film adaptations of his extensive catalog. King comes at the past with a clearer eye than most, refusing to dress up the ugly parts while still idealizing the freedom-filled summers that present-day Americans lament as a long-dead part of childhood while leashing their own children indoors. Stand By Me, adapted by Rob Reiner from King’s novella The Body, is perhaps the most well-known cinematic depiction of this kind of adult-free upbringing, given critical longevity thanks to its performances and a tone that implicates every onscreen adult as a betrayer or abuser of children. King will make this explicit with his epic novel It, published the same year of Stand By Me’s release, but the non-supernatural cruelty of Stand By Me is just as memorable. The world is mean enough to kids who don’t deserve it, with or without killer clowns.
With films like The Polar Express and Welcome to Marwen, Robert Zemeckis has spent most of the last twenty years trying to work out the kinks in CGI filmmaking. This quixotic pursuit is made all the more useless thanks to Zemeckis’ mastery of the old-fashioned animation style in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Who needs ones and zeroes when you’ve got a game Bob Hoskins? Blending real actors and sets with animated characters, and vice versa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit still impresses by being committed, even when the effects aren’t quite seamless. Zemeckis has made a fool of himself for much of the 21st century, but in the 80’s and 90’s, the crowd-pleaser king sat on a throne of Deloreans and Acme hammers.
Boyz N the Hood made a huge splash in 1991 as an unflinching coming-of-age story for young Black teens growing up in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles. Netting first-time director John Singleton a Best Director Oscar nomination at only 24, the film was a critical and commercial success and spawned a decade-long series of imitators. Twin directors Allen and Albert Hughes might’ve walked into a theater to see Boyz and taken it as a dare. Two years later, they’ll have made Menace II Society at a younger age than Singleton while also moving the harsh world of Boyz a few miles south to Watts for an uglier and more raw film that’s no less affecting. It’s no surprise that the easier to take film of the two was more successful, but twenty years later, the Hughes Brothers’ approach is the riskier and therefore more admirable approach. Boyz is a one-who-got-out story while Menace is an empathy test, and all things being equal, Menace’s degree of difficulty makes it one of the better coming-of-age films of the 90’s, regardless of location.
As movie studios become increasingly reliant on franchises and legacy properties, they’ve come to the semi-pathetic conclusion that if one franchise is working, why not smoosh several together? Warner Brothers has done this to commercial success with Ready Player One and Space Jam 2, though the former is Steven Spielberg’s worst movie by a wide margin and I’m never going to watch the latter. Monopolist behemoth Disney has dipped a toe in these waters with a subplot in Ralph Breaks the Internet, and dives all the way in with Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers, a film that imagines all the Disney animated characters existing alongside live-action actors and going through the same struggles of auditions and fan convention merch tables. The best any of these mish-mashes can hope for is having talented people muddle their way through and salvage whatever laughs they can find, and that’s generally the case here. Roping in two thirds of the Lonely Island goes a long way towards tolerability for what is otherwise a stockholder presentation of a company’s vast asset portfolio.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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