Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bloody bad movie

I didn't like There will be Blood and was disappointed by Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in the film. I thought that the film was too long and boring and very pretentious. It's based loosely a novel by socialist author Upton Sinclair and indeed, its "message" is that the so-called Robber Barons who helped establish the economic-indutrial foundations of this country -- it wasn't TR who did it -- were not only ruthless and greedy; but as reflected in the the character of "Daniel Plainview," played by Day-Lewis, they were either sociopaths, pyscopaths or both. I don't think so. The Aviator where Leonardo_DiCaprio played Howard Hughes did a better job in terms of portraying the fascinating and complex characters of the risk-taking American entrepreneurs who were the driving forces behind America's greatness.


Anonymous said...

Like "Glenngary Glenn Ross" proved back in the nineties, you can get excellent movie reviews on a dud of a movie if the movie's theme is "capitalism sucks". I thought the hype and praise of this movie was too high for it to actually be any good.

There are a few certain reviewers out there of whom I read occasionally to see if they like a particular film. If they DO like it, I know NOT to see it. Film Criticism lost my faith for good and all back in roughly 93' or so when the second sequel to Batman came out and Gene Wyatt gave it 3 and 1/2 stars (out of 4!!!!!). I sat through 45-55 minutes thinking that it was a mere half star from being "Casablanca", so why not. It was so stupid, so dog-awful, that I didn't even finish my popcorn.

I could think of example's of liberally biased critics being unfair to movies, but one stands out. Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, which was much better than the dreary and painful Passion of the Christ, was given a "zero" by Rex Reed. I ventured to see it based on the hope that it would bring the ancient Americans to life on screen to some extent, not expecting much. It was a rollicking chase movie, actually pretty exciting with no hidden messages, etc. Everyone in the theater with us seemed to enjoy it. It wasn't high art, but it was a popcorn-munchin'-summer movie that was actually pretty suspensful. To give it no stars or rate it as zero was just plain intellectually dishonest, despite what Reed might have thought about the kooky Gibson.

Its gotten so bad with movies for me personally, I often just go to Wikipedia two weeks after a film has been out and read the damn plot to decide whether I *might* have enjoyed it. The really promising things get rented. You know you are old when you honestly look forward to watching documenturaries and reading books more than you get excited about the next blockbuster. What is it about being an old fart that has caused me to lose my ability to suspend disbelief? Maybe that is what is making my hair turn prematurely grey, but I digress.

Global Paradigms said...

I feel your pain re film reviews... I think that part of the problems has to do with the the start system **** and the thumbs up/thumbs down tradition. Like in the case of literature, reviews need to apply a more nuanced if not complex approach to criticism. James Joyce may be a great writer and his novels are great literature (perhaps). But it's difficult to make an argument that one could "enjoy" reading him. John Le Carre won't get the Nobel for literature, but I do enjoy reading him. So.. a film can be great as an aritistic production but not be entertaining. Similarly, liberal-left wing critics tend to promote films that fits with their political agenda (like "Blood"). I agree with you that Apocalypto was very entertaining, and I actually thought that it was a work of art (btw, like The Passion, even if you didn't buy into the religious messages). btw, see here for great pro-business movies: http://interactive.wsj.com/public/current/articles/SB992548902922187730.htm

Anonymous said...

Lord, it must be tiring to view everything through an ideological filter.

The movie seemed to me to have dropped or pushed way into the background almost all of Sinclair's social, economic, and political context and concerns, and to be much more intensely focused on one man. I didn't see anything prompting me to take Plainview as representative of oilmen or entrepreneurs or capitalists in general; I saw a lot prompting me to take him as an extremely -- pathologicallly -- idiosyncratic and atypical human being.

But hey -- if your first priority is to fit everything into the culture wars, I guess everything's a skirmish.

Global Paradigms said...

second anonymous: Upton Sinclair was a socialist writer and the movie seems to reflect his perspective on political and social issues. I mean, if we had a film based on well-know antisemitic writer in which the main character, who just happened to be a Jew, would be portrayed as a psycopath would you have concluded that "I didn't see anything prompting me to take Cohen as representative of Jews in general; I saw a lot prompting me to take him as an extremely -- pathologicallly -- idiosyncratic and atypical human being."

Anonymous said...

The lineage from Citizen Kane is arguably stronger than that from Sinclair's novel: both movies are about men who want so intensely that they destroy others and themselves. That the wanting finds its outlet in tycoonery rather than another outlet is not incidental, but it's not the motive power at the heart of the movie.

Yes, W.R. Hearst's life inspired Kane, and yes, Welles undoubtedly had some artsy-liberal axes to grind. But I'm pretty sure that most people remember the movie as a great portrait of a driven personality rather than as social commentary on the newspaper industry.

Global Paradigms said...

I see your point. Indeed, on a certain level it reminded me of Citizen Kane, especially taking into consideration that there was some talk about the director hoping to make the "great american film." Here is the difference in terms of our discussion: The character of Kane did resemble that of Hearst and other media tyoocns. It was film about the role of the media in society and poltics, and you certainly didn't fall in love with Kane/Hearst. But Kane didn't murder people and again, wasn't portrayed as a psycopath/sociopath but as a mutlti-dimenstional complex character. As I suggested, The Aviator/Howard Hughes is the kind of movie that I think provides us with a similar portrayal of a very ruthless and centrainly not very nice businessman. I'm all for making a movie based on Rockefeller, for example. In any case, I don't even think that the movie was so good or that Day-Lewis' acting was so great. Everything seemed (to me) exaggerated and caricatured. Nothing was subtle. And in a way, the film seemed (to me) as though it was produced based on a guide-book on "How to make the Great American Film."