With the television watching season ended for the most part, films become more a part of our evening. Or when L is alone and not feeling like going out, she scrounges for all the junk-ish food in the house and plops down the couch for a series of random picks from the end of the alphabet in the family’s hoard of films (to include Netflix Streaming).
This past Saturday evening while Sean was still in California at a Geek Conference and Natalya was settling into her first evening in Oregon for a week 1/2, I watched 3 films I had put off seeing; although one I had seen in parts.
1–There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Paul Dano.When this not so little film came out in 2007, I was eager to see it: the trailer was sehr haunting and well, Daniel Day-Lewis was in it (whom I believe is one of the greatest actors living). When it was available for home theater Sean and our friend Kevin saw it and I don’t know where I was, but they said I had to see it, I really did.
It was not what I expected. For one, the synopsis I’d read was awful. This one on IMDb is fair, “A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.” Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), with his “son,” H.W. (Dillon Freasier), are building an oil business and on a tip from a local finds a very lucrative site for drilling: a rural town where the land is cheap and the available oil is vast. The town is very religious and Plainview must have dealings with Paul Dano’s character Eli Sunday who is zealous to grow his Church of the Third Revelation. A play of power ensues amidst the drama of the business of drilling, which seems to require quite a few lies, risks, and one mad-hatter of a oil man.
The film opens to the discordant sound of horns and woodwinds, like an old horror film might, or even an old western when things have taken a terror-inducing turn. Daniel-Day-Lewis comes into view in the middle of nowhere in a mine/well where he is determinedly hacking away for gold. He says nothing for the first good length of the film and we get a historical lesson in the very beginnings of oil drilling, the primitive tech and the hazardous conditions. We also get the idea that Daniel Plainview is one tough son-of-a-gun, intelligent, resourceful, and sinister.
There Will Be Blood follows Plainview into old age, spending the most time filming his life in the aforementioned small town. The conversation about Religion and Greed that enters the film some ways in comes to a head at the very end, as well as his strange relationship with H.W. who is as much a character in the film as Daniel Plainview. The strange feeling of a bio-pic would make a point of Plainview’s life and philosophy, or some point out of it. I am still flinching, however, at the violent ending, so the contemplation will have to wait (or require another viewing).
Rest assured, the acting is superb. Day-Lewis as Plainview is startling and unforgettable. I swear that man sheds his skin for a borrowed one with every film and this time even his voice was magnificently disguised! The cinematography is gorgeous. The music is strange (very Art film, or old) but fitting. It is easy to become enthralled for every minute of it’s 158 minutes. It is a great film, I’m just not sure I liked it–there is something about the narrative I am just not sure about, and maybe the director who happened to write the screenplay was a bit too ambitious with his content?
2-I followed with Salt, the 2010 film directed by Phillip Noyce, starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) used to be a field agent with the CIA, but now rides the desk after a traumatic capture and a promise to her husband. One evening a remnant of the old Russian comes in claiming she is a plant, that her identity was invented until such a time her creator would need her to carry out some murderous act against some American dignitary, etc. Needless to say Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character Peabody, who is essentially Internal Affairs, wants to keep Salt for questioning. Her boss and old friend, Liev Schreiber as Ted Winter, who is as conflicted as Salt is doesn’t know whether to intervene or put her in irons himself. Is she a bad guy, or is this some twisted ruse that would provide a distraction from a greater plot? Who is Evelyn Salt?
Angelina Jolie is lean here, and blonde, and terribly capable. The action scenes are fantastic. I was thinking a lot about The Bourne Identity while watching and Jolie makes for a very good Jason. The bad guys are holding her husband, so she has no ime to waste with the bureaucratic Agent Peabody. She is resourceful and very bad-ass. And really, I was enjoying the idea that Salt might be a bit of a romantic film. Her lover raised hell to get her released from a North Korean cell, and she would move heaven and earth to get him back.
The film takes turns. It works hard to keep you off balance. This is good, and the action keeps you too busy to question the believability of the most recent revelation. The introduction of the premise by the Russian Informant is a bit corny (to my mind), but once passed it, you go along; and you just keep going when some of the choices are a bit hard-going. You arrive at a somewhat unexpected end, and whether you find it satisfactory is somewhat negligent. You watched the whole film, you didn’t bail at several possible exits. And you find an ending that could conceive a sequel, or a t.v. series–a Mission Impossible or a Charlie’s Angel.
Salt is reminiscent of so many of its espionage predecessors, but not; and I’m not sure as to whether the film suffers in the effort to say “but not.” The film is well cast and while the camera work or sequences bring nothing new to its genre of film, Angelina Jolie’s character will. As blonde as the classic Femme Fatale, she is much more complicated a character than she first seems, or ever seems for that matter.
3) RocknRolla rounded out the evening. This 2008 film written and directed by Guy Ritchie pulls characters from his 1998 film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels to weave his multi-stranded storyline in RocknRolla. Ritchie juggles a large cast and plenty of hijinks to create marvelously amusing collisions along the way towards a fitting conclusion–of sorts. (Has anyone heard when the Real RocknRolla is actually expected?) The summary is a complicated one but I think it could be boiled down to: Property scams where timely payment is necessary to breathing, whether you are a low-level con or the leader of a Mafia (foreign or domestic), create and carry the conflict. Some intersecting paths are inescapable as more characters are drawn into death threats as money must be exchanged, a painting recovered, and one dead rocknrolla found. And go.
I’d seen this film in pieces as Sean loves Guy Ritchie’s films (with the exception of Swept Away) and has watched RocknRolla more than a few times. Everyone I know raved about this particular film in 2008, but who knows why I could never find a mood to watch this one until the other night, because I really do like the way Ritchie shoots his films. I like his openings, his colors, and his cuts in sequence are fantastic. The soundtrack is always good, and his actors are brilliant. Thandie Newton is lovely as the only female cast-member and chaos inducing trickster. Ritchie’s narratives may be a bit male–is that why I hesitate? Any patience required with a storyline is rewarded with perfectly paced comedy. He makes use of characters at will, so only expect a handful to find development. And who knows how someone might be used in the next film in those Ritchie’s written for himself.
You can start with RocknRolla if you’ve yet to see any of Ritchie’s films, but I’d recommend Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels first, then there is Snatch (2000) and Revolver (2005) before RocknRolla. Ritchie is intelligent, interesting, daring, and fun. If all else fails to interest (say, the London underbelly does not intrigue) you have seen Sherlock Holmes (2009), right?
I wouldn’t recommend watching these particular films in succession. It made for odd dreams and a surreal experience overall. But I would recommend watching at least one of these, you know, for those nights when A Game of Thrones or True Blood* isn’t showing?
*Sean watches these, but then, he isn’t behind on his film watching as much as I am, or in his readings of GRRM…And we caught up on all the earlier seasons of House, MD on DVD.