Like Marcel Proust and his madeleine cookie, I often find myself winding down a crazy stairwell of thought sparked from one brief flash of a memory. But before I track one of my recent brainswrirls, I wanted to post my teeny tiny review of the film that initiated the trail. I rarely put anything resembling film reviews on my blog even though I can hardly breathe without spouting an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of at least eight films. I think putting my praise or criticism into writing on something even as casual as my blog, just seems too inviting to being held accountable for my opinions. Though I've always been a critic of sorts, I've never wanted to be in a position where what I write could have an effect on someone's career. I've spent too long working in theaters where one bad review would mean not only the actors playing to half-filled houses, but all the rest of us losing weeks of work when the show closed early, whether or not the play was bad. So, even though I know neither I nor my blog have enough influence to alter box office sales based on a bad review, it's still pretty ingrained in me to keep a civil tongue when it comes to specific critiques of some things in the public sphere.
BUT! For some reason, Facebook has made it easy for me to write quick little movie blurbs, and I've found that very helpful. I want to be able to better integrate how I talk about things with how I express myself in writing. After all, when it all comes down to it, I just want to get paid to watch movies and theater, then write creatively about them. So why not practice it a bit? And I guess that's the difference. My interest in writing about entertainment and performing art isn't to tell people to go or not go see something, but rather, to engage the ideas expressed and look at the art in a larger cultural context. That said, I didn't exactly do that with my little review of Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "There Will Be Blood" based on Upton Sinclair's "Oil!", but I wanted to stick it on here anyway, so here it is:
"Hard to know what to make of this impressively intense but (purposefully?) disorienting film: if you've seen the trailer- you've basically seen the movie- just extend it to 3 hours. This isn't necessarily a critique- the trailer shows in one minute all the chaos, avarice, blood lust and frenetic personalities that populate this hitchcockianly claustrophobic film about Money and competition. But though there should be some obvious contemporary correlation with this turn of the century tale of Oil and Blood, the character portraits are so heavily drawn that it's hard to find themes or people to identify with. The artistry is bold and bracing, (as is Day-Lewis) but overall, this might be one of those films that takes a few viewings over a few years to ripen into understandable and enjoyable film-making. A definite departure from Anderson's previous emotionally wrought films about broken people in a dysfunctional world. Hard to find the heart in this one. Maybe it's just too Upton Sinclair..."
So there's that. But the small and random thing I actually wanted to post about was a weird revelation I had during the movie. The first minutes of the film show Daniel Day Lewis mining, or at least digging, for quartz of something. It's a stressful scene where any moment, you're expecting wood beams to crack or dynamite to cause a cave in. That had me musing briefly on the horrible reality of a miner's life and how I recently found out that a large chunk of my ancestors were Pennsylvania coal miners which made me think of Johnny Cash's live Folsom prison rendition of "Dark as a Dungeon", which then suddenly brought the taste of skittles and pretzels to mind and triggered the memory of working in my strange little cubicle in NY's East Village at the Worldwide Orphans Foundation where I would enter donor information all day while listening to Johnny Cash with my headphones and eating skittles and sourdough pretzels that I would buy at the Astor Place K-Mart. So I'm now faced with the strange reality that Johnny Cash songs taste like skittles, and I might not have cognated that without the help of P.T. Anderson.
And that's really all I wanted to say.