There Will Be Blood has all the markings of a movie that will sweep the Academy Awards:
1. It’s based on a novel – Upton Sinclair’s Oil (no, I haven’t read the book).
2. It spans decades.
3. It’s a tour de force for its star, who is unkempt, unshaven, and for the most part, unwashed. And he looks like he wasn’t wearing makeup, too.
4. It has vast landscapes of barren land that serve as a metaphor for the soul of the protagonist.
5. It’s billed as “A sprawling epic of family, faith, power and oil”.
6. It’s a period piece.
7. And you can write a whole thesis on how the oil relates to oil wars, family dysfuction, the American psyche, religion(*), yadda yadda yadda.
The movie starts with a twenty-minute sequence without dialogue, so it will appeal to film students, too.
All the actors were very good: Paul Dano does a spectacular performance of a man torn by the spiritual and the temporal. Dillon Freasier is very engaging as the young son. Ciaran Hinds doesn’t have much to say but looks handsome in his own somber way. Daniel Day Lewis will win another Oscar, of course, since he’s on screen for 90% of the movie, some of it chewing up the screen in artistic ways.
The soundtrack was rather eccentric, combining modern dissonance with classical violin tracks. There is no musical cliche unturned when it comes to manipulating the audience, or so it seems. The photography was excellent.
Having said all this, There Will Be Blood is not so much a drama as it is a lengthy session of tedium interspersed with segments of vivid, dramatic intensity, some of it predictable (you know someone’s going to get hurt in the wells), most of them involving a sociopath.
Armond White has more to say on the whole tedious mess.
As I said, it’ll sweep the Oscars.
(*) Exodus 7:19-25 is the passage where Moses unleashes the seven plagues on Egypt. It starts,
19And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
That will certainly give it a much dramatic title that plain old “Oil”.
Here’s the preview:
The men in There Will Be Blood didn’t have access to a barber and the film didn’t show much much blood, but the blood flowed abundantly in Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
I had seen Sweeney Todd on Broadway back in the year dot starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, and, while I wasn’t crazy about the Sondheim music and the plot, Lansbury/Cariou were immensely entertaining, dramatic, funny and tragic at the same time. Johnny Depp does a nice enough job but seeing the film version was just setting myself up for a disappointment. Angela’s Mrs. Lovett was no one’s victim, no matter her demise; Helena Bonham-Carter’s thin voice doesn’t help either.
By now I’ve seen enough of Tim Burton’s schtick to recognize his cinematic bag of tricks.
The rest of our group didn’t like the copious amount of blood to the point that they hated the movie.
And let’s be glad Alan Rickman’s not going on a singing tour.
Sweeney has his own My Space page. Enough said.
Here’ the preview: