There Will Be Blood

The nominations:

  • Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Achievement in Art Direction: Jack Fisk (Art Direction); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)
  • Achievement in Cinematography: Robert Elswit
  • Achievement in Directing: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Achievement in Film Editing: Dylan Tichenor
  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers
  • Achievement in Sound Editing: Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood
  • Adapted Screenplay: Written for the Screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Black-and-White:

Do you remember the movie Big? There was a scene when the suddenly-adult character Josh (played wonderfully by Tom Hanks) is in a meeting for the unveiling of a new toy — it’s a building transformer! All of the suits, the toy company executives, are patting themselves on the back for such a new, exciting, fantastic, groundbreaking, innovative idea when Josh raises his hand tentatively, and says, “I don’t get it.”

These words are so apropos for There Will Be Blood: I don’t get it.

Here’s the plot synopsis from

In his ruthless pursuit of wealth, misanthropic oilman Daniel Plainview tricks a local farmer into signing away his valuable drilling rights and rejects his own son, H.W., when the boy loses his hearing in an accident. As he becomes increasingly isolated and unstable, Daniel places his trust in a vagrant claiming to be his half-brother, and finds his position unsettled by H.W.’s return and the growing popularity of the farmer’s son, now an evangelical preacher.

A great story — a great movie — is so much more than an recounting of a series of events. One of my favorite movies of all-time is Apocalypse Now. In that film, the stories of Kurtz, Willard, Kilgore, and indeed all of the characters, are shocking, yet interesting. The arc of their stories is compelling. However, the greatness achieved in Apocalypse Now is so, so much more than that. There is a greater story to be told than merely “the horror” of the events happening to the individuals. There is a deeper message, a universal truth. And in the midst of the mayhem, there are even moments of levity. “Charlie don’t surf.” And the characters grow, evolve and ultimately take a far more interesting journey, than the boat ride up the river. And all these wonderful threads combined makes it a great movie, a movie for all-time.

There Will Be Blood is not a great movie.

With eight nominations this year, some justified, it is a film that deserves serious consideration. But as a complete film, we are traversing, again, down the path to perdition that so many modern movies are taking. It is a trend that must be stopped. There is a bloody recounting of a series of terrible events, by some very unsympathetic characters. OK. But what does it mean? What greater truths lie in their actions? Like No Country for Old Men, there are, I suspect, none.

Now not all movies need to have a deep truth in their narrative. But There Will Be Blood pretends to be of the class of films that do. And it doesn’t.

So what worked in this film? Daniel Day-Lewis was, as always, outstanding. A win for best actor would be well deserved.

The cinematography was gorgeous. My nod still goes to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but in this competitive category, There Will Be Blood is worthy of consideration. The art direction was superb as well.

Sound editing? It is interesting that the film was nominated in this category. I am not certain why. It is certainly better than the Bourne Ultimatum, but for putting sound to visuals in the most outstanding way, my Oscar goes to Ratatouille.

Best director? Adapted screenplay? Best picture? No to all, alas. It’s the type of movie that is made almost explicitly to be competitive in these categories. And it succeed in that is convinced the members of the Academy to give it eight nominations, perhaps five of which were deserved. But I don’t buy. If The Departed sets the Best Picture standard, then by all means There Will Be Blood is more than deserving. But in the pantheon of great films, this one comes up short. No Oscar for you.

2 Responses to There Will Be Blood

  1. […] remember the spry comedy of “No Country for Old Men“, the joyous romp through  “There Will Be Blood“, the romance of “The Departed“, the whimsical drama of […]

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