Our Saturday-night plans changed due to illness, so we were able to finally see “There Will Be Blood” in the last days of its theatrical run here. With all due respect to the lemon cheesecake our would-be hostess was stuck with after being felled by the flu, I don’t think it could have possibly been as good as the movie.
[Aside to the hostess, if she’s reading: “You…eat…our…CHEESECAKE! YOU EAT IT UP!”]
If you’ve been waiting for the DVD and have a chance to still see it in a proper theater, don’t wait. Like “No Country For Old Men,” this is a lovely movie, and unless you have an excellent home-theater setup, it’s going to lose something in translation. About half of it seems to take place in firelight, and dark shadows don’t translate well to TV screens — they get all pixelated. But how it looks isn’t even half of it.
It’s a little familiar; Daniel Day-Lewis gave a version of this performance in “Gangs of New York,” right down to the mustache — loud, physical, over-the-top, bloodthirsty. His voice alone is terrifying, and his face is the perfect vessel for it; his crooked nose suggests a past you’d rather not know about, and his gaze is the one they’re talking about when people say “he stared daggers.” There are many long, long shots of Day-Lewis in extreme close-up, and you don’t have to know much about film acting to be impressed. When the shot is that tight, the subject can barely move without leaving the frame, so the actor has to sell the scene with about 10 square inches of face. (Needless to say, Day-Lewis does not mug.) The film’s leisurely revelation of its subject (Daniel Plainview, turn-of-the-century California oilman) still never makes its 158-minute running time feel too long — I was actually surprised when the credits rolled, and not because the ending is unorthodox; I just wanted it to go on a little longer.
I probably shouldn’t say more. The smartest thing I did with regard to this movie was not read anything about it beforehand, and if it were possible to do that with movies in general, I would. (If you, like me, enjoy gaping at photos of Viggo Mortensen and George Clooney, it’s hard to avoid skimming the copy, too.) But if you’ll indulge me a little more, a couple observations:
* Since I so recently visited the Ford House, I have early-20th-century plutocrats on the brain, and I was struck by the simple truth we find so easy to ignore — how often vast fortunes are made in filth and fraud and chicanery, and how quickly they go through the moral laundry of endowed chairs, hospital wings and impressionist oils donated to museums. Plainview scratches in the earth for wealth for years (his nails are filthy every time we see them) and when he finally finds it, it literally explodes in a tower of fire; it’s as though he conjured Satan himself. And we know the sort of deal that guy makes for his favors.
* I love the Coen brothers and always will, but Paul Thomas Anderson deserved the directing Oscar for this. He pulled off a much riskier, high-wire act of a movie, and did so beautifully. Maybe not a robbery, but a heartbreaker. (Another excellent take, with very mild spoilers: Roy’s.)
* Fun fact you probably know but just in case you don’t: Anderson is Ghoulardi’s son.
In other news at this hour, I talked to Mark the Shark about last week’s turnip bomb scare. Mark can tell a good story, but like a lot of people with specialized knowledge, he doesn’t know how to edit. I learned far more than I needed to know about the problems that can arise when a real-estate deal goes sour, but I also learned what I suspected from the beginning: No one seriously thought this thing was a bomb, but no one could definitively say it wasn’t, which made it a good training opportunity, and battle stations were never called off. Police lobby very hard to get all these toys — the little robot, the Klaatu suit — and if they don’t use them once in a while, they get rusty. It was a good day for a drill.
But today? Today, my friends, is a good day to go back to bed. Bear Stearns is leading us into a depression, and last night’s news-farming brought up this show-stopper, from a NYT report on the Food & Drug Administration:
The Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the F.D.A.’s own Science Board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food.
How comforting! Either back to bed, or into battle. You choose.