50 Things I Love About Magnolia

Four months ago, I wrote a post detailing fifty things I love about the movie Magnolia (1999).  Just a few days ago, Stevee over at Cinematic Paradox wrote a similar post of things she loved about Inception (2010), which prompted me to revisit my old post and revise it. So without further ado, here is the first in a series of 50 Things I Love About… posts. And today’s movie is undeniably and unashamedly my favourite film ever made, Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnificent Magnolia (1999).

1: The first six minutes:

2: Exodus 8:2

3: The tracking shot in the TV studio.

4: Go to the card. Go to the fucking card.

5: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera; a shot which unexplainably makes me want to cry every time I see it.

6: Constantly wondering what Frank T.J. Mackey’s initials stand for.

7: What am I doing? I’m quietly judging you.

8: The fact that the numbers 82 appear over 100 times throughout the film.

9: The homage to Network.


11: The fact that P.T.A. dared to make it three hours long, and not a second shorter.

12: The second of two fucking awesome Alfred Molina cameos in Paul Thomas Anderson movies.

13: Marcy, don’t drag that couch any further!

14: John C. Reilly’s gun falling from the sky.

15: What Do Kids Know?

16: P.T.A.’s skilful nod to Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris:

17: The use of Supertramp in the bar scene.

18: The casually obvious nods to Robert Altman.

19: 82% chance of Rain.

20: The extension of Aimee Mann’s three minute track “One” into about eight minutes.

21: It’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you wish for, it’s what you TAKE!

22: I used to be smart, but now I’m just stupid.

23: The stunningly epic score by Jon Brion, which simultaneously manages to be happy…

24: …sad…

25: …and epic!

26: The documentary “That Moment”

27: Do you still want the bread, water and peanut butter?

28: These strange things happen all the time.

29: I’ll tell you what the biggest regret of my life is…

…I let my love go:

30: The shape made by a coil of rope on the rooftop just before Sydney Barringer commits suicide.

31: Everyone singing along to Aimee Mann’s Wise Up.

32: The heartbreaking meltdowns shared by so many characters.

33: Philip Seymour Hoffman in his first role as a really likeable character.

34: John C. Reilly talking to himself in the police car.

35: Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?

36: Melora Walters smiling at the camera.

37: The track “So Now Then” (see #23)

38: Don’t you fucking call me lady!

39: Julianne Moore saying “Shut the fuck up!”

40: This happens. This is something that happens.

41: I really do have love to give. I just don’t know where to put it!

42: Julianne Moore’s meltdown in the pharmacy:

43: Thomas Jane’s unrecognizable cameo.

44: The fact that P.T.A. screened Lumet’s “Network” to the cast before production began.

45: I can NEVER get tired of this, considering I’ve watched it twenty times, and I could watch it twenty, thousand more.

46: There are so many incredible and stunningly subtle references in the film’s dialogue, framing, lighting, sound and set arrangement that it is impossible to count them all.

47: The film’s shocking and unexpected climax.

48: A lot of people think this is just a job you go to. Take a lunch hour, job’s over. But it’s a 24 hour deal. No two ways about it. And what most people don’t see is just how hard it is to do the right thing. People think if I make a judgment call, that that’s a judgment on them, but that is not what I do. And that’s not what should be done. I have to take everything and play it as it lays. Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail. And that’s a very tricky thing on my part… making that call. I mean, the law’s the law, and heck if I’m gonna break it. You can forgive someone… well, that’s the tough part. What can we forgive? Tough part of the job. Tough part of walking down the street.

49: The book says, “we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

50: “I think, for better or worse, that Magnolia is the best film I will ever make.” – Paul Thomas Anderson


About Tyler

Patient observer of all things film and music, from Béla Tarr to Boards of Canada. Foul mouthed and clinging to the edge of sanity.

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Glad you gave Supertramp the nod!

    I saw this film three times in the cinema when it was released, and I’m well overdue a watch. This post is a great reminder of why.

    My only misgiving with the film was Julianne Moore’s performance + character – I found her irritating, and I thought her part was written quite poorly and repetitively.

    Other than that, an amazing film, perfect for not being perfect, if that makes any sense. Like There Will Be Blood, and Malick’s Tree of Life, you have to applaud these guys for making something so personal and ambitious on such a grand scale, regardless of how faintly ludicrous they might be.

    Bring on The Master!


    • Moore can become rather grating at times, but I still think her acting in the film is phenomenal.

      “Bring on The Master” HELLS YEAH!!!!!!

  2. Phew I am totally worn out after that read. 50 of anything is no mean feat matey!! So well done. I don’t think I love any film enough to list 50 things I love about…

    I need to re watch this, only seen it once when it came out….way too long ago!!

    Thanks for sharing my friend

    • It’s not an easy list to write, even for your favorite movie of all time, and so I’m not sure how I’m going to turn this into a series, but it shouldn’t be too difficult if I focus on movies I really, really love.

  3. Damn, I knew I should have watched this last night! Unfortunately, I ran out of time. But I might get to it today…

    I found it really easy to write 52 things I loved about Inception, but the hardest part was thinking of the first point to start off the list. Thanks for the link back, too!

    • Don’t rush to watch the movie. It’s three incredible hours that should not be rushed. I have this whole ritual where I turn off everything in the house (phone, computer, lights) every time I watch it (and certain other films). I like to let it soak in and absorb every shot. There are some scenes which just grab me and shake the shit out of me, and I like that in a movie. So yeah, watch it at night and try not to have any distractions. And like all great movies that aren’t comedies, watch it alone.

      Will we expect a Cinematic Paradox review? (not that I’m pressuring you or anything, but you did one for Boogie Nights, so… 😉

  4. An excellent tribute. Any random ten seconds of this film is like a little gem. And it’s so great that PTA bested his “best” film with Blood, which, mark my words, is going to end up in the same pantheon as Kane, The Godfather, and Goodfellas. I would add as a corollary to some of the comments you already made that no director ever got nearly as good an actor’s performance out of movie star Tom Cruise than Anderson did here. (And that includes Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut, where I’m always wondering what another actor would have done with the role.) It just goes to show that if Cruise stops hogging center stage in big-dicked, big-budget blockbusters, and takes more “ensemble” roles in thoughtful, well-written films helmed by directors like PTA, his legacy could be much deeper than that of a onetime box-office sensation. (To the items above, I would also add the Ricky Jay-narrated prelude in which we see the reenactments of the amazing if not-quite-100% factual “coincidences.”)

    • There Will Be Blood is currently a rival for top spot in my favourite films list. I cannot get over how amazing it is. I can only hope The Master will be an adequate follow-up.

      RE: the Ricky Jay prologue; that’s number 1 on this list.

  5. I just love Tom Cruise is this movie. It isn’t that he just plays against type, it’s a great character.

  6. Javier Ruiz

    Wooooow Thats Great! I´m now writting in my blog about the film… In an hour I will finish and i mention your blog. I liked it very much. I follow you!!!
    greetings from spain.

  1. Pingback: Diario de Marko Ramius | Deshojando “Magnolia”

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