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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