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The Five Best Characters Created by Paul Thomas Anderson

It’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s birthday today, so I’ve decided to honour the greatest living American film director (that’s right, I said it!) by presenting us with a look into his amazing mind and five crazy, unique characters that only he could have created.

1: Rahad Jackson, Boogie Nights (1997)

Even more astoundingly memorable than Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler or Burt Reynolds’s Jack Horner is Alfred Molina’s Rahad Jackson, who appears in only one scene, but one of the best scenes Anderson ever directed. His great tastes in American music and fiery rage with a gun are only two of the great reasons he’s on this list. Anderson created a character that any director or writer could easily have taken overboard, but has the right amount of great comedic value and genuinely chilling attitude.

2: Officer Jim Kurring, Magnolia (1999)

A warm source of naive empathy and contrasting experienced wisdom that is naturally necessary for a film like this, John C. Reilly delivers perhaps the most convicted and developed performance of his career as a young cop who falls in love with a drug addict, just one of various storylines in Anderson’s epic Boogie Nights follow-up. Delivering empowered Cops-style monologues to an imagined camera, and suffering for his job in the name of a God he’s forced to believe in following the death of his wife, Kurring is one of the most easily relatable and intricately accurate portrayals of hilarious naivety and saddening realization. Tough part of the job. Tough part of walking down the street.

3: Frank T.J. Mackey, Magnolia (1999)

In a brilliant film like Magnolia with so many characters, it’s easy to pick more than one and so here is another: an Oscar-nominated performance from a surprisingly excellent Tom Cruise as one of the most basically complex characters in the Anderson universe. Mackey is a man who is easy to despise. But he, like many of us, has been hurt, his life changed forever, by cruelty. He’s more of a victim than he is a perpetrator, and misogynistic or not, he’s a broken, unmended man, and Anderson has captured that perfectly.

4: Barry Egan, Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

It just goes to show that Paul Thomas Anderson can get a brilliant Oscar-worthy performance out of an acting failure like Adam Sandler. His performance as Egan is multilayered and filled with mental complexity, but he is written so brilliantly, so excellently, that it is easy for Sandler to rip his teeth into it and shine in the role he was born for.

5: Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood (2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the best acting performances of all time in a stunning role as a man consumed by greed and sin, a man on whose face we see nothing but unrelenting age, and in whose eyes we see only brutal, unflinching hatred. I look at people and see nothing worth liking, says Plainview, and it is one of many chilling observations that are windows into the soul of a truly evil man. Sure, Day-Lewis brought him to life, but Anderson conceived him, and without him, we’d be without one of the most formidable, terrifying villains of all time, beating the hell out of Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates by miles.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Anderson, and hopefully with The Master, there’ll be yet another character/s to add to the list.

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Why I Love Eyes Wide Shut

Constantly, I see people giving Stanley Kubrick’s final film a hard time. Some words that have been used to describe it: boring, slow-paced, uneventful, and off-putting. I describe it as a dark, risque nighttime thriller that changes the way we look at society and ourselves. Tom Cruise, just prior to his career-best role in Magnolia, stars alongside then-wife Nicole Kidman, whose performance contains moments that outshine that of her great acting in the Oscar-winning The Hours.

Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, is undeniably one of his top five, beaten only by 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove and Paths of Glory. It tells of a wealthy doctor (Cruise) who, upon learning of his wife’s (Kidman) sensual contemplations of adultery, embarks on a dangerous night journey to seek revenge. He intends to have an affair and laugh in her face, but he bites of far more than he can chew. His plans for some sexual mischief do not work out, as a date with a prostitute is rudely interrupted and he is caught out when he sneaks into a mansion wherein a disturbing sexual ritual is taking place. That is the first half of the movie. The second half is a series of slightly shocking events which begin to awaken Cruise’s character to the dangers of his curiosity and brutally inform him the consequences which it has earned him.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: yes, it is slow-paced, yes it is uneventful, but these are in no way bad things. The film is not about what happens, or plot, but rather about the dreamlike imagery and razor-sharp truths. Cruise’s Dr. Bill Harford is a naive man, a jealous man, and his wife is undeniably smarter than him. His idiocy and naivety is really the film’s subject, as well as the scathing indictment it presents of social secrecy and proverbial feline murder following querulous investigation.

And as usual, Kubrick’s presentation is fantastic. The lighting in some scenes is reminiscent of that of Barry Lyndon, and the aforementioned dreamlike imagery is spot on and creepily unnerving. His cinematography… it is a wonder he’s never won a Best Director Oscar! The camera sweeps through each scene with unfathomable grace and the presence of Kubrick is always there, a shadow echoing each frame.

Also worth noting, and something that many people never bother to mention when writing reviews, is the music. The film opens to the sound of a beautiful waltz as the characters are introduced, and the music is classical and extremely well chosen, as is all of Kubrick’s delightful tunes. In the film’s second half, their is the notable presence of a benevolent track of music, Gyorgy Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata II, a striking piano piece which still manages to send a chill down my spine each time it is played.

The screenplay, too, is well-written, based on a French novel called Traumnovelle, by an author whose name slips my mind. Kubrick is used to adapting films from books; in fact almost all of his films are adaptations of some sort, and it is an acquired skill which he shows off and employs to his advantage, right up to the striking final ‘fuck’ delivered by Kidman.

All these and more are reasons to embrace this classic drama from Stanley Kubrick. Many people disliked it when it first came out, but I employ you to give it another chance. Perhaps you will change your mind, perhaps you will be surprised, who knows? This is just one of many films that it seems society has sadly overlooked.

My Rating: 9/10

Thanks for reading.

100 Things I Love About the Movies

Recently, John at The Droid You’re Looking For made a sequel to his hugely successful “100 Things I Love About the Movies” post, and being a fan of both posts, I’ve decided it’s about time I did my own. It was a very inspirational and thoughtful post, and if you read it yourself it might just make you want to do one of the same. For now, here’s mine:

1: Hi-hi-hi there, at last we meet.

2: The shaking fence in Evil Dead.

3: A rape depicted through the clever usage of a silent movie in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her.

4: Qantas never crashed.

5: Whatever you want, Leo Getz.

6: The stunning ending to Lars von Trier’s Dogville.

7: Dave. Stop, Dave. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it.

8: The best movie cut of all history in Lawrence of Arabia.

9: The theme that plays when we see the man with the Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West.

10: Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me…

11: The abrupt ending of Bonnie and Clyde.

12: I’m a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big bright shining star. That’s right.

13: The final perfect five minutes of Irreversible…

14: …and how The King’s Speech stole the music!

15: Ellen Burstyn’s monologue in Requiem for a Dream.

16: The hand emerging from the water in Deliverance.

17: The final half-hour of Audition.

18: Jimmy Schtewart.

19: The emotion and raw energy with which Kirk Douglas delivers this line in Paths of Glory: “I apologise to you, sir, for not informing you sooner that you’re a degenerate, sadistic old man, and you can go to Hell before I apologise to you now or ever again!”

20: John C. Reilly shining his flashlight into the camera in Magnolia.

21: Blood Simple to True Grit and everything in between.

22: Hello… Hello, Dimitri? I… I can’t hear, could you turn the music down? That’s great, you’re coming through fine. I’m coming through fine, too, am I? I agree with you, it’s great to be fine. Now then, Dimitri. One of our generals… he went a little funny in the head… you know, funny. And he went and did a silly thing.

23: Tracking shots. All of them.

24: The Monty Python movies (“I fart in your general direction!”)

25: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life.

26: Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar.

27: Steve Martin in The Jerk.

28: Isabella Rossellini begging Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet (“Hit me!”).

29: In Heaven… everything is fine.

30: Did You Know You Can Use Old Motor Oil to Fertilise Your Lawn?

31: That lucky occasion when you come across a really, really good TV movie (Indictment: The McMartin Trial)

32: Get away from her, you BITCH!

33: I am Death. I have long walked at your side.

34: The most striking and disturbing use of colour in any film, that of Sven Nykvist’s brilliant cinematography in Ingmar Bergman’s fantastic Cries and Whispers.

35: NOT LOVELY, LOVELY LUDWIG VAAAANNNN!!!!

36: The slow-paced and slightly comic final duel in Barry Lyndon.

37: The deadly silent arrival of Martin Sheen into Colonel Kurtz new jungle home, rudely interrupted by an obviously high Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

38: The first six or so minutes of Persona.

39: This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.

40: The haunting piano music that plays throughout the latter half of Kubrick’s fantastic Eyes Wide Shut.

41: A surprise cameo from the greatest stand-up comedian of all time in a non-comedy role in Lost Highway.

42: Tom Cruise’s finest hour:

43: The perfect opening shot of Apocalypse Now.

44: Bernard Herrman’s shrieking violins.

45: Black and White movies in the era of Colour.

46: The nameless dystopian city in David Fincher’s Se7en.

47: Uncomfortably casual nudity in Short Cuts.

48: Marge Gunderson.

49: Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

50: Bring Out the Gimp.

51: Norma Desmond’s delusions of grandeur.

52: The drug deal scene in Boogie Nights.

53: I only got two things in this world: my balls and my word. And I don’t break em for nobody.

54: Robert Downey, Jr. in Natural Born Killers.

55: The “train going into the tunnel” at the very end of North by Northwest, a clever albeit overused sexual metaphor.

56: Ricky Gervais. Always. Always.

57: A movie set entirely within one room (i.e. Buried)

58: Rob Brydon’s cameo in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

59: Nothing’s wrong with it, Tommy. It’s tip top. I’m just not sure about the colour.

60: I am Jack’s _____ ______.

61: Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, oh, and while we’re at it…

62: 80s high school movies. All of them.

63: The epilogue of Pink Flamingos.

64: Clerks. ‘Nuff said.

65: Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you fucking stupid bastard!

66: Silencio.

67: Earn this. Earn it.

68: The final shot of the rat at the end of The Departed.

69: Extended Director’s Cuts.

70: I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

71: The inability of Jack Lemmon to be able to watch Grand Hotel in The Apartment.

72: Memorable last lines in Billy Wilder movies.

73: We’re a loving couple that doesn’t touch.

74: Sunday nights, where I put aside a few hours to rewatch one of my favourite movies, no matter what it is or how many times I’ve seen it.

75: The creepy hidden camera shots in Michael Haneke’s Cache.

76: Amelie’s strange games with random people in the film of the same name.

77: Go round mums, deal with Phillip, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.

78: Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure: “In the water, I’m a very skinny lady.”

79: Sidney Lumet. Rest in Peace.

80: The final shocking moments of Planet of the Apes.

81: The meaning of Roger O. Thornhill’s middle initial.

82: Martin Scorsese’s cameo in Taxi Driver.

83: Gregory Peck’s powerful courtroom monologue in To Kill A Mockingbird…

84: …and the uniquely different but still subtly similar version presented by a suprisingly good Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill.

85: Dustin Hoffman’s moving turn as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy…

86: …and the eerie subtle similarities between Jon Voight’s character in the same movie and Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.

87: Mr. Jingles.

88: I just wanted to hold the little baby.

89: You mean the man who inserted rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?

90: The stunning revelation at the end of Spoorloos (The Vanishing).

91: How quickly a director can take my interest, and how stunningly tight their grip remains on me within the shortest of times, and how it can last seemingly forever, as evidenced by my recent delve into the films of Ingmar Bergman.

92: Hit Girl.

93: Bill Murray waking up to the same nauseatingly repetitive jingle every morning in Groundhog Day.

94: Reese Witherspoon humiliating a disfigured Kiefer Sutherland in Freeway.

95: The little bit of low-budget masterpiece that was Sex, Lies and Videotape.

96: Dogme 95.

97: The Criterion Collection.

98: The little things in movies that so few directors really think to care about.

99: How movies affect my everyday life, the way I do things, the little idiosyncrasies that people rarely notice, and how I think and perceive things.

100: “I’m finished.”