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.
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.