i realize it has been over a year now and oscar has already been bestowed on another crop of mostly undeserving pictures, but the outcome of the best picture race between the exquisite there will be blood and the trite, safe no country for old men really does need further review. still, after all this time, i wonder how this could have happened and honestly wonder if i will ever fail to feel as emotionally bent out of shape as i still do now. i imagine circumstances where i am driven to the grave like richard the lion-hearted vehemently fighting my great crusade on behalf of p.t. anderson's magnum opus. because frankly i just don't get it.
i know we rip on the coen brothers quite a bit here on the beer cannes, yet i feel wholeheartedly that they deserve all this shit which i am about to heap upon them again. as i sit here watching the beginning of miller's crossing, another coen brothers film i am almost doomed not to finish, i find myself looking it up on netflix and getting caught in a slew of buzzwords that fill the accompanying descriptions of their films. the one for miller's crossing is one that i find quite instructive as the first sentence reads, "...the coen brother's take on the 30's ganster film." other reviews roll out words like farce, revisionist, noir, screwball and a litany of other words that point to their almost complete lack of an original opinion.
honestly, what is the signature moment that points to the essence of the quintessential coen brothers opinion on life? the answer, sadly, is that there isn't one because all of their films read like two film school brats who borrow philosophy at random and believe that inverting the tropes of genre is the same thing as breaking free from the constraints of genre itself. it's all style. and this omnipresence of the structural rigidity of genre creates in its wake hollow, one dimensional archetypes that fail to engage the audience because they seem to lack emotional motive for their actions, merely doing them because it compels the narrative forward. the style comes off as derivative to the point of unoriginality. because while overt stylization in itself is not bad, it really only works if there is some sort of underlying philosophy, some type of creative idealism.
and all i can find in the coens is this vague sort of misanthropy, as if the film, and by proxy its makers, is somehow held up to be of better standard than the characters it depicts. it is as if the world, as driven by people's stupidity and vanity, must seem so precious from such lofty heights of judgment. as long as there is snappy(forced) dialogue and witty repartee, right?
wrong. fuck the coens for being vain, derivative, and simplistically dull...pretty much the complete opposite of paul thomas anderson.
the films of paul thomas anderson have been accused of borrowing styles as well, but i feel that his "borrowing" to be so much more interwoven into the tapestry that becomes his original work. hard eight borrowed from mamet(only with a humanistic heart) boogie nights borrowed from scorsese(but with a humanistic heart) magnolia borrowed from altman(who actually also has a humanistic heart) and in the middle of all these supposedly "stolen" whip pans and handheld shots and intimate framing and noisy diegesis is this utterly complex, idiosyncratic philosophy on family and human relations. paul thomas anderson gets to the messy core of human/self interaction and finds that it is kinda beautiful there if we honestly try to look at it.
there will be blood is kind of a different sort of beast, a touch apart from his others, yet still of a consistently refined and redefined notion of life. whereas his earlier films seemed to focus on the moment to moment fluctuation of life and an appreciation of its myriad manifestations of beauty, there will be blood seems to take those moments and magnify them. it seems to contemplate, while furthering, this idea that since every seemingly mundane moment has the capacity for beauty, that every moment must have some inexplicable importance. every gesture, phrase, and activity is imbued with a certain amount of heaviness as if every decision a person makes can come back and manifest itself in later life. it is an idea of no wasted motion, no wasted time. everything is huge and important and every breath is the most important thing in the world ever.
his work is intense, but it is also intensely life affirming.
dirk diggler going home again. tom cruise sharing one last cry with jason robards. daniel plainview getting away with murder. all of these moments read like some exultant, virtuoso celebration of the human capacity for the amazing, the incredible force of nature that is the human spirit.
all i find in no country for old men is a tired, played out version of bleak chic that really has nothing interesting to say about its characters at all. it plays out like some third rate aesop fable about greed that rings hollow because there is no motivation for anything. it's pure nihilism. it's absolute ugly destruction that leads nowhere and i think that existence, mine in particular, is just a little bit more important than that.
life is full...not empty. and that is why i will always believe that the oscar should have gone to there will be blood, the apex of recent cinema history and a film no doubt destined to become a classic exemplar of the current mood of the world. old men is just another piece of forgettable genre trash that will hopefully make haste in its long decent into hell.
but still, it's your call...
in the end it basically comes down to a choice:
would you rather hang around someone who will drink your milkshake or someone who ain't got no fuckin' agua?
personally i will take the milkshake, because it is better to have a milkshake that somebody else drank than to never have had any agua at all.