There Will Be Blood
Upton Sinclair and Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007

#1, 2007 Skandies

I will be so happy when the project I've been working on for the past fifteen months is finally finished, one way or another, and I can write about it openly. In the meantime, please enjoy some circumlocutions.

So there's a certain scene I've occasionally advocated adding to the script. The objection I have received in reply is that while it'd be fine in a book, film is too economical a medium for the scene I had in mind. In a book, the argument goes, I might have a thousand brushstrokes in which to capture the relationship between the characters in question. In a movie, I have, like, five. So the one I had in mind can't be one of them, because it'd carry an inordinate amount of weight. Save it for the book, where it'll be surrounded by so much other stuff that it won't unbalance everything.

My main objection to There Will Be Blood is that, in this respect, it seems to be trying to be a novel. There's just so much stuff in it that none of it carries much weight. What is this movie about? I read some reviews and the best synopsis I found was by Vern, who said that "this is about an oil tycoon named Plainview, his little son, some preacher, relationships, and that type of shit." The bravura final scene suggests that we're supposed to see the movie as having been a struggle of wills between Plainview and the preacher — capitalism vs. religion, maybe — but the preacher only has a scattering of scenes! Certainly this rivalry doesn't carry any more weight than the thread about Plainview's relationship with his son, or even with his brother (who shows up out of nowhere and takes up a big chunk of screen time in the middle of the movie). I watched this with Elizabeth and she thought that it was going to be about how Plainview is warped and the community is wrecked by the misery and devastation that surround extractive industries — and I probably would have liked the movie a lot more had it focused on that. But it didn't really focus on anything.

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