JayDee's Movie Musings

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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
So far my season of 90s films has been going pretty well. Now however I fear the s*it may be about to hit the fan! I'm about to lay into a film that many of you adore and I'm sorry about that but that's just the way it is. I was very reticent actually about posting this and truthfully I wouldn't even have dared to post it if neg rep was still around!

Anyway onto the review my little pigeons. I've got a cat here which I'm now just going to place amongst all of you.



mirror
mirror

Year of release
1999

Directed by
Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by
Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring
Tom Cruise
Philip Seymour Hoffman
William H. Macy
Julianne Moore
John C. Reilly
Jason Robards
Philip Baker Hall


Magnolia

-

Plot - In the San Fernando valley, over a period of twenty four hours, we follow a large ensemble of characters and how their lives interact with each other as they search for love, forgiveness and meaning. Numerous stories weave together and intersect as the characters go through numerous life-changing experiences. These characters include Frank T.J. Mackey (Cruise), a self-help guru in the area of picking up women, his father Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), who reaches out to his son while on his deathbed. Attempting to care for Earl are his male nurse Phil Parma (Hoffman) and wife Linda (Moore). Another series of characters are linked by the hit quiz show, “What Do Kids Know?” These include its host, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), its new young prodigy Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) and 'Quiz Kid' Donnie Smith (Macy), a former champion on the show as a child. Meanwhile Jimmy Gator's daughter Claudia (Melora Walters) is a cocaine addict whose problems bring her into contact with police officer Jim Kurring (Reilly), and a potential romance begins to spark into life.

This has got to be one of the toughest and longest viewing experiences I've had in some time. At one point as I was struggling I checked the running time, hoping to see I was at least half way though and was dismayed that I had only managed to slog my way through 45 minutes of it. I couldn't believe it! I felt like I had been there for weeks! And yet I had barely made a dent.

The best way I can think to describe it is that I felt like Magnolia was the work of a magician, but not in a positive way. I felt like I was being treated to a case of misdirection, that Anderson was attempting to convince me I was seeing something that wasn't really there. With its epic 3 hour running time, countless number of characters and its numerous inter-weaving story threads it felt like it was trying to create the sense that you were watching something deep, profound, exceptional and unprecedented. Except that personally I didn't really find that to be the case. Instead I found it to be bloated, pretentious, convoluted, contrived and self indulgent. To me the film just felt extremely smug and oh so pleased with itself. This was particularly true of its opening sequences which depict 3 urban legends which apparently prove that sometimes the seemingly impossible does actually open; basically freeing the film from any duty to adhere to logic. These resulting breaks from reality feel tonally ridiculous and just plain silly; I'm looking at you, frogs that fall from the sky! And the moment that the characters all came together for a big sing-a-long? For me it again felt like an attempt to manipulate my feelings towards the film, that by merely making it weird and different it aims to convince me that means it's artistic or beautiful. The whole thing just felt oh so self-aware.

While I know that many people adore Anderson's direction I actually find that it can be quite irritating, especially when it comes to his trademark, Scorsese-aping, long tracking shots which don't seem to serve any purpose to the actual film itself except to show off his technical proficiency with a camera. I know that many people feel Anderson is the voice of his generation but I've got to say that outside of There Will Be Blood (which I thought was fantastic) I don't really feel like his films speak to me personally. And quite often I feel that his stylised direction just overwhelms what he is actually attempting to say.

Film Trivia Snippets - Paul Thomas Anderson actually wrote the large bulk of Magnolia's script during a two week spell he spent at the Vermont cabin of William H. Macy. The reason that he was able to get so much work done was down to the fact he had seen a snake and was afraid to go outside. Anderson also went above and beyond the normal tasks of a director by designing the Magnolia poster as well as cutting together the trailers to promote the film. /// In the infomercials for Frank TJ Mackie's “Seduce and Destory” program they give out the telephone number (877) TAME-HER. If you called the number at the time of the film's release you would hear a recording of Tom Cruise giving the Seduce and Destroy pitch. /// Not everything went smoothly on the casting front for Anderson. He wanted Burt Reynolds to appear in the movie, but after Anderson upset him during the promotional tour for Boogie Nights, Reynolds turned him down. And for the role of Earl Partridge, Anderson approached George C. Scott but was roundly rebuffed. Scott threw the script across the room, calling it the “worst f*cking thing I've ever read. The language is terrible!” The character of Earl Partridge was eventually portrayed by Jason Robards
I was able to identify and appreciate the themes that the film was attempting to touch on - guilt, remorse, loneliness, fate, coincidence, the sins of the father and the lasting effect it has on the children etc and its obvious religious/biblical connotations but I don't really see how it needed 3 hours to muse on them. Some stories do undoubtedly need such immense running times to cover everything they want to, but I didn't think this was one of them. So many of the characters and their stories seemed to be similar that it became repetitive and redundant. I imagine you could easily have trimmed some of the characters and stories, and left a good deal on the cutting room floor and still been able to tell the exact same story. You could argue that its point is relevant in portraying how so many of us are linked by these identical emotions and experiences but for a piece of cinema much of it just felt superfluous to me. And so often I just felt that the scenes went on so much longer than was really necessary. And even with its mammoth running time the film still manages to leave some unresolved threads.

I will concede to a couple of things in the film's favour. I'll give it that its a very ambitious undertaking, even if I felt it rather crumbled under the weight of such ambition. But I'll never level out severe criticism to a film-maker for being ambitious. I think it's a good thing for Hollywood to have distinctive voices such as Anderson and Tarantino, even if I don't always appreciate their efforts. And the other point I'll concede is that across the board it is superbly acted. That is especially true in the case of Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman who were both superb in portraying quite disparate characters. Cruise was amazing as the spectacularly arrogant and despicable Frank T.J. Mackie who is eventually revealed to be hiding a deep pain. He is tremendous in the scene where he is confronted by the reporter about the truth regarding his past, saying so much with just his facial expressions as opposed to words. It's got to be one of his best performances. Cruise's scenes were a joy because they had by far the most energy and life about them. Imagine that, making something interesting. The other top performance would be Hoffman's, who is as impressive as ever as male nurse, Paul. Other impressive showings amongst the ensemble are delivered by the likes of William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. The one performance I had some reservations about was Julianne Moore's. At times I thought she was good but when expressing her grief I felt that on occasion she went way too big with it to cringingly hysterical effect.

So there you have it. I'm sure a lot of you will not agree with what I've said, and perhaps even be quite wound up by it. I only have one favour to ask - please come at me one at a time instead of joining together for a big group attack! I know this film is much-loved around these parts, including by a number of people around here I consider friends who have contributed a lot of support and appreciation for my reviews (Skepsis, Daniel, Brodinski, seanc etc) and to them I apologise. I certainly didn't set out with the intention of laying into this film that you love so much. Neither am I claiming that I have seen the truth of the film that you have failed to spot. You guys love it, and that's great. I'm just delivering my own uneducated viewpoint on the matter.

Conclusion - I can imagine Magnolia easily being a film that you don't really 'get' if you're not in the exact right frame of mind for it. So taking that into account along with the efforts of its cast and the reputation it has amongst film fans means that I probably will give it another go someday. Although at the moment I am struggling to imagine how I'll force myself to sit down for 3 hours to watch this again. It may be very impressive in numerous technical terms, and that's extremely true of the acting, but overall I just found it an overwrought experience which was over written, over directed and too often approached the depths of a soap opera.



Finally another person who didn't care for that movie. It's one of the most overrated movies I've seen. Great review.

Also, Julianne Moore was the only performance I didn't really care for, too. She went way too over-the-top a lot, and it felt kind of forced a lot of the time. She was still solid, but she was much better in Short Cuts.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
In before at least 4 full pages of hate.



I didn't care for it, either. P.T. Anderson has made much better, deeper films that are stylistically more engaging and thematically richer. I thought the ending, while appropriate, was hardly a stroke of genius.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Are you sure it doesn't deserve
----? You make some valid points. I appreciate Anderson and I find the movie more entertaining than you do. If you give this 2/5, you'd probably give The Master 1/5. I had real problems with that one. But there are an amazing number of sacred cows around here right now, and their fans only see things one way. You and I have our own too. Well, good work, as always.
__________________
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page



Oh watch it. Now.



Are you sure it doesn't deserve
----? You make some valid points. I appreciate Anderson and I find the movie more entertaining than you do. If you give this 2/5, you'd probably give The Master 1/5. I had real problems with that one. But there are an amazing number of sacred cows around here right now, and their fans only see things one way. You and I have our own too. Well, good work, as always.
What rating would you give Magnolia Mark? I think I saw you liked Punch-Drunk Love well enough and gave it
and you voted in my thread that you thought There Will Be Blood was his best, so I'd be interested to see how you rate this, along with Boogie Nights.

I'll respond to your post in a minute JayDee, I've read it but I am going to go through again and attempt to discuss some of the things. I wouldn't say I am a 'sacred cow/fan who only sees things my way', although I do love PTA and a lot of directors, I like to think I am accepting of other peoples' views
__________________



Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Not too surprised with your rating. I watched 30 minutes of Magnolia, but had I seen in to the end, I might've given it
as well.
__________________
In the strictest sense lesbians can't have sex at all period.



The best way I can think to describe it is that I felt like Magnolia was the work of a magician

All good so far...

but not in a positive way.

... what the **** are you trying to say! No, seriously now here's what I have to say...

I felt like I was being treated to a case of misdirection, that Anderson was attempting to convince me I was seeing something that wasn't really there. With its epic 3 hour running time, countless number of characters and its numerous inter-weaving story threads it felt like it was trying to create the sense that you were watching something deep, profound, exceptional and unprecedented.

It does. But a lot of films do this. A film I know that you love is Forrest Gump, I give it
for similar reasons, it feels forced, like the director is deliberately placing things that aren't natural to bring the emotions out of you. So I ask the question, and it's a question to myself as well, why does this work for some films and not others and differ from person to person? What makes you fall in love with a character, a film, and make you go along with the magical journey?


Except that personally I didn't really find that to be the case. Instead I found it to be bloated, pretentious, convoluted, contrived and self indulgent. To me the film just felt extremely smug and oh so pleased with itself.

I understand why this could be a problem with PTA in general, he's a confident director and all his works are extremely ambitious, he is going to rub people up the wrong way with the way he combines elements of other directors and puts them together and attempts to make a 'masterpiece', as he admitted with There Will Be Blood. I don't think he's particularly innovative, and understand that he takes a lot from other works, but I just think he knows how to maximise certain elements of direction to make a film work, at least for me. His films do feel big and possibly pretentious, perhaps he hasn't earned the respect to make such titles yet, and I understand you hate 2001: A Space Odyssey too, but I feel he has the ability to do so.

This was particularly true of its opening sequences which depict 3 urban legends which apparently prove that sometimes the seemingly impossible does actually open; basically freeing the film from any duty to adhere to logic. These resulting breaks from reality feel tonally ridiculous and just plain silly; I'm looking at you, frogs that fall from the sky! And the moment that the characters all came together for a big sing-a-long?

I thought this was part of the film and it's kind of irony. From the beginning of the film you kind of expect everything to come together in perhaps an even more contrived way. But instead nothing really comes together and the only thing linking these characters are similar issues and problems in their lives. I can imagine PTA thinking about the ending, adding the frogs, and smiling, laughing almost at the audience. I thought the ending of The Master was very similar. In fact I think the plots are very similar, in both films we expect characters to come full circle, to end at a definitive point, we think we know what's going to happen, but by the end things just don't turn out that way.

For me it again felt like an attempt to manipulate my feelings towards the film, that by merely making it weird and different it aims to convince me that means it's artistic or beautiful. The whole thing just felt oh so self-aware.

Possibly, the ending is a very gutsy move for me, and I found that part of the beautiful irony. Thinks aren't normal, this isn't just some normal tale where everything plays out how you expect. It is self-aware, but I don't think this is a bad thing.


While I know that many people adore Anderson's direction I actually find that it can be quite irritating, especially when it comes to his trademark, Scorsese-aping, long tracking shots which don't seem to serve any purpose to the actual film itself except to show off his technical proficiency with a camera.

Out of interest how do you feel when directors like Scorsese and Altman use such shots. Most of the time I feel they're used with reason, the carefully follow characters and the directions, and helps further the idea of a connection between certain things, like everything is continuous. I can't take about particular scenes from this film as well as I can Boogie Nights though, so I'll leave it at that.


I know that many people feel Anderson is the voice of his generation but I've got to say that outside of There Will Be Blood (which I thought was fantastic) I don't really feel like his films speak to me personally.

Have you seen Punch-Drunk Love? That's a charming little film not too similar to his other works, and it's quirky in a way you might enjoy. But yeh I can understand why his other works may leave people cold. Boogie Nights is a dark, depressing, pessimistic film set in a brutal world, so is Sydney to a lesser extent. The Master and There Will Be Blood both have potentially dislikeable characters, I wouldn't be surprised to hear such a statement from anyone.


And quite often I feel that his stylised direction just overwhelms what he is actually attempting to say.

One of the best things about Scorsese use of tracking shots for me is how it just all blends in naturally, he's showing off without us realising in a way, maybe PTA's do seem more obvious sometimes, it's taking me a few viewings to notice all of them in some of his films, and like I said earlier I think in some scenes they work well in capturing what he's trying to say, displaying a character's emotions, showing connectivity and continuity etc.


I was able to identify and appreciate the themes that the film was attempting to touch on - guilt, remorse, loneliness, fate, coincidence, the sins of the father and the lasting effect it has on the children etc and its obvious religious/biblical connotations but I don't really see how it needed 3 hours to muse on them.

Fair enough, if you don't connect with the film this comment is always going to be present about the length, but for some people you are so engrossed and entertained by what's in front of you, you don't want it to end. And for me and many overs the long running length flew by. I thought the main theme was about the relationships between parents and their children, I didn't think the biblical stuff was in anyway important by the way.

Some stories do undoubtedly need such immense running times to cover everything they want to, but I didn't think this was one of them. So many of the characters and their stories seemed to be similar that it became repetitive and redundant. I imagine you could easily have trimmed some of the characters and stories, and left a good deal on the cutting room floor and still been able to tell the exact same story.

But with as much power? The cutting between scenes and slow build up of atmosphere in each characters stories is part of the film's brilliance for me, it all ticks along quietly, sometimes more subtle than others, but you can feel a real tension building, something dark coming, a storm brewing. Even subtle touches like the weather readings help reinforce this idea that something is about to happen. It feels like we are about to witness the end of the world, its strangely unsettling but delightful at the same time. I guess you wouldn't like Short Cuts either.

You could argue that its point is relevant in portraying how so many of us are linked by these identical emotions and experiences but for a piece of cinema much of it just felt superfluous to me. And so often I just felt that the scenes went on so much longer than was really necessary. And even with its mammoth running time the film still manages to leave some unresolved threads.

Yeh, I've pretty much covered my thoughts on this.


I will concede to a couple of things in the film's favour. I'll give it that its a very ambitious undertaking, even if I felt it rather crumbled under the weight of such ambition. But I'll never level out severe criticism to a film-maker for being ambitious. I think it's a good thing for Hollywood to have distinctive voices such as Anderson and Tarantino, even if I don't always appreciate their efforts.



And the other point I'll concede is that across the board it is superbly acted. That is especially true in the case of Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman who were both superb in portraying quite disparate characters. Cruise was amazing as the spectacularly arrogant and despicable Frank T.J. Mackie who is eventually revealed to be hiding a deep pain. He is tremendous in the scene where he is confronted by the reporter about the truth regarding his past, saying so much with just his facial expressions as opposed to words. It's got to be one of his best performances. Cruise's scenes were a joy because they had by far the most energy and life about them. Imagine that, making something interesting. The other top performance would be Hoffman's, who is as impressive as ever as male nurse, Paul. Other impressive showings amongst the ensemble are delivered by the likes of William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. The one performance I had some reservations about was Julianne Moore's. At times I thought she was good but when expressing her grief I felt that on occasion she went way too big with it to cringingly hysterical effect.


I'm glad you appreciated the acting. It really is magnificent and I loved how PTA handles the ensemble cast. I have no complaints about anyone, the same goes with Boogie Nights. I think your criticism about Moore is a bit harsh though, for me she gives possibly the best performance and the most powerful.

I love PTA films because he combines what we've seen before with family a lot. Boogie Nights is all about family, despite being cold and set in a harsh world as I said it somehow had a personal effect on me and was a very powerful story. I find him to deal with relationships greatly, and really felt the parent/child theme that was so strong in this film.
Neither am I claiming that I have seen the truth of the film that you have failed to spot. You guys love it, and that's great. I'm just delivering my own uneducated viewpoint on the matter.



.
There you are



Ok, read it, Jay. Nah, I'm not gonna jump you, man. It's a weird movie first and foremost, and weird movies have rather specific audiences. I guess it's just not the movie for you. So I won't go into a point-by-point discussion about it, because I think I'm not going to convince you, neither think I should try to. Will just say that for me, it's a hell of a movie.

I totally get you seeing it as pretentious crap. In fact, I watch a review with PTA, and I do get a pretentious vibe from the guy. But I'm watching a movie, not a guy, and I do believe he's telling a personal story through all of these characters, and the most important part is, I relate with them. For me, it's a perfect film.

About Julianne Moore, I can see why you think she went over the top. But I actually knew a chick (a redhead, I **** you not!) who talked exactly like her in this movie. Seriously, it's scary. Way too fast, way too nervous. So I think, that chick, in a situation of pressure, and I can totally see it.









BAD JAYDEE. NO MORE PLUS REP FOR YOU







But seriously you expressed your thoughts well, and I appreciate the second-to-last paragraph. It's only a movie.

But still no plus rep for you.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Wow well that certainly got a response. Although I'm rather buoyed by the amount of support my views got. I felt this may be one of those films where I was the only person on here who wasn't completely enamoured with it.



Not too surprised with your rating. I watched 30 minutes of Magnolia, but had I seen in to the end, I might've given it
as well.
Wow you could only manage 30 minutes?

Are you sure it doesn't deserve
----? You make some valid points. I appreciate Anderson and I find the movie more entertaining than you do. If you give this 2/5, you'd probably give The Master 1/5. I had real problems with that one. But there are an amazing number of sacred cows around here right now, and their fans only see things one way. You and I have our own too. Well, good work, as always.
The way I actually settled on my score was that I disliked it a little bit more than Death Proof which got a
. Oh really? I'm actually quite interested to see The Master at some point. Oh I know everyone has their sacred cows in terms of films, directors, actors. For example if I saw someone rip into Back to the Future like I did Magnolia, well I'd cut a bitch!

And thanks for the valid points and good work comments. You may not exactly be gushing in your praise but I appreciate it.

Thanks Daniel. Great post. Although I wish you hadn't done it. Knowing how popular the film is around here I wouldn't be surprised if your thoughts get more rep than me. And it would be pretty embarassing to get out-repped in my own thread!

I'll try and come back and address some of your points later

BAD JAYDEE. NO MORE PLUS REP FOR YOU

But seriously you expressed your thoughts well, and I appreciate the second-to-last paragraph. It's only a movie.

But still no plus rep for you.
Thanks man. Glad you could appreciate that anyway. I didn't want to just come on and say "man this movie sucked!" I wanted to try and elaborate on why it didn't work for me. And yeah that was my attempt at appeasing the angry mob with torches and pitchforks! Attempting to disarm the hate!



Oh and loving the pics. Especially the first one as I'm a big Conan fan. Are those Will Ferrell's eyes in the 2nd clip by the way?



I don't remember Magnolia that well but I remember being underwhelmed, aggravated, and annoyed by it. I also remember thinking Tom Cruise was great in it. One of those films I most want to see again due to thinking I must've missed something the first time.