Thursday, July 16, 2009

There Will Be Blood (2007)

You would think that an Academy Award or two would be some kind of guarantee that a film has at least some degree of entertainment value. Obviously, Oscar doesn’t always get it right, but even “Crash,” which everyone now agrees should not have won Best Picture, had something going for it. “There Will Be Blood” won Oscars for Cinematography and Best Actor, and for a while everyone was talking about the “milkshake” line at the end. I finally decided to see what the fuss was about. For such an esteemed film, “There Will Be Blood” is the biggest waste of 2 ½ hours I have encountered.

Daniel Day-Lewis won his Oscar as Daniel Plainview, a hard-rock silver prospector who strikes oil and works his way up through the oil business to become a tycoon. He takes no joy in anything save grasping for more, and once he has achieved all he can, he is swallowed up by his deep hatred for himself and others. He makes stumbling efforts, through the years, to be a loving father to his adopted son, but it seems that the part of the brain that allows most people to love is, in Plainview’s skull, given over to scheming and drilling.

I’m not here to argue that either of the Oscars that this film won was undeserved. The cinematography really is stunning, and Daniel Day-Lewis is as brilliant as always (although it has been pointed out that his character bears a strong resemblance to Victor Newman from “The Young and the Restless.”) I just feel that all that talent was wasted on a mean, pointless story about a mean, bitter man. The movie is based on the book “Oil,” by Upton Sinclair. Doubtless the book is another of Sinclair’s screeds against capitalist excess, but the film is only loosely based on it, and focuses more on the personality of Daniel Plainview. Such a bitter story does not bear telling.

As for that “milkshake” line, I’m going to save you 2 ½ hours. It’s simply a metaphor for how you can drain the oil under one plot of land by drilling and pumping oil from adjoining land. Plainview explains, “If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw that goes all the way across the room to you, I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!” The analogy is borrowed from a 1920’s speech by New Mexico Senator Albert Falls.

1 star.

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