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I've been distracted by this question of Anderson's moral code (for lack of better word) since realizing that, while many characters in Boogie Nights suffer consequences for their behavior, Anderson doesn't stand in judgment over any of them except for the sleazy porn producer who is also a pedophile and who, as I recall (it's been several years), winds up in jail at the end of the film. There seems to be the same code at work in Magnolia, where everyone is allowed a glimpse of grace except for the daughter-molesting game show host.

Along those lines, I see the adult "heroes" of his films (John C. Reilly in Hard Eight and Magnolia, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, and maybe even Dirk Diggler) as being naive man-children. "All is permissible (if regrettable) except the corruption of innocence" seems to be his working theme. There Will be Blood doesn't fit so neatly into this schema, which I take as a positive development, even if I have mixed feelings about that film as well.

This is a very, very interesting comment on Anderson's first four films. I shall think on this some more.

Maybe we should reinstitute the old A&F film club with a reevaluation of Magnolia?

I'm game.

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Maybe we should reinstitute the old A&F film club with a reevaluation of Magnolia?

This has been a satisfying, thought-provoking discussion.

Funny, I'd been debating whether to post a suggestion of resurrecting the film club with, I dunno, one of the Top 100 films every 2 months. This was prompted in part by Ken's comments elsewhere, but also because a part of me has been wanting to watch fewer films and watch them more deeply, and I think the club could aid this process. I think I'd forego rewatching Magnolia - too many films that I'm keener to see, not enough hours, and all that - but I'd no doubt enjoy any discussion of it from the sidelines.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 3 weeks later...

Can't remember who said it originally (and too lazy to keep checking back), but you and all those Magnolia naysayers are just plain wrong.

We watched it last night and it was as good as ever if not better. The three hours just whizzed by, and that's from someone who struggles to stay awake for most 90 minute films.

Do we know about the parents of all the characters in Magnolia? I don’t remember anything about the parent(s) of the John C. Reilly character. What accounts for his kindness? Or are we supposed to see him as disordered?
Funnily enough one of my observations from last night was that the film's two heroes were pretty much the only characters of whom we know nothing about their parents/children - Hoffman's nurse and Reiolly's cop. We also don't know about Julianne Moore's character, but I thought it was interesting that the two most stable characters did not have the parent/child issues of the others.
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Can't remember who said it originally (and too lazy to keep checking back), but you and all those Magnolia naysayers are just plain wrong.

We watched it last night and it was as good as ever if not better. The three hours just whizzed by, and that's from someone who struggles to stay awake for most 90 minute films.

Agreed, from my Dec. 2009 viewing, and that's from a guy that kept falling asleep at Rango.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Not sure if this has been posted previously but here's a paper from the Journal of Religion and Film:

“But it did happen”: Sound as Deep Narrative in P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) - By Theodora Hawksley

Matt

Edited by MattPage
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  • 1 year later...

Wow, I just watched Magnolia for the first time.

I was relatively unmoved by the last PTA film I saw (Punch Drunk Love . . . which I didn't connect to, although it was stylish, I'll have to revisit it now). But this . . .

This is like if Dostoevsky lived in the twentieth century and made a movie . . . or something.

It's such a quixotically ambitious film (thematically, stylistically, etc.), and yet, in a way, it's so down to earth. It's a dirty film - in the best possible way. O'Connor would say it's a film that gives us mystery through manners.

@Timzila

"It is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind." (Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners).

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I saw Magnolia in a PTA marathon last year where I saw all of his films in a week or two. It's still my favorite, and I'm glad it moved up the list. That said, I would have loved it if Hawaii, Oslo would have made the list as well, and I would have really loved it if it would have sat right next to Magnolia, kind of like The Apostle and Tender Mercies in their latest positions on the list.

I just got around to reading this post and almost shot coffee out of my nose. My thought... Why would the PTA (Parent/Teachers Association) hold a viewing of Magnolia?

Back to the real discussion....

edit: BTW, glad you enjoyed it, Timothy Zila. I still am only able to watch this in a theatre setting. I tried last month to watch this on a new flat screen, and still couldn't sit through the DVD. I love this film, but not at all for home viewing. It's the only film where I constantly have this problem.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Well, to be fair I did watch it over two nights. That was mostly because it was three in the morning and I was only half way through the film.

I didn't want to stop but the part of me that needed to get up in the morning made the call for me.

That being said, it's definitely a theater movie (hopefully sometime soon I'll actually get to see it in that setting).

@Timzila

"It is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind." (Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners).

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  • 3 months later...

I don't believe this has been posted before. Matthew Sewell has an interesting essay on MAGNOLIA that focuses on picking apart the "but it did happen" moment in the film. The most thought-provoking aspect of Sewell's argument is its suggestion that the following Anderson quote is key to understanding what Anderson is up to in the film:

I'm a film geek; I was raised on movies. And there come these times in life where you just get to a spot when you feel like movies are betraying you. Where you're right in the middle of true, painful life. Like, say, somebody could be sitting in a room somewhere, watching their father die of cancer, and all of a sudden it's like, no this isn't really happening, this is something I saw in
Terms of Endearment
. You're at this moment where movies are betraying you, and you resent movies for maybe taking away from the painful truth of what's happening to you.
Edited by Ryan H.
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I watched Magnolia for the second time today (it had been a while--it even almost felt like I was watching it for the first time), and I perused this thread for the first time. I've been trying to return to his earlier films as I prepare to see The Master a second time and then write my review of it.

I see that Darren and Christian, in different ways, raised the question of the film's meaning and moral center--both in itself and as part of PTA's body of work.

I think the point about fathers/sons and the sin of corrupting innocence is an important one, but loneliness and a particular kind of love which is willing to give of itself in spite of the other's significant problems is something that is not just suggested, but actually plays out in Magnolia and, for me, most effectively in Punch-Drunk Love. As of right now, I'd probably say that Punch-Drunk Love is my favorite of PTA's, because I think Lena Leonard represents a kind of love that is quite substantive. It's like getting to see what might have been if

Freddie had not gone "away" from Doris

. This love--coupled with the presence of the harmonium--has a sense of gratuitousness about it that gives it some punch, and makes it one of my personal favorites.

In that vein, as I was rewatching Magnolia today, there was a scene that really got to me. It's the scene when Officer Jim and Claudia are out to dinner together. When she's absolutely frightened to tell Jim about

her tragic past abuse

--just at the moment when she's about to tell him of it--he confesses

having lost his gun that day and the belittling shame he feels over it

. This scene of confession--and the necessary transparency, courage, graciousness, and act of intimation required--was really powerful for me. It brought to mind the moment when Barry Egan has become comfortable enough to confess his bathroom rage to Lena. And this particular scene from Magnolia makes the final scene/shot of the film particularly satisfying for me.

Edited by Nicholas

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

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I don't believe this has been posted before. Matthew Sewell has an interesting essay on MAGNOLIA that focuses on picking apart the "but it did happen" moment in the film. The most thought-provoking aspect of Sewell's argument is its suggestion that the following Anderson quote is key to understanding what Anderson is up to in the film:

I'm a film geek; I was raised on movies. And there come these times in life where you just get to a spot when you feel like movies are betraying you. Where you're right in the middle of true, painful life. Like, say, somebody could be sitting in a room somewhere, watching their father die of cancer, and all of a sudden it's like, no this isn't really happening, this is something I saw in
Terms of Endearment
. You're at this moment where movies are betraying you, and you resent movies for maybe taking away from the painful truth of what's happening to you.

Wow... not only does he portray something I've felt for a very long time, but he references the exact film where this feeling began. The only difference is that instead of feeling as though we were in one of those movie moments, we were actually waiting for one of those movie moments to occur in the situation my family and I were living through.

My mom died of lung cancer twenty five years ago this past March. About six or seven months after her death, I remember my dad asking if me if I would watch Terms of Endearment with him. My dad and I found a connection through movies, but this was one of the few times I turned him down. This was a film that I had admired for what I thought was an honest portrayal of dealing with illness (and I'm not saying it doesn't), but now that we had been through the situation ourselves I could see that it only lightly skimmed the surface of the reality. There's a lot it skips. And that in itself now felt like a betrayal.

For my family and I, there was never that moment of screaming at seemingly uncaring hospital staff to help with my mom's pain - they were always very diligent. There wasn't a moment where family and friends all got to have their turns at goodbyes, because she isn't at that stage, and she's doing all she can not to get to that stage.

Sometimes there isn't a vigil.

Sometimes you're just taking your mom to the hospital because she's had a bad day, and she needs to stay the night so the doctors can get her pain and breathing meds resynced to allow her a good nights sleep.

Sometimes your last contact isn't face to face, but rather over the phone, with your mom giving you a list of things she's going to need in the morning when you come to pick her up. Sometimes you're careless with words. Or at least in remembering what you may or may not have said. Because she's going to be calling early the next morning to make sure you've got everything on that list she's given to you, and there's always that phone call to make sure you say the right words.

Sometimes, when that call comes at the appropriate time, it's not your mom. Sometimes it's the doctor on call, who only knows from your mom's chart that she has cancer, and now that she's gone into pulmonary arrest he needs to know what life saving measures (if any) he should take.

Sometimes moms die without having anyone they love around.

Sometimes the hardest part of the day isn't when you leave your mom for the last time, in that room where she spent her last night. Sometimes the hardest part of the day is a little later, when you first re-enter the house she won't be returning to, and all you can sense is that familiar scent that comes from her room, because she puts bars of lavender soap in all of her drawers to keep her clothes smelling fresh.

Sometimes, even after twenty five years, you can clearly remember saying over the phone "I'll see you tomorrow." And sometimes after twenty five years you're still racking your brain, because you've always been kind of fuzzy about whether you added "I love you."

Sometimes you have to tell your dad no when he asks if you would watch a movie with him, because you've realized that sometimes when a film tries hard to get it right, it still doesn't make up for all that it leaves out.

And sometimes, in the intervening fifteen years since my dad passed away from lung cancer, I regret saying no to him.

Well, this isn't at all what I had intended to write. And it has been exhausting.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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And it's one of the most amazing posts I've read in my many years on this board.

Thank you so much for sharing it.

I wish it was published on a larger platform so more people could read it.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Baal_T'shuvah, thanks for writing this. It's incredible how often we allow movies to shape what we think reality and real-life relationships are like. I can identify with what you're saying a little. There were moments in Iraq where I felt like I was in a film. Then, suddenly, you found yourself in circumstances that you realized all the films you'd even seen on the subject could never even touch. Films naturally dramatize and give resolution to what, in real life, sometimes has little of the dramatic and no resolution. One day your friend is full of life, healthy and whole, laughing heartily with you about the troubles of being in a place so foreign and away from home. The next day he doesn't come back from his mission, you never see him again, and all you get is a official clinical announcement that, afterwards, there was nothing left of him and his team. No last words, no goodbyes, no time to even realize what is about to happen. That's not how the movies show it.

We have to be careful with how we allow films to shape how we think what life and death is going to like. We have to be very careful in applying what we've seen on film (and allowing film to create expectations) to the relationships that we have with those around us.

Thanks again, you've given much for me to think about today.

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With Baal_T'shuvah's permission, Michael Leary and I are going to include his post at Filmwell.

J.A.A., if you'd also grant us permission, I think I'd like to include yours as well to show a response and encourage people to post their own reflections on this subject.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Thanks for writing that, Baal_T.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

With Baal_T'shuvah's permission, Michael Leary and I are going to include his post at Filmwell.

J.A.A., if you'd also grant us permission, I think I'd like to include yours as well to show a response and encourage people to post their own reflections on this subject.

Michael Leary posted the piece over at Filmwell yesterday.

When Movies Lie: A Surprising Response to Paul Thomas Anderson

Thanks to you all for the encouraging words regarding the post. Thank you Michael and Jeffrey for allowing me to add a few revisions to the piece - things that I had in mind to write, yet the words slipped away when I got to those particular sections. As you might guess, this was fairly gruelling to write. Thank you Jeremy for your thoughtful words on your own experiences.

Best regards,

John Drew

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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  • 7 years later...

was looking for material to feed the plea convincing my parents to watch p.t.anderson's magnolia and discovered doug's review posted by persona and it felt like providence. i had to post a thank you for this blessing and the future blessings as this is now a favorite resource bookmark.

-a very unorthodox Christian,

clay 

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40 minutes ago, hasiralm said:

was looking for material to feed the plea convincing my parents to watch p.t.anderson's magnolia and discovered doug's review posted by persona and it felt like providence. i had to post a thank you for this blessing and the future blessings as this is now a favorite resource bookmark.

-a very unorthodox Christian,

clay 

Hi Clay,

Yes, Doug has been a blessing to me for many years both for the depth of his film knowledge and his generosity in sharing it.

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1 hour ago, hasiralm said:

was looking for material to feed the plea convincing my parents to watch p.t.anderson's magnolia and discovered doug's review posted by persona and it felt like providence. i had to post a thank you for this blessing and the future blessings as this is now a favorite resource bookmark.

-a very unorthodox Christian,

clay 

if you judge people you have no time to love them  - mother T of calcutta

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  • 2 months later...

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