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Magnolia (1999)

Paul Thomas Anderson

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#1 Persona

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 04:27 PM

I'm posting this for Matt and anyone else who's interested. This is Doug's article on Magnolia.

The Article is from PTAnderson.com
[Updated EDIT: Link broken.]


Magnolia: Spirituality in Film

And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just "something that happened." This cannot be "one of those things..." This, please, cannot be that. These strange things happen all the time.

These words, spoken in the beginning of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, inaugurate the movie's unpredictable narrative that many reviewers claim is a comment on "chance" as a part of life. However, careful viewers will note an ongoing obsession with the numbers 8 and 2 that reveal a different message. "82" appears attached to a hanged man, on an airplane's fuselage, and on a rooftop beside a suicidal jumper. It provides an 82% chance of rain, an unlucky combination of playing cards, and appears in everything from apartment numbers to answering machines to public meetings at 8:20. Eventually, the motif refers to Exodus 8:2, a verse citing a plague God used to deliver the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. The verse lurks on signs and posters in the background of the film's present day Los Angeles, but it's not until well into the movie that its significance becomes clear when the Divine enters human affairs late one night on Magnolia Avenue.

Magnolia is a creative frenzy of a movie, highlighting the intensely spiritual struggles of its characters caught in contemporary emotional conflicts. It hops from character to character tying them together in a web of loneliness, rage and guilt that builds to a crescendo until brokenness ultimately yields confession, grace and forgiveness. It's a movie that holds the depths and heights of humanity in perfect tension and it does so by overtly suggesting the work of God, making it something of a miracle in itself.

And it's a good thing, too, because the characters in this movie are in dire need of a miracle. And like the Children of Israel, the children in the movie are the ones most in need of liberation. The film's wounded characters come in pairs: TV executive Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) and TV personality Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) are dying of cancer; their distraught wives Rose (Melinda Dillon) and Linda (Julienne Moore) respectively respond through emotional suppression and drug addiction; their prodigal children Frank (Tom Cruise) and Claudia (Melora Walters) escape their troubled pasts through misogyny, denial and drugs. Two other characters provide separate views of exploitation, quiz show kid Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) and middle-aged, ex-quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), who reminds everyone that he used to be smart. Finally, two characters of compassion, LAPD officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) and male nurse Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) attempt to traverse the lives of these characters with grace and sensitivity.

The film sees relatedness in people, not so much in blood relationships, but by their spiritual and emotional struggles. All of the characters in the film begin the movie in crisis and the drama rises and falls in an universal arc emphasizing their common humanity. And most of the characters' lives revolve around the television, which both empowers and oppresses them. The TV studio ultimately appears as a microcosm of the larger world with its many narratives teeming beneath one roof.

Anderson's flashy visual style is at times fast and furious (like the brilliant opening sequence depicting some urban legends) and at other times is fluid and graceful. Grounded in a world of cluttered apartments, professional offices, darkened bedrooms, TV back stages, and dilapidated streets, the sets provide a sense of realism that reinforce the raw emotions exhibited by their inhabitants. The film's narrative is finally graced with a collection of soulful Aimee Mann tunes that regularly appear throughout, much like Simon and Garfunkel's work in The Graduate.

Magnolia is Anderson's third feature after Hard 8 and Boogie Nights, and the 29-year-old writer/director is trying hard to establish himself as America's brightest young star on the filmmaking scene. In many ways, he's succeeding. While Magnolia sometimes seems like a never-ending sequence of explosive acting monologues (Anderson has written his stock ensemble plenty of showy material), the film gradually reveals a larger view of humanity and its potential for redemption-- the sort of thematic material one rarely expects from today's Hollywood. (Or those familiar with Andersons previous work, for that matter.)

Through an abundance of profanity and anguish, the movie's characters reveal the fears, dishonesties, and delusions that define their hopelessness. TV executive Earl Partridge is on his deathbed and speaks in painful gasps: "Now I'll die and I'll tell you the biggest regret of my life: I let my love go... Mistakes like this are not okay. You know that you should do better... I'm 65 years old and... don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't regret anything. You regret what you want... use that...use that." He asks his nurse Phil to contact his long lost son, Frank.

Phil develops a genuine compassion for Earl and decides to do whatever it will take to find Frank. Phil is one of the few characters in the film who isn't obviously struggling with his past, and uses his balanced persona to offer compassion to the people around him. Even in a hurried phone conversation based on a lead, a stranger mentions his mother had cancer and Phil's train of thought is quickly interrupted as he consoles, "I'm sorry. Did she make it? It's a terrible disease."

Frank, as played by Tom Cruise in the first truly inspired performance of his career, hides a disappointment from years past by leading male-empowerment seminars promoting women as sexual conquests: "I'm in charge. I'm the one who says yes, now, no or here... That is not to say that we don't all need women as friends, cause we're gonna learn later in Chapter 23 that having a couple of them laying around can come in real handy in setting Jealousy Traps." Frank lives in a sexually-charged present and bristles at any mention of his past. "The most useless thing in the world is that which is behind me," he repeatedly intones.

Earl's wife, Linda, finds herself in a perpetual state of drug-induced emotional turmoil as she attempts to escape the pain of Earl's death and her inadequate role as his wife: "I don't want him to die, I didn't love him when we met, and I've done so many bad things to him that he doesn't know, but now I do: I love him." Like many of the film's characters, she's convinced she's unlovable, and tries desperately to remove herself from Earl's will because of the guilt she feels from cheating on him.

The other line of characters begins with Jimmy Gator, the no-nonsense game show host who wants to reconcile his daughter Claudia, but refuses to confess the truth about their relationship. His life is one of moral denial and surface facade. One of the film's great moments occurs when Jimmy's inner turmoil builds to a climax and he finds himself stumbling over his questions on live TV, his denied emotions breaking free from their entrapment.

Jimmy's wife Rose is a determinedly pleasant person who continually subjugates her emotions. Upon hearing a confession from Jimmy regarding marital infidelities, she replies calmly, "I'm not mad... I am, but I'm not. Y'know?" Unfortunately, it takes a more severe accusation to awaken her to her need for moral judgment and action.

Claudia is the movie's key figure, who highlights the tragic position of children and the universal need for love and self-love. She hopes to bury the past through a flurry of escapist activity: cocaine hits, one-night stands, and deafening music. She's convinced salvation is beyond her grasp, and though she desires a healthy relationship, she fears one as well. "You wanna make a deal with me?" she says on a first serious date, "I'll tell you everything and you tell me everything and maybe we can get through all the lies that kill other people." But when she's given the opportunity, she admits fearfully, "I'm really nervous that you're going to hate me soon. That you're gonna find stuff out about me and you're gonna hate me." Claudia's story provides the dramatic paradigm for all the other stories in the movie.

The figure of compassion in Claudia's life is LAPD officer Jim Kurring, who the movie makes clear is a Christian who prays so God will enable him to "do good." Like Phil, Jim seems to have dealt with his past and is ready to help others. "In this life and in this world, I want to do well," he says to himself in his police car, "And I may get twenty bad calls a day. But one time I help someone-- I make a save. I correct a wrong or right a situation. Then I'm a happy cop." It's refreshing to see a Christian represented by the media in a non-stereotypical fashion in these days of WASP deconstruction. (He's no judgmental Bible-basher.) Jim is an ordinary person who struggles with his reputation as a mediocre law enforcer and habitually prays for guidance as well as thanksgiving for what he perceives are the blessings God gives him.

Donnie Smith, the ex-quiz kid, suffers from an inability to find love and acceptance in a world that tossed him aside after winning thousands of dollars on a game show when he was a kid. His parents stole his winnings and he now works as an appliance salesman and hangs out in bars hoping to find romance. He also delivers two of the movie's most profound lines: "We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us," and "No, it's not dangerous to confuse children with angels." After one emotional eruption, Donnie even quotes from Exodus 34 about the sins of the fathers being placed upon their children and their children's children, thus reinforcing one of the movie's prime concerns.

Finally, Stanley Spector is a younger version of Donnie who finds himself being forced to exhibit his mental faculties on Jimmy Gator's game show "What Do Kids Know?" so that his unloving, domineering father can become rich. Stanley spends his school days sitting alone in a library surrounded by stacks of books so he can perform for the amusement of television audiences everywhere. At a critical point, he says, "I'm sick of being (the winner). The one who always has to do everything." Stanley's future is set on a course that will mimic Donnie's life and he must somehow find a way out before it's too late.

All of these struggles build up to a moment that transcends Hollywood formulas and elevates the movie to a new level. First one character begins softly singing to an Aimee Mann song, then the scene cuts across town as another character picks up where the last one let off, and the film continues to jump from person to person until the song is completed. "It's not going to stop," they sing, "Until you wise up." The characters sing of being trapped by choices they made in the past that seemed right at the time but have only brought misery to themselves and those around them. The inspired sequence emphasizes their need to redirect the course of their lives in a moment of spiritual awareness. It's a moment that affords the audience a larger perspective, a Divine perspective, of the troubles and hurts that pervade the story of humanity and its need for redemption.

Not long after the universal recognition of their need for repentance comes what must be the most startling and unexpected sequence in the movies this year. The distraught lives of the film's characters brush momentarily with the supernatural as the full impact of Exodus 8:2 reveals itself. In the chance that readers have not yet heard what exactly transpires, this review will not give anything away. But suffice it to say that the movie's ongoing references to urban legends and biblical stories rises to the fore in a manner that suggests strange things do happen and offer meaning to our daily lives. The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that God entered human history at specific points in time, and the movie illustrates this truth in its ultra-contemporary setting.

Fortunately, Anderson plays the miracle out in a mysterious fashion that affects his characters in various ways. To some, it teaches humility and brings about a recognition of false ambitions. To others it forces personal reconciliation. And for some, it hardly has much of an effect at all. But it's primarily the impetus for change that underscores God's supernatural work affording people the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. There is no simple formula for happiness here, but through the mysterious work of grace, salvation is offered.

In the end, officer Kurring reflects on his life (and unknowingly comments on the many characters in the film): "A lot of people think this is just a job that you go to. Take a lunch hour, the job's over, something like that. But it's a 24 hour deal. No two ways about it.. And what most people don't see: just how hard it is to do the right thing. Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail. And that's a very tricky thing on my part... making that call. The law is the law and heck if I'm gonna break it. But can you forgive someone? Tough part of the job... tough part of walking down the street."

Magnolia is a magnificent film with startling energy, rage, compassion, and an inventive visual style that offers a unique look at the real-life despairs people often suffer through. On the eve of the 20th century, and in contrast to the sort of cartoon-like religious imagery Hollywood has been dishing out lately, the movie provides a sense of spiritual direction for present day humanity immersed in its own exodus into the next millennium. More than any other film this year, it stands as a testimony to God's hope offered to people who need it.

In interviews, Anderson is wary of delving too deeply into the film's message, hoping the film can be self-explanatory and conducive for personal interpretation. Fair enough, for from a Christian perspective, the movie conveys humanity's depravity and need for salvation through the process of confession and forgiveness and an abiding sense of divine purpose. Intentionally or not, Anderson has stumbled upon Truth with a piercing immediacy. And it is in the humble opinion of this reviewer that this is not just "something that happened." This cannot be "one of those things..." This, please, cannot be that. These strange things happen all the time.

Magnolia is rated R for "continuous strong language, drug use, sexuality and some violence."



#2 Ron Reed

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Posted 20 January 2004 - 01:09 PM

Real nice piece of writing, lots of specifics. And what great structure to the article, eh? Satisfying.

I only saw MAGNOLIA once, in the theatre, and it was one of the most powerful movie experiences I've had. I know I'll be revisiting it, and this piece makes me eager to do that soon. Makes me think I ought to watch it with my uncannily insightful daughter, who's 15 - got to make sure she's getting exposed to movies that can feed and stimulate that mind and heart, and I can't think of a better candidate than this film.

The note that the Aimee Mann songs function much like Simon & Garfunkel's music in THE GRADUATE seems right on the money. Glad the "Wise Up" sequence worked for him, as it did for me: I know others have trouble with it as being too, I don't know, self-conscious? Contrived, perhaps? But in a film about coincidences and uncanny interconnections, it seems just right, and I think Doug is right to suggest that this is something like a God P.O.V.

I completely agree that Tom Cruise is "truly inspired" here (though I may think more highly than Doug of his work in lesser films such as RAIN MAN). I'm also crazy about Julianne Moore's naked and extreme performance in this film, and who is this Melora Walters? Wow! That's no-holds-barred acting.

Love the way Doug ties together the urban legend material and the Exodus 8:2 strain around that central quote,
And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just "something that happened." This cannot be "one of those things..." This, please, cannot be that. These strange things happen all the time.


He does a great job showing how The Big Moment works in the storylines and themes of the film, and he's right to give Kurring more or less the last word. Indeed, Kurring and and Phil Parma are the "grace" characters in this film. (A pair of truly great understated performances by Anderson regulars.) And how about the scene where Phil phones for a delivery and awkwardly asks them to bring some men's magazines? That's writing!

Nice work, Doug. Thanks for posting it, mister stef.

#3 Doug C

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 01:23 AM

Thanks Ron--I haven't reread this since I first wrote it four years ago, and I know I've evolved in my writing, so I'm scared to revisit it. But it sounds like it still floats.

I was so unenthused by Boogie Nights that I almost skipped seeing Magnolia, but a cinephile friend recommended it to me and my girlfriend and we ended up watching it in a theatre three or four times, taking additional friends to each screening. In those days I was facilitating a site which only reviewed films from an explicitly Christian angle (as you can tell from the article) and I remember getting several irrate emails in response to the review from church folks who walked out of the film. At the same time, one of my girlfriend's coworkers mentioned that she had seen the film and was very moved by it, feeling like she had "seen something profound," but "wasn't sure what it was." It was instances like that which caused me to wonder who was unpacking these films for people if Christians were walking out of screenings?

I made this point at a church conference I spoke at soon afterward, and someone raised their hand and said, "How can those of us who can't, as you put it, 'engage' films with objectionable content, talk about these films without actually watching them?" I basically said, "you can't," which was not the answer they wanted to hear. I understand that we all have our limits and our seasons, and Magnolia is certainly a provocative film--it's part of its emotional vulnerability and intensity--but sometimes you've just gotta roll back your sleeves and deal with life as it is.

I remember picking up on the multiple "8" and "2" references only on subsequent viewings. Strangely enough, after immersing myself in this film so much in the theatre, I've never rewatched it on video. And I'm not yet convinced that PTA had any real clue what he was tapping into--but the film is still amazingly cohesive and potent.

I'm glad to hear the review resonated with Stef. It's funny to think that the first time he and I interacted on my forum back then was because he was pissed that I dissed The Matrix... but he also raved about Kieslowski, so then I knew he was cool. wink.gif

#4 MattPage

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 03:22 AM

I think this was posted at my request, and having read it I do remember reading it somewhere before, but it was great to re-read it. Doug, this is possibly my favourite film review that I can think of, and it really sums up what I feel watching the film.

I did wonder about your comment above "I'm not yet convinced that PTA had any real clue what he was tapping into". I could understand that after Magnolia but I would have thought that Punch Drunk Love (and of course the fact that your article made it onto his website) indicates otherwise. I mean he may not be aware fully of what he's tapping into, but he seems to have some idea. I hven't seen Boogie Nights, but from what I read its possibly the start of a three part arc, firstly a hopless case of lostness, then a film almost totally about that lostness until a jarring intervention of grace & hope at the end, and then onto PDL where the grace comes in early on and we get to see how it can transform someone after offering that hope that Magnolia ends on.


Matt


FWIW my brother and wife turned it off towrds the end of Cruise's seminar and I'm still trying to convince them that they should have kept going. She did her PhD in Argentinian Lit / Cinema so she's no slouch film wise so there's hope!

#5 Doug C

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 11:37 AM

Good points, Matt. I guess what I mean is that I've always felt the film's coherent spiritual depth is one of its unexpected graces, almost as if PTA was one of his own characters just "writing from the gut" (as he would describe it) and tapping into the something mysterious. In interviews at the time, people would ask him about the meaning of the frogs and he'd say, "Sometimes it just... rains frogs." I know a lot of filmmakers choose not to explain their metaphors and poetic elements and I'm all for that, but it did make me wonder about the limits of his own understanding. Either way, it wouldn't change the worth of the work. Questions of intentionality are usually a dead end street. It will be interesting to see which direction his career goes.

#6 The Invisible Man

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 03:33 AM

I also want to express my appreciation of Doug's article and say what a piece of fine writing it is. It has made me want to immediately go back to the film and reassess it. Thank you, Doug.

One brief comment about Magnolia: many people compare it to Altman's Short Cuts (a squalid and misogynistic little film that I dislike intensely), but when I first watched it I was instantly reminded of Kieslowski's Dekalog (a film that I like a lot).

Edited by The Invisible Man, 13 August 2005 - 03:45 AM.


#7 DanBuck

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 08:21 AM

QUOTE
And I'm not yet convinced that PTA had any real clue what he was tapping into--but the film is still amazingly cohesive and potent.


spoilers1.gif
I agree Doug. I've read interviews where he explained that he really didn't know about the Exodus frog plague when he began writing the piece. He was thinking of an event in New Mexico (I believe) where a twister went over a pond and picked up hundreds of frogs and then subsequently dropped them on a nearby town.

Hearing this interview I was reminded of how I felt the Urban legend theme was so clearly crediting chance and fate with the outcome of the events, and yet from all the 8:2 references the "chance" occurance in this film is anything but chance. In fact, it is a paternal force looking out for those who've been hurt by previous generations. It's as though PTA began writing a story to describe "how fate will step in to help the helpless." And somewhere in the inspiration process God replaced the word "fate" with "I".

#8 Overstreet

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:43 PM

Questions of intentionality are usually a dead end street. It will be interesting to see which direction his career goes.


Doug, since you're interested, it's high time you sat down and watched <i>Punch-drunk Love</i>. Watch it with a good sound system and turn it way up.

Then watch it again.

If he's just "writing from the gut," that's some gut. PDL is full of references to redemption and grace.

Edited by Overstreet, 24 February 2011 - 06:36 PM.


#9 finnegan

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:56 PM

...Waiting for an "ahem "...

Nice review! It pretty much sums up my second viewing experience (after my first viewing I ran home and looked up Exodus 8:2, then returned to the theatre the next day)

Here's a sorta off-topic question, but...

Spoiler

Edited by finnegan, 13 August 2005 - 05:02 PM.


#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:57 PM

Doug C wrote:
: The film's wounded characters come in pairs . . .

Yes, and as I said in my review, this is one of the film's weaknesses:

There are several other characters, but their stories all follow similar themes. Indeed, they are almost too similar for a film of such scope, length, and artistic ambition. More than one character has to deal with cancer, confessions of adultery, strained parent-child relations and the like, but none of these episodes sheds all that much light on the others.

: . . . strange things do happen and offer meaning to our daily lives.

Huh. In what way does a bunch of frogs falling out of the sky "offer meaning"?

DanBuck wrote:
: He was thinking of an event in New Mexico (I believe) where a twister went over a pond
: and picked up hundreds of frogs and then subsequently dropped them on a nearby town.

Not just one incident, I think. To quote Robert Fulford:

Charles Fort was one of those dedicated screwballs who go down in history as minor gurus, their reputations kept alive for generations by loyal followers. Fort was never famous in his lifetime (1874-1932) and even today he seldom pops into public view. But Magnolia, a movie in which his thinking plays an off-screen role, has recently strengthened Fortean devotees in the belief that their hero remains influential.

He made his reputation by defying science just when it was becoming the dominant force in civilization. He believed scientists ignored whatever facts they could not understand, so he tried to uncover inexplicable incidents that he hoped would shake their confidence. He spent his life digging up stories about ghostly apparitions, sea monsters and mysterious lights indicating interplanetary travel. He specialized in live creatures falling from the sky. By the end of his life he had collected "294 records of showers of living things," newspaper accounts of sudden inundations of fish, spiders, worms, crabs -- or frogs. Frogs were his favourites. Reading Fort, you might imagine that there are few villages anywhere that have never experienced a rain of frogs.

He believed they all came from what he called the Super-Sargasso Sea, a region in the air above us cluttered with abandoned cargoes from old interplanetary wrecks, junk left over from earlier centuries on Earth and objects plucked from our midst by cyclones. He invented the term "teleportation" to suggest how such objects were moved about.

[ snip ]

Connoisseurs of the eccentric, the quaint and the charmingly pointless enjoy Fort without taking him seriously. Ben Hecht called all his work a "Gargantuan jest," and from time to time Fort himself claimed not to believe much of it. Perhaps this is the spirit in which Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer and director of Magnolia, approaches him. At the climax of Magnolia, a multitude of huge frogs falls on the San Fernando Valley (they are animatronic dummies or computer simulations; no frog was harmed in the making of this film). If people leaving the theatre are asking where the hell those frogs came from, they now have an answer -- from Charles Fort.

In the film, several signs read "Exodus," suggesting that this is a version of the Biblical plague, but Anderson recently told a Variety reporter, "I got it first from Charles Fort, then from the Bible." He's been reading Fort for five years. Sharp-eyed viewers of the film noticed that it shows a young quiz kid with a paperback copy of Wild Talents, one of Fort's books, which Anderson inserted as a clue and a tribute.

: It's as though PTA began writing a story to describe "how fate will step in to help the
: helpless." And somewhere in the inspiration process God replaced the word "fate" with "I".

Huh. I don't see that at all. Granted that I haven't seen the film since it was brand new almost six years ago, I see a story about the fundamental absurdity of life, and how the only way to find healing is to stop expecting the world to make sense. (You can call this sense of the healing power of the absurd "grace", if you like.) To me the key thing is that Aimee Mann song which equates "wis[ing] up" with "giv[ing] up". Or, to paraphrase Steve Taylor, when people give up hope they really CAN feel a lot better.

#11 The Invisible Man

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Posted 01 September 2005 - 04:25 AM

I was rewatching Three Colours Blue last night, and I couldn't help but wonder if Paul Thomas Anderson had been inspired by this film prior to making Magnolia. Two scenes in particular struck me: the first is the sequence where the camera seems to hop across space, from character to character; the other is the film's final scene where, after so much heartache, the character played by Juliette Binoche breaks into a smile while significant music plays in the background.

I have actually wondered about Anderson and Kieslowski before because I see certain similarities between Magnolia and the Dekalog.

Edited by The Invisible Man, 01 September 2005 - 04:26 AM.


#12 Persona

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Posted 01 September 2005 - 09:39 AM

Life is busier than ever, far too busy to keep up with every thread, so forgive me if it is glaringly obvious that I missed this somewhere, BUT -- Ken, have you read Doug's article? Not that I'm trying to convert you into a Magnoliadorer, but, hmmm.... Have you read it? It sometimes does the trick.

-s.

#13 Persona

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Posted 01 September 2005 - 11:13 AM

QUOTE(kenmorefield @ Sep 1 2005, 11:04 AM)
As an aside, Stef, I hope you know from my at times sarcastic voice that I don't despise this film as much as I pretend to here.  I was not impressed, but my assaults here have less to do with the film itself than with that fact that I do enjoy poking people's sacred cows on occasion (mixed metaphor, huh?), especially when I perceive a willingness to make generalizations based on "well everybody thinks so" rather than specific examinations of the work in question. 

Peace.
Ken

View Post

I do understand that, in fact I tend to believe that this is the kind of personality that fits in best around here. (Think: Dan Buck, Prins, people who tend to keep their humor and stay out of trouble. These people are forever envied in my mind.)

As far as Magnolia and the masses go, I didn't like the film -- I didn't get the film -- until I read the article several years ago. This is one that Doug certainly helped me to reevaluate. I have to say, too, that it is now one of my All Time Favorites --

(and that I read the article LIGHTYEARS before anyone else so, as usual, the masses are clinging to me as I bask in the shadow of the Dougster...) smile.gif

-s.

Edited by stef, 01 September 2005 - 11:14 AM.


#14 the hipster

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Posted 11 March 2006 - 03:36 PM

I thought Magnolia was an excellent film! I think the article on the film was excellent also.
Although I knew it had many spiritual and biblical references, I never caught the 8 and 2.

From the interviews I've read, PT Anderson sounds like a really good guy. He says that he put, "every detail, every little embarrassing thing I had to say, in Magnolia."
I have not seen Punch Drunk Love or Boogie Nights yet, but I should probably check them out since I enjoyed this film so much. I can't wait for his next film, There will be Blood , to come out.

#15 Jeff Kolb

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 07:12 PM

We watched this a few nights ago. It was my second viewing, after seeing it when it came out a number of years ago. I was excited to watch it with my wife, mostly because of the authenticity of the characters and the grace shown by the protagonists. What a glorious bundle of redemption...

By protagonists, I mean Reilly's and Hoffman's characters. After discussing the film, the phrase that seemed to best describe their role was "moral center". I think that phrase gets thrown around a bit in film talk, but these two characters demonstrate a specific take on it. First, I find the characters believable, both within the world of the film and within my world...that of the viewer. More importantly, they are trustworthy...again, within the context of the film but more importantly to the mind and heart of the viewer. The characters' presence lends a gentle gravity to the film. They allow the viewer a touch of mental rest in the middle of this storm of a movie.

This role of "moral center" is strengthened by the fact that these two men are obviously flawed, Reilly's character notably more so than Hoffman's. But it is just this sort of honest portrayal of character that allows the viewer to trust them. Something in their character allows the viewer (or me, at least) to believe that these two men care about more than themselves, even if they make plenty of mistakes along the way.

Magnolia is one of those films that I came back to, years after first seeing it, wondering if it will hold up. Will those films that affected me so strongly at the time still have power, or will they look a little...tepid...or worse, silly? A few months ago, it was The Seventh Seal; now, it's Magnolia. Both have been reafirmed as favorites.

#16 MichaelRay

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 08:54 AM

QUOTE(Jeff Kolb @ May 16 2006, 08:12 PM) View Post

This role of "moral center" is strengthened by the fact that these two men are obviously flawed, Reilly's character notably more so than Hoffman's. But it is just this sort of honest portrayal of character that allows the viewer to trust them. Something in their character allows the viewer (or me, at least) to believe that these two men care about more than themselves, even if they make plenty of mistakes along the way.

Jeff, I'm so happy that you still find this movie fulfilling! It's one of my favorites as well. One thing that I've always loved about the two characters that you mention is that they exhibit an innocense that the rest of the cast doesn't have and then they are juxtaposed next to characters that are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, Hoffman/Cruise and Reilly/Walters, and it's that innocense that seems to bring about healing in the lives of the people they come in contact with. They don't seem to know that they are helping but they act out of this drive to do the right thing.

I always tear up when Reilly admits to losing his gun and Walters' smile at the end is such a beautiful response to the grace that she's been shown. And the montage of everyone singing the Aimee Mann song is one of my favorite uses of a song in film.

We'll have to watch this together someday, maybe when we're on our farm.

#17 MattPage

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 09:08 AM

We got the soundtrack a while back and I really liked what PT Anderson said in the notes. BAsically he was saying that Magnolia is an adaptation of a bunch of Aimee Mann's songs a bit like how people adapt novels or plays, he was adapting songs into a film. The pivotal song according to him is the one that I don't think appears in the film, but the first line is spoken by Walters, "Now that I've found you, wopuld you object to, never seeing each other again?"

Matt

#18 MichaelRay

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 09:12 AM

QUOTE(MattPage @ May 17 2006, 10:08 AM) View Post

We got the soundtrack a while back and I really liked what PT Anderson said in the notes. BAsically he was saying that Magnolia is an adaptation of a bunch of Aimee Mann's songs a bit like how people adapt novels or plays, he was adapting songs into a film.

That's really interesting. I've always liked Mann's work but have never followed her closely. So are the characters in the film characters from various songs that Anderson kind of worked together into the story?


#19 MattPage

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:44 AM

I don't think so. I would imagine that it's not so literally minded as that, more an emotional thing.

Matt

I don't think so. I would imagine that it's not so literally minded as that, more an emotional thing.

Matt

#20 Mark

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Posted 17 May 2006 - 10:49 AM

Really interesting, Matt. I've never been a Magnolia fan, and that actually illuminates something about why the film feels false to me ... the characters have always felt too over the top and emotionally overwrought. It actually makes sense that this would be the case if they are vaguely based on themes from a catalogue of songs.

BTW, I don't mean that as a slam against the movie ... it actually puts the film into a better context for me to understand what Anderson was visualizing. The one part that really stands out is the "Save Me" sequence, which makes total sense if his goal was to adapt Mann's songs into an overarching story. (Love that line you quote from Walters, too.)





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