Classics of the New Millennium: "There Will Be Blood" (2007) with guest critic Manohla Dargis
The New York Times film critic and I dissect Paul Thomas Anderson's all-American masterpiece of oil and religion.
One of the great pleasures of putting together the “Classics of the New Millennium” podcast series — I suspect it may have been the impetus all along — is that it gives me an excuse to revisit movies I may have liked or loved well enough when they came out but am now curious as to whether they’ll last. Many do, some don’t, and some deepen their grip with each passing year. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) felt like a film out of time in 2007 — hewing to no known cliches of Hollywood screenwriting or story structure, it seemed to have dropped in from a century earlier in look and feel and sound. Sixteen years on, it plays more than ever like a foundational American masterpiece, a movie that gets into the guts of what makes this country so terrible and great. It is about our twin engines of capital and religion — personified, respectively and unforgettably, by Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano — and about the families we idealize while leaving them behind in the dust of our ambitions. It’s a work of magisterial craft, from Robert Elswit’s uncannily period-appropriate cinematography to Johnny Greenwood’s yawing, vertiginous score — music from the bowels of the earth. And it’s proof, if you’re still looking for it, that Paul Thomas Anderson is one of our true originals — a storyteller whose vision and rhythms are daringly his own. In a cowardly film industry addicted to imitating the last big thing, whatever that may be, this marks him as a radical, a revolutionary, a bomb-thrower, except that the bombs he throws are tales of empathetic monsters who bear more than a slight resemblance, if we’re honest enough to admit it, to the faces we see when we look in the mirror. Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” is my personal favorite of his works, and a movie I hope to get to in this series, but “There Will Be Blood” remains the one that convinced me and a lot of other people that here was a filmmaker to stand with the greatest narrators of the American drama and the human comedy.
The film is based, very loosely, on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil!” and can be easily found online: It’s streaming on Paramount+ and Hoopla and a $4 rental on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube, and elsewhere. My guest for discussing the film is the estimable New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, one of the smartest and most trenchant reviewing voices out there, and a friend and film festival colleague of many years standing. I hope you enjoy the conversation — we certainly had fun talking about the film. And thanks, Manohla, for prompting me to revisit a work that only improves with age.
Thanks for listening! Have any thoughts? Want to suggest a movie for this series? Don’t hesitate to weigh in.
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