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Monday, January 7th, 2008

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On Saturday, I and gnosticpi met up with his_regard at Hot Doug's and ate some amazing elk hot dogs (with winter-ale mustard, bacon, and jack cheese).

This served as more than adequate preparation for seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's newest, There Will Be Blood at the Evanston Cinemark, not least because there is a bar in that theater. And holy jumping cats was TWBB good. My Oklahoma blood thrilled to this agon torn from some oil-field Seneca, but there's more than just Oklahoman, or even American, particularism in it for me, for all that the film is absolutely enmeshed in landscape and in explicit American myth-allegory. (As one would expect from something adapted from the first half of an Upton Sinclair novel.)

Anderson turns his usual directorial shotgun to full-choke for this masterpiece of Wellesian proportions. Structurally, TWBB is the first half of a Greek tragedy, perhaps, although the anagnorisis and catastrophe (and what a catastrophe) both storm in by the last twenty minutes. During the first twenty minutes, in which (among other things) the infant H.W. is found in a basket and baptized with a smear of oil on the forehead, I had to actively suppress the Tim Powers novel going off in my head in order to let the rest of the film slam into me -- although Jonny Greenwood's astonishing score and Daniel Day-Lewis' no-less transfiguring performance as the oil man Plainview made it inevitable that I would succumb. In between are two hours of mesmerizing brilliance that seem both to take an eternity and to flash by in an instant, so perfectly does Anderson balance tension and catharsis.

I am going to have a hard time deciding between There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, and Zodiac as best film of 2007, but as his_regard points out, it's a good problem to have. During the car ride back, we briefly tried to figure out if we could map any of the three to clear victory in writing, acting, or directing, but all three are just too damn good at everything. But There Will Be Blood definitely gets best score.

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