my celluloid saint

there are rare moments when i believe that god is visible in film...it's uncommon--sure there are films that entertain me...ones that engage me...ones that make me chuckle...and I don't often ask much of the movies I watch. I'm thrilled with the mindless joy of a silly teeny-bopper movie or romantic comedy...in the past few days there have been three that, while not the best in the world, have been just what I was looking for, one after the next after the next...i'm embarassed to admit.

but there is one director who constantly keeps me in awe...who seems to consistently entertain, intrigue, and engage me....who makes me envy his skill to the point of greenness...and who provides me with immeasurable quantities of those rare moments when i forget to breathe because the film is so incredible. he occupies that space just inside the front hall of household name-dom...and he deserves a place at the dining room table as far as I'm concerned.

paul thomas anderson, catapulted to the heights of my consciousness when I saw the film that has become my personal jesus--magnolia. Magnolia is a complicated story that leaves the viewer constantly in awe of the art and craft that went into both writing it and making it. It is a constant reminder of the power of our personal demons, and the reality that life, however strange and inconsistant, will go on. It is the film that changed my life. if you haven't seen it, you should. (not to mention the fantastic soundtrack from Aimee Mann). Summed up in one line, Magnolia: 

There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and who only knows?

But the genius of anderson is in all of his films--from Hard Eight, a fantastic first film that is, on the surface, about gambling, and at its core about the realities of life; to Boogie Nights, which proves that no world is perfect; to Punch Drunk Love, which leaves us all with the valuable lesson that, no matter how we have limited ourselves in the past...the future can always exist with hope.

The joy of watching any Paul Thomas Anderson film, however, is his ability to demand and draw out the most amazing performances from any actor--Magnolia proves this 100 fold with remarkable performances by Philip Seymor Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Jason Robards (in his final film) and others...but the cake topper here is the completely uncharacteristic performance from Tom Cruise--as insane as Cruise has proved himself to be recently...he has never been more talented and less egocentric in his acting than he was here, under Anderson's tutelage.

If he could do it for Cruise, is it any wonder that Marky Mark turned Mark Wahlberg under the same mastery? That Adam Sandler proved his own acting skill with Anderson behind the camera in Punch Drunk Love? It shouldn't be...but it is always amazing to see the performances that PTA pulls from the actors he works with. But don't take my word for it...check out this article from Esquire...and believe what you read.In all of his films, however, he has demonstrated a natural filmmaking flair, a bent for risk taking, and a predilection for taking actors where they might otherwise never get to go. But what further distinguishes him is a skill much rarer among modern young filmmakers—his ability as a dramatist.

PTA has made a name for himself as an ensemble director--a young Robert Altman (and, actually, the director Altman selected to complete his last film on the event of his death prior to the end of production). But, this year, he stretched his skill, his limits and showed himself the greatest director of his generation--blowing Quentin Tarantino and others who were vying for the title clear back to film school with There Will Be Blood. Based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! and starring Daniel Day Lewis--a man who I think is one of the best actors in film, ever--There Will Be Blood is the Citizen Kane of the 21st Century...a movie that is so darkly allegorical and telling and just...true...that I can't imagine our children and our children's children looking back at it as proof that film, as art, was alive and well during our time.
I leave you with the quote from Magnolia that I think speaks volumes about what art means...and how life imitates it so very well.  
And we generally say, "Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it." Someone's so-and-so met someone else's so-and-so and so on. And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that strange things happen all the time. And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."