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there will be blood & no country for old men…

February 25, 2008

no, i did not watch the oscar last night… actually it’s been years since i watched it because since i had a tv that gets any channels… i did think about going to my friends’ house to watch it since i’ve watched many movies this year… but as we all know the oscar is not really about which movie and/or who really deserve to win… it’s like an award chosen by all the “super-delegates” of movie industry and they give it to whoever they think it’s time for them to win or any other kinds of political reasons or whatever it might be… and although i had watched it somewhat religiously since i was little but after “mystic river” won the best picture, i was really annoyed by the whole deal… after all “citizen kane” didn’t win anything except the best screen play… that says it all…
but i’m not writing this to discuss the oscar…

i don’t know why but this morning when i woke up it was really clear why i absolutely loved “there will be blood” while i only liked “no country for old men” which took 4 oscars last night… and also why most of people i’ve talked liked “there will be blood” while they adored “no country for old men”…
interesting part is that both movies are about very dark characters… cold blooded. will do anything in order to get what they want, driven by greed… and both share amazing cinematography showing the desert and open field of the south, a perfect backdrop to the darker side of human nature and also desperation of it all… and the directors for both of them are definitely on top of their game… i’ve liked coen brothers for a while although i think i liked them more when i was younger… and i liked paul thomas anderson… loved “boogie nights”, liked “magnolia” but hated “punch-drunk love”… and all the actings in both movies are absolutely superb… i still think javier bardem’s anton, the hired killer is one of the most memorable characters in a while and also thought all other supporting characters were really excellent and convincing, especially josh brolin and kelly macdonald… didn’t think tommy lee jones played anything different from his last role from “the three burials of melquiades estrada”… in “there will be blood” daniel day-lewis is absolutely amazing and paul dano was just brilliant as usual and that kid dillon freasier stole my heart and broke it throughout the movie… (however he does represents the redemption at the end thankfully… too bad this kid couldn’t play the grown up part either… this kid is sooooooo amazing…)
(i think it was another typical film industry job to nominate javier bardem for the best supporting role to ensure his win because he is not a supporting character of the movie by any means… not saying he didn’t deserve it… read on, please…)

however the most essential difference, at least to me, is that “there will be blood” is a lot darker movie than “no country for old men”…

while i was watching “no country for old men” i was totally mesmerized by its beauty of the scenery, intense acting, fascinating characters and even sense of intimacy… but as soon as i left the theater, i forgot all about it… it was a really interesting experience in that sense…somehow it leaves the audience totally outside the characters like most of other coen brothers’ movies… we are there to observe what the characters are doing to each other and themselves… meanwhile we don’t have any need to connect to the characters… javier bardem’s killer is a total sociopath and those kind of people do exist but most of us are not… and josh brolin’s llewelyn who is totally blinded by his greed which we might be able to sympathize with but since he becomes a target of the killer, leaving no way out for him, we don’t have to take that sympathy beyond certain point… and as we watch how anton hunts him down and each time the net gets tighter and tighter, all we have to do it to hold on tightly to our seats… however we are still safe…
while in “there will be blood” we see daniel day-lewis’ daniel plainview who is also driven by his greed but more importantly by his hatred of man kind… however he doesn’t show this to other people that easily… he knows how to put different masks in front of others accordingly… once in a while it slips but most of time he knows how to wear that mask… and the same for paul dano’s evangelist eli who uses religion to gather power… these are people who are like you and me… we might not have that extreme hatred or power hunger but we all have a bit of it in us… not all the time but some times… we might have learned not to show it, even to ourselves, and even hopefully how to overcome that dark side but it is a part of human nature… and along with these characters there is dillon freasier’s HW who is a kid yet with old soul who senses other people’s most subtle inner shifts, who represents our most basic emotional need as human… need to love and be loved… again we see a bit of ourselves in him… which can be enlightening or frightening…
interestingly neither of these movies show what happened to anton, hired killer or daniel plainview earlier in their lives to justify their inability to be “human”… neither of them show abusive fathers or cold mothers or painful heartbreaks to tell us this is why they are so awful… at least true through out in “no country for old men”… anton stays as a sociopath and inhuman until the very end leaving him totally separate from us… however toward to the end of “there will be blood” we see glimpse of how broken daniel plainview actually is… not enough to justify of course but just enough to say he is also human… he is also one of us… but then he goes right back hiding himself behind his brutality and hatred…
also i’ve read a several reviews that “there will be blood” was about capitalism which i absolutely agree but it’s also more importantly why capitalism was even possible and accepted in our society and history… its’ because of our dark side of our nature which we are condition to hide… greed and selfishness…
one of the most affective part of about “there will be blood” for me was how paul thomas anderson presented this dark side in such plain language… there’s no lengthy speech about why daniel plainview hates people… but he speaks it simply and hands it to you on a plate for you to chew on it… and you know what, i can relate to it… it’s frightening to look at it straight but that darkness does exist inside of me…
this acquaintance of mine said to me a couple of nights ago that she thought all the characters in “there will be blood” was unbelievable and the story was predictable and the dialog was boring… and now i know what i could’ve said… this movie is not about how story unfolds in front of our eyes and see what happens to other people… but rather to reflect upon what’s happening in the movie… meanwhile what happens in “no country for old men” is a story… not a bad one but still a story that i’m not a part of it…
again, this is not to diss ” no country for old men” by any means but just to compare those two movies… for me “there will be blood” is absolutely a masterpiece i can dwell upon it for a long time… sure, i’ll watch “no country for old men” again but it’ll be for totally different kind of enjoyment…
i have to say it’s really exciting and stimulating for me to figure out why one affected me more than the others… other than just saying “i loved it…!”

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5 Comments
  1. Hi Okkyung, hope you’re well. I’ve been wondering why I liked There Will Be Blood so much more, and you’re totally right! No Country for Old Men is a brilliant genre/style/filmmaking exercise, but There Will Be Blood is all these and more. And it’s not just that the content is deeper – that makes the form more fresh. I want to go and see it again now . . .

  2. i’m glad it made some sense… it was bugging me that “no country for old men” wan getting all these awards and recognition… it’s kind of funny that this all came clear to me when i woke up that day… guess my subconscious was working it out…i definitely want to see it again too…

  3. Dear Okkyung,having seen TWBB a second time what struck me was how truly human and sensitive Daniel Day Lewis’ character was and the perfect inevitability of his actions. i think at the core of the film’s darkness and its parallels to capitalism is the inescapability [sp] of the conclusion.

  4. no country for old men is unassumingly clever… tons of unexpected plot twists but it never goes over the top. well done from a movie making angle, dumbfounding form a moral angle.

  5. whassup Okkyung…i haven’t seen No Country, but i just went to see Blood. Shit man that movie was like a nightmare that never left my head, even though this is the third day after I’ve seen it. The power of the movie is really something.I theater-hopped to another auditorium to watch Stephen Chow’s “CJ7” to lighten up a bit after such a heavy movie, but I hardly have any memories of that movie.As for Blood, I just couldn’t stop remembering every detail.Guess I will watch it again.p/s: Got Blood’s album just now, i couldn’t forget the music either.—Chern Hwei

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