Paul Thomas Anderson

There Will Be Blood

"What's this? Why don't I own this? Why don't I own this?"

"What's this? Why don't I own this? Why don't I own this?"

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. 2007.

"I have a competition in me," Daniel Plainview says. "I want no one else to succeed." Plainview isn't driven by greed so much as contempt. He sees the worst in people, hates everyone. His soul is the black liquid he hauls up and deposits in the dirt, sometimes shooting skyward, his crooked, wobbly frame the flaming derrick burning long into the night and morning, infinite reserves. There Will Be Blood is a great movie that leaps time a little too quickly in its third act, but it ends at the perfect moment. Plainview's monologue begins the movie with the address, "Ladies and gentlemen...." He ends the movie with, "I'm finished." Appropriate, as it's a movie showcasing not only a single actor -- a titan, a colossus in American movies -- but also a single character. I'll always prefer the internalization of Barry Egan's violence, but this is, next to that, Paul Thomas Anderson's finest movie.

Punch-Drunk Love

"I didn't do anything. I'm a nice man. I mind my own business. So you tell me 'that's that' before I beat the hell from you. I have so much strength in me you have no idea. I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine. I would say 'that's that', Mattress Man."

"I didn't do anything. I'm a nice man. I mind my own business. So you tell me 'that's that' before I beat the hell from you. I have so much strength in me you have no idea. I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine. I would say 'that's that', Mattress Man."

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. 2002.

I believe the best love stories spring from lonely characters, and Barry Egan is as lonely as characters come. His and Lena's walk hand in hand down the hallway of the Princeville Hotel in Hawaii is the sort of scene you crave in movies: the consolidation of two lonely hearts observed discreetly. For much of the movie, we're in Barry's head. Not here. Here, the director knows it's time to step back and watch these wondrous characters from afar, to give them their privacy, and we're oh so happy for them. "Perfect for Romance" is the Princeville's motto. Punch-Drunk Love is perfect for it, too.

Magnolia

"The book says, 'We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"

"The book says, 'We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. 1999.

Magnolia gets heat for being long, but I don't think so. For me, it's more like spending three hours (or, if you go by the movie's timeline, one rainy day) in the company of interesting and sometimes horrible people (in other words: people). For your consideration: Anderson's adept handling of mise en scene, the camera's movement, the lighting, the editing -- all top notch. Also, the way the rain beads on Officer Jim's uniform. The sequence in Claudia's apartment -- when Jim responds to a "disturbance" -- remains one of the most endearing things I've seen on film.  As for those much-maligned frogs, well, there are foreshadowings throughout the movie, glimpses of signs bearing a tell-tale verse from Exodus (though they're hardly visible on the small screen), and the entire movie builds toward a revelation of this sort: that there is a power at work in the minutiae of life, that yes, strange things do happen all the time, but not without design. So why frogs? I don't know. And I'm not sure I'm meant to. I like that.