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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Good. I'm glad you liked Magnolia. I liked it better than Boogie Nights, but these are two of my favorite movies of the 1990's, so I really don't like to pick -- both are absolute masterpieces! Punch Drunk Love was a step down for P.T. Anderson, but it was by far the best Adam Sandler movie I've ever seen. I agree about Philip Seymour Hoffman & Julianne Moore, although I think my favorite part was John C. Reilly as the cop who tried to help that poor druggie girl. I know many cops probably go into that line of work thinking they can "change the world." Here was a perfectly nice guy who was getting himself into a relationship which had the very real possibility of taking him down the wrong road in life, but he pursued it anyway in the name of "helping." Fascinating. I could've seen a whole movie on just their relationship.

After seeing Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, & Minority Report, I'm VERY impressed with where Tom Cruise is in his career now. He could have just settled for "Mr. Blockbuster," but he's too smart for that. I hope he finally wins an Oscar someday.

BTW, speaking of Philip Seymour Hoffman, you should rent "Happiness." It was the first movie I saw him in, and his performance just blew me away. It was so real, I never got the impression he was acting. Since then, I've always felt that way about him, but I'll never forget Happiness. It's tough to watch though. It's about a pedophile, so don't let the kids see it -- under any circumstances.

Now, you mentioned the frogs: This has been one of the most talked-about film gimmicks in history. What the hell did they mean or represent? My take is that they were the "tying together" factor. Movies like this (or many of Robert Altman's pictures) need something at the end (or sometimes the beginning) to tie all the characters & stories together. In MASH, it was the football game. In Nashville, it was the outdoor country-music concert. In Short Cuts (the movie Magnolia most resembles, I think), it was the crop-dusters. In Magnolia, something was needed to sort of bring all these characters under one roof, figuratively speaking. Since P.T. Anderson couldn't think of anything else, he simply had it rain frogs.

Now, this begs the question, why couldn't he have just made it rain plain old rain -- even a hurricane or strong thunderstorm would've accomplished the literary technique he was after. I believe he did it for this reason: P.T. Anderson went WAY out on a limb with this movie. In fact, some critics said he went too far; that Magnolia was the most pompous self-indulging work by any director in all of history. From the opening newsreel segment about unrelated miracles of nature, to the body of the film where many distraught, pathetic characters try to mend the failures of past relationships & start difficult new ones -- some took it to be directoral overkill, if you will. Some thought Anderson was just showing off. The old "Hey, I'm good & I know it" routine. In this way, he's been compared to a young Orson Welles -- pompous, egotistical, & self-indulgent, yet absolutely brilliant. In fact, I read one account which said Anderson is already to the point where he feels like he can throw anything into a movie (whether it makes any sense or not) and some people will declare it a "brilliant" move, even though it's cinematically stupid. Like the piano in "Punch Drunk Love." What did it have to do with the rest of the movie? Did Anderson throw it in because he thought, "I'm the most brilliant young director out there these days; I'll throw in the meaningless piano simply because I can!"

I believe these critics up to a point. Granted, each of his movies contains some aspect of a director showing off. But hell, Quentin Tarantino does that! And so did Alfred Hitchcock, for Chrissakes! So, don't knock the guy because he's good.

I was "with him" the whole way on Magnolia. Yes, I admit it was a big, sweeping, epic -- not like Gone With The Wind was an epic, but like Pulp Fiction was an epic -- a directoral masterpiece that's so good we don't even mind (and actually like & respect him more) when he shows off a little. I guess by the time Anderson got to the "Gee, now I need to somehow tie all these stories together" phase, he figured:

A. I can play it safe & have all the characters get caught up in a big rain storm, or something of this nature, OR

B. I can push this film just a little further over the edge, so that all the Andy Rays out there proclaim, "My God, he HAS created a masterpiece!!! I love him! He's the greatest director in the world." And all the Mr. Skeptics of the world proclaim, "Jesus, now he really HAS gone too far! This is ridiculous. Frogs?!?! You're totally off your fuckin' rocker, Anderson. Go crawl back under the rock you came from!"

Fortunately for me, he picked "B" -- and I love him even more for taking the chance in the first place. It was a risky move for a young director, but God was it worth it! I will never forget this movie -- even more so because he used frogs rather than rain.

And I loved how the characters could've cared less that it was raining frogs. In fact, they didn't even question the oddity of it all. They were so self-absorbed, they just went about their daily routines.

So there. That's my take on the long & short of the frogs. Long explanation, but I could talk about movies like this forever.

My minister preached on Miracle the other week -- teamwork being the point. He loved it too. From the previews, it appears to me that they really nailed the "look" of 1980. In many ways, that era sucked, but that's no reason we can't be nostalgic for it too. "The Pina Collada Song" always does it for me. Not only do Catherine & I consider that to be somewhat of "our song," since we met through the personals of the Indianapolis Monthly, but it always makes me nostalgic for that era.

And I've never been a hockey fan. Basketball was all I ever knew, growing up in Indiana. But I did watch that game that afternoon. For some reason, EVERYBODY watched it. And when we won, EVERYBODY celebrated. People were honking their horns on the suburban streets of Carmel, because of our collective happiness over that game.

I suppose that game was just what the U.S. needed. Inflation & interest rates were as high as they've ever been, Iran had our hostages & we seemed powerless to get them back, and things just basically sucked. We needed that game. It's sort of like the '69 Mets. After the escallation of the Viet Nam War, the race riots, the burning of Detroit & L.A., Woodstock, etc., we needed some "miracle" like the '69 Mets to bring us all together -- if even for a fleeting moment in time.

That's all for now. Sorry to ramble, but we're heading into our "quiet" time of year here at the office, so I'll probably have more time to devote to the blog -- at least until after next Labor Day.

Andy


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