DID YOU READ

“There Will Be Blood”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

“There Will Be Blood,” the title promises. But it never really comes, at least not in the sort of quantities we’ve seen in other movies this fall, like “No Country For Old Men” or “Sweeney Todd.” In the film’s climax, its protagonist, oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) tells his antagonist, preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), that he drinks “the blood of the land” every day. There’s something to that symbolism, I think. Most of this man’s transgressions are subterranean, lurking out of view of the public he needs and secretly despises.

There’s a bit of Charles Foster Kane to this Plainview man, and maybe a bit of C. Montgomery Burns as well. We meet him in his youth during an extended sequence that shows his early mining ventures and his transition from silver prospecting to oil. The scenes are noteworthy for sketching out most of Plainview’s character without the benefit of dialogue, but given the precise choices director and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson makes, it’s obvious the actions speak more clearly than words would. We know what kind of man he is when the ladder of the silver mine he’s working on collapses while he’s climbing it, and he falls to the base, breaking a leg and maybe a few ribs. Plainview claws his way out of the pit and then crawls his way back to civilization.

The action picks up again in 1911 after Plainview has begun to make his fortune in earnest. When one of his workers dies on the job, he adopts his orphan son not out of the goodness of his heart, but rather a sense that having his own son would lend his huckster sales pitches an air of familial respectability. He totes this child around everywhere, telling anyone who cares to listen that he’s his “business partner.” But notice how many words Plainview and his son actually share — almost none. Later, an accident befalls Plainview’s son and the boy switches from an asset to a liability. Notice what happens then, as well.

Anderson’s counterpoint to Plainview’s character is Sunday, who is as skeptical of Plainview’s hucksterisms as he is certain of his own role as a divine instrument. Plainview needs Sunday’s land, Sunday wants Plainview’s money for his church. So the two are pitted in direct conflict, giving Anderson the chance to ask the movie’s crucial question: Does salvation come from God or from money?

Much of the middle of the movie is devoted to imagery that suggests the intermingling of these two pursuits. After Plainview ignores Sunday’s request to dedicate their new oil derrick with a prayer, a series of accidents befall the venture. Then a serious setback occurs when an explosion at the well shoots out a geyser of oil. When the inky spew turns into a giant tower of fire, it’s as if hell itself is pouring out of the Earth. When Sunday later confronts Plainview, the scene is established with a breathtaking shot of the heavens reflected in a murky puddle of crude. When Plainview finally talks about the “blood of the land,” and you see where their respective philosophies have led both men, you have to conclude that Anderson’s decided that both choices are dead ends; in the end, there will only be blood, and nothing more after that.

Day-Lewis is phenomenal, but at this point, that’s to be expected. The real discovery is Dano, who matches his highly pedigreed costar in scene after scene. His performance is both shocking in its fervor and terrifying in its believability; when he “heals” a member of his church by casting Satan out of his congregation while screaming and shoving and shaking, it seems like he’s the one possessed by a supernatural force, not the woman with the achy hands. (Ever the skeptic, Plainview is ready with a dynamite response: “Well, that was one goddamn hell of a show!”) Sunday’s Church of the Third Revelation is the setting for many of the best scenes, including Plainview’s reluctant baptism, where Sunday confronts him about his mistreatment of his son.

Still, I wish “There Will Be Blood” had a bit more blood — not literally, but figuratively. As terrific as both stars are, there is something a bit inevitable about their conflict, and as convincing as Dano is, he’s never really a true equal or rival for the power that Plainview craves and eventually wields. Their battle is a little one-sided and so the ending, however appropriate, is also bit of a foregone conclusion.

Regardless, the film has a powerful impact. Particularly impressive is Anderson’s use of Jonny Greenwood’s eerie electronic score to create a mood of underlying menace when none would seem to exist onscreen, and his remarkable recreation of turn of the century oil rush country. Technically, he’s as sharp as any director working. One could even say he drinks the blood of the cinema every day.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.