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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.