Beale on “Blood”

Manhattan hotshot journo Lewis Beale is the latest smart guy to allow his personal feelings to get in the way of acknowledging the malignant greatness of There Will Be Blood. In his not-yet-posted Film Journal review he admits it’s “a major work from an extremely talented director that’s been “meticulously made and contains some astonishing set pieces,” and another one of Daniel Day-Lewis‘s “astonishing, burrowing-into-the-role performances.” But it “centers on a pretty reprehensible human being whose actions become less sympathetic, and more bizarre, as the story unfolds.” Beale calls it “a flawed, at times distasteful piece that will turn off as many viewers as it turns on. Is it art? Undoubtedly. Commercial? Probably not.”

93 thoughts on “Beale on “Blood”

  1. Caustic712 on said:

    I hate it when smart guys allow their personal feelings to get in the way of acknowledging greatness. I sure hope I never run into that again!

  2. It’s a “major work” from an “extremely talented” director with “astonishing set-pieces” and an “astonishing” performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.

    So what’s the problem, apart from all this astonishment? That it isn’t commercial? That the main character isn’t sympathetic?

    I don’t understand the hedging we’re seeing from some early reviews. Sure, Day-Lewis’ oilman isn’t someone you want to have a pint with. But, hell, neither was King Lear. And that play seemed to work OK.

    I think too many people are having their tastes diluted by formulaic writing, where every hero has to “go through an arc” and have a “redemptive” moment.

    Happens a lot in by-the-numbers screeplays. Not so much in real life, or great art.

  3. It’s a “major work” from an “extremely talented” director with “astonishing set-pieces” and an “astonishing” performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.

    So what’s the problem, apart from all this astonishment? That it isn’t commercial? That the main character isn’t sympathetic?

    I don’t understand the hedging we’re seeing from some early reviews. Sure, Day-Lewis’ oilman isn’t someone you want to have a pint with. But, hell, neither was King Lear. And that play seemed to work OK.

    I think too many people are having their tastes diluted by formulaic writing, where every hero has to “go through an arc” and have a “redemptive” moment.

    Happens a lot in by-the-numbers screenplays. Not so much in real life, or great art.

  4. I saw TWBB yesterday. It is extremely intelligent and compelling, but it lacks heart and soul and the lead character is utterly loathsome; it is a movie perhaps best enjoyed by the sort of person who likes to rubberneck at auto accidents.

  5. So, it’s an astonishing, intelligent compelling major work, but be warned, the lead character is a meanie?

    I think I’m okay with that.

  6. I haven’t seen TWBB, but what exactly does loathsome mean here? Is Day-Lewis’s character worse than Michael Corleone or Alex de Large or Tony Soprano or Mickey and Mallory? If so, why does that in and of itself matter?

  7. How loathsome, AJW? Take the most despicable aspects of John Huston’s character Noah Cross in CHINATOWN and times them by ten. Your picks are all antiheroes; Day-Lewis is playing an asshole.

  8. It doesn’t matter Noah. Ian is still right. There weren’t even any songs or CGI chipmunks. Truly awful stuff. Oh, and everyone in the trailer looks all dirty and oily. Ick.

    AJW. It doesn’t matter, but the thing is, DDL isn’t as loathesome as people are saying. Unlike Alexander de Large, there is humanity in Daniel Plainview. He’s not just a construct to prove a point.

  9. Margot at the Wedding was the other movie destroyed this year because of these complaints that unlikable characters make a movie somehow unworthy of year-end praise.

    I don’t quite understand this myself, especially when the alternative is embracing ingratiating crud like Juno.

  10. I’m guessing that the only reason I felt different about this movie and the reason I was practically cheering DDL’s character on by the end of it was because I saw Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead a couple days before seeing this. That movie’s characters are much more loathsome than Plainview.

  11. Margo at the Wedding was destroyed because everyone sounded like they were the same thirty-something whiner; Juno is insufferable because everyone sounds like they were written by a teenage girl. To give TWBB credit at least all of the characters sound like real human beings, even if you wouldn’t want to spend any more time than you had to with them.

  12. Wait Ian, you didn’t like the scene in TWBB where Daniel Day-Lewis has sex with his own daughter…? Oh wait, that never happend. So, how is he ten times worse than Noah Cross again? Nasty powerful bad man: check. Hustonian delivery: check.

    So, what else?

  13. As CJ said, Huston’s most despicable aspect was fucking and impregnating his (underage?) daughter, then stealing the girl away at the end.

    His less despicable parts involved the water scheme, which are what seem more in line with Day-Lewis’s character.

    Is he Gordon Gecko with oil? Gecko qualifies as an asshole, right?

  14. Ian, I’m convinced that you have never seen a single movie in your entire life and that you base your opinions on what you can find on the web. Tell me which screening room you saw There Will Be Blood at or stop pretending like you’ve seen it and spouting off the same five things that you’ve been saying for months.

  15. This is why — in spite of Jeff’s claim that magazines are obsolete — I can never get enough of Film Comment, Cinemascope, Sight & Sound, etc. Since they aren’t preoccupied with how many hits they get, they can actually write about films, without framing every article in relation to box office and moronic commercial sensibilities. Still, it sounds to me like Beale is just covering his ass: “I liked it, but dumb people won’t like it… but I’m not dumb… seriously, I kinda liked it.”

  16. He’s absolutely trying to have it both ways. The sad thing is, now more than ever we need good critics to champion worthy films that are getting buried by the gossip and box office reporting of the 24 hour news cycle.

    Pandering to the masses will get you eyeballs, but it does nothing for movies. And I’m not trying to be elitist. Everyone likes some feel good crap now and then, but I genuinely believe that deep down most people like to be challenged. Sometimes they just need a little prodding. These critics are just caving in.

  17. “I genuinely believe that deep down most people like to be challenged.”

    And I genuinely believe that deep down most people would think you are a patronising arthouse nerd. It wouldn’t necessarily be that deep down, either.

  18. I genuinely believe you haven’t seen There Will Be Blood. Prove me wrong by telling me where you saw it. Otheriwse, you are just an annoying troll.

  19. Well I saw it on Tuesday in DGA Theater #2 (The small one) with Bruce, the Below The Line guy introducing the film even though it wasn’t a BTL screening and with the prod. designer Jack Fisk in attendance along with other crew.. the reception afterwards was pretty cool too.

  20. Ian, what did you think of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead because compared to the characters in that film, Plainview is quite endearing.

  21. We should start a pool to see how many posts into a conversation it takes Hunter to start calling people names. This time around it was four.

  22. Well, we already know what he’s going to say in any given post (except for when he drops unverified doozies like ‘I wrote the last act of Beowulf’) so why not use him for sport?

  23. ZayTonday, I have yet to see it. We keep trying to double-bill it with a second screening of No Country For Old Men (which we loved) but life keeps making other plans.

  24. I forgot Hunter Tremayne wrote the last act of Beowulf! He also secretly produced Enchanted, co-directed The Golden Compass and financed Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

  25. On the subject of popular reviewers disliking new movies for being different: some years ago I was leafing through a stack of old Newsweeks and came upon an issue in which the movie reviewer expressed disappointment with two new followups to recent hits. The former, a drama, they found dark, confusing and overlong compared to its predecessor, lacking the magnetic characterizations of its original. The latter, a comedy, they found too sedate and tasteful, not as funny as the anarchic previous film from that same writer-director. In both cases, a comedown from the heights previously achieved.

    The drama was The Godfather, Part II, and the comedy was Young Frankenstein.

  26. Critics seem beholden to proclaim a film “commercial” vs. “uncommercial”. These concerns are COMPLETELY CONTRADICTORY to the critic’s job as it has zilch to do with whether a film works or not.

    That said, I hope I get a similar review when my life story is told.

  27. Re: SKIDOO. TCM is showing it January 4th at 2:00 a.m. (ET)

    My DVR will be set.

    (TCM is also showing Tourneur’s “Nightfall” on Jan 23 – another movie not available on DVD anywhere in the world, I believe.)

  28. (TCM is also showing Tourneur’s “Nightfall” on Jan 23 – another movie not available on DVD anywhere in the world, I believe.)

    Good, they scheduled it once before but then Jane Wyman died. Anyone who likes Fargo should see it, one of the great underappreciated noirs.

  29. “ZayTonday, I have yet to see it. We keep trying to double-bill it with a second screening of No Country For Old Men (which we loved) but life keeps making other plans.”

    Hee-hee, Ian’s got a turd in his pocket!

  30. I may or may not have a turd in my pocket, Sean, but what I do have is an “ignore [username]” facility for HE and Movie City News, which is a deal more useful.

  31. No, Ian, that was “responding”, not “ignoring”. Easy mistake to make, I know. Especially since, if you ignore everybody who insults you, then there will be nobody left for you to talk to. You are the kind of loser who thrives on conflict and, thus, you troll these websites. Ignoring the people who actually respond to you would defeat your entire raison d’posting.

  32. by the way, everything Ian writes is way funnier if you read it in a Seymour Skinner voice. You know, poorly feigning confidence while exuding failure?

    Specifically, “Yes there is, I can BUY ANOTHER PAIR… No, I can’t. I needed those. I really did.”

  33. * cries for days.

    Now every time I watch somebody point out how stupid you are on these talkbacks (I expect that to be just as frequent as ever, you SLUT), I’ll think back on our time together.

  34. You’re right Sean, it’s a goddamn shame to have overlooked it. I swear I noticed the first time I read the thread, but then I got distracted before I could comment. Sometimes being first sucks.

  35. Mgmax, word to your comments on “Nightfall.” Any noir fan should try to see it.

    Sean – you’re welcome.

    And since I just looked at the TCM January schedule, I’ll complete this public service announcement by mentioning for any Sam Fuller fans that TCM is showing “Park Row” on Jan 22 at 8 pm (ET). I don’t know if this is on DVD but I don’t think so, and if it’s been on TCM before, I’ve missed it.

  36. Sometimes I really feel bad for Hunter Tremayne because I think that he lives in a fantasy world where he’s written the last third of Beowulf. I mean, do you think he really believes it to be true or does he just hope that his lies will be believed? I’m just astounded by people who come to film message boards when they clearly don’t like movies or having conversations.

  37. Noah – obviously I missed something; what’s this “hunter tremayne” stuff and did he really claim to write the ending to ‘Beowulf’? Keep in mind, I love laughing at Ian. It makes coming to this site twice as much fun. But I don’t get here all the time, so I obviously missed something wonderful.

  38. First things first: Park Row is a really good movie that isn’t on DVD and I highly recommend that anyone who can check it out, thanks for the tip, Eric.

    Next, Sean: “Ian Sinclair”‘s real name is Hunter Tremayne. He says he’s a British playwright living in NYC and that he came up with the concept for the last third of Beowulf and sold it to Roger Avary. In the past he has also said that he is a clinical psychologist and a woman.

  39. Ian, first you say you saw TWBB yesterday, and then you say that you have yet to see it… how do you expect anyone to value anything you say on here after that little flip flop?

  40. Regarding skidoo: I hosted a series of sixties and seventies films in Philly’s International House three years ago, and showed Skidoo on a double bill with the rarely seen Milos forman film Taking Off, plus Michael Winner’s The Jokers. Skidooo sold out the joint. the movie remains absolutely awful but not unwatchably so, especially becaus eof the cast and Preminger trying to be hip. Taking Off, meanwhile, is a small masterwork. As for skidoo’s DVD status, Paramount is looking to license it and many other titles from their library they don;t know what to do with–including other Preminger films.

  41. ZayTonday – in what may be my only defense of Ian Hunter (as I will be calling him), I took his “haven’t seen it” yet comment as referring to BEFORE THE DEVIL… as you had asked for his comments on that — not TWBB. (Ian, whether this is an accurate interpretation of your response, or just a convenient way of backtracking, you’re welcome.)

    Sean and CJ – thanks. I know somebody would have ended up using those words for the same purpose — it’s all about the timing.

  42. “Okay, here is the truth. In 1986 I invented a story called THE OLD MAGIC, a story that I retained copyright for and which Neil Gaiman adapted my story. Neil Gaiman made a deal with Roger Avery for Beowulf, the ending of which is the ending of my story The Old Magic.”

    http://www.mcnblogs.com/thehotblog/archives/2007/11/i_am_beocritic.html#comments

    I’ve been wondering when someone would follow up on this. I find it odd that (to my knowledge) he never mentioned it again. I honestly think he was drunk when he posted it, and now wishes he hadn’t.

  43. Oh, for goodness sake – “Ian Sinclair”, a millionaire psychotherapist buffoon, card-carrying populist snob and all-round 1930s cartoon caricature of an effete Hollywood Englishman, is a fictional character I created for a play. Not a word he says is to be taken seriously; he’s just a bit of fun.

  44. Ian had previously asked me not to reveal what I knew but in light of this post by an obviously phony Hunter Tremayne, I feel it only fair to the other users of this site to reveal the truth. Ian has been my psychotherapist for several years, as well as that of “Hunter Tremayne,” which is the stage name of my half-brother, Cletus Featherall. Cletus and Ian collaborated on a rock opera adaptation of Beowulf, “Flower of Warriors,” at which time Ian had to give up treating Cletus due to the professional conflict. Cletus, who by this time had developed substantial projection issues toward his therapist, including a quasi-English persona, sued Ian but was awarded custody of his English accent and collection of astrolabes, while Ian was given full possession of the creative materials of the partnership, which he peddled unsuccessfully to Neil Gaiman. Eventually “Flower of Warriors” had its premiere at mid/WEST ’05 in Columbus, Ohio, under the direction of Carveth Osterhaus, in a production the Cleveland Plain-Dealer raved as “not without merit.”

  45. Then we can all safely ignore him from now on. Nothing like arguing with someone who doesn’t exist. (If you had frequented The Hot Blog a couple of years ago, when an abusive psychopath from Hicksville, NY hijacked nearly every thread with his twelve different IDs — often having discussions with himself — you’d see why some of us are not amused.)

    Can you come up with a new character who doesn’t routinely annoy the living hell out of everyone here? Mistress Malevolent doesn’t count, for reasons that should be obvious.

  46. Anyway, to get back on track, I saw There Will Be Blood tonight…

    It doesn’t take two viewings to see that this is the film of the year, with the performance of the year to boot.

  47. I thoroughly enjoyed that post by Mgmax, which we all had a good laugh at around my Blackberry in the bar. It was, indeed, not without merit.

    But yes, Ian Sinclair is dead. R.I.P. A new character will take his place.

  48. How about no more new characters? How about stop being a douchebag and just talk about movies if you have something interesting to say? You can have your favorites and your rooting interests, but quit with the “told you so” attitude. You’re a grown man, act like it. Nobody wants to deal with your message board performance art, just be a rational human being. Is that too much to ask?

  49. I’m still waiting to hear where you saw There Will Be Blood. Or was that “Ian Sinclair” who said that, so it therefore isn’t true?

  50. Oh, so all those times that “Ian” called me a child molester and generally defamed me, it was just for chuckles? Amusing twitters?

    I find it hard to believe that a playwright would have ignored the number one rule of his craft: know your audience. In this case, I think the only entertainment value was directed at an audience of one.

    As far as I’m concerned, “Ian” is the real person and “Hunter” is the persona who comes out to try and set the board back from scratch.

  51. The movie’s not that great, and it’s not a “masterpiece.” it’s a great *looking* two-character film that goes on for way too long and then ends so dismally (and that’s even compared to No Country for Old Men) that you wonder why you just wasted your time on it. No one is going to nominate Paul THomas Anderson for not making a “Paul THomas Anderson Film”… just look at all the problems Scorsese had until he went back to doing movies about gangsters.

  52. If someone would make a movie based on Mgmax’s last post, I would pay to see it. Seriously.

    You had me at “Cletus Featherall….”

  53. So when “Ian” used the word we, he meant himself, Hunter, and Mistress Malevolence?

    Wow, I knew most NYC playwrights were crazy, but sheesh.

  54. Have seen Nightfall described as an influence on Pulp Fiction, but there’s only superficial similarity. Terrific little noir, though. Ray is OK.

  55. I think the Hot Blog guy’s real name was Richard Nash (that’s the name he occasionally has used since then) but who knows. His aliases included “Sanchez”, “Bruce”, “Joefitz”, “Blustealer” and about 20 more. At various times he was a Latino, two different African-Americans, and a woman.

  56. Another ringing endorsement from edouglas! If anyone is on the fence, that should tip the scales in favor of seeing the film.

    Offense intended, Ed, but you have to admit — your taste is usually the exact opposite of nearly everyone who posts here regularly. I do give you credit for consistency, though, the same way I give it to D.Z. for refusing to budge on his “principles.” Stick to your guns!

  57. Thank you Frank for saying what I was actually thinking and for making me laugh.

    Speaking of the devil, has anyone noticed how much lovelier it’s been around here since Jeff banned NYCBB?

  58. Yeah, I don’t now what he said, but his last post was changed to this: “Wells to HE posters: No biggie, but as of this morning NYC Busybody has a great future ahead of him on other forums. I’ve made it clear that anybody can say anything about anything, including attacks on my views, choices and errors. The one thing that doesn’t fly are harsh personal attacks with a diseased emotional taint. He’s crossed it for the last time here, and I wish him all the best.”

    http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/archives/2007/09/clinton_has_it.php

    That was on September 13 and he hasn’t been back since…at least under that name.

  59. Well, we have “Dirty Harry” now, so I can’t say I miss the unmitigated chundermuffin that was NYCBB. I’m actually fine with DZ, Ian and a few of my other unnamed bete noirs. Imagined being cornered by NYCBB at some sort of function? Sweet forever sleep could not come soon enough.

  60. Anytime, Craig.

    I somehow missed NYC’s banning, too. I also have a suspicion that he was the briefly-ubiquitous Jayne Gacy.

    Jeff, you’re a huge faggot. You’re also an appeasing surrender-monkey Demon-crat with Bush Derangement Syndrome who will probably vote for HELLary and help perpetuate the baby holocaust. And I’m pretty sure you killed Vince Foster.

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