‘There Will Be Blood’ will bowl you over

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

If the Academy Awards are telecast at all this year, you’re bound to see plenty of “Blood.”
“There Will Be Blood,” that is. The film is nominated for eight Oscars, and is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture. Furthermore, star Daniel Day-Lewis seems to be a lead-pipe cinch in the Best Actor category, and the mastermind behind the film, Paul Thomas Anderson, can easily score a double as Best Director and Best Screen Adaptation.
The film is playing in less than 400 theaters nationwide, but will open at The Visulite in Staunton this coming Friday.

While this film is based on a novel by Upton Sinclair, director Paul Thomas Anderson’s handprints are all over it. Like his earlier work “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” this one is dark, brooding, complex and will leave you tossing and turning over an interpretation of what it all means.

Daniel Day-Lewis, in a bravura performance that simply cannot be ignored by the Oscar voters, plays a turn-of-the-century oil man who gains power and money through his native cunning and sheer determination. You’re not going to fall in love with this crusty critter. He’s distasteful, perplexing and just a little bit insane. But you have to at least respect his tenacity.

The film begins in 1898 and follows the hard-rock life of “Daniel Plainview” for three decades as he wrestles with family, greed, religion and most of all, oil. (Nope, it ain’t a biopic of Dubya.) After silver mining in New Mexico, he heads for Texas and, employing an orphan as his “son” (to give him family cred), he persuades the folks in a little town that sits atop a sea of oil to let him pump it out. He claims he’ll make them rich. Yeah, sure. Always trust an oil guy.

His major opponent – played brilliantly by “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Paul Dano – is a young preacher-man who has his own problems along the way.

This film is really more like an opera than a movie. Big themes, big personalities, over-the-top scenes, and music to blow your mind. The musical score was composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, but at two crucial moments, we hear a thundering concerto by Brahms to highlight the action. It’s breathtaking.

Ciaran Hinds is on hand as an associate, and young Dillon Freasier is captivating as the pseudo-son of Day-Lewis. It’s the kid’s first time on screen, and he’s perfect.

As we mentioned above, Paul Thomas Anderson is nominated for a Best Director Oscar and is up for Best Adapted Screenplay as well. He’s a well-established Young Turk in Hollywood, and has dedicated this 2-1/2 hour epic to the memory of one of his heroes, the late Robert Altman. Anderson has his own rather disturbing take on the art of film, and seems to get better with each project. His characters all have depth, and no one is totally good or bad.

Daniel Day-Lewis does not make many movies, but is always somehow a cut above everyone else in effort and intensity. This is his third Oscar nomination since winning the Best Actor statuette in 1989 for “My Left Foot.” His last memorable appearance was as Bill the Butcher in 2002’s “Gangs of New York.” On screen, the man is simply a force of nature. I sat stock-still throughout “There Will Be Blood,” absolutely mesmerized by the power of this performance.

Next week, we’ll have the event we’ve all been waiting for. Well, some of us. Me, anyway. Yes, on these very pages we will roll out The Umpteenth Annual Carly Awards – a sort of “If-I-Gave-Out-The-Oscars” thingamajiggy. After sitting through over 200 movies last year (most of them crummy), I should at least get to publicly offer my ‘umble thanks to the actors, directors, and assorted elephant-poop-scooper-uppers in the film industry who’ve done a good job.

I know you can hardly wait so, as a diversion, I suggest you treat yourself to a viewing of “There Will Be Blood.” It’ll bowl you over.

Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.

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