Magnolia vs. Dark City(Theatrical Cut)
At my school, I consider myself the resident expert on movies. Now that;s not hard when 90-905% of the kids have never heard of Martin Scorsese before. Last Friday, the final day of our spring term, I was asked two times what my favorite movie ever was. Both times, without hesitation, I said Magnolia. The first time, my friend noted the fact that I had replied very quickly to that question. On reason may be that I usually like to keep track of these things in my mind, but the fact is that Magnolia had outstripped every other movie I have seen. It was ambitious, yet it had reached everything it was aiming for. PTA was able to flesh out each of these characters in a short amount of time so that everything that happens to these people hit me on an emotional level(something I think he failed to do in Boogie Nights)
The second conversation was a bit more dull. When stating Magnolia was my favorite film, my friend replied simply "Well, who's in it? I said"It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson(Honestly, I don't know why I bother) It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Cruise, John C.Reilly, Philip baker Hall..." She seemed to latch onto the fact that Tom "look how high I can bounce on this couch" Cruise is in this movie. the conversation then devolved into how tom cruise shouldn't be a celebrity, but my mind stayed on Magnolia, trying to convince my friends "No, No, he's actually good in this."
Because he is. while I understand that Cruise's recent output has not been very good, when given the direction, he can act. He stars in two films that have made it to the 5th round of the bracket (the other being, for you lazy Americans, Eyes Wide Shut.) and he's Brilliant here. Playing Frank TJ Mackey, at the beginning you could construe him as a man similar to Tom Cruise himself. Crazy Hyper, talking in absolutes of the human spirit, ideas that are truly what people want to believe, not what's real. However, halfway in his interview with Gwenovier(April Grace) shes brings up a bit of the past Mackey has left far behind him, one that destroys the character PTA has been building up for the past hour and a half. this is a man who has presented himself as a misogynist, someone who doesn't feel, which(in what could be a bit of social satire)makes him a god amongst men Gwenovier, delicately relaying the story back to him, finishes by asking him simply "why would you lie, Frank?" don't you understand? You have put a soul on a man whose very livelihood relies on him not having one. He then falls silent, not used to what has been presented to him. He has always hid behind the Frank Mackey character, and now it's gone.
"We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us."
This movie, like Boogie Nights, takes a circle of people and observes the life of every single person in that circle. In Boogie Nights, we watch the lives of the porn star, the director, the best friend, the producer. Here, however, PTA broadens his scope. Here, there are two circles. On revolves around a game show, entitled "What do kids know?". there's the show's host(Philip Baker Hall), the whizz kid creeping towards the show's record(Jeremy Blackman), the former whizz kid fallen from glory, harbouring a crush on a bartender(William H. Macy), the daughter of the game show host(Melora Walters) and the policeman sent to investigate a disturbance at her apartment(John c. Reilly). The second revolves around Frank TJ Mackey, his father(The great Jason Robards), his father's wife(Julianne Moore), and his hospice nurse(Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Each thread in Magnolia is so developed in what little time each thread has it's amazing. One of the problems I had with a movie like Boogie Nights is that some of the threads were underdeveloped(I think of Macy's and Hoffman's in particular). but here, each and every thread is given as much time as it deserves. And each one is so deep that I could go into as much detail as I just did with Tom Cruise's(I won't, for the sake of time)
And even this is not enough for Mr. Anderson. Not only do we have a giant cast and camera shots, like the one through the game show corridors, akin to the opening shot of Boogie Nights, but we also have a character introduction to the music from 2001 which ends with the words "respect the cock". We have large sing alongs. And we have an ending straight out of the rough draft for Being John Malkovich(I'm not going to spoil anything, but if you've seen Magnolia you'll know what I mean)
He is trying to packing everything he can into this movie and I think he gets everything. Except the kitchen sink. two short scenes, about 3 minutes in total, aren't very good. One involves John C. Reilly listen to a kid rap, and I'm not sure rapping is really Mr.Anderson's forte. John c. Reilly's reaction is perfect and really speaks for the audience. We don't want this.
the second scene is the scene involving Julianne Moore getting drugs for both her and her father. the clerk, assuming that Moore is going to down all this herself, starts asking questions.While I think this scene is OK, it's another scene that really feels like something out Boogie Nights then Magnolia. Boogie Nights is mostly surface emotion, which is what this scene is. In every other scene, I understand Moore's outbreaks, but here, there is no method to her madness. there is only hysterics.
Dark City (theatrical cut)
Dark City, the only film I have in this round that I had not seen previously(my other matchup, for you lazy Americans, is Goodfellas vs. Glengarry Glen Ross). The story begins with a man(Rufus Sewell) waking up in a bath with amnesia. He is accused of murder. A group of strange men called the, ummm, strangers are after him. It seems like the normal run and hide story, until the clocks hit 12. Suddenly everybody falls asleep except, strangely, Sewell, the strangers, and Dr. Daniel P. Schreber (Keifer Sutherland). Then the buildings start moving, then people's memories start changing, then the world shifts beneath his feet.
Both of these matchups I've had so far in this bracket are surprisingly similar. In both matchups I have gotten a movie I was surprised to see this far in the bracket and was sure I was going to knock out, and was pleasantly surprised by, and a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. And Dark City was a pleasant surprise. Going in, I thought it would be sub-par sci-fi. when I finished watching it, however, I had one of those feelings where I just said to myself "What the f- just happened?" where the world is so surreal and yet rooted in some strange reality. The last time I had that feeling was, ironically, when I saw Punch-Drunk Love.
And there are problems with Dark City, no doubt, the main one being Keifer Sutherland's performance. If you gave this role to a better actor(I would go with Jeffrey Wright, but then again I always go with Jeffrey Wright), they would be able to pull of the struggle Dr.Schreber has between his employers and his race, but Sutherland doesn't pull it off. He instead makes the choice to try and stutter through his lines, speaking in stops and starts. It doesn't work, as this is a character that should be played internally, not externally. Instead of portraying a man conflicted with the ever changing world around him, we instead get a man who could turn around at any moment and shout "HE'S ALIVE!!"
There's also a graininess to the cinematography, and the visual style itself was not brilliant, just normal noir staple. It's the inventiveness of the script that wins out in the end the mindf- world he creates. Here is a director willing to create a world sitting in space, one where normal rules don't apply in any way. One day, she's your wife, the next, she's a serial killer. One moment, you're in an apartment, just trying to make ends meet. the next, you wake up in a bathtub, not knowing who or where you are.
The movie flips itself on its head. When the movie opens, you're expecting a simple movie about a man accused falsely of a crime. It's not. Not really. He is falsely accused of a crime, but that doesn't matter as he becomes a much more serious player in the games the strangers are playing.
They want to be human. Or at least understand us. So they can duplicate us. This comes out of right field, mainly because the rest of the film is in left field. Why? to become us is to become worthless, to become puppets in your shadowy game. The strangers understand this, in a way, but they can't bring themselves to the fact that the worthless puppets are winning. They are fantastic villains, striding their way across the city, silent, quick, horrifying, their pale faces utterly creepy.
And the cast is solid, if not great. While I have major problems with Sutherland's performance, the rest of the cast do their job aptly. Rufus Sewell is great as John Murdoch, the man without any notable character. You get the feeling that until the end of the movie, he doesn't really know exactly what is going on inside Proyas' head, but then again he is an amnesiac. William Hurt and Jennifer Connelly are also solid, but neither of them give great performances.
And that baby stranger still haunts my dreams.
And the winner is:
I guess this means We've officially knocked out Dark city. Ah well. It was a good run.