Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sorting Out "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood"

It's been buggin' me.

"No Country for Old Men" won award after award. I watched it last week and it just didn't do much for me. That's unusual. I'm the epitome of the easy to please movie viewer, but I felt cold at the end of "No Country for Old Men", not so much because of the content of the movie, or the fact that it was told from three perspectives, and certainly not because of its unrelentingly stark and gorgeous pictures. No, it was for another reason.

Today I went out to LCC, my place of employment. I picked up a couple books from the library and strolled to my office to see if I could find out who my next door neighbor will be now that Dan Armstrong has retired.

Lo and behold! Margaret and Jeff were right outside my office. We've all been friends since the Spanish-American War and it's a great pleasure to see them.

We got caught up on some things, figured out that Jay will be moving in next door to me, arranged a coffee date, and Jeff left to go trap Gypsy moths.

I knew Margaret loved "No Country for Old Men." It's been buggin' me that I didn't.

I checked my mailbox, wasn't startled by anything, and decided not to go home just yet.

I went back to Margaret's office and asked her about "No Country for Old Men".

Everything she said, as always, made perfect sense: the sheriff was faced with an existential dilemma which Tommy Lee Jones played brilliantly; the character played by Josh Brolin didn't really know what he was doing when he took the money and is shrewd and resourceful in the ways he escapes the evil character played by Javier Bardem.

We agreed the acting engrossed both of us.

Then I said it: "Margaret, I wanted a stronger plot. I thought the movie created a situation and kept repeating that situation. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, stuck in the Victorian novel, but I love plots and I didn't think this movie had much of one."

Margaret agreed. I don't think it bothered her as much as it did me. She's probably more of a post-modern girl than I am a post-modern boy and this brought us to discussing "There Will be Blood."

"I hated it," Margaret hissed.

I recoiled.

"Wow!" I say 'wow' too much, but it seemed to fit this moment.

Margaret elaborated. "I hated the characters. No one had any redeeming value-"

"The kid." I chuckled.

"Well, yeah, but Daniel Day-Lewis' character and the preacher were bad to the bone."

"God. I know. And there were that way right from the get-go." (BTW, I say get-go too much. But it seemed to fit this moment.)

I continued, "Once again, I thought "There Will be Blood" created a situation but repeated that situation again and again. I didn't think it told much of a story. The acting was brilliant. Jesus. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano and the rest were scintillating, but (I say what's coming next too much) it was like an acting workshop more than a story. The landscape was gorgeous, the acting out of this world, but I wanted more of a story."

Margaret nodded. "I know."

"Yeah. If I'd had an Oscar vote, "Juno".

Margaret lit up. "I loved Juno."

"God, me too. Ellen Page is already like those middle aged women actors I love so much."

"She is. Yes. She's so in the moment. God she's good."

And so we talked about "Juno" and women writers in 20th century World Lit. and few other things.

But, Lord, it was cathartic to get it out, to be honest, that I didn't think much of the stories told in "No Country for Old Men" or in "There Will be Blood".

It took me back to 1982's Oscars.

"Tootsie" was my choice over "Ghandi".


Inland Empire Girl said...

I'd vote Tootsie over Titantic and Dances with Wolves for sure.... but it is too close to call with Driving Miss Daisy.

Sam Crawford said...

My wife and I watched "No Country for Old Men" and were disappointed with the ending after we saw it.

The next morning we both thought it was brilliant.

Go figure what 8 hours and a fresh outlook will do.

Kendra said...

I actually hate to admit this, but I held out hope to the very end that I had misinterpreted the death in the swimming pool of Brolin's guy, and that he was going to somehow step in and save his woman, even though at that point they seemed to have made it clear enough that she was on her own.
And then when he was checking the soles of his boots on the way out, I just was so bummed- I mean, talk about incontrovertible evidence that SHE bit the big one, too!
The car wreck at the very end made little or no sense to me either... but at that point, I was so disgusted with the whole flick I just recoiled at the bad guy's misshapen arm and shook my head and the plotlessness (is that a word?) of it all.
So you're not the only one, RP. I have the utmost respect for the Coen Bro's handicraft, the acting was superb, but yeah... I thought the plot sucked, too.