The Battle of the Sexes Revisited – Film Review

Battle 2In The Battle of the Sexes, co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, written by Simon Beaufoy, revisit an early and important story of Women’s Liberation movement.

Tennis was dominated by men, even though there was a small group of dedicated women players who would have to tag along behind and pick-up the scraps of promotional opportunities, attention and prize money. Billie Jean King, the number one women’s player at the time, was sick of it. She knew people enjoyed seeing women play and felt it unjust that they would make only a fraction of the money even though the stands were just as full for their matches as the men.

The women’s movement was not the only thing complicating U.S. culture during this time. There was also the escalating war in Vietnam and the ongoing challenges with racism and general unrest in the population. Change is hard.

Emma Stone bravely steps into the role of Billie Jean King and she shines. Ms. Stone transforms herself from the wispy, inexperienced budding actress we saw in La La Land to a powerful, activist athlete who stands up to the status quo and works tirelessly for  women’s rights. That’s an amazing story on its own, but there is another storyline, Her journey to discovering her real sexual identity.

Just about everyone seems to be standing in her way. Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) heads the lawn tennis organization that schedules the tournaments and manages the rules of the association. He sets the men’s prize money at eight times what the women players will earn and doesn’t feel there’s anything wrong with it.

Battle 8.jpg

Then there’s Bobby Riggs, played with frightening precision by Steve Carell. Mr. Carell recreates the antics that the real Riggs staged as part of his one-man circus. Riggs was the ultimate chauvinist and a showman who wouldn’t stop talking. And he relished any and every opportunity to prove it. Although accomplished and largely self-made, he didn’t hesitate to indulge his desires at the expense of his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue) even thought she was from a well to do family and supported him. Riggs has idea after idea and eventually comes up with an epic one. The ultimate battle of the sexes on a tennis court in front of a global audience with lots of money on the line. He tracks down Billie Jean who is on tour, waking her in the middle of the night to try and sell her the idea over the phone. She doesn’t bite.

The filmmakers weave together three individual constructs. The scenes with only women. These are by far the most interesting ones. The scenes featuring only men and groupings of segments where the men and women are in each other’s company, or watching each other on television, or speaking over the phone. This device is highly effective in sharpening the various points of view.

The scene that turns the tide is between Billie Jean and a random hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett. Ms. Barnett is played beautifully by British actress Andrea Riseborough who is a flower child of the time; both vulnerable but adventurous. One day Billie Jean appears in her salon chair waiting to have her hair done in advance of an upcoming tournament. She gets much more than a good cut. Their interaction moves from a casual discussion about what to do with her hair, to a moving and intimate experience. The filmmakers slowly tune out all other sounds in the salon and close in on the quality of Ms. Barnett’s voice. A calming cadence and warm tones that you hear only from a select group of people. A masseuse, a dental hygienist. a therapist, or in this case a hairdresser. They are trained to use their voices to instill calm and to allow the other person to relax and open up to the moment. Both people know exactly what has transpired. Ms. Barnett has become the catalyst that awakens Bille Jean’s true sexual self.

Battle 7.jpg

In contrast, the scenes with only the men are very boring. They are staged in stuffy clubs or locker rooms with the men always at the ready to banter about their superiority and enjoy the comfort in their place at the top. To them it’s always about the sport, the gamble, with little regard paid to woman’s potential.  This might be somewhat of a harsh depiction, but it’s very effective and necessary to telling the story.

Battle of the Sexes Script Clip

The production values of the film are solid. The filmmakers try to over produce. The pace is properly matched to the storytelling. They take their time and let the performances sink in. They also skillfully weave in numerous characters, adding depth and amusement to the picture. The final puts us right there in the Houston Astrodome alongside the 90 million people who tuned in.

Battle 3

Crisp performances by Sarah Silverman as Gladys Heldman, manager of the new women’s league and Natalie Morales as Rosie Casals, a top player and key to the success of the Virginia Slims tennis circuit.

Good artists are aware of their place they occupy in history. Ms. Faris and Mr. Dayton have done society a favor by taking up this story now. Their timing amid the breaking news of women being abused by men makes this film more important and thereby elevates it above what it might have been if tackled at a different time.

Podcast of this review can be found on SoundCloud:

Soundtrack to The Battle of the Sexes by Nicholas Britell on Spotify.

“The Martian” and his Earthlings


Mars has long been the muse to writers, scientists and moviemakers. A wikipedia search for “films about Mars” will yield a page that lists 66 titles although many of them were television shows. The most common plot line that emerges when Mars and Earth are in the same script turns out to be mostly bad for Earthlings. We often survive in the end, but, on my, the destruction.

Ridley Scott’s The Martian, based on the novel by Andrew Weir with screenplay credit going to Drew Goddard, is all Hollywood. It’s playful and goes out of it’s way to be entertaining. But it should get noticed for something rare. A movie largely about Mars, science and NASA, completely devoid of little green Martians. Thank you Mr. Weir.

The film opens with a group of astronauts already on Mars to continue studies, presumably preparing for colonization. Suddenly a raging storm rolls in and the team must make an emergency launch to avoid their vehicle from tipping over. In their rush, Mark Watney, played with delightful snark by Matt Damon, is left for dead after a horrible accident prior to boarding.

The Captain, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is riddled with guilt at having left behind a crew member who was in her charge. Ms. Chastain has become one of my favorite actors to watch. Her ability to shape her characters with genuineness, display smartness, not smart-assness, and be an irresistible woman is a winning combination. Mr. Scott is keen on strong women roles and this tradition continues.

THE MARTIANMeanwhile, back on Earth, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is left to tell the world that Astronaut Watney will not be making the return trip with the rest of the crew. He lies in state on the surface of the Red Planet. Mr. Daniels is as reliable as ever, sporting his wide vocabulary and the doing math in his head.

Mr. Weir has given us a futuristic shipwreck story. It’s a classic theme. A solitary survival tale of man vs. his environment against seemingly unsurmountable odds. But Mr. Weir has a major advantage; technology. In this new age much more is possible. Innovation and disruption for once provides hope of survival and not just monetary wealth.

When Wantey regains consciousness he takes us through a series of amazing feats of survival, physical exertion and some kick butt farming. He overcomes one obstacle after another, fulfilling his determination to survive until a rescue mission arrives. Through good old fashioned NASA trained ingenuity, Watney reanimates the Pathfinder hardware from a decades ago mission and uses it to communicate with NASA. The news that Watney is alive causes even more problems for Sanders, who eventually organizes a rescue mission.

The film frequently shows us Watney through the voyeuristic lens of a Go Pro camera, but with his full permission. It’s a video instagram stream that is expanded to include the left behind artifacts of his crew. The most prominent of which is Commander Lewis’ obsession with music from the 1970’s and ’80’s. The lowest rung on the music one hit wonder ladder. Mr. Scott uses those tunes to great effect, but my ears! He did redeem himself when David Bowie’s Starman came across the speakers while Watney gathered his things for another expedition away from home base.

flat,800x800,075,t.u3Eventually Sanders has to tell the crew that Watney is still alive, which brings into focus the other major theme of the story, being part of a team. A mission to Mars means you are going to adopt a new family while leaving your existing one behind. It’s a serious commitment. Nothing else matters but your knowledge, your team’s knowledge — carefully designed to fill in the gaps—and the Earthlings at the Johnson Space Center. Space travel is new territory and despite the fact we have been studying it since Galileo, it stands to reason that we are not close to being prepared for what it can bring.

The world is enthralled with Watney’s plight, including the Chinese who offer to help. Soon the United Sates and China are collaborating to bring him home. Eventually, Watney’s crew mates are offered a choice. Come home, or return their ship, the Hermes (The God who protects travelers) around and endure hundreds more days in space. Spoiler alert, yes they decide to rescue Watney.

The final reels of the film are filled with frantic action to capture a now floating Watney, who has launched himself into space with a vehicle placed on Mars in preparation of another mission. It’s all very unrealistic but so enjoyable to watch.

Top notch technical work all around matches the acting performances, all stewarded along by veteran Harry Gregson-Williams’ score. Many will remember the interspersed pop songs that help us laugh during the long, lonely moments. But it’s the deeply intellectual, sonic snippets by Mr. Greyson-Williams that reminds us of the seriousness of each day, while binding together the collective progress of both Watney and the Earthlings.

This is the third year in a row Hollywood has produced a high quality film set in space. Gravity in 2013, Interstellar in 2014 and now The Martian. I hope this trend continues.

Side Effects – Film Review

The release of the psychological thriller Side Effects brings with it good news and bad news. First the bad news. Director Steven Soderbergh has announced this is will be his last feature film. He’s retiring from moviemaking (I don’t believe it, or just refuse to believe it). Now the good news, we get the chance to see Rooney Mara in a more normal role, meaning someone (anyone) other than Lisbeth Salander. Yes she was in The Social Network but that one doesn’t really count.

All 3 Cast Members

I’ve looked forward to Mr. Soderbergh’s films ever since he gave us the provocative Sex, Lies and Videotape in 1989. He has been prolific although sometimes uneven in quality. There are flashes of brilliance; King of the Hill, Out of Sight, The Limey and a sordid examination of the drug trade and the failed war against it in Traffic. Other outings have been great fun, the Oceans movies. One film that I feel is underrated is the slowly disturbing Solaris. In Side Effects he turns out a polished mind game that keeps you interested although you have every reason not to be.

Rooney Mara plays the quiet but obviously complicated Emily Taylor. A beautiful woman who had everything she ever wanted in life only to watch it vanish in a moment’s time as her husband (Channing Tatum) is convicted of insider trading. Ms. Mara plays a human puzzle without a compass. She gives us numerous physical looks and matches, or to be exact, surpasses them with a wider range of emotional dexterity. Once in a while you hear Lisbeth in her voice, but I must give her credit for successfully moving behind The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This woman has a bright future as an actress. Emily carves out a new life the best she can, trying her hand in a graphics design shop while fighting off depression. Her husband Martin is finally released and they try to reconnect and rebuild their lives.

Emily has trouble holding it together and purposely crashes her car into a concrete wall. This causes her to encounter Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) in the emergency room after the incident. Out of professional concern, he wants to hospitalize her but is talked out of it. Actually Emily doesn’t say much. She just kind of stares and wiggles her way out of being admitted more so by what she doesn’t say. He prescribes pills and sets regular therapy sessions in his office. She has unpleasant reactions to the drugs and begins a disquieting bout of sleepwalking. During a session Dr. Banks learns of Emily’s prior therapist Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and seeks her out at an ADHD convention. They discuss Emily and Dr. Siebert recommends he try a new (fictional) drug, Ablixa.

Ms. Zeta-Jones is all business. Jet black hair pulled back tightly behind her ears. Large black, non-designer glasses frame her classic face. The encounters between her and Mr. Law are quite good. I wish there had been more of them. Mr. Law has matured nicely from his younger days of Gattaca and The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has always been subtle, but in Side Effects he takes it to a new level.

What ensues is a series of carefully crafted scenes by Mr. Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns in a manner aspiring to be Film Noir. It doesn’t get there but one has to admire the effort. They weave a tapestry of clues and lies, wrapping it all up in a complicated legal technicality. Each of the three characters have made decisions that cannot be undone. They become deeply entangled in each other’s fate all for very different reasons. Alliances are formed but no one expects the other one to keep their end of the bargain. It’s every man for himself in a high stakes game.

Thomas Newman’s soundtrack nails the mood of the film. You get the feeling that the characters are hearing that same music in their minds all throughout the picture, just like you. Another stellar outing for Mr. Newman who has collaborated with Mr. Soderbergh on prior films.  Technical credits are solid but modest. Soderbergh’s camera is as fluid as always, gliding along but able to stop long enough to shape strong compositions amid the muted lighting which puts the audience in the proper visual mood.

The official film web site tries to break out of the boring template we usually see. It’s a vertical experience. Simple and interesting. Not particularly informative, but it has an excellent diversion. Be sure and click on the Ablixa link at the top of the site. If you follow the links far enough you can take a simple mental test administered by no other than Dr. Jonathan Banks who will ultimately recommend you take Ablixa. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Good fun.

Don’t go Steven!

Podcast Version of Side Effects

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review of the American version.


Photo Credit: Open Road

Slumdog Millionaire – Film Review

Update: Slumdog Millionaire nominated for 10 Academy Awards! Go to official Oscar site here.

slumdog1I settled into my seat in the Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park, Illinois expecting to see an interesting film set in India. I knew it was the story of an indigent young man from Mumbai who has a reversal of fortune through his performance on a television game show. I didn’t expect Slumdog Millionaire to be the serious and powerful film experience it turned out to be.

We are spectators, sometimes voyeurs, in the lives of Jamal (Dev Patel), his older brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and Latika (Freida Pinto), a girl they encounter purely by chance. After a brutal episode of communal violence, the boys lose their mother and are on the run completely alone, save for Latika. They set up temporary residence in a city dump and are lured to an orphanage home by two men with cold bottles of Coca-Cola. The men teach the children to beg for coins in the street and both Jamal and Salim become proficient. Soon they discover that some of the children become disabled at the hand of these men and escape in the night on a train. Although they try, they fail in their effort to bring Latika along.

The boys learn the grifter trade quickly and steal from tourists who visit the Taj Mahal. They get in deeper and deeper, when something happens that cannot be undone in their effort to reclaim Latika. The brothers’ relationship sours as Salim asserts his place as the elder and casts out Jamal to be with the girl. Over time Jamal finds Latika and his brother again, but is unable to pry her away from life in the underbelly. Jamal lands an opportunity to be a contestant on the most popular TV show in the country, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He believes that she will be watching, and might make a getaway on her own.

Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) draws us into Jamal’s life though the questions that are asked on the show. Each question triggers a scene from Jamal’s life that advances the story as well as provides the answer to the question. Is it luck or fate that these particular questions are chosen? Jamal progresses further than any one ever has and is arrested on suspicion of cheating. The police inspector walks him through every question via a video tape and asks him to explain how he would know the answer. Jamal has a believable story and is released to return to the show for one more all or nothing question.

slumdog2Mr. Boyle captures the frenetic movement of India during day, night, bright color and muted darkness. Movement and music are his grammar. We see Jamal’s tin-topped slums transform into soaring high rises as India takes its place on the world stage. This financial progressiveness is what gives Jamal his fairy tale chance.

The performances are strong where they need to be; Jamal, Latika and the game show host, Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) are the pivotal characters and do a splendid job of keeping the audience guessing and propelling the story forward. There are an array of locations and settings, all well lensed and nicely edited into a rich quilt of a story.

Slumdog Millionaire took four Golden Globe awards, including Best Motion Picture (drama) and Best Director. However, I haven’t seen it overwhelmingly show up on critic’s Oscar nomination predictions, which puzzles me. Perhaps it may be the fact that in the end it’s a love story. Or that Mr Boyle enlists the two stars and a train station full of extras to perform a dance number over the credits. Not sure why that’s there except maybe the filmmakers thought they needed to release some of the pressure they built up along the way.

Recommended for serious filmgoers who appreciate international movies. Visit the official Slumdog Millionaire web site here. Buy the soundtrack. It’s fast, loud and highly repeatable.

Photo credits: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Michael Clayton – Film Review

What struck me most about Michael Clayton is how all the players on this project came together as an ensemble, and took this film to a much higher level than might otherwise have been achieved. This is an extreme example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. When you look at the foundational pieces that make up this film, they are nothing special for the slick productions we have come to expect from Hollywood. By foundational I mean the story/script, music, art direction, costume and make-up. Certainly there are brilliant moments in the dialog, and score, But the entire film has been elevated several levels by the amazing performances of the actors. Each and every thespian turns in a performance perfectly pitched for the story. Credit of course goes to the casting, but it continues through to the director (Tony Gilroy) strategically placing his pieces on the chess board in a stunning gambit. Those accomplishments have been acknowledged with 3 Academy Award nominations for acting, as well as 4 others; direction, music, original screenplay and picture.


However, the real stand out, the thing that pulls it all together in my mind, is the editing (by John Gilroy, the director’s brother). It’s his work that builds importance and power through the opening pre-minutes, then seamlessly splices together a patchwork story into the final film that earned a Best Picture nomination. In an unfortunate oversight, his name is missing from this year’s Oscar nomination list; I can see how it might have been overlooked when you look at the competition. But I posit, without Mr. Gilroy’s skill, Michael Clayton would not be on the Best Picture roster.

The story has been told many times before. Big conglomerate prioritizes greed above ethics and humans suffer. Hires a powerful law firm to defend it against a class action law suit, and an insider finally gets fed up and decides to expose the company for what it really is. Good triumphs and confidence is somewhat restored in the system.

That insider is Artur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) the law firm’s star litigator who has been willing to stay with this case for the firm and their client, U North. Arthur has a chemical imbalance, stops taking his meds and creates a scene by removing his clothes in a deposition hearing, then chases the witness into the parking lot wearing nothing more than his socks. Mr. Wilkinson’s rants remind me of Howard Beale (Peter Finch) from Network. Middle aged, reliable, brilliant, willing to do anything he’s asked, and slightly left of center. Edens teeters back and forth between mad professor, and adolescent boy looking for a way to beat the bullies and get back a small part his lost youth.


U North has just promoted Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) to head legal counsel, and sends her to Minnesota to straighten out the Edens predicament. Meanwhile the law firm dispatches their “fixer” Michael Clayton (George Clooney) to do the same. Clayton has been with the firm for years and his talent is swooping in when there is a mess, or about to be one, and making things seem normal again. Clayton’s life is in turmoil, as usual the shoemaker has no shoes. His marriage has dissolved, he sees his son regularly, but doesn’t really connect, he has a gambling problem, and a recent business venture with his brother has gone bust, leaving him with a large financial problem. Clayton is a steeping pot waiting for someone or something to uncork the kettle. Mr. Clooney plays it Clooney cool, but allows us a glimpse into the tortured side of his character as he struggles to piece together family and career. It’s touching and very real.

Crowder is calculating, neurotic, and will do anything to further her position. Ms. Swinton captures it beautifully, taking us inside her character’s head. We see her rehearsing her speech while carefully laying out the big meeting’s wardrobe to show us how comfortable she is inside the friendly confines of the law office. These rituals have served her well. But when the fight moves to the street she is in way over her head.

Director Tony Gilroy and George Clooney

Pic technical aspects are first rate. Strong direction and photography are right on for the complex thriller genre. It helps us forget sometimes that the story is a retread. But the script has numerous holes, and is in such a hurry to get to the end that it misses some rich opportunities along the way. Still, I would recommend this for its acting quality, doesn’t get much better, and the way the filmmakers assemble the elements into a fast-moving entertaining couple of hours.


Atonement – Film Review

Atonement is a classic British period film based on the critically acclaimed novel by the Booker Prize winning author Ian McEwain, and adapted for the screen by Christopher Hampton. Set just as WWII is about to begin for Britain, the story pivots around two would-be lovers, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), a well educated son of the families’ housekeeper, and Cicelia Tallis (Keira Knightley) who lives in the expansive mansion. They are kept apart by the vivid imagination of Cicelia’s 13-year-old sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). Briony, who is quite the writer for her age, has a crush on Robbie, but knows that her older sister holds sway over him. Robbie has not yet won over Cicelia, and matters have become worse as he inadvertently breaks a family heirloom.

As an attempt at resolution, Robbie writes an apology note. Several drafts are typed out, some of them quite provocative. He settles on a short, polite version, and entrusts Briony to deliver it, just ahead of a family dinner that includes him as a guest. After he gives the letter to Briony, it dawns on him that the wrong version was placed into the envelope. Briony reads it of course, and is confused by the content. She delivers it to Cicelia without the envelope and the evening quickly goes out of control.

Photo Credit: Working Title Films

In town for the dinner is Leon Tallis (Patrick Kennedy) the brother, along with his friend Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch), a successful chocolate magnet. The unusual house guest list is rounded out by the presence of three children, twin boys and a sister, Lola, a Lolita-type young girl. They are staying on while their parents work out marital problems (go figure). The dinner is interrupted when the miserable twin boys go missing, kicking off a massive search party at night. While covering her part of the estate, Briony comes across a man having his way with Lola in the weeds. Based upon all she has observed, and read, Briony is sure the violator was Robbie. The police are called, Briony’s statement is given and Robbie is hauled away.

Photo Credit: Working Title Films

From there the film moves forwards and backwards through a complex tapestry of time and space. Dreamlike and at times almost surreal, director Joe Wright keeps the viewers off balance, all the while maintaining complete cinematic control. You question the structure, the points of view, and the motivation of nearly everyone. Ultimately the tragic truth is revealed in the closing scenes by a now aged and dying Briony (Vanessa Redgrave).

The first and third acts are presented in a very straightforward style. The combat scenes through France with Robbie, who has traded his remaining jail sentence for an army uniform, and two other soldiers don’t look like your typical war movie. We later learn why. The Dunkirk beach scene, a crucial turning point in the war for the UK, is shot as if through gauze and includes an incredibly long tracking shot that captures the madness and mayhem of ordinary humans reacting to war.

Saorise Ronan, who is nominated as supporting actress for her role as the 13-year old Briony Tallis, is brilliant. The film opens in her room with her at the typewriter completing her first play. Her walk, stares, and voice are as if they have emanated from the the blunt strokes of her own typewriter. Her character is the tent pole of the story. The more she comes to grips with what she has done, the more she softens her voice and begins to float across the screen rather than march.

Photo Credit: Working Title Films

Strong performances all around, wonderfully constructed script, solid art direction and a score by Dario Marianelli that found ingenious ways to blend music with the sound of typewriter keys striking a platen. Would recommend Atonement to those looking for a serious, but not necessarily inspiring film. Visit the official site here.

There Will Be Blood – Film Review

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offering, There Will Be Blood, is a departure from his large ensemble works Boogie Nights and Magnolia. This muscular, tragic film was penned for the screen by Mr. Anderson, based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil.

Pic opens at the very end of the 1800’s when America was moving into the industrial age. Oil was the new gold and Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) saw an enormous opportunity. Mr. Day-Lewis is the face and voice of the entire film. One of our most talented actors working today, he delivers a tour de force performance. As Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, his spine was stiff and straight, towering over everyone in Paradise Square. Here his back is bent from years of hard labor in the wells, but he still seems to be the tallest. Like Bill the Butcher, it becomes obvious Daniel Plainview is an unstable and dangerous man. He is utterly and completely devoted to gaining enough wealth from oil to allow him to get away from everyone, forever. He does not speak of the past, invests in people only when it serves his agenda and carries a grudge the likes of which you’ve never seen. In a contemplative monologue he unleashes a wicked stream of consciousness, “I hate most people. There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want no one else to succeed.” You get the gist.

Photo Credit: Paramount Vantage

The first 15 minutes of the film go by without any spoken dialog, which helps us focus on the work and considerable skill needed to successfully strike oil. Already well established, “I’m an oil man and you will agree,” Plainview meets a young man who tells him Standard Oil is buying up tracts of land in a small town in California. With considerable drilling experience under his belt, Plainview visits the area and talks the town folk into leasing him the land to prospect for oil. His careful and deliberate choice of words is at the level of a con artist taking a mark. One family in particular, The Sunday’s, are first to sign. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) is the son and a man of God. He has a talent for giving revival-type sermons and expects Plainview to help finance his new church. He considers himself a worthy opponent to Daniel. Big mistake.

Planview uses his 10 year old son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) to help lend credibility to his “family business” angle, and quickly signs all but one hold out. Early on in the project H.W. is severely injured in an accident and Daniel sends him to San Francisco for specialized help.

Out of nowhere, a man claiming to be his brother Henry appears, to tell him their father is dead. He shares a note from their sister to prove his lineage. Daniel takes Henry under his roof, and to a business meeting with the Standard Oil executives who offer him $1 million for his wells. Daniel refuses, threatens the execs, and instead, cuts a deal with Union Oil to build a pipeline to carry his black crude straight to the Pacific Ocean.

The story takes a dark turn as a murder is committed, and Daniel finds himself trapped by the actions of the lone land holdout. Plainview must consent to be saved by Eli in exchange for the land lease, something he finds very difficult to do in a scene that is excruciating to watch. H.W. returns to his father and strikes up a relationship with Mary Sunday, the youngest daughter, that leads to marriage.

Liquids are the catalyst and cause of greed and desire for power. Everyone has their liquid of choice. Daniel’s is of course oil. He examines it as if it were an endangered species, smelling, tasting, burning it. He rubs it in Eli’s face in a fit of rage. Eli has his baptism water and takes his revenge on Daniel during the fake redemption sequence.

The closing scene is a jaw-dropper. Daniel has made a fortune and built a mansion for himself including a bowling alley. He uses the main hall for a firing range. In the end he has it out with his son H.W. as well as Eli Sunday, who visits him to get his once promised donation.

Anderson and Day-Lewis – Photo Credit: The New York Times

Film is masterful in technique. You are so completely engrossed in the lives of the people and the story that the 2 hour 30 minute plus running time goes by without a squirm. Shot predominately outside in a beautiful but barren landscape, Mr. Anderson authentically captures the sights and sounds of early 20th century America. But it’s the dialog that propels the drama. Everyone is polite in a matter-of-fact manner, trying hard to transform the wild west into civilization. Jonny Greenwood’s score is sometimes loud, frequently haunting and more often than not seems out of place for the early 1900’s. But it’s right at home in Plainview’s world.

Highly recommended for the serious film goers who appreciate this craft being practiced at the highest levels.