Thursday, August 03, 2006


His Word is so true,
Oh why did I ever choose you?
You are killing all my wonder.
- Liz Janes

This is the kind of film that pretty much demands discussion afterwards. So sprawling and weighty, so enthralling yet baffling, so many possibilities of meaning; I can only compare it to other monuments like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fellini's 8 1/2, or Lucas' Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Wait, scratch that last one.

If I were still in school and had to write a paper anytime soon, I'd write it on the similarities of Magnolia and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Despite an obviously different intended audience, I think Anderson and Lewis are trying to accomplish similar goals and even use a similar style.

In one of his essays, Lewis wrote:
“Do you thing I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

I think Magnolia is all about the same evil enchantment of worldliness. With everyone trying desperately to find happiness through fame, power, wealth, status, addiction, television, etc., but not being able to have a real relationship with anyone. Then the insane ending with the frogs. Was it a biblical plague, like in Egypt of old? A Transcendent moment of the Creator demanding Television's Great and Spacious building to "let my people go"? I don't know, but it was beautiful. What do you folks think?



Blogger Drew said...

Other than the charming beginning, I pretty much hated this film until the frog scene. Then I liked it, but I never wanted to see it again. This is similar to any hard earned life lesson I suppose.

This film must be what they mean by post modernism. The film clearly comments on the lack of any qualitative improvement in life despite our many attempts at institutionalizing pleasure. And yet with one stroke of God's hand, or in this case a wave of plummeting frogs, things strangely become clear and all the characters submit like babies to the nipple. You know something is transcendent when it gets weaker by explaining it, so I wont try.

There is also the matter of seemingly unrelated things becoming related. I think this idea is tucked into the notion of a grand narrative steming from the post modernistic view as well. You mentioned 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another example of man doomed by his own institutions if not for the intervention of a higher power.

But I'll be honest, the real reason I didn't like Magnolia, was all the damn cursing.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

I'll agree with you about the cursing, Drew. I started reading the screenplay a few years ago, and had to quit after about thirty pages because it was just too foul, and assumed whatever Mr. Anderson had to say, it wasn't worth going through all that. But after seeing Punch Drunk Love, I knew the guy had a heart of gold, so I'd been waiting to get my hands on an edited copy of Magnolia. So I finally discovered an online edited rental place called "flicks club" which is pretty much the same as cleanflicks, but I guess their smaller and weren't included in cleanflicks' lawsuit so they can stay in business for the time being. And they have a lot more really good films instead of just all the new releases like cleanflicks had. Anyway, so I saw it minus all the cursing and also minus about 15 minutes in length (most of Tom Cruise's speeches).

The downside is they edit any swearing or innuendo at all, and not by muting or replacing it like they would on tv, instead it's just gone, either by jump cut or cutting out the rest of the scene. So in "This is Spinal Tap" they edited out the word "hell" from the song "Hell Hole", which made for a pretty sloppy sounding chorus. And most of Big Bottom and Sex Farm were gone as well, as well as the review for "Shark Sandwich"

3:00 PM  
Blogger Bryan Summers said...

I loved Magnolia when I first saw it. I can only describe it as a religious experience.

But I've seen it three times since and it hasn't held up. Most of the characters and their constant kvetching bore me. The only characters that still hold my attention are Tom Cruise's and the father of the quiz show kid.

I actually kind of liked the cursing in the movie. I'm no fan of the 'f' word - it usually seems tacked on and lazy, except in the hands of writers like Quentin Tarrentino, David Mamet and P.T. Anderson.

The P.T. Anderson movie I love the most is Boogie Nights. I think it does a much better job of showing the wages of sin. It is a movie about damaged and flawed people yearning for a better and Zionistic life. They fail miserably. How could they not? But I'm touched by their strivings and I still am touched by the last shot of Juliane Moore looking at herself in the mirror. She's found a family but it will never replace the son that was taken away from her.

True, it's a movie about porn stars but there is nothing titillating about it.

And the scene at the end where they try to sell cocaine to Alfred Molina is genius. Funny and scary and sad.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

i didn't love magnolia and i didn't hate it. which is weird because it's the type of movie that usually demands a strong reaction. there were things i loved about it and things that were just kind of 'ehh.' but i definitely got the sense that it was an 'important' movie. whatever that means. i felt like i could watch it again and get more out of it.

the alfred molina scene in boogie nights is amazing. very surreal. it'd be worth finding it on youtube if you're not gonna see the film.

2:43 PM  

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