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Magnolia discussion

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Robyn

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Reply #60 on: December 11, 2019, 01:52:39 PM
I saw it in 2008 when I lived at grandmom and needed to think about something else then her being angry at me for sleeping all day.

it was my first PTA love, hehe  (had seen TWBB and BN but didn't fall in love with them until later)


wilberfan

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Reply #61 on: December 18, 2019, 01:00:01 AM
From the Ranks of the Freaks: “Magnolia” at 20
Paul Thomas Anderson’s character study baffled, aggravated & emotionally moved a divisive audience.

We say we want to see movies with people that look like us, with ordinary, unremarkable lives, but that’s not really true. Give us fantasy, give us beautiful people with lives that may be a little messy, but get better by the time the credits roll. Our time is short, why waste it on movies that illustrate how life is a long, often lonely series of fateful encounters and occurrences that, try as we might, we have no control over?

Magnolia, released twenty years ago this month, is arguably Paul Thomas Anderson’s most polarizing film. It has the audacity to be over three hours long, while not actually being about anything. There’s no real plot to speak of, not in the “point A to point B” sense, at least. There’s very little conflict (and when there is, it’s never really resolved), there’s no hero’s journey, and if the characters experience any sort of growth or change, it’s almost imperceptible, just enough to keep them going the next day. In the middle of the action (if you can even call it that), everyone stops to sing a melancholy song about how they’re foolish for thinking life is going to get any better. For some, Magnolia is a twee, melodramatic slog. For others, it offers comfort and hope, albeit served in tiny spoonfuls. Few major studio films have so accurately depicted the concept of bittersweet ordinariness — none of us are special, we’re at the mercy of what life decides to throw at us, and how we decide to handle it.

An ensemble piece, the closest thing the film has to a protagonist is Jim (John C. Reilly), a good-hearted man who’s unfortunately not all that great of a cop. Reilly has become so familiar for his comedic work that it’s hard to remember that his sad, expressive eyes–he was born to be a silent film actor–give his serious roles an exhausted, touching humanity. You believe in Jim, and his good intentions, and his embarrassment over losing his gun, and his awkward tenderness while courting Claudia (Melora Walters). We know right away that Claudia, with her drug addiction and traumatic childhood, might be too much for Jim to handle, but he wants to try, and the fact that anyone does is more than she’s experienced in a long time.

Far ahead of Jim in the sad sack-a-thon is Donnie (William H. Macy), a real life version of those memes about gifted children growing up to be miserable, neurotic adults. Donnie was bilked out of all the money he won as a kid on a TV quiz show by his parents, and now is just stumbling around in life alone, and, like Jim, stuck in a job he’s not very successful at. Donnie has laid all his hopes and dreams at the feet of Brad, a handsome bartender he’s besotted with, but who barely acknowledges his presence. He believes that the best way to get Brad to notice he exists is to get his teeth fixed, which he plans to do with money stolen from his ex-employer. There’s an interesting meta feel to this–Donnie clearly got the idea from a movie or TV show, and it doesn’t occur to him that such a thing isn’t as easy to get away with in real life. We see a movie character figure out that reality isn’t like the movies.

The character connecting everyone, even if just indirectly, is Earl (Jason Robards), former producer of the children’s quiz show Donnie won, which is hosted by Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), Claudia’s estranged father. Earl is dying, and reckoning with a series of bad choices in his life, most predominantly abandoning his sick wife years earlier. Now all he has is a son who doesn’t speak to him, and a trophy wife, Linda (Julianne Moore), who has grown to love him, but is too caught up in her own shame and regret to tell him.

The only person who’s there to see Earl into his last days is Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his nurse, and, along with Jim, the film’s moral compass. Considering how much of Hoffman’s career was devoted to playing troubled creeps and losers, it’s poignant to see him in such a role, with warmth and kindness all but emanating from his pores, particularly when you know that Anderson wrote the part with him in mind. We don’t really know much about Phil, but the fact that he offers comfort to Earl, and weeps at his impending death is what matters. Earl matters, to him at least, and, like Jim and Claudia, that’s enough.

Earl’s estranged son, Frank (Tom Cruise), is the closest thing the movie has to a villain. Frank is a motivational speaker/dating coach who says stuff like “Respect the cock, and tame the cunt,” while insecurity and sadness hangs in the air around him like bad cologne. He doesn’t seem like he really believes what he’s saying, and we see no evidence that his misogynist “dating advice” works for him. He’s just angry, and has found an easy, gullible audience in other angry men. If Magnolia was released now, he’d have a YouTube channel with a million subscribers.

Magnolia is one of the few times in Cruise’s career where he’s been genuinely great, rather than just okay. Like when he portrayed a hammy 18th century vampire, he’s taking a real risk here, playing a character who seems to have no redeeming qualities, up until perhaps the last quarter of the film. Frank’s bedside reunion with Earl is fraught with rage and sorrow — he’s come back into his father’s life, only to face losing him again, for good. Largely improvised, it’s one of Cruise’s finest onscreen moments.

Despite their connections, and the fact that they’re all within a mile of the same place, many of these characters don’t ever encounter each other. They’re all tiny ripples in each other’s ponds, becoming indirectly associated by chance. There’s a saying about how we’re all walk-on characters in the movies of other people’s lives, and that’s what Magnolia is, a series of short films that all have a thread tying them together. Sometimes the thread is so thin you can barely see it, but it’s there.

Many of the characters, without ever realizing it, have something in common — Claudia and Linda are both addicts, Frank and Claudia both refuse to use their father’s last names, Earl and Jimmy both have cancer, Jimmy and Donnie are both alcoholics. There’s even two quiz kids: Donnie, and Stanley (Jeremy Blackman), both of whom only matter to their parents when they’re winning money. The fact that Stanley’s father, near the end of the film, icily ignores Stanley’s suggestion that he needs to “be nicer” to him is sobering proof that the cycle always continues, for good or ill. Maybe Stanley will grow up to be just like Donnie, or maybe something he’ll never see coming will turn him down a different path.

While focusing so much on the bleaker aspects of it, it’s hard to remember that Magnolia is genuinely funny at times. Not fall down funny, but in that sort of bemusing way, like when you have an encounter with an eccentric stranger. Donnie has a strange, elliptical conversation with a fellow bar patron who calls himself Thurston Howell (Henry Gibson). During their sweetly clumsy first date, Jim abruptly blurts out his embarrassment and insecurity about his job, and Claudia is so impressed with his honesty that she kisses him. Jim seems a little surprised and puzzled by this. After all, he doesn’t know any other way to be.

If Magnolia doesn’t have a happy ending, per se, it at least has a hopeful one. Because like I said above, with hope there’s a reason to keep going. Every day we wake up and choose to keep moving ahead is another day for things to turn around and go our way. And if not, then maybe the next day, or the one after that. We won’t know unless we keep going.

Earl’s pain comes to an end, and though it’s a fraught reunion, he gets to see his son one more time. Jim’s missing gun reappears, having seemingly fallen out of the sky. When Linda awakens from a suicide attempt, she’ll find a most unlikely person sitting at her bedside: Frank, taking the first steps towards letting go of years of hurt and anger. We close on Claudia (appropriately, as she was the first character Anderson created, spinning everything off of her), sure she’s pushed kind, tenderhearted Jim away with all the broken, jagged parts of her. But he’s there, and he’s asking for a chance to be with her, to be the strength and steadfastness that she needs. Claudia, her teary, tired eyes telling the truth, that this life, it’s so damn hard, and so long, looks at Jim as he makes his speech. Then she look at us, and smiles. A little bit.
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wilberfan

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Reply #62 on: December 20, 2019, 02:32:02 AM
On Location with Jared Cowan
Ep. 11: Tim Hillman at the Fox Fire Room from "Magnolia"

For the 20th anniversary of Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 San Fernando Valley mosaic, "Magnolia," we were "up before the dawn" to meet location manager Tim Hillman at one of the film's most recognizable shooting locations. We talk specificity of locations when working for the auteur filmmaker, Hillman's change of career in his early 30s, working on the 1991 comedy "Drop Dead Fred," and much more.
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wilberfan

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Reply #63 on: December 20, 2019, 06:27:18 PM
Not to bump my own thread, but this Valley Boy really enjoyed this discussion with Tim.  All of PTA's Valley-based films resonate extra deeply for me having grown up here, and I've made a pilgrimage to about 97% of the BOOGIE NIGHTS locations (some based on original research), and 3 or 4 of the places used in MAGNOLIA.  (The bar, the pharmacy, the froggie gas station, the hospital....)   It was also fun to hear him good-naturedly dish about what it was like to work with Paul back in his youthfully  exuberant days.  I don't think you have to be a Location Nerd, like I am, to enjoy this, but I would encourage a listen.
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wilberfan

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Reply #64 on: December 26, 2019, 07:49:23 PM
"Trying to fit in since 2017."


jenkins

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Reply #65 on: December 26, 2019, 07:55:42 PM
Cunning Emotion


wilberfan

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Reply #66 on: March 04, 2020, 03:33:06 PM
The 20th Anniversary of the release of MAGNOLIA in France is this month.  Prompting this (Google Translation) of an article in "Inrocktubtibles".  (Anyone speak French?  This could use a bit of a polish in places.)

https://www.lesinrocks.com/2020/03/03/cinema/actualite-cinema/magnolia-monument-de-paul-thomas-anderson-fete-ses-20-ans/

“Magnolia”, monument to Paul Thomas Anderson, celebrates its 20th anniversary

Quote
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its release, return to Magnolia , the third feature film by Paul Thomas Anderson and ultra-ambitious choral film, which follows the weather of a stormy night, the crossed destinies of nine residents of Los Angeles.
Of the eight films that make up the filmography of Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia is perhaps the one that best crystallizes the critical and aesthetic dispute between the supporters of PTA, who hoist the filmmaker aloft in their film buff, and his detractors, who do not see in him little more than a pretentious maker. Vain show of force for some, kaleidoscopic masterpiece for others, Magnolia is one of those films that maintain differences, and exacerbate positions. Twenty years after its release, return to a monumental and intimate film, which, like its dissonant reception, cultivates oxymorons wonderfully.

Rising star
When Magnolia was released in December 1999 (March 2000 in France), PTA was not yet the super-author he would become seven years later with There Will Be Blood , but a rising star of American independent cinema, furtively passing over red carpets of international festivals, and by Sundance writing workshops. After Hard Eight , a highly seminal neonoir but remained relatively confidential, presented at Cannes in 1996 to ultimately not be distributed in France, and Boogie Nights , jubilant and neurotic plunge in the declining porn industry of the late 1970s, PTA begins to attract attention, and put on the costume of hope of young American cinema in a decade that has already seen the dubiousness of some of its peers, Tarantino in particular. Already it is said of this young Californian barely thirty years old, brimming with ambition but sure of his talent, that he could be the spiritual son of revered masters of New Hollywood, Scorsese first, but above all Altman, tutelary figure from the filmmaker, whose work will find a powerful echo in his films. Others, on the other hand, see in his first two films only a vain emulation of the cinema of his ancestors, even a shameless plagiarism of their connoted style. Genius in the making, or talented forger? It will necessarily take a third feature film to mark the right trend. Unless it further exacerbates this inextricable dissensus.

This third feature film will therefore be Magnolia , a 3-hour river film that borrows its structure from Altman's choral films ( Nashville , Short Cuts ) and examines the cracks in nine main characters, all plagued by unfathomable demons, that fate (if not an improbable series of coincidences) will eventually link, until a mythological final, figured in an anthology sequence, where a rain of frogs falls on Los Angeles, freeing the space of an instant these nine souls lost from their turpitudes. Magnolia is less a choral film than a polyphony of solitudes, where we follow, for a stormy night, nine women and men riddled with anguish, crumbling under the weight of their own vices, buried family secrets, and deeply rooted unsaid.

American Society on Infusion
The film draws, through these nine portraits, that of a larger American society on a drip. First of all, literally, with the character of Earl Partridge (played by Jason Robards, who will die a few months after the film's release), a former press magnate in the terminal stages of cancer, who half-loads his help - caregiver (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to find the son he once abandoned. Then metaphorically through the exploration of the backstage of a television channel, opium of a society that lives on its dreams, where we follow in parallel the tribulations of Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) - star presenter of a game televised which sees a team of adults and children gifted on questions of general culture confronting each other - and Stanley Spector, one of the children participating in the program, exploited by his father who wishes to pocket the jackpot. A company on a drip which conjures up its ill-being in a frantic consumption of products of all kinds, like the antidepressants that frantically swallows Linda (Julianne Moore), the cockroach girl of Earl Partridge, or the rails of coke that chained Rose (Melinda Dillon), stakhanovist of the knockout and daughter of Jimmy Gator, who will find relative comfort with Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), awkward but conscientious cop, fell in love with the young woman during a search. A society on a drip, finally, which brings to the skies Frank TJ Mackey (Tom Cruise), an enlightened seminarian and erotomaniac who gives advice to a crowd of destitute sexuals to "eat pussy", but conceals beneath an a priori rust-proof confidence, and an abject character, old and deep wounds.

Magnolia is a whirlwind, a washing machine that harnesses us for 3 hours to the twirling camera of PTA, offering rare moments of breathing, which then become unexpected dressings on gaping wounds; like this surreal sequence where all the characters start to sing with one voice " It's not going to stop, 'til you wise up ", or the famous one, of the rain of frogs, biblical apparition which comes to wash the City of Angels of a thousand torments in a strangely providential deluge. Parable about the links between humans, transmission, the past and coincidences, the third PTA film is above all a film about the disease (whatever it is) and its treatment (whatever it is). The cynicism that contaminates the beginning of the film is concealed as the masks fall, the past reappears, the pains are explained, and the wounds heal. Magnolia is as much a disease as a cure, a healed wound and an open wound.

When it was released in France, Les Cahiers du Cinéma , in a somewhat laudatory text, said of the film that it was " a re-reading, independent American cinema style, of the routine of soap operas " and concluded: "Magnolia is worth what Les Feux de love , no more no less ". We could not, despite our otherwise more laudatory reading of the film, disqualify this analysis ( Le Monde already looked like Boogie Nights to a sitcom), because Magnolia is indeed a soap opera, or rather a degenerate, deliquescent version of the soap opera, just like PTA's next film, Punch Drunk Love , will be a sick romantic comedy, tainted by the incommunicability of its two incapacitated lovers, or Phantom Thread , its latest film, a poisonous reinterpretation of melodrama. By instilling vice in all human relationships, and in all genres it has explored, PTA takes the pulse of a disenchanted, sick and morally shaky world, to finally offer its characters an unexpected salvation. By confronting their turpitude, they give themselves the means to ward them off. By accepting their illness, they authorize their healing. This is the central subject of PTA cinema, from Magnolia to Phantom Thread , from The Master to Inherent Vice .

Twenty years after its release, Magnolia continues to fascinate. And if the third PTA film remains, like its filmography, an extremely divisive work, its supporters will find there in each (re) vision an unexpected comfort, swept away by the stream of beauty which slumbers under a thick mire.
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wilberfan

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Reply #67 on: June 10, 2020, 11:22:34 PM
"Trying to fit in since 2017."


Fuzzy Dunlop

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Reply #68 on: June 25, 2020, 03:19:17 PM
"The Magnolia soundtrack made sweet music from a cinematic ode to Aimee Mann"
https://music.avclub.com/the-magnolia-soundtrack-made-sweet-music-from-a-cinemat-1844139288

I kind of love how magnolia is becoming his most underrated movie (even to paul, maybe). Imagine making a movie like this and its your most underrated movie?? It makes me want to double down on loving it even harder.


wilberfan

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Reply #69 on: July 16, 2020, 09:24:49 PM
All this time, all these viewings--and I did NOT recognize Veronica Hart as "Dentist Nurse #1" in MAGNOLIA.

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