Author Topic: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)  (Read 65073 times)

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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #105 on: January 04, 2008, 08:21:16 PM »
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WARNING: FIERY GUSHING SPOILERS

(If you haven't figured that out before arriving at this thread, you probably deserve to be spoiled.)

I haven't read any reviews or reactions to this movie, so this is going to be straight from my brain. I'll do the reading after I post.

This was quite a bit different than my PDL experience, because I tried religiously to stay spoiler-free. I wanted an experience similar to that of Magnolia, which I saw cold. Going into this movie, I knew just a few things—that it's about oil and religion, that DDL stars (I thought he was the religious man and not the prospector, though, because of the poster), that DDL's character has some kind of rivalry with Paul Dano's character and that it was so intense that the first actor had to be replaced (where did I read that?), that there's a train, that the kid lights a match (thanks modage for the spoilatar), that Jonny Greenwood scored the film, and that the ending was remarkable in some way because people were discussing it here in the spoiler forum.

One effect of not knowing what to expect is that you're surprised. You can stay spoiler-free all you want, but you'll still have preconceptions, and the movie won't match them. It occurred to me for a moment after the movie that it might have been better to get spoiled a little to avoid that surprise, but I don't think I agree with that. It's a very honest movie that doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, and I accept it on those grounds. I was still surprised, though, that it lacked so many of PTA's signatures—his dialogue, his composition, his whip-pans, and even the editing. This was refreshing but at the same time frightening. We were navigating uncharted waters. I'm assuming that PTA wanted to get his eccentricities out of the way and let DDL take things over. I think it worked. And I think when I watch the movie again, I'll see PTA where I didn't know he was.

In the end, I really do love the movie... for all the obvious reasons. I'm not going to waste space gushing about it, though.

Let's try to put some pieces together. I'm sure you all have been doing this, and I'll go back and read it, but I'd like to give it a shot first.

On the surface, it's just a good story about greed, revenge, estrangement, betrayal, etc. And you have the typical PTA fatherhood issues being worked out with the bonus brotherhood element. But there's obviously a lot more.

First issue. Authenticity. DDL's character has the not-so-subtle name Plainview. While he is deceptive at times, he rather quickly reveals himself. The quail-hunting story rapidly unravels, and he comes right out and makes it clear that he's interested in oil. He parks HW on the train, but the trick is revealed right away. When he gets baptized to build the pipeline, he makes it very clear (verbally, even) that he's just trying to get through it so he can leave. I was completely expecting him to hide the body after that first accident and cover things up, but no, it's entirely public. Plainview is not very good at lying. In fact, he didn't even bother to construct a cover story about HW's mother, even after being repeatedly asked about it. Instead of lying about that, he just gets silent or uber-defensive, once again revealing himself. He is what he is—an oil man who wants to buy land, extract oil, and make enough money to get away from people (as he says).

In that bit of stark exposition to his false brother, he makes himself very clear:

"Are you an angry man? Are you envious? Do you get envious? I have a competition in me; I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people. There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I've built up my hatreds over the years little by little. <---Doesn't he say that to HW in their last scene together? I see the worst in people. I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I want to earn enough money I can get away from everyone. I can't keep doing this on my own, with these... people." (Apparently that's from the trailer.)

Note his honesty, but also think about what it is, exactly, that he hates. He seems to hate two kinds of people—successful people and inauthentic people. I'm going to focus on the latter, because I think that's where the story is.

Remember the three murders—that of the false brother, HW, and Eli Sunday. (For my purposes, I'm calling the "you're not my son" revelation a murder.) (1) When he confronts the false brother and extracts the confession, he's not at all interested in the "we can still be friends" business. He wouldn't be able to live with that kind of fraudulence. (2) When HW goes deaf and gets a little weird, he is more of a distraction than an asset, an awkward and obstructive piece of inauthenticity that Plainview could do without. He brings HW back to him, though, suspecting that he can find a new use for him and justify the deception. But as soon as it's clear that HW is separating, becoming a competitor on top of his existence as a fraud (the two things Plainview doesn't tolerate), it's time to expose the inauthenticity and destroy it. Plainview is also clearly bothered that HW uses sign-language, communicating to him indirectly through a translator instead of speaking (which he forces him to do). (3) In that last scene, Plainview gets Eli Sunday to fully repent (which is sort of a good deed in itself, religiously speaking), once again exposing the fraudulence and completely (completely) destroying it. Plainview has this need to bring things into plain view, as it were—to expose inauthenticity and destroy its host. This—not drilling for oil—is his real job, what the movie is really about, and the final line, "I'm finished," tells us that his work is done.

That last scene really fascinates me, beyond the power of the performances. Plainview, from the beginning of the film, had a fake manner of speaking, an unconvincing professionalistic tone that extended through all areas of his conduct, even to his private moments with HW. This is a working-class guy who is suddenly a big-shot. It's almost understandable. Eli at the beginning has a pretty naturalistic manner of speaking. These things change. As Plainview unravels, his voice is more expressive, peaking in the final scene. As Eli becomes an entrepreneur himself, his speech becomes increasingly fake and professionalistic, which also peaks in the final scene. Full circle.

A little piece of mystery. Eli's church is called "The Church of the Third Revelation." Is this a reference to the three murders? The three phases of Eli's priesthood? Or is this a concrete biblical reference? I'm also interested to know if people have found any relevant biblical references in the film. Maybe not on the Exodus 8:2 level, but something like it. "Paul was the real brother" could be significant. Plainview says this in the final scene. I think he also says "this is the real church" (referring to his personal bowling alley). Does anyone have a better memory? Thoughts?

This may be a bit obvious: the corrupting power of oil. After the initial discovery, Plainview baptizes HW with oil. He also baptizes Eli in oil (post-referenced rather geniously by Plainview's church baptism). I'm not sure if the false brother had any similar obvious contact with oil prior to his death (help me out), but I do know that he was buried in oil-rich dirt.

One last note about Eli. He really is a less and less sympathetic character the more you think about him. I thought he'd turn out to be a "champion of the people" figure, defending the community's natural resources. Not at all. He wanted oil money to build his church. And then in the final scene, he was willing to entirely sell himself out and his neighbor to get more oil money for his ministry. What a punk.

Some final tidbits.

Initials for first names (HW) have been used throughout literature to denote inauthenticity or fraudulence. Take J. Alfred Prufrock, for example.

Plainview and Eli are mirrors of each other. Other than the obvious stuff I've covered (their opposing characteristics), they both have estranged brothers.

The hills at the beginning with the Greenwood music seemed like an homage to 2001's monoliths. That must mean something.

What does the bowling alley represent? Success, probably. It's a manifestation of excess (we don't see anyone bowling, per se) and a reflection of Plainview's wealth. It's also where Eli meets his end, i.e. he pursued greed/success too far, got too close, succumbed to it, etc.

So that's it. Please correct me if you see something obvious, and help me answer some of these questions (if you haven't already).
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Ghostboy

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #106 on: January 04, 2008, 08:36:22 PM »
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A little piece of mystery. Eli's church is called "The Church of the Third Revelation." Is this a reference to the three murders? The three phases of Eli's priesthood? Or is this a concrete biblical reference?

There's dialogue from the script that isn't in the movie (and which I believe is pulled directly from the novel, if I remember correctly) in which Plainview tells Eli that he recalls two revelations in the bible, and asks Eli what the third is. "I am," Eli says.

Gold Trumpet

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #107 on: January 04, 2008, 08:45:03 PM »
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Fuck, JB is back to reviewing movies. My agnostic prayers have been answered. I can't wait to see this film so I can have at that review. It looks good.

hedwig

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #108 on: January 04, 2008, 11:40:07 PM »
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fucking fantastic review JB. i love what you've written about the idea of authenticity and how it drives so much of this film. it goes a long way in explaining why daniel, in spite of all his loathsome qualities, is still a sort of sympathetic character. he is certainly more sympathetic than eli, who explicitly embodies the phoniness that fills daniel with so much contempt.

(2) When HW goes deaf and gets a little weird, he is more of a distraction than an asset, an awkward and obstructive piece of inauthenticity that Plainview could do without. He brings HW back to him, though, suspecting that he can find a new use for him and justify the deception. But as soon as it's clear that HW is separating, becoming a competitor on top of his existence as a fraud (the two things Plainview doesn't tolerate), it's time to expose the inauthenticity and destroy it. Plainview is also clearly bothered that HW uses sign-language, communicating to him indirectly through a translator instead of speaking (which he forces him to do).

he's really destroying his own inauthenticity here. that's why he is the one who ultimately suffers from this confession. HW had no idea he was a fraud. it was daniel's lie, and the revelation sends HW off into the world to operate with freedom from daniel's tyranny, and pushes daniel even deeper into his own madness. he hates people for their inauthenticity and tries to avoid it but he fails, and hates himself even moreso.

Initials for first names (HW) have been used throughout literature to denote inauthenticity or fraudulence. Take J. Alfred Prufrock, for example.
ah, so THAT'S why paul dropped the PT Anderson moniker for this film. :ponder:

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #109 on: January 05, 2008, 02:23:29 AM »
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he's really destroying his own inauthenticity here. that's why he is the one who ultimately suffers from this confession. HW had no idea he was a fraud. it was daniel's lie, and the revelation sends HW off into the world to operate with freedom from daniel's tyranny, and pushes daniel even deeper into his own madness. he hates people for their inauthenticity and tries to avoid it but he fails, and hates himself even moreso.

Hmm... good call. HW the device is destroyed, but HW the person is freed? I guess that's what makes that "murder" different from the others, it has a positive effect on the victim. (That would be even more true if we're going by the script, which, as someone said, has the wedding at the end.)

But here's the thing. Is it really a descent into madness? He's still using the same logic he's used throughout the film. Does Plainview do anything irrational or inconsistent at the end, outside of his incredible drunkenness?
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hedwig

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #110 on: January 05, 2008, 04:05:53 AM »
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But here's the thing. Is it really a descent into madness? He's still using the same logic he's used throughout the film. Does Plainview do anything irrational or inconsistent at the end, outside of his incredible drunkenness?

good point. unless you consider his actions right from the beginning to be indicative of insanity, it isn't a descent into madness so much as it's a descent into hatred. the eli murder follows the same logic as the henry murder, they're manifestations of daniel's need to destroy and punish inauthenticity.

HW's fraudulent existence eats away at him until finally he is pushed over the edge. daniel tells HW that he only used him as a business tool, but we know it's not as simple as that. the baptism scene (one of the most crucial moments in the film for many reasons) reveals that he sincerely regrets abandoning his child. we see his emotional attachment when he is reunited with him. this is an incredibly complex character but when it all backfires, daniel's sense of competition and his hatred for people outweigh everything else. and so when he learns that his own device of inauthenticity has come back to bite him in the ass, he confesses. he is an emotionally shattered man in the last scene because he has confronted his OWN deceitfulness. his actions--the taunting, the fury, the murder--are consistent with everything we've learned about daniel up to that point but at a higher intensity.

this post was written to the third movement of Brahms' Violin Concerto.

noyes

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #111 on: January 05, 2008, 10:43:00 AM »
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After the initial discovery, Plainview baptizes HW with oil.

Some have missed it, because it's almost meant to be subtle, but that wasn't Plainview holding baby HW: that was his father. His real father.

Remember the three murders—that of the false brother, HW, and Eli Sunday. (For my purposes, I'm calling the "you're not my son" revelation a murder.) (1) When he confronts the false brother and extracts the confession, he's not at all interested in the "we can still be friends" business. He wouldn't be able to live with that kind of fraudulence. (2) When HW goes deaf and gets a little weird, he is more of a distraction than an asset, an awkward and obstructive piece of inauthenticity that Plainview could do without. He brings HW back to him, though, suspecting that he can find a new use for him and justify the deception. But as soon as it's clear that HW is separating, becoming a competitor on top of his existence as a fraud (the two things Plainview doesn't tolerate), it's time to expose the inauthenticity and destroy it. Plainview is also clearly bothered that HW uses sign-language, communicating to him indirectly through a translator instead of speaking (which he forces him to do). (3) In that last scene, Plainview gets Eli Sunday to fully repent (which is sort of a good deed in itself, religiously speaking), once again exposing the fraudulence and completely (completely) destroying it. Plainview has this need to bring things into plain view, as it were—to expose inauthenticity and destroy its host. This—not drilling for oil—is his real job, what the movie is really about, and the final line, "I'm finished," tells us that his work is done.

very well put.
similarly, in essense, i related the "1927 and on" part of the film
and how it works regardless of the contrast to the first 3 halves of the film
to the "recapitulation" in the Sonata form in music.
the way the tables turn on just about every established idea of what everything was and who everyone was.

great review overall and props on that particular paragraph JB.
way to break shit down to the bitter bone.  :yabbse-thumbup:
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Reinhold

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #112 on: January 05, 2008, 12:01:35 PM »
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What does the bowling alley represent? Success, probably. It's a manifestation of excess (we don't see anyone bowling, per se) and a reflection of Plainview's wealth. It's also where Eli meets his end, i.e. he pursued greed/success too far, got too close, succumbed to it, etc.


Note the use of a lot of polished wood tones in the bowling alley. To me, it evoked all the raw wood of the oil drilling sites transformed by Plainview's wealth. The space also provided the rich man's gutter in which Plainview was drunkenly resting.

Though we didn't see anyone actually bowling as you point out, I like it as an end location for a couple of other reasons. For example, I think the spatial politics of the game itself resonate with plainview-- the distance between the two ends of the lane (note that he was lying miserably in the middle), with calculation on one end and explosion of force on the other.  Additionally, I think that the bowling alley would have really appealed to PTA because it's one of the old manual ones, meaning that between turns one would have had to arrange all of the pins by hand before being able to knock them down in the next frame.
Obviously what you are doing right now is called (in my upcoming book of psychology at least) validation. I think it's a normal thing to do. People will reply, say anything, and then you're gonna do what you were subconsciently thinking of doing all along.

pete

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #113 on: January 05, 2008, 12:12:27 PM »
+1
JB: according to some theologians, there are three revelations that have been described in the Bible.  The first one is the law of god, ie. the Ten Commandments.  the second one was god in the flesh, ie. Jesus Christ.  The third one was the spirit of god, which communicates with the people through science and whatever everyday occurences.  In the mid 1800s there was a movement that celebrates the "Third Revelation" that started in France, called Spiritism.  It was founded by a French guy named Allan Kardec who claimed to be a codifier of god.  Spiritism and spiritualism began in Europe in the early 1800s, they celebrate I think, any spiritual point of view that opposes materialism.  that's history of the third revelation in the recent years, I dunno if that helps you or not.
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #114 on: January 05, 2008, 02:48:00 PM »
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Fascinating stuff.

I first thought "the church of the third revelation" referenced the three key revelations (and corresponding murders) in the film, the third of which is in fact Eli. Maybe there's still something to that.

I guess I'm abandoning the "victims being baptized in oil" theory, because I'm not sure that it adds up, firstly because (as you corrected) Plainview didn't perform the first baptism. And now that I think of it, Eli did pass an oil pool on his way to the confrontation, but it was mostly mud that he was "baptised" in, and PTA talks about it as just "mud" in his Fresh Air interview. I don't know, was it oily mud? Is that connection a stretch?

Reinhold, that is some great insight about the bowling alley. I wonder if PTA or DDL were aware of all that (certainly the gutter bit). This could be a situation where the art has meaning beyond its creators' intentions.
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pete

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #115 on: January 05, 2008, 03:30:39 PM »
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I'm gonna stay away, hopefully entirely away, from symbols and allegories in the following writing. 

to me it seems like the film is always almost solely focused on its fascination with the character of Plainview.  It wanted to know just how much humanity did he contain.  In my first review in this thread I said it was a film with no character development but only character revelation, I would like to take that back now.  I don't think he could've killed Eli in the beginning of the film.  He was capable of it, but some tiny part of him was convinced that he could be civil; that he could have a heart.  Then he just kept on getting betrayed, bit by bit.  He took the son's lost of hearing as some form of betrayal, and it irked him that he couldn't figure out how to work it out - because he knew it wasn't the kid's fault but he somehow also knew that he didn't have to be as nice to him as he did before.  He indulged in the distance.  Then the false brother came and went and showed a real betrayal, that was when he realized he was incredibly wrong about HW. 

Eli was someone he'd always despised.  Eli was always meant to be a poorman's Plainview.  The kid was clueless, and Plainview saw through him from the get-go.  However, Plainview realized that he couldn't just swat Eli away, and Eli turned out to be a bit fiercer and elastic than Plainview first surmised.  It just didn't make sense of Plainview, which made him even angrier.  Eli was supposed to be easily coaxable, like the rest of his family.  But instead Eli just had enough of Plainview in him to fuck things up, but not enough to garner any type of respect or attention.  This complexity infuriated Plainview, as did most complicated feelings did to him in this film.

Fast forward to the end, to Plainview's total loss of humanity.  It reminded me a bit of the Alan Partridge episodes.  Alan didn't like most people and was very bad at hiding it.  Therefore he savored anything gesture that came off as a sign of animosity, 'cause then he could indulge in opposition and deliver a hilarious monologue.  It felt like it was the same way with Plainview.  He had suspicions about HW, though they made no logical sense.  He knew the kid wasn't like him and he couldn't figure why he wouldn't like the kid.  Then when HW broke the news, it gave him what he was yearning for all these years.  He savored the animosity.  He felt like he'd been vindicated and he was right all along. 

But the film was still unsure, perhaps he had a little more left in him, perhaps he was just hurt by HW's news in his drunken state and said words he didn't mean.  The film therefore provided Eli.  Eli became even more detestable with his slightly serious wealth and even more weaselly techniques.  Plainview realized the boy was ripe for murder after all.  Eli's mild success and sleaze had uncomplicated Plainview's view of him.  With that he relinquished the last bit of humanity and completely immersed in his transformation.  Eli died and Plainview was a total beast.  By then the film had answered its own question, a savage without any trace of heart just wasn't very fascinating, therefore, it had to end.
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #116 on: January 05, 2008, 05:44:22 PM »
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He had suspicions about HW, though they made no logical sense.  He knew the kid wasn't like him and he couldn't figure why he wouldn't like the kid.  Then when HW broke the news, it gave him what he was yearning for all these years.  He savored the animosity.  He felt like he'd been vindicated and he was right all along.

Ding ding ding!

to me it seems like the film is always almost solely focused on its fascination with the character of Plainview.  It wanted to know just how much humanity did he contain.

Absolutely, and I'm still trying to figure that out. At the beginning, for example, before the deafness, to what extent did he love or value HW as a son, not just a marketing device? I'm not entirely convinced that the baptism revealed Plainview's true feelings.
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #117 on: January 05, 2008, 06:57:43 PM »
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I might as well weigh in on the twin brother controversy. I knew something was off when Paul was introduced, because I was expecting the name Eli. I figured there was a 50/50 chance this was Eli pretending to be someone else. When Plainview and HW met Eli, I think that possibility was mostly eliminated. Eli (besides looking as though he really was meeting the pair for the first time) was clean-cut, extremely polite, and had this holier-than-thou grin on his face, whereas Paul was more abrasive and crude with his "don't insult my intelligence" attitude. I didn't specifically notice the hair difference, but I'm sure I did subconsciously. Everything Eli said at that dinner table, and the way he talked about oil, suggested that he was not Paul. There just wasn't a motive that would have made sense. Still, I kept it in the back of my mind as a possibility until the "beating up the old man" scene, which made things pretty clear. But I also have to admit that it was still there (residually) until the final scene.
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B.C. Long

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #118 on: January 05, 2008, 07:07:41 PM »
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My EX-girlfriend thought he (Eli) had a split-personality. But I don't think we can take her opinion seriously, because she also said things like "I loved the way Daniel dresses. He looks great in skinny pants." and "I really liked the soundtrack but why did they have to use music from LOST?"

"What do you mean "music from lost"?

"I mean the whole build-up scary thing. That's ripped off from LOST."

"................."

I think this is why we're no longer together.

modage

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Re: there has been blood (and now QT's review of CMBB)
« Reply #119 on: January 06, 2008, 02:29:07 AM »
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saw this a third time tonite.  it was better than the 2nd time.  a few thoughts...

above all, this is a story about fathers and sons.

vincent froio was the right hand man in the 1927 scene when daniel tells HW that his right hand man hears everything. there are actually 2 men in the room, the butler and froio. 

daniels eyes seem to really GLOW blue in the 1927 scenes.

al rose is thanked by daniel for the refreshments at the derrick unveliing ceremony.  alrose promotions put the initial Blood teaser on youtube.  i think al rose might have been the guy who evaluates the lands value.  "why don't i own this".  that could've been ricky jay if paul had wanted to stay with his company.

daniels descent seems to begin when HW goes deaf.  and certainly when he is sent away.  before this time he does not do anything too crazy.  he may hate people but he is still pretty good at concealing it and operating his business.  after HW goes away his bad behavior seems to come out full force.  he no longer has any way to communicate with him.  and the betrayal of his fake brother only sends him further away.  he tries to open up and finds himself being fooled by an imposter.  even when HW comes back things will never quite be the same.  HW maybe wont entirely forgive him for sending him away and daniel himself may have already gone too far.  but i know that he DOES love HW.  i wasnt sure on first viewing if he did or not.  but his speech at the end is a result of alcohol and a sense of betrayal. 

is that water or vodka that daniel chugs in the final scene?

my friend had a theory that when daniel is asleep on the floor at the end that he actually dies and the final confrontation with eli is all in his mind.  as wish fulfillment for  what the person he would want to see and final wish he'd like to carry out.  this is a pretty out there theory, but interesting nonetheless.
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