Sunday, January 06, 2008

Just Call J.T. Brother Carrie

Once upon a time the United States of America was run by fiscally conservative Republican Episcopalians. Though not precisely socially progressive, they were, at least, not aggressively wacko religious zealots and were supportive of the arts and humanities. Meanwhile white trash evangelical zealots worked minimum wage jobs, hung out in tent rallies, wore clip on ties, ate a lot of fried slop and often weren't even registered to vote. Something happened along the way during the 20th century, and we now have the current political scene that seems to have a gun at the head of the heart, head and soul of the nation by leaders who seem hell bent to pushing the country on the fast track to be a developing nation with a small elite and subservient, obedient drones while the United States of Europe continue their reign as the economic and moral beacon in the world.


How did we get to this point over the past century? There Will Be Blood, freely borrowing from Upton Sinclair's Oil doesn't fully answer that, but shows how a century or more ago oilmen were transparently amoral opportunists, and evangelical Christians were marginalized, exploited bumpkins who seemed to come in sharp conflict with them. How did these once arch enemies come to be such loving bed fellows and ultimately invite Mormons into their menage a trois? Was it the oilmen who, as the film's protaganist Daniel Plainview explains, he needed a sweet face to help him gain land and mineral rights? Or were the evangelicals always such hungry little whores that climbing in bed for the devil was a no brainer once they realized the financial benefits of such an engagement?

Junk Thief balked when he saw that the film had a 153 minute running time, but just seeing a wealth of tough men in some pretty fantastic headgear for more than two and a half hours was more than worth the price of admission. (Junk Thief is desperate to know the source for Daniel Day Lewis' hat during the 1911 segment.) Seeing so many familiar locations such as San Luis Obispo County as the music of a member of Radiohead was a pretty heady experience. Was Daniel's Daniel a pretentious channeling of John Huston's Noah Cross from Chinatown? Oh, who cares. And who was the oilier of the two leading men -- the oil tycoon or the preacher boy. Mr. Plainview's obvious moniker was appropriate. He was a man who may have said "I don't like to explain myself", but at least he had not real contradictions. Oh, except for the asking Jesus for forgiveness scene.

When Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson emerged as key new auteur directors of the mid-1990s, Junk Thief leaned more towards the latter Anderson with his fey details and came to bemoan P.T.'s rhapsodizing of the less than benign porn industry. Junk Thief really wants to keep liking the Anderson that introduced Dalmation mice and did his best to like Darjeeling Limited (which he did, but like the title, with limited enthusiasm). In the meantime, the other Anderson has slowly progressed, but There Will Be... is an enormous thrust forward, exploding like a gusher in the desert.

Having spent the bulk of his life west of the Mississippi, Junk Thief has known many people who resemble these characters, and their motivations are not mysterious to him. Anderson managed to capture the essence of father-son relationships from that part of the U.S. which greater poignancy minus sentimentality than anyone in a long time.

The Sinclair-inspired film has greatly inspired Junk Thief to pick up a copy of Oil since the movie only covers the first two chapters of the book which spends most of its length following the life of H.W., the "son" of Daniel Plainview. Does he really go to Mexico? Well, Junk Thief needs to know. In the meantime, tonight he will be enjoying a mid-1990s documentary on Upton Sinclair's run for governor of California in 1934. How ironic that as a child, Junk Thief's father always filled the Oldsmobile at Sinclair even if it was higher than Texaco or Phillips 66 so Junk Thief could play with Dino. This also reminds him that in
this blog entry, Julie Klausner revealed that her drag name is Downtown Sinclair. As a great fan of Sinclair's contemporary Theodore Dreiser, Junk Thief has recently become enamored by the 1952 celluloid adaptation of Sister Carrie, surprised that he found the middle-aged Olivier to be as fetching as Daniel Day Lewis at about the same age, slathered in oil and limping along. Both are decidedly physical performances, and the American accents are soon forgotten in both role. And, of course, they both had great headgear. Just call Junk Theif Brother Carrie in the meantime.

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12 Comments:

At 3:19 AM, Blogger WAT said...

Sounds like one long ass movie, but well worth it. I hear Daniel Day Lewis is absolutely terrific and he re-creates some sort of archaic accent?

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

WAT - As some people are saying, he has created Noah Cross, the early years.

 
At 8:12 AM, Blogger rich bachelor said...

Thanks for writing in, Mr. Anderson.

No; it looks good though. Mr Day-Lewis is usually a fun-killer for me, but I like this director's movies, and I love a pseudo-historical drama.

The lady of the house is rabid to see it, though she also notes that whenever she's this amped about a movie, it inevitably disappoints her. Here's hoping the universe chooses to respond differently this time.

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Rich - I hesitate recommending movies since taste is such an individual thing, and I don't know if you and Aunty are as fond of men in big hats as I am. At 97, though, I would think Aunty would find the time period of the movie very nostalgic. Wait, was the character of Mary Sunday base on her?

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

I'm hoping that 'Oil' will make its way to Ogreville. In the meantime, I'm going to seek out the book based on your description.

How sweet of your dad, taking you to play with the dinasaur, even if it cost him more in gas $. He must have been a great guy.

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jill - Oh, I think it was just a ploy to get mineral rites and make good use of a sweet face. Sorry, that will make more sense when you see the movie...

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger kimy said...

hey bro - wonderful socio-political analysis in the intro to this post ... oh where, why and how????

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Kimy - The further I am away from this film the more I think it deserves to be called epic, a brilliant dissecting of both how California and the U.S. got to where they are. It's not a pleasant image this mirror asks us to look at, but it's astonishing.

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger kusala ~ joe said...

Excellent post! And I've been pretty eager to see this film -- will happen soon.

Nice comparison of the two Anderson's. I admire P.T. in a reserved way (Magnolia has its moments but mostly makes me want to wander in 405 traffic to put me out of my misery). With Darjeeling, Wes regained some of my admiration that he lost with the "entertaining enough" Zissou, and I think he's still the one I prefer.

Downtown Sinclair is such a fabulous name that I can't say more.

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

K~J - I really love both Mr. Andersons and for different reasons. I did like "Darjeeling" but it was pleasant but no epic. What's interesting is that for their very different styles, their movies are much more rooted in family stories not romances. Odd, self created families, perhaps, but that is what makes them all the more compelling to me.

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger Julie Klausner said...

I gotta love a man with a mustache like that one.

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Julie - Oh, I am so honored by your comment. Uh, oh, you meant Daniel. Yes, I feel the same.

 

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