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There Will Be Blood (2007) & The Departed (2006)

[1]2,198 words

There Will Be Blood

I’m not an eager consumer of pop culture—rock music, television, video games, sports. My disinterest is natural, not something I work at. Pop culture just doesn’t “speak” to me. 

I’ve probably seen more movies than anything else, because I became an old-movie buff when I was quite young. But, as movies have devolved, my interest in them has declined in sync.

Large-scale, computer-generated (CG) special effects such as explosions, crashes, etc., are uninteresting in themselves.

Martial arts films, except for those by Chinese actor-director-stunt man Jackie Chan, also don’t interest me, particularly those in which gravity-defying actors float or freeze-frame in mid-air. Even white actors like Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme could not stimulate my interest in that genre.

Van Damme, by the way, recently made an atypical film that some critics deem above-average called JCVD (2008-Belgian-Luxembourgian-French).

Of course, the biggest problem with recent movies is their values, their permeation by heavy-handed, hostile racist/feminist/ideological propaganda. If you have a sense of morality or awareness, most contemporary Hollywood fare is simply unwatchable.

I rely upon reviewers such as Edmund Connelly [2] for information about these movies [3] so that I even know what Hollywood is doing; I don’t watch them myself. Another critic who was very good at conveying information about workaday mass media manipulation was Victor Wolzek in VNN’s early days.

Without exception, I completely ignore portrayals of Numinous Negroes [4], Jews-as-noble-suffering-Divine beings, Evil or Stupid White Men, and feminist films and TV shows. If they happen to turn up, they immediately go off.

So I never see Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman. And movies like Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) never cross my radar screen.

You can see how much is instantly removed from consideration—the vast majority of what is done in the media realm.

Of course, these negative features leech over into ordinary entertainment. I recently watched Casino Royale (2006) starring Daniel Craig, the first Bond movie I’ve seen since Roger Moore played the part, and it exhibited almost all of the negative qualities you’d expect in a contemporary film.

Apart from feminism and interracialism, the series is too loud, too fast, and too implausible. Bond is even more the superhero caricature today than he was in the past. And, of course, there is talk of a black James Bond [5].

Consequently, the movies I typically view are “whiter” than average (of course, nothing truly white can come out of Hollywood) because otherwise I turn them off—not out of principle, but out of complete and utter alienation. I’m just not interested.

As this process has evolved, I find myself less and less tolerant of Hollywood fare, less charitable, less willing (or able) to suspend disbelief or remain interested in or engaged with the story.

I now divide movies into “watchable” and “unwatchable” categories. Most Hollywood output, obviously, is unwatchable.

And “watchable” only means that I don’t shut something off—not that it’s particularly good.

There Will Be Blood is an example of an unwatchable (bad) movie and The Departed an example of a watchable, but not-very-good movie.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

This belongs to the unwatchable category, with the likes of Chinese director John Woo’s Hard-Boiled (1992-Hong Kong) (and, I assume, his other works), Croupier (1999-British-German), Holes (2003), and Elf (2003).

Greek American director John Cassavetes used to make unwatchable films, like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).

Years ago if I paid for a movie I’d sit through it no matter what. So you know the only two movies I walked out on were unwatchable: director Blake Edwards’ 10 (1979) starring Bo Derek, and a terrible black and white Cuban propaganda film about the historical oppression of sugar cane workers. Communist movies can be mind-numbingly awful.

There Will Be Blood, the story of an early California oil entrepreneur played (as white) by Jewish actor Daniel Day-Lewis, was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who enjoys a reputation as a serious director.

For a long time I had Anderson confused with a porn actor/director named Paul Thomas, probably because Anderson wrote and directed Boogie Nights (1997), a movie about the porn industry.

Paul Thomas had acted “legitimately” in Hair on Broadway and starred (under his real name, Philip Toubus) as Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) before helping himself to an endless supply of shiksas in the San Fernando Valley. (Is there anything whites won’t worshipfully offer in loving tribute to the Jew? Of course not.)

I thought “Paul Thomas” might have been Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn pseudonym, and that he’d moved into mainstream directing.

But it turns out that porn actor Paul Thomas is a Jew from a wealthy Chicago family; the Sara Lee food company is named after his aunt, Sara Lee Lubin.

Paul Thomas Anderson, by contrast, is (apparently) white, from a show business family. His “partner” is Saturday Night Live‘s half-Jew/half-Negro actress-comedienne Maya Rudolph; they have three hybrid white-Jewish-Negro children together. You can bet that many, perhaps all, of them will be able to pass as white in the future.

I’d read that There Will Be Blood was exceptionally good. The only previous Anderson film I’d seen, Hard Eight (1997), his first, was watchable, but that’s all.

There isn’t much to say about There Will Be Blood except that it was absurdly over-hyped, overrated, too long, and  . . . unwatchable.

It lost in most Academy Award categories to the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men [6] (2007), which, though also not-good (it falls apart in the second half and the great promise inherent in fictional characters played by Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, and Josh Brolin is completely squandered), was at least highly watchable and, before you suspended your disbelief, almost unbearably tense.

There Will Be Blood is profoundly anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, and anti-white. Day-Lewis’s oilman is utterly without redeeming value, a self-centered, evil man.

Neither Anderson nor any other filmmaker would ever make a movie depicting Jews or non-whites the way whites and Christians are shown here, despite having an abundance of untapped, real-life material to work with. Figuratively speaking, their throats would be cut if they did. But they aren’t even interested.Hollywood is stuffed with racists, frauds, and moral hypocrites like Anderson.

Reportedly Anderson was influenced by The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) when writing his script. If so, he flubbed badly. Treasure is a legitimate classic.

The dialogue in most movies is passable at best. It really doesn’t matter because artificiality is the norm, one is accustomed to it, and it’s probably unavoidable.

Anderson’s screenplay attains the norm in that regard, though the preacher’s lines are noticeably unnatural and below par.

Dialogue in films jumps out at you only if it’s really, really bad or, more rarely, has a disconcertingly authentic ring.

Woody Allen accomplishes the latter in portions of some of his films, such as the show biz diner discussions in Broadway Danny Rose (1984), or the Allen-Keaton scene with a neighbor couple in an apartment house in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).

Another example of uncannily realistic movie dialogue is the job interview scene in director Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) between Overlook Hotel manager Barry Nelson and writer-job applicant Jack Nicholson.

The Departed (2006)

This Martin Scorsese yarn about Irish crime bosses and cops in Boston is an example of a watchable though not-great film. It’s entertaining enough that you don’t turn it off, but not so good you’d rate it above average.

Yes, I know it won Best Picture and several other Academy Awards. And I know that 10 and Elf made lots of money. So what?

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) belongs to this category as well, with its intrusive racial element (the girlfriend, not the Jews—though Ron Perlman is shockingly ugly) and superhero implausibility. Also, “cool” and laconic are pushed far too far. But Drive nevertheless remains watchable.

Scorsese has made unwatchable movies such as The King of Comedy (1983) and (I suspect) Taxi Driver (1976).

Indeed, of the limited number of Scorsese films I’ve seen, the only one that was exceptionally good was GoodFellas (1990).

Really good films are rare. Off the top of my head I can think of Hoosiers (1986), Home Alone (1990), Get Shorty (1995), The Bourne Identity (2002) and Road to Perdition (2002) as examples. There are many others, of course.

Oddly, I did not see Hoosiers or Home Alone until years and years after they were made. I harbored an irrational resentment against them because they were so popular and I was convinced I wouldn’t like them!

Apart from their lack of overly-intrusive racial, feminist, or other propaganda, these films succeed by somehow overcoming the viewer’s reluctance to suspend disbelief.

It is not always clear why or how they accomplish this. Obviously, individuals have different thresholds of acceptance in this regard. It is also true that the mere fact that something is professionally presented in films to some extent causes us to uncritically “believe” whatever we are seeing.

Home Alone is a good example of a movie that overcame an extremely difficult plot dilemma at the outset.

Namely, how does one persuade an audience to unconsciously accept that loving parents—and especially such a loving mother—would ever leave a young child home alone while they flew all the way to Paris in the first place?

The series of plausible devices director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes invented to accomplish this were ingenious: a big family (many kids), middle-class-chaotic in a way everyone’s familiar with (a type depicted also in Spielberg’s Poltergeist), banishing Macaulay Culkin to the bed in the attic for “being such a jerk,” a Christmastime ice storm that downs electrical and phone lines overnight causing everyone to sleep in late and have to rush to the airport in the morning, the talkative neighbor kid who accidentally gets counted in Culkin’s place, the parents flying first class while sticking the kids in coach (out of immediate sight), and so forth.

Despite its watchability (entertaining enough not to turn off or walk out on), The Departed does not sustain the requisite suspension of disbelief to be really top-notch.

Part of The Departed‘s problem is that, despite being scripted by an Irish American and ostensibly being about Irish organized crime, the story is actually derived from a Chinese film, Infernal Affairs (2002-Hong Kong), and its prequel and sequel.

Scorsese also repeats some Shakespearean errors [7], notably the ridiculous piling on of multiple murders of major characters at the end. (Screenwriter William Monahan studied Elizabethan and Jacobean drama in college; perhaps that’s the problem.)

Nor does Jack Nicholson make a convincing Irishman. His real-life ethnicity is thoroughly mixed-up-American (even he doesn’t know what it is), and it shows, ethnically.

Naming his “Irish” mob boss Frank Costello (akin to the Latin names given to Scandinavian characters in Hamlet) just compounds the error, particularly given the fact that the story features a rival Italian mob.

The police department psychiatrist and dual love interest of Matt Damon (the bad cop) and Leonardo DiCaprio (the good cop) played by Ukrainian American actress Vera Farmiga also is not convincing, either as a character or in her casual violation of numerous professional ethics rules.

Another big problem faced by all contemporary suspense movies and novels is the convincing portrayal of organized opposition to the System.

You can’t ignore surveillance in such tales, because everybody knows it’s ubiquitous, from surveillance cameras everywhere to the constant tracking of cell phones.

More sophisticated surveillance, which is equally pervasive, is so secretive, unrestrained by law, technologically advanced, thorough, and invisible—its ever-evolving techniques known and understood by virtually no one outside the secret police—that any organized group the state genuinely wants to take down or prevent from coalescing in the first place is hard to convincingly depict.

True, privileged groups such as Jews (e.g., Israeli operatives, Jewish terrorists, mercenaries, assassins, bombers, organized criminals, etc.) do exist and operate completely outside of formal System rules, but they are off-limits to mainstream authors and filmmakers.

So it is extremely difficult to integrate into a contemporary story anything approximating or mimicking real-life surveillance and double-dealing.

It would be easier to set suspense fiction in the past, since society was less Orwellian then, and what was Orwellian can be learned more or less accurately through research. The Coen brothers, for example, plausibly avoid most pitfalls such as this by situating many of their crime stories sometime in the past, even the comparatively recent past.

These are some of the reasons why The Departed is ultimately unsatisfying. I never quite bought into it in terms of the suspension of disbelief. But it is still an entertaining, watchable movie.

This failure is somewhat puzzling.

For example, The Bourne Identity—a very good movie—has basically the same flaws, plus an unconvincing comic book superhero to boot. (Bourne is essentially an indestructible android.) And yet, the movie works. I’m not sure why.

A final amusing twist to The Departed is in the closing credits, where the producers thank various government agencies in Massachusetts, Boston, etc., for their help in making the film. One can hardly imagine worse PR for government than The Departed, yet there it is, subsidizing Hollywood’s giving it the middle finger before the entire world.

I sympathize with the portrayal of police corruption. Cops are not good guys.

But, even so, you can only shake your head.