Magnolia (1999) (via Merchbot’s Movie Reviews)

MagnoliaThis is my first time ‘reblogging’ a post I found particularly interesting from other movie reviewers, so please be patient with me as I stumble through the appropriate steps and process. I couldn’t help but following this article and while it is brief compared to my usual reviews, I wanted to comment because it brings up a film that I’ve grown to like quite a bit. Sure, there are obvious issues with the film, the occasional plot heavy, non-linear overlapping story lines and fragmented character arcs, but it also contains some very fine performances from Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and Phillip Baker Hall. Sure, Juliane Moore and John C. Riley are here too, among a handful of other notable character and bit-part actors, but the main roles are the most developed and sustaining.

What Merchbot Movie Reviews points out is a prevailing reaction to the film the first go around – namely audiences and critics alike unable to weed through the films problematic elements to enjoy the film overall. I’ve already commented about the tangles above, and while Paul Thomas Anderson was riding pretty high from Boogie Nights (1997) and the quiet but well done indie hit Hard Eights (1996) some felt his work in Magnolia was convoluted, artsy for the sake of it by a gifted auteur. But Magnolia eventually made a profit, though modest compared to the $37 million dollar budget, and went on to receive high marks from audiences and critics as outlined by the folks over at

Magnolia is a film that clearly stands out as one of the best from the late 90’s and serves to remind us that Paul Thomas Anderson is a filmmaker of merit and someone who will continue to deliver memorable films. It’s a pleasure to see his work in Magnolia, to watch him stretching and coming into his own which would ultimately lay the groundwork for Punch Drunk Love (2002) and There Will Be Blood (2003).

In the wake of watching There Will Be Blood for a second time and just being so completely blown away by it, I wanted to revisit this one. I watched, or tried to watch Magnolia when it came out on dvd in 2000 or 2001 and turned it off about two-thirds of the way through. I thought it was silly film, emotionally manipulative and not a deep as it thought it was. I really didn’t understand the fuss, especially as it followed the brilliant (almost fl … Read More

via Merchbot’s Movie Reviews


About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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6 Responses to Magnolia (1999) (via Merchbot’s Movie Reviews)

  1. Rodney says:

    Oh my GOD, you’ve hit upon the very film-maker I can’t seem to figure out. If I was to give 1-word review of his films I’ve seen, it’d look like this:

    Boogie Nights – Brilliant.
    Magnolia – Rubbish.
    Punch Drunk Love – Brilliant.
    There Will Be Blood – Boring.

    I thought Magnolia was pretensious, overlong and about as emotionally deep as a bucket of burley. Punch Drunk Love is the single best thing Adam Sandler has ever done (bar none), and There Will Be Blood annoyed me with trying to convince me to enjoy a film where the central character is a complete a-hole. I find PTA a director of unique vision, but a vision I often struggle to acclimatise to. He’s hit-or-miss for me.

    • rorydean says:

      I would have to agree with you about P.T Anderson. I actually haven’t seen much of him talking about his style or film choices. I don’t know if that is because he’s relatively quiet about it or if I just haven’t taken the time to research better. It would seem we have some really divergent feelings about his films, though it is strange we both think Punch Drunk Love is brilliant given many if not most critics would disagree with us. I remember at the time I was the only person among my friends and peers who liked it. Everyone kept saying, ‘but Sandler isn’t Sandler. He’s trying to play this serious character and we just want his silly films’. Well, that’s precisely the reason I liked it and think it is too bad he doesn’t do more films like it. I was hoping Reign On Me was going to be similar but it fell way short.

      You are right on, though about Magnolia having this ‘air’ about it and if I remember correctly I had some strong negative feelings the first round. I guess where I connected with it was in the vignettes, maybe not the entire movie, but the little scenes. It reminded me very much of my early pursuits in writing short stories, Raymond Chandler, Altman’s short cuts of course, and even later Pulp Fiction. And yes, Sandler’s best work by far. Day-Lewis did give us one giant a-hole character and maybe the a-hole in me just enjoyed that a little too much.

  2. shanegenziuk says:

    It wouldn’t make any top movie list of mine, but it was the only time outside of The Last Samurai that I enjoyed watching Tom Cruise. That has got to be worth a point or two don’t it?

    • rorydean says:

      Hi Shane..thanks for dropping by — Magnolia is a strange one, really solid moments surrounded by others that leave you wondering what the filmmakers were thinking. And of course Tom Cruise has to be mentioned for his standout performance here. Did you like him in Born on the Fourth of July? One of my favorite performances, especially with Stone at the helm. I also liked Cruise in War of the Worlds. Not a great film but I truly appreciated Spielberg taking the time at the beginning of the film to establish the characters first, aliens second. The lasting trouble I have with WOTW is the ending. I mean, come on!

  3. shanegenziuk says:

    Well I got a copy of the 4th of July and checked it out. Yes it was very good, thank you for the recommendation. Agree with your thoughts on WOTW, what the hell went wrong with that movie anyway?

    • rorydean says:

      I’m glad you liked Born on the Fourth of July. As I wrote, it truly does stand out as one of the best performances by Tom Cruise where he isn’t simply Tom Cruising playing a character trying and failing to not be Tom Cruise. I’m reminded immediately of Collateral (which I liked, nevertheless) and Eyes Wide Shut (mixed feelings about that one) Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Jerry McGuire, Vanilla Sky…etc. It’s not that I don’t like most of his films but it is much more rewarding and refreshing to watch him pushed beyond his comfort zone. Like Magnolia – P.T. Anderson actually embraced the ‘tom-cruiseness’ and pushed him into this exaggerated, over-the-top self-help guru and it worked brilliantly.

      I’ve been reading a lot about Spielberg lately and the one thing that returns again and again in reviews, editorials, and commentary about his style and the themes he uses in his films (at least in the past 5 years) seem to center on the surface of emotional conflict rather than the dirty stuff of darker, more gut-level interactions and the inherent conflict that we toil with every day of our lives. I mean how far do we have to go back to find a real effort at exploring complex emotional relationships? Munich? Anyway, makes me want to write a piece on Spielberg but that would be quite an undertaking! cheers->

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