Today! Because it’s not going to stop/’Til you wise up –
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (x4)
Starring Tom Cruise (x3), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x4), Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly (x4), William H. Macy, Jason Robards (x2), Melora Walters, Ricky Jay, Alfred Molina (x3), Felicity Huffman, Melinda Dillon (x2), Luis Guzman (x3), Philip Baker Hall (x3), Thomas Jane (x2), Michael Murphy (x3), Henry Gibson (x3), Neil Flynn (x2), Patton Oswalt, Jim Meskimen (x2), Jeremy Blackman, Michael Bowen, Cleo King, Clark Gregg (x3)
Like many people, my initial reaction to Magnolia was that I had a problem with the ending. For everything else going on in this movie – and there is a ton going on here – the natural takeaway, as it is the climax of the movie, is “What the hell is all this with the frogs now?” But, come on, how else was it going to end? Isn’t it obvious that the solution to all the crazy pent up drama is for the sky to open up and drench the city in biblically apocalyptic frogs? No?
Okay, it’s probably not, but over time, I’ve come to appreciate the finale. Up until that point, while I thought the movie a bit overwrought, and insanely too much on all fronts, I still really enjoyed what I saw. Maybe this really was the movie I had on VHS over two tapes! I just brought this up in The Player last week, and it fits that bill – it’s in the three-hour plus area. Jeez, did I really own Magnolia on VHS? Where did I keep it, if not on that rack? Shit, did I put in shelving just because of Magnolia?? Jeez, thanks, frogs!
The cast is across-the-board tremendous, with Tom Cruise getting the most attention for his Oscar nominated male empowerment douchebag – and he’s great, in that hyper Tom Cruise way. But John C. Reilly is amazing in his understated turn as a decent cop trying to date. Philip Seymour Hoffman does terrific work as a lonely caregiver. Julianne Moore is incredible, especially losing her shit all over the pharmacist. It’s a towering, raging epic of acting, that could’ve been totally exhausting were it not in the hands of the great Paul Thomas Anderson.
As I’ve talked about many times before – this being PTA’s fourth list film now – Anderson’s directing prowess is almost peerless in modern filmmaking. However, I previously had no idea that Magnolia was my second favorite of his films. This extends to the two movies not eligible for this list, too – 2014’s Inherent Vice and 2017’s Phantom Thread. I think his movies do become less and less likable as the years go on, but continue hedging into more and more risky, artistic areas, the higher the degree of difficulty, with still tremendous end results. Like, what’s the worst Paul Thomas Anderson movie? Realistically, it might be Magnolia – this movie tries to do so, so much, and mostly succeeds, but it can be a taxing film. Is it Inherent Vice? That book is damn near unfilmable, and a bit incomprehensible in that Thomas Pynchon style, and yet it’s a pretty entertaining movie, in ways a lot of recent PTA films aren’t. He hasn’t made a bad film, by almost any fair standard, so calculating a worst is very hard, I’m now finding.
But yes, we’ve got one to go, and you can probably guess what that is. It is quite a while from now too, so don’t go holding your breath, PTA-aphiles! #380 There Will Be Blood, #315 The Master, #300 Punch-Drunk Love, and now #217 – Anderson joins Hitchcock as the only Four-Timer directors thus far, and only had six eligible films in total, five of which are on the list (Sorry, Hard Eight! I like you too!). That is a pretty high percentage – probably the highest? I’ve got one other director in mind who may be right there, but we can talk about that later.
I would also like to give out the film MVP – despite having a super abundance of folks to pick from – to Cleo King, for her terrific work handcuffed to that couch in the early going.
Five new Two-Timers – Dillon (#233 A Christmas Story), Flynn (#387 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Jane (#330 Face/Off), Meskimen (There Will Be Blood), and Robards (#275 Melvin and Howard), seven Three-Timers – Cruise (#392 Mission: Impossible and #244 Ghost Protocol), Hall (#278 Zodiac, #274 Argo), Guzman (#368 Anger Management, Punch-Drunk Love), Molina (#328 The Man Who Knew Too Little, #235 Spider-Man 2), Gregg (#224 The Avengers, #260 The Usual Suspects), Murphy (#396 MASH, #270 The Front), and Gibson (on back-to-back days with Kentucky Fried Movie and #325 Gremlins 2), and only two new Four-Timers, True West co-stars on Broadway back in 2000, John C. Reilly (#372 Walk Hard, Anger Management, #290 Cedar Rapids) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Punch-Drunk Love, #255 Red Dragon). Spotlight!