Magnolia - Commentary and Notes

This movie reminds me that I’m not a Christian. Them and their silly masochism, self-loathing, and redemption.

Within that framework, the movie was very good, but you can make a movie within the framework of a brainless twit that is “very good” but I’d have to wonder how to really evaluate it.

So maybe to say it excels at what it is and what it is is not very impressive sums it up.

A simple and effective element of style without substance if you are NOT a Christian or a deep and meaningful New Age tale if you ARE a Christian. That’s what Magnolia is.

During movies I often make notes (especially if I’m planning on talking about the movie afterwards). Here are my notes, word for word, from Magnolia…

Magnolia - death before / death by torture
Robards - Lucid lack of glassy eyes - lack of slurred speech
New Wave
Series of painful scenes
Tom Cruise - very good
plays on his reputation a bit
small details of communication
difficulty, masochistic irrationality
scenes setting up pain
what is the link?
weather analogy
pain to fit in - understand a painful world
Philip Seymour Hoffman - watcher - internalist
Not watching porn?
talk about porn with woman
Scenes are LONG!!
Go Go Go?
policeman as social worker
honesty issue - politicizing
Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory
Riffs on popular culture
People who overuse a term can’t obtain it.
parody of mistrust
Kid as Gene Wilder - in the eyes, posture, facial expression
High parody
women going crazy - 1 fixing ill / 2 drugged / 3 protecting son
concern among strangers
All in the direction
closer to strangers than family
Lie to Hide
I feel like taking an Uzi to these people.
Too honest
strange dealing with tragedy
intense self-absorption
Date ask - HEH
caring for the ill
Stanley doesn’t want to be the one
Actors -
stupid clap tracks
good health is hard to find
monstrous freedom
what’s the matter with the link?
strange self-hatred
idiocy on deathbed
since when is adultery so terrible?
wrongheaded morality
weak people
lots of heavy breathing
publicifying - healing power of communication?
what’s with the fucking frogs?

shut up

I don’t understand why Roger Ebert bothers to actually write a coherent essay about his ideas involving the films: this is so much better!

Thanks for that complete brain dump, Brian, but you really should have captured it in some other form to properly emphasize its total craziness. I suggest this: the words should be formed of different fonted letters cut out of magazines, and the atmosphere of Argento-esque creepiness could be cemented by interspersing them with photographs of babies with their noses cut off and galaxies glued over their eyes. Finish it off by writing “mommy?” all over it in your own various bodily fluids, then put it in an envelope, pull on your black leather gloves, hop onto the late night omnibus heading into Milan, and mail it to the police sometime during your night of crystal plummage hunting.

I actually love Brian’s list of broken thoughts here. It is a nice poem. Okay, it isn’t “nice”, in fact it’s particularly “not nice”, but it’s good.

I particularly like the couplet:

actors –
stupid clap tracks

I like those lines because of the literal interpretation, but also it suggests “stupid human tricks” (David Letterman), and “The Clap” (venereal disease). Combine those three thoughts and you’ve got a pretty accurate if completely oblique description of a Hollywood actor.

Of course Brian’s prose comments about his negative relationship with Christianity are completely unrelated to the movie Magnolia and are only a reflection of his own issues. (Kind of sad and odd to think of someone who interprets dramatic redemption to be inherently, uniquely Christian, and yet rejects Christianity).

His derogatory encapsulation of the film is likewise irrelevant to any serious discussion of the cinema. Still: nice writing.

It took a lot of effort to click into this thread. The thread title, by itself, combined with this particular author, almost made me cancel my Internet connection. I feel queasy.

Holy shit. This is what makes Brian’s presence worthwhile.

Oh my lord. Brian, you absolutely rule. You are my favorite poster on this board. You should release this sort of amateur-hour commentary track for every movie you see. My favorite:

Scenes are LONG!!
Go Go Go?

Why? Why so much 29 in my life?

Seriously. Hail to the king, baby.

It had a dual purpose…

A “behind the scenes” look into my thoughts while I’m watching the movie. In some ways this is better than the constructed edifice of a “Movie Review”.

I thought the movie was a tragic mess of bile and revulsion, and thus a mess of a review fit quite nicely with the movie’s theme.

I don’t remember what was going on when I wrote “actors -”… maybe I was going to write something following it and lost the thought.

“stupid clap tracks” was taken from one of the last game show scenes when the audience insults themselves by clapping.

I’m not sure what’s sad or odd about that… its part of the reason why I reject Christianity.

My relationship to Christianity has a large amount of meaning to a movie deeply entrenched in it.

Its very much like you saying this about a stylistically great movie celebrating anal rape…

“A simple and effective element of style without substance if you are NOT an anal-rape lover or a deep and meaningful tale if you ARE an anal-rape lover. That’s what Buttdancer is.”

I’m glad you brought anal rape up; it’s hard to imagine discussing the movies without touching on that subject.

But your metaphor is all wrong. Since Magnolia isn’t actually a “Christian” movie, your response to it is more like you came out of Finding Nemo and claimed that you couldn’t stand it, because it was about anal rape. In other words, it shows what’s on your mind, not what’s on the screen.

Your theory that all redemption is inherently Christian is bizarre and incorrect. More interesting is the issue of what you have “against” redemption. (I use quotes because I don’t see how anyone can actually be against redemption as a concept (redeem: “to release from blame or debt”, "“to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of”). Do you consider yourself vindictive?

In any event, if you are so offended by themes of redemption intruding into your movies, I’m not sure what movies you could like, since it is a common theme throughout storytelling.

By the way, the rain of frogs/Exodus thing would better be described as Jewish, or at least Judeo-Christian, if you’re going to fixate on the theological pedigree of this movie. (In fact P.T. Anderson has stated in an interview that he had written the climatic scene into the movie before being told of the passage in Exodus, and added those references on the set as a kind of in-joke…hardly the stuff of a “Christian” movie).

Yeah, I took the rain of frogs thing as more one more reference to Charles H. Fort’s idea of “One can measure a circle beginning anywhere”- i.e. everything is connected. Other references to Fort and Fortean phenomena abound in the movie, and are certainly more common than the Christian symbology…

Magnolia is a Christian movie. Its nothing else.

The whole thing is supported by the inability to reconcile actions. I laughed at the pissing the pants scene… the kid gets to blame the adults (she didn’t… she didn’t let me go!) and is built to such a boil that he erupts. The scene is treated as a dramatic release but its simple cruelty that presents that kind of timing (right before the record is broken?) And then the kid has the nerve to tell the dad “treat me better”? Because that dad was an asshole the kid… PUNISHED him?

Hint to Kid: Call things off BEFORE it gets to that point… that’s parental abuse at that stage.

The dying patriarch… NOW he elects to regret his actions? A wee bit late on that one. Again, the worst possible timing. The whole thing was false… what does the patriarch have to lose by regretting? Again intense cruelty… now the kid gets to be confused for the rest of his life about his father.

Hint to patriarch: You’re irrelevant on your deathbed. Your actions during your life must be lived with.

Issue of adultery: I’m thinking if people are going to go through this sort of melodramatic misery then they are better off not committing adultery in the first place. If you can’t live with the consequences of the action then don’t do the action. Obviously a radical concept in Magnolia’s world.

Issue of regret: Regret is allowance for past actions. Its the Catholic say you’re sorry and everything is all right.

I regret it! I regret it! I’m SAVED!!

Meanwhile the consequences of your past actions live on…

Fuck that. Do things right the first time. And by “right” I don’t mean “Christian”… although in Magnolia’s world they are obviously one and the same.

And if you DON’T do things right due to weakness or ignorance then you live with it. You don’t EXCUSE it by means of regret and forgiveness. You understand it and endeavor to destroy your weakness or ignorance in order to improve the reality of your future actions.

Why doesn’t anyone in Magnolia regret NOT committing adultery? Oh yeah that’s right… Christian morality.

The movie is filled with weak people (per Christianity). And by the GRACE OF GOD (per Christianity) the frogs come and enable people to start a new life.

Oh… you didn’t think those humans were capable of correcting their own reality, did you? If they WERE then what would they need Jesus for?

Noone needs to be redeemed because noone has the power to blame.

Do an action. Analyze the action. What reality comes of it? If this reality is BAD then you use that knowledge to affect your future actions. If this reality is GOOD then you use that knowledge to affect your future actions.

See an action of another. Analyze the action. What reality comes of it? Discuss the action with the other. What reality was he trying to achieve? Is there a better reality he should be trying to achieve?

See an action of another. Perhaps that action saddens you or angers you. Why does it sadden or anger you? Perhaps it was a crime committed, a crime that in this particular case resulted from poor judgement. That man may well have to be removed from society, not as a means of blame or punishment but rather as a means of improving reality.

I hardly regret that… I just seek to improve it ;).

I sometimes use “Christian” as a catchall for God-aligned values, especially when I’m not dealing directly with the issue.

I’ll close with some words on Regret…

Regret is more of an escape than a release. And the man who you harmed… how do you think he feels that you are escaping from your action? How insulting is it to him that you have to ESCAPE from the action that he was so intimate a part of?

When you harm, do so as a means of improving reality. And then he who you harmed is glad, glad as you look upon him with pride.