Saturday, August 17, 2013

(Spoilers) Movie Lookback Review: Magnolia

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

Marathon movies are just the tops. They go well over two hours and push three or four when broadcast on TV. It takes an entire night to watch them and I usually get sucked right in. Content doesn't really bother me. Even if it's drawn out, I still appreciate the length for some reason.

One of my favorite marathon movies with a run time of just over three hours is Magnolia. This was released back in 1999, can't believe that was 14 years ago. It didn't exactly do that well at the box office despite having a number of stars in the cast including Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly,  and Julianne Moore. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film did receive a few Academy Award nominations, but no wins.

Marathon night on TV
I remember the first time I saw it broadcast on television. The show started at 10:00 pm and it ended around 2:00 am in the morning thanks to commercials. Awesome night. Unfortunately, some of the complaints I read involved the movie's length. Understandable, but not an issue with me. I've since bought both the DVD and Blu-ray, watched it at least a dozen times, and still haven't gotten tired o fit. It's been a while since I last saw it though.

What's it about?
Magnolia is a drama with an ensemble cast about a handful of key characters. There isn't a single primary character, but everyone's story is intertwined in one way or another. I would describe the story as one of tragedy and redemption. Almost all the key characters are having the worst days of their lives, things are falling apart, and some do break. However, by the end of the day, everyone has gone through a life changing event, mostly for the better.

Tom Cruise plays a peddler of a product called "Seduce & Destroy" for men, and Julianne Moore is a gold digger with a substance abuse issue. Her husband is dying of cancer and being taken care of  by a nurse, Philip Seymour Hoffmann. John C. Reilly is a cop, Jeremy Blackman is a child prodigy on a game show, William H. Macy a former child prodigy who was struck by lightning, and Philip Baker Hall is the game show host. There's also Melora Walters as the daughter of the game show host who's hooked on cocaine.

The movie takes place in Los Angeles over about one day. It starts in the morning and ends the next morning. Sets include random streets and apartments. Two locations are key though: a hotel and game show studio.

Music is by Jon Brion and Aimee Mann, and one original song, "Save Me", was nominated for an Oscar. This is the movie that introduced me to Aimee Mann who is an amazing and talented musician. Her music is what I'd describe as on the darker side, but it is absolutely beautiful. I've had the pleasure to see her in concert four times and loved every performance. Favorite album has to be The Forgotten Arm,Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo is a close second.

Why it's so good?
Or more accurately, why I think it's so good.

As I noted earlier, the story is one of tragedy and redemption. By the end of the movie, I feel for every one of the characters, even the shady ones, and am glad to see most of them get past some of their troubles. It's kind of a story with a happy ending.

The cast is amazing and there are solid performances throughout, even (or especially) by Jeremy Blackman who was only around 10 years old at the time. Tom Cruise is the highlight and gives one of his best performances ever -- got an Oscar nomination for it. His "Seduce & Destroy" seminars are memorable and plain comedy. Even if you don't watch the movie, do yourself a favor and find those clips on YouTube..

I have to admit that the movie wouldn't be so good without the music. The score and original songs complement the mood of the movie and add a lot to some of its most critical scenes. At one point, everyone even "breaks out in song" to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up". You'd think that it would look tacky and weird, but it doesn't. The scene is very well done and fits the movie perfectly. One of the best uses of music in Magnolia is at the very end right as it cuts to black with Aimee's Oscar nominated "Save Me" playing.

So now then
Magnolia is a hopeful, happy movie wrapped in an R-rated drama about tragedy and loss. It is an amazing three hour ride that I enjoy watching over ad infinitum.

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