Friday, January 31, 2014

Top 44 Things I Love About Magnolia (that no one talks about)

There is so much to love about Paul Thomas Anderson’s modern Los Angeles epic, Magnolia. Below are merely a handful of them. And so it goes and so it goes and the book says, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”


How succinct Ricky Jay’s introductory narration is. He’s like a seasoned reporter – no embellishment, no fancy adjectives. Only facts.


Patton Oswalt: black jack dealer, active diver, poor bastard stuck in a tree.


The unspoken humor achieved from these “Madden style” yellow trace marks.


I love the frantic energy of the character introductions, but Stanley’s is particularly pleasing. The unsteady camera, the dolly zoom, the edit match of Stanley getting in the car to getting out of the car – all great.


No, “Are you okay?” No, “What the hell were you thinking?” Only: “Hey! It’s Quiz Kid Donnie Smith!”


How quickly Philip Seymour Hoffman stands up when Julianne Moore enters the room. You can just tell he gets his ass chewed out by this woman regularly.


Seriously, who actually has those dorky “Determination” posters in their house? Officer Jim, that’s who.


Officer Jim’s little hand clap to himself as he starts his day… perfect.


I know, I know, this isn’t technically Frank T.J. Mackey’s introduction, but still… this is one of my favorite character introductions in cinema history.


Seriously though, what the fuck is Tom Cruise wearing in this movie? Such excellent costume design.


Look at the way Frank’s assistant (in the back) checks out the reporter’s ass. A worthy pupil, no doubt.


“Come AugUST, we like to celebrate St. Suck My Big Fat Fucking SAUSAGE!”


This scene says everything we need to know about Officer Jim. He was first on the scene – it’s HIS crime scene – yet when it’s time to brief the detectives, he’s forced to stand in the background and nod. A brief but brilliant character touch.


“Hey Peter… Dick, Dick. Sorry, Dick, fuck.”


I just love this tacky portrait of Philip Baker Hall.


One of the best confused/numb/bored/emasculated faces ever.


Whitey Tighties. See, great costume design.


And how ‘bout that backwards handstand?


The way the reporter mutters the words, “I should’ve known this was going to happen,” under her breath as she begins to interview Frank.


“You smell like trouble.” “I’m fuckin’ hammered, Burt.”


The snooty pharmacy kid is Pat Healy, who so thrillingly played the crank caller in Compliance.

Michael Bowen. Easily the most underrated performer in the movie.


Look everyone, Clark Gregg!


Paul F. Tompkins, the actor playing the operator for Seduce & Destroy, deserves exceptional acclaim. Perfect voice acting.


The way Julianne Moore calls the snooty pharmacy kid a “motherfucker.”


“Do you remember a Miss Simms?” “I know a lot of women, I’m sure she remembers me.”


“Shut the fuck up shut the fuck up. Now you must really shut the fuck up now please shut the fuck up.”


Before my latest viewing of the film, I had never noticed the single tear that runs down Hall’s face as he gives away the answer to an upcoming question. I’m now convinced that it is the single finest scene of Hall’s career.


I love the cold and beautiful lighting of this scene.


The silent hand off of the phone to Frank. So smooth.


The way Frank almost trips when he turns to look at his assistants.


Officer Jim pointing his flashlight directly into the camera, knowing his career as a police officer will never be the same.


I’ve always wondered if Tom Cruise purposefully pronounced the word “heinous” wrong when he returns to his seminar, or if that was actually an accident. Either way, it’s a great little moment that encapsulates Frank’s frustration.


Phil hesitantly giving Earl the morphine drops. No going back.


Just look at the way Hall is sitting on this couch. He’s so far gone.


It’s funny enough that Gabrielle’s “Dreams” is always playing in Donnie Smith’s car, but the fact that it’s still playing in his neighbor’s car is priceless.


The desperation in Claudia’s voice as she pleads with Officer Jim to let her go.


For those of you who wonder why the film is, in part, called Magnolia.


The sound mixing of the frog-raining scene. It sounds like a fucking war zone.


Everything about flipping inside the ambulance. The camera placement, the movement of the actors, the sound editing. Flawless.


The insane focus pull that occurs as the camera zooms in to reveal but it did happen.


One of my favorite title cards from any film ever.


The fact that “Dad, you need to be nicer to me” never fails to bring tears to my eyes.


A final thought: Melora Walters deserves more roles. Many more roles. All the roles.


 Click here for more lists from And So it Begins, including:
Top 31 Things I Love About The Departed (that no one talks about)
Top 29 Things I Love About American Psycho (that no one talks about)
Top 27 Things I Love About Scream (that no one talks about)
Top 30 Things I Love About Se7en (that no one talks about)
Top 28 Things I Love About Heat (that no one talks about)
Top 22 Things I Love About Goodfellas (that no one talks about)
Top 13 Things I Love About Mulholland Dr. (that no one talks about)

46 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I absolutely adore this film and haven't watched it in far too long so it was fun to remember some of these smaller moments instead of the bigger ones that usually come to mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan! Really glad you dig the post. I love those small moments in great movies... they really make it for me.

      Delete
  2. One of the best films ever made. Though I prefer Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. I challenge any filmmaker to come up with something like this. There's a lot of things in that film that I love such as Luis Guzman's cameo in the game show as well as some of the music that includes the use of Supertramp. It's a fucking perfect film and I will chew out any motherfucker who complains it was too long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too long?! No way man. No. Way. I think I too prefer Boogie (and definitely TWBB), but yeah, no one will ever make a movie like Magnolia again. It's so confident and different. Nothing else similar will even come close.

      Delete
  3. Melora Waters Deserves more roles! Yes, Yes, She does.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Someone needs to hire you to go places and do shot-by-shot breakdowns of films with people. Like Ebert did. I'm serious.

    The determination poster? Never noticed it. And Baker Hall's tear? Never saw it. Thank you. And it's so crazy, I just watched "Short Term 12" a couple weeks ago, and when I saw Melora Walters' name flash up in the opening credits I thought the exact same thing you just said.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must admit, I have a blast putting these together, but I am always very very eager to hear what you'll have to say about these posts. That's my way of saying thank you for reading and always giving nice comments. I really appreciate it.

      Man, I remember reading about Ebert's shot-by-shot breakdowns. I bet that is absolutely exhausting but mesmerizing. Do you think they paused on EVERY single shot and talked about it? I mean, even a back and forth conversation? So intense.

      Delete
  5. I just can't stress how much I love these! Brilliant work as always man!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks buddy! I so appreciate you reading!!

      Delete
  6. "Seriously though, what the fuck is Tom Cruise wearing in this movie? Such excellent costume design." and his hair! He looked so silly :P

    I really liked this movie, there something about it that always makes it feel so fresh even with many rewatches. I'm stunned how many people seem to hate Moore's performance here. That pharmacy scene is legendary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People HATE Moore's performance? Really? That's insane, she's so damn good here.

      Cruise's hair is so outrageous, I just love it. And I agree, this movie always feels fresh. Never dated, never old.

      Delete
    2. There were several polls about her on imdb lately and people always tend to choose her work in Magnolia as her worst or choose her as the weakest performance in the cast :/

      Delete
    3. Who are worse: IMDd users or reddit people?

      Delete
    4. reddit people, definitely!

      Delete
    5. Some of those people, I mean... wow.

      Delete
  7. You seriously made me want to watch this again. It's a movie that never once feels long when watching it. I love this movie and would love to see it back in cinemas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I completely agree, it feels nowhere near 3 hours long. I would love to see this again on the big screen. It's so personal but so big at the same time.

      Hope you get to rewatch it soon!

      Delete
  8. Another great list, Alex! My faves are the title card, the whole Cruise thing and most certainly Hall. A great actor who started in the business later in life....an absolute staple in Hollywood. Adore the PSHoffman p----whipped thing, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dawn! Hall really is a master. I just love the hell out of his craft. Jimmy Gator will always be my favorite performance of his. His final moments in this film are just devastating.

      Delete
    2. Posted this last night and finding out about PSH....so terribly sad. It breaks my heart to think of how addiction ruins lives and how people have no idea of their own value and impact.

      Delete
    3. It is heartbreaking, isn't it? A ruinous, unforgiving disease. PSH will be sorely missed.

      Delete
  9. PSH just fucking died. WHAT THE FUCK.
    I read this article 2 hours ago and now i find out he justi died. Life sucks SO hard.
    I loved all his performances. He was just SO great. And Magnolia is one of PTA's best films and PSH's best performances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't fucking believe it. What a crushing loss.

      So damn odd that this was my most recent post, and then I wake up to the news of his passing... just awful.

      Delete
    2. I had just finished watching Magnolia of the first time last night and a few hours after it finished I heard he had died. The emotional bond that you develop with good actors while watching their films makes their death harder to bear.
      R.I.P. :(

      Delete
    3. So very true. Which makes this particular passing that much more devastating.

      Delete
  10. shit good call on Pat Healy- i would have never put that together

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man. I didn't even know that was him until recently. So good in Compliance.

      Delete
  11. Magnolia is my favorite PTA film and one of my top ten films of all time. I feel like this movie was made for me.

    You're definitely right when you said that Melora Walters deserves more roles. In a film with half a dozen unbelievable performances, I feel like hers was the best. Any great actor can play a drug addict, that's been proven plenty of times before. However, there was so much more to Melora Walter's character in this movie than just a drug addict. Her desperation, self-deprecation and intensity make her my favorite character in this movie. She is such a pathetic character, but I sympathize with her so much.

    This film also has one of the most underrated movie quotes, in my opinion. When asked by the Seduce & Destroy operator why Phil is calling him, Phil answers:

    "I know this sounds silly... and I know that might sound ridiculous like this is the scene of the movie where the guy is trying to get a hold of the long lost son, y'know, but, this is that scene. This is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they're true... y'know, because they really happen. And you gotta believe me this is really happening."

    The simple close-up shot, the way the music swells up when he says "this is that scene", the delivery from the great Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace). I even have the exact time-stamp memorized for whenever I want to watch it (1:14:52).

    I love this movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, I adore that moment. It is such a risky scene to pull off. A movie referencing a cliched scene in movies by DOING that very cliched scene... I'm not sure anyone other than PTA could pull that off. But with Hoffman's fearless and determined performance, there's simply no looking back. He sells the whole situation beautifully. God, I'll miss that man.

      Delete
  12. Alex, I love Magnolia so much. I feel like you could dig into this even further and still find so much to talk about with it. I don't even know where to start. The songs are amazing, the performances are some of the best from everyone (though I do think Moore over plays her scenes a bit), and I'm so attached to nearly everyone in it. The three hours fly by; it's one of the rare movies that I caught twice in the theaters within a week. Awesome post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan! I really love this movie too. I remember seeing it when I was pretty young and not fully "getting it." But it never left my mind, and I went back to the theater and saw it again a few weeks later. This one still floors me.

      Delete
  13. This is a wonderful post -- a happy distraction as I struggle through writing a tribute post to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Magnolia is one of my favourite films of all time, for many of the reasons you cite. I would have also included "That Ain't Mine!" Marcy and the strange, touching sequence when everyone sings the same song together but in their own isolated places.
    And, yes, that closing shot -- the smile -- one of my favourite closing shots of any movie ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I'll get used to the loss of PSH anytime soon. So good in this film and all others. Such a sad loss.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Always love finding other fans of Magnolia.

      Delete
  14. didn't realize the dude on the phone was paul f tompkins, great comedian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually didn't either before this post. Great comedian, great actor.

      Delete
    2. great werner herzog impression.

      Delete
    3. Shit, I keep forgetting to listen to that. Damnit.

      Delete
  15. Holy shit, man. I don't know how I missed this, but this is AMAZING. So many things on here that I didn't notice in the film, including Pat Healy. I knew that face looked familiar, and sure enough, he killed it in Compliance. It's just a shame that watching Magnolia won't ever be the same again... RIP Mr. Hoffman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eric! It certainly won't ever be the same. PSH, rest in peace forever.

      Delete
  16. I'm loving these posts. I find many awesome things I didn't pay much attention to, or others that I also loved but I've forgotten. There Will Be Blood was the first film from P.T. Anderson that I watched and since then I started watching all his films. It was a couple of years ago, so I watched Magnolia pretty recently, and I was blown out by it. I loved it. It's such a unique thing. I also loved Frank's costume and the way he shows his frustration, Cruise was perfect in those scenes. And loved Moore's pharmacy scene I think it's one of the highlights of the movie and you're right about Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, he looks always a bit frightened of her. How great he was…

    I didn't realize about some details about Jim that you've pointed out, I loved that character and Melora Walters. And I thought the same after watching it. She and Moore totally stand out for me, and I was surprised at her not getting bigger roles. What a shame. I also loved the blue lightning on some of her scenes and how her flat is almost in shadows. Don’t know why but I got the same vibe than with Naomi Watt’s apartment on Mulholland Drive. It felt right as both characters are isolated and in emotional pain during some scenes.

    Other things I loved, the way Hall is sitting on the couch and the single tear, wow. That character's progression as we start to find out things about him is awesome. And the “but it did happen” frame is fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you like these!

      How great PSH was. Yes. One of the all-time greats. He said that out of all the characters he played, Phil was most like his own personality. It required very little acting on his part, which is kind of remarkable.

      I love your connection of apartments between Mulholland Dr. and Magnolia. They both have a very hollow, distinct LA vibe to them. I tried to capture that physical emptiness in my short film, Earrings. In fact, there’s a lot of blue in Earrings, and I’m wondering if Magnolia subconsciously influenced that at all. Interesting though. Hmmm.

      Delete
  17. this movie is terrible. pretentious garbage for snooty white people (the worst type of people, which this movie is also full of). all the great performances and camera techniques and shit aren't enough to make a great movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My vote for the worst type of people goes to child rapists, but I do agree that snooty white people are absolutely dreadful.

      Delete
  18. I was wondering when a negative post would be posted! Hahaa - I was thinking to myself that I had never seen such positivity before in a comment section - until Anonymous showed-up. Thanks for balancing it out! ;) HUGE 'magnolia' Fan, btw. Ever notice the Biblical Verses advertised on the Bus Shelters on the Magnolia Street scenes? Exodus 8:2 - also a sign held up in the game show audience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got such a kick out of that Anonymous comment. I often love troll comments, even if they're on my site. Glad you're a fan of this film, and yeah it is littered with 8:2 references. I always have fun trying to spot them. Thanks so much for the comment!

      Delete