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Snowmageddon Open Thread | Main | Saturday Overnight Open Thread (12/9/17) Lacking Current Events and Politics Edition
December 09, 2017

Saturday Evening Movie Thread 12-09-2017 [Hosted By: TheJamesMadison]


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There’s a class of protagonist in storytelling. This particular class are those types of people you wouldn’t want to spend any time with in real life. These characters range from finding an actor’s voice grating to thinking that the character is a moral reprobate and deserves no sympathy whatsoever. You know the types. Not just certain bad guys in movies (Blofeld feels like a bore, and Boss Paul from Cool Hand Luke feels generally detestable), but also certain "good guys" like Jake Gyllenhal's character in Nightcrawler. Dolley hated Nightcrawler because she hated Gyllenhal's character so much and wanted him to die, which he never did. And yet I loved the movie.

The difference between my enjoyment of Nightcrawler and Dolley's hatred of it seems to stem from how we view the purpose of main characters in storytelling. Dolley wants to watch someone she likes. I want to watch someone interesting. Neither of us are right, of course, but the difference is still interesting to me.

Daniel Plainview

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The towering example of this phenomenon in my mind is Daniel Day Lewis' character of Daniel Plainview in There Will be Blood.

Plainview is a bad man. He's driven almost purely by his misanthropy. He acquires wealth in order to secure himself from the rest of the world. When he must operate in the real world with real people, he puts on a façade that allows him to deal with the people he obviously disdains. He adopts a son, but the boy is never more than a way to ingratiate Daniel to the people he's trying to deal with, a distraction from himself.

I've heard and read people who hate There Will be Blood and it almost always has to do with the fact that people hate Plainview himself. And yet, he's still fascinating to me. His ambition and greed, masked by some level of inauthentic ease, is always great to watch. His speech to his supposed brother about how much he hates people is engrossing. And on top of all that, Paul Thomas Anderson builds a wonderful movie around him.

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But that’s not the only complain people level at the movie. The other main character, Paul Dano’s Eli, is just about as reprehensible as Daniel. Watching the film, I never get the sense that Eli is an less misanthropic than Daniel. He seems to use people to his own ends in much the same way that Daniel does. They’re really two sides of the same coin, and the conflict between them is what drives the picture and makes it compelling.

But, if you just simply don’t like watching movie with unpleasant main characters, I can totally see how There Will be Blood would be a tough slog.

That’s Not Entertainment

I guess this conflict of visions about movies comes down to how one consumes media. Some of us see movies as akin to a night out with other people. You wouldn’t want to spend a night at a bar with someone you couldn’t stand, so why would you want to spend two hours in a movie theater with someone like that? There’s nothing wrong with that vision, it just means that there are going to be movies that I love but I know aren’t going to be for you (Man Bites Dog comes to mind).

So, what about you? Do you need that likeable main character to get through a movie?

Movies of Today

Opening in Theaters:
Just Getting Started
The Disaster Artist

Next in my Netflix Queue:

Movies I Saw This Week:
Coco (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 4/4) Poster blurb: "Absolutely wonderful entertainment." [Theater]
Django (Netflix Rating 4/5 | Quality Rating 3/4) "It may not actually be good, but it’s damn entertaining." [Netflix DVD]


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