Going for broke on reckless ambition and cinematic skill, 30-year-old whizkid Paul Thomas Anderson topped his disco-porn showstopper Boogie Nights by throwing everything at this kaleidoscopic epic.
Cancer, biblical plagues, child geniuses, incest, Aimee Mann, junkies, murder, gay obsession... And somehow, in the funny way that life does, it all slots into place.
Sure enough, when it rains, it pours. Across 188 pulsating minutes, Magnolia’s cast release nuclear emotional payloads before Anderson brings the whole thing home on the smallest, sweetest truth (“You’ll have to be nicer to me”) and the most beautiful final shot imaginable.
The Oscars were the scene of a major robbery. Only Tom Cruise’s sensational performance as “master of the muffin” Frank TJ Mackey scored a nomination, but in truth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman or William H Macy would have all been worthy winners. That American Beauty beat Magnolia to all three Best gongs tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about the Academy Awards.
Eight years later, Oscar still didn’t wise up: amazingly, There Will Be Blood failed to score Anderson any of the big awards. But while he was waiting to find out, you’d have thought PTA could have sat down for three hours to record a commentary track like the superb efforts he logged for Hard Eight and Boogie Nights. No chance.
What we get here on the Blu-ray is what we got on the Special Edition DVD. But that’s no bad thing. Magnolia boasts one of the greatest Making Ofs ever recorded. Shot hand-held with intimate access to the production, documentary-maker Mark Rance’s video diary follows the movie from brainchild to birth to the Berlin Film Festival. All but the Cruiser make an appearance.
Anderson talks about the trial of writing the script. He screens Network for his crew to help them figure out what the hell he’s talking about. He tears his hair out convincing all and sundry “it’s not too long!” Meetings, rehearsals, arguments... all the fun and frustration of filmmaking is here in one mighty Making Of. Best factoid? More than 7,900 rubber frogs were used in the downpour climax, with the rest wizarded up using CGI.
Additional add-ons for this Blu-ray, as with the DVD, come in the shape of Aimee Mann’s ‘Save Me’ music video and the trailer, both of which Anderson directed himself. Plus you can’t argue with more of Cruise’s Seduce And Destroy infomercial and seminar. “You explain to her you were babysitting your neighbour’s cat – and it went into seizure...”
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