When they said the film’s final scene in a bowling alley was controversial and over the top, they were right. Who saw that coming?

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by Paul Thomas Anderson based on an Upton Sinclair novel

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano

Sat on my shelf for a year before I summoned up the emotional and intellectual energy to watch it. PTA’s films are all-day suckers and they demand a viewer pays attention. My ambivalence, however, was odd. I was a passionate fan of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and appreciated Hard Eight and Punch-Drunk Love. A new film was an event. Why didn’t I rush out and see it?

Was I afraid? Honestly, Magnolia, to my younger self, was a like an extended punch in the stomach. Was I ready to spend three hours with Daniel Day-Lewis in a deep, dark hole, figuratively and literally?

I finally went there–and i’m still processing. Like most pieces of art, it’s fairly inaccessible in places. But I have little doubt it is a profound work and like many artists, Anderson has learned to set aside some of his pyrotechnics in favor of clean-lined storytelling. (An interesting comparison might be Thomas McGuane.)

I have little more to say than that (because I need to see it again), but there is that now-infamous ending in the bowling alley, which spawned the hip catchphrase of early 2008 (and for me, of the last week, which means no one else wants to hear it). Anderson, as usual, wrapped his movie up in a tourniquet of trapped psychological and kinetic energy that it had to be released in a sideways, over the top way. Again, see Magnolia as the prime example (frogs, dude). Unlike other directors, he’ll go for broke and dare you to stop him. I admire him for it.

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