Volume 77 / Number 33 Jan. 16 - 22, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

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Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“The Orphanage” (+)

If you like scary films, you will enjoy this one. When I saw it, several people in the audience shouted “watch out” when a ghostly figure appeared.

Laura (Belen Rueda), her physician husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their adopted young son, Simon (Roger Princep), move into an old orphanage hoping to turn it into a home for sick children. Simon regularly talks to two imaginary friends who are not visible to his parents. Shortly after moving into the home, he sees other children as well. Laura, who lived in the orphanage as a youngster until being adopted, unexpectedly sees a woman in the home who served on the staff when the home was an orphanage. Simon, who is ill, suddenly disappears, and his parents spend months looking for him. A medium, Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), is contacted to help find the boy.

“The Orphanage” marks Juan Antonio Bayona’s directorial debut. He did an excellent job, and the acting is terrific on the part of everyone. Ghosts appear and disappear. The natural laws of reason and logic don’t apply since the supernatural is in charge. The story will keep you enthralled and frightened, but that after all is why you would choose to see this film. (In Spanish, with English subtitles.)

“There Will Be Blood” (+)

This film received rave reviews from many critics. In her New York Times review, Manohla Dargis described the movie, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, as an “epic American nightmare.” She said “it tells a story of greed and envy of biblical proportions,” and that it adds up to “two and a half mesmerizing hours.” I came to a different conclusion. It is an acceptable movie but by no means a superb one, and I for one was not mesmerized. In fact, I was squirming a little before it ended, a sure sign of impatience on my part.

The story depicts a time in America when the production of oil was a major activity. In this case, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), is a wildcat prospector looking to buy ranches in California where oil is likely to be found. Daniel, a vicious man capable of murder if something gets in his way, is competing for land with major oil companies like Standard Oil.

Daniel is accompanied by his adolescent son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), who is seriously injured on one occasion when a gusher blows its top. The two meet Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) who, for money, tells Daniel that his family ranch sits on a pool of oil. Daniel also meets Paul’s twin brother Eli (also played by Dano) who is an evangelical preacher.

Paul Dano does an especially good job in his two roles. Daniel Day-Lewis is usually a superb actor, e.g. his performances in “My Left Foot” and “Gangs of New York.” He was praised by other critics for his performance in this film, but I would describe his acting more as a Johnny One Note. If you are looking to see an intense picture with the lead actor portraying a range of emotions, this is not the film to see. It is not a bad movie, but frankly, after all the hype, I was disappointed.

HS said: Oil movies suggest the Middle East, but this one is set in California around 1900. Daniel Day-Lewis is the increasingly histrionic and vicious protagonist, getting wackier bit by bit. The scenery and the historical reconstruction made the movie interesting, the oil part is educational, but the personal interplay is implausible. Day-Lewis evokes Howard Hughes and Orson Welles, with a touch of Sweeney Todd. There is no woman who speaks more than ten lines. Good but far from great.

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