10 Best Films of All Time: Jacob Davis

2. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a prime example of 21st century American epic filmmaking, drawing on films like Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia to, once again, show how power and greed are not the corruption of American societal ideals, but the core of them. The ideas of ownership over land and the exploitation of resources lead to a disregard for everything and everyone, including fathers and preachers.

The film revolves around the compelling yet morally flawed character of Daniel Plainview, portrayed with unmatched brilliance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He feuds with Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday over a small piece of land, never satisfied until he has taken everything he wants.

For Anderson, this tight film is a diversion from his more sprawling narratives inspired by Robert Altman’s work, creating a more intimate look at a story told through long takes and sprawling shots of the American West. The hellish imagery of burning oil derricks strikes a divine fear, functioning as a technological oracle of Plainview’s fate, foreshadowing his punishment for his numerous sins.

It can be argued that Paul Thomas Anderson has never missed with a release in terms of cinematic craft. He consistently works with highly regarded collaborators, and elevates less regarded talents to levels audiences could not have anticipated. That There Will Be Blood is generally regarded as his magnum opus is a testament to the film’s power and quality.

Recommended for you: Paul Thomas Anderson Films Ranked

1. Moonlight (2016)

It’s unfair that Moonlight may be best remembered for its association with an Oscar flub, when La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture by presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The error was quickly rectified, and rightfully so, as Moonlight represented a triumph for black and queer filmmaking that had not been previously recognized by the Academy’s voting body. In fact, the previous year’s ceremony was famously derided through the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite due to its lack of diversity in terms of filmmaker and character perspectives.

Moonlight tells the story of Chiron through three stages of his life as he deals with the complexities of sexuality and masculinity as a gay man, and the harsh realities of his life in an underprivileged neighborhood in Miami. He forms a connection with a drug dealer named Juan whose influence can be seen as Chrion ages, allowing him a front to hide his identity in an unaccepting environment.

The title evokes the romantic imagery of the moon, as well as its phases that symbolize Chiron’s life phases. Director Barry Jenkins further reinforces these ideas with his use of color in each phase – golden hues to represent a nostalgic idealism of childhood despite the harsh surroundings, blue tones to mark the tougher feelings of adolescence, and a return of warmer colors to meet the blue in adulthood as Chiron reconnects with the feelings he was forced to cover up in his youth.

Jenkins’ film is a cultural touchstone in 21st century American filmmaking, and set a precedent for wider recognition of diverse films that only continues to gain momentum both in cinephilic circles and wider filmgoing audiences.

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  • <cite class="fn">CGesange</cite>

    This article covers “The Passion of Joan of Arc” by first admitting that her trial was conducted by “English-aligned Frenchmen” but then goes on to say that the film was “faithfully adapted from the event’s historical records” – meaning the trial transcript which dozens of eyewitnesses said was falsified by those English-aligned tribunal members on behalf of their faction. The transcript is contradicted on important points by all the other evidence, meaning that the film often deviates from history on those important points, instead repeating the propaganda of the people who put her to death. Yes, it has lots of close-ups that allow you to see every wart on the faces of her accusers, but this cinematic gimmick hardly makes up for the use of a propaganda document as the basis for the film. Granted, there are far worse films on the subject since many of the more modern ones were just made up completely; but nonetheless the endless gushing over “The Passion of Joan of Arc” in article after article becomes tedious after awhile.

  • <cite class="fn">Mary Robison</cite>

    I tried repeatedly to close my gaping smiling mouth while reading. So, thank you for that. thank you.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    I appreciate the thoughtful comment and knowledge! I do want to point out that “accurate to the record” and “the record being accurate” are two different questions. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the record, and ultimately do not care if the film is basing itself on 15th century anti-French propaganda. I also do not care about a historical fiction film’s accuracy in general unless the film is attempting to color current discourse with false information. It could be debated that the film contributes to bad historical perceptions or bad historiographical practices, but I’m not sure the film is popular enough to warrant such worry. The gushing is more about an appreciation of the filmmaking from one of the silent era’s best directors. And on the propaganda front, the film’s framing is certainly antithetical to any 15th century anti-French sentiments, as it elevates Joan and her spiritual views in a figurative and literal sense.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    That’s exactly how I felt writing it, though that may have been from caffeine delirium.

  • <cite class="fn">Margaret Roarty</cite>

    So fun to see a silent film on one of these lists!

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    Silent films can be tedious for me, so I had to pick one I loved from beginning to end!

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