“The big story of 2007 really, in critical discussion, is the Trilogy Of Critical Onanism (in order of jerk-off) — The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Zodiac and There Will Be Blood.” — from David Poland‘s 1.2.08 Hot Button column (even though the page identifies itself as “The Hot Button — January 2, 2007”).
I could be snide and call this the flip-side of the Poland Curse. If you believe in the legend that any film strongly pushed by Poland for Best Picture contention is all but doomed, you might also conclude that any film he calls masturbatory probably has considerable merit.
Of course, presumption isn’t needed in this instance. Minus these three films 2007 would have been a much leaner feast. Zodiac is my choice for the Best Film of the Year, and currently sits on so many Top Ten lists that it seems silly to debate Poland’s jab.
That one lantern-lit night shot in Jesse James — i.e., the train coming ’round the bend with the James gang is waiting to stick it up — is so drop-dead breathtaking that it justifies the entire film’s place in the ’07 pantheon. (As well as cinches Roger Deakins‘ Best Cinematographjy Oscar.)
It took me a second viewing to realize that the sickness running through There Will Be Blood — a malevolence that climaxes with the bowling-pin finale — has a stick-to-the-ribs quality that grows more scalding and pernicious the more you re-view and re-think it.