Saturday, February 16, 2008


After a full morning of chores, I had an extremely helpful PE study session with Sarah, Jane, and Jackie. Between the four of us, we had lots of references and plenty of received knowledge and tips on how best to prepare. I use the term "we" pretty liberally. Jackie had all kinds of references, Sarah knew a bunch of stuff cold - I think because she actually used a lot of it as port engineer, and Jane shared some brilliant ideas on how to organize and prepare. Needless to say, I will shamelessly copy these techniques, and buy/borrow/steal the same references. Jane also provided cookies. So it was time very well spent, though I don't think I brought much to the table. Where these ladies were organized and methodical (Sarah is preparing for the test next year), my study habits are slapdash and sloppy. I hope we can do it again, because I found I worked longer, and better. I am sure that I learned more in those 4 hours than I would have on my own.

Afterwards, I went and saw There Will Be Blood. It was incredible. I won't say 'I've never seen anything like it,' because it is kin to many other great epic movies. It was like a cross between Citizen Kane and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with oil and betrayals and greed and madness.

The movie looks amazing, taking good advantage of the stark California desert landscape it is set in. Though one sequence, involving an oil fire, was a pure visual and visceral thrill. At first, it seems the movie will rely on pictures alone - the first 20 minutes or so have almost no dialog. I've heard other people remark it could have been made as a silent movie, like the lost classic Greed. As the movie goes on, the dialog becomes better and better (which is not to say the visuals lose anything). By the end, there is dialog paraphrased from historical Senate testimony over the Teapot Dome Scandal involving drainage and milkshakes. It sounds dry, but I assure you it's fantastic.

The movie may seem a bit over-the-top at times. Actually, the main character played by Daniel Day-Lewis is the one who does so. But not to give away the plot too much, but that is the story. The movie itself stays very grounded, as some of the characters, in very realistic ways, snap their moorings and go adrift. It is fascinating. It is a dark film, and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. But it is compelling, with excellent performances and an intriguing story arc.

I saw the movie at the always-entertaining Old Town Theater in Alexandria. Independent - no previews, no commercials, and they don't start the movie until everyone gets in and seated. The concessions sells wine and beer, and the owner comes out and takes questions before the show. It won't last forever, though: he's moving away in a year and a half, donating the theater to a non-profit organization. The plan is it will continue as-is, though it won't be the same without this character coming out with his plaid slacks and salesman's patter to tell you what will be playing next week.

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