Disclaimer: This is a highly subjective write-up, you have been warned.

I think I'm in love with this movie. I don't know for sure. It's the kind of movie I wanna watch a million times and make sure everybody I know that would have even the most remote appreciation for it watches it. But there's so many things that I loved about this movie that a four paragraph review wouldn't be proper... so I'll just list some of my favorite things about it.

A colour of paint so inoffensive that it makes people scream in pain. Almost every new house and landlord-owned flat will be painted this colour, a slightly beigeish pinkish off-white.

Magnolia is one of the best neighborhoods in Seattle. A penninsula, it is connected to the rest of Seattle by three bridges that span the BNSF switching yards that lie between. A largely single family area, it does sport a zone of large apartment buildings in it's northeast quadrant. The main destinations on Magnolia are the Village, a quaint shopping area, and Discovery Park, Seattle's largest park. Being a steep hill, parts of Magnolia are subject to frequent landslides. However, the greatest threat in Magnolia is petty crime, which is higher here than in many neighborhoods, due to the fact that there is usually only one cop on the hill at any given time.

Magnolias are trees found in the southeastern United States. They are charactarized by large, wazy leaves, big white fragrant flowers, and seed bearing structures that look like a cross between a pine cone and a hand grenade. Magnolias can grow to a fairly large size, although their growth rate is not rapid, and they are an important part of the native hardwood forest in the Southeastern US.

Magnolias are angiosperms, plants which bear flowers. However, the magnolia family is one of the most primitive families of angiosperms. This is evidenced by the large seed-bearing structure of magnolias which bears similarities to a pine cone. The large, extremely fragrant flowers of magnolia are meant to be polinated by beetles, which is true for many more primitive angiosperms

If you wish to plant a magnolia, you should keep some things in mind. They are excellent in the southeastern US, where they are native. Since these trees are supremely adapted to that environment they will grow and thrive with little or no care. However, in other areas they are much less appropriate as trees. In dry areas, or extremely cold areas, they won't do well or will die. I have noticed lots of magnolias planted in California. Most look sickly and never grow to a very large size. If you're going to plant a magnolia in california, or a similar climate, make sure it's sheltered from hot, dry wind, and give it ample water. if you live in an area which experiences cold winters, i dont suggest them at all. If you want to plant in a marginal habitat, choose a south-facing side of a building where they will recieve reflected heat and be sheltered from cold north winds.

Cast:Tom Cruise, Jeremy Blackman, Jason Robards, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, and so many more.
Written And Directed By:P.T. Anderson

A mosaic of human life. Seven people, seven stories, each of which has something in common with the others. Many of the characters interact with one another or are so similar that they seem to feel the exact same way at the exact same time. A child(Blackman) forced into a world of questions at a game show being denied his rights that he so deserves in the process. The former whiz kid(Macy) has become nothing more than an appliance salesman who hangs around a tavern lusting for the bartender. The game show host(Hall) discovers he has cancer and continues on with the show and his secrets from his past. The daughter of the game show host caught in a world of drugs, sex and violence. The producer of the game show(Robards) is old and also dying of cancer in his bed unable to think straight because of the morphine. The old mans nurse(Hoffman) attempts to reunite him with his long lost sex-guru son. The sex-guru(Cruise) holds a seminar bashing women and their views, only to be known that he has disowned his father in the process. The trophy wife(Moore) of the old man, who takes the prescription drugs as her own, to relieve an incurable inner pain. The Cop(Reilly) who meets the daughter by chance and immediately falls in love also encounters the former whiz kid later on.

The film is involving and long, but there is never a dull moment, especially the bizarre conclusion which will puzzle everyone who ever watches it. It has to do with chance and that it is a fact that strange things happen all the time. My rating: 9.5/10...ribbit.

A long, sweeping masterpiece of a movie that lures you in with an unconventional prologue and then squeezes you and squeezes you, like a wet sponge, until finally plunging you back into the water at the end. If you haven't seen the movie, don't read this writeup. Go watch the movie. Then think about it for a good long time and maybe watch it again. If you still need handholding through the plot, come back and read this. Yes, there are spoilers.

Most people describe the movie as "seven intertwined stories," but that's not really true at all. Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer/director, describes it as one single story. It may take more than one viewing for you to notice it, but every single character is connected to every single other character, and at the center of it is Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), producer of the TV game show "What Do Kids Know?". Earl is an old man now, on his deathbed, dying of cancer. He asks his nurse, Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman), to find his son who he hasn't spoken to in over ten years: Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise).

Frank is the creator of the Seduce and Destroy program, which teaches men how to, basically, seduce and destroy any woman they choose. His character is summed up very well by his first line in the film: "Respect the cock...and tame the cunt! Tame it!" When his mother, Lily, got cancer, Earl left them, forcing Frank to take care of her while she died a slow, painful death. This fucked him up, bad.

Linda Partridge (Julianne Moore), Earl's young trophy wife, is going completely fucking nuts. She knows she's prominently featured in Earl's will, but she wants to get it changed because she's had a change of heart and doesn't think she deserves any of his money -- she cheated on him for years and years and now, as he's dying, she's fallen in love with him for real, and it's killing her right along with him. She suddenly becomes extremely protective of Earl, and the last thing she wants is for Frank to come back into his life before he dies, because she knows how much Frank hates him and how much pain they caused each other. And she doesn't want Earl experiencing any more pain than he already is.

Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) is the long-time host of "What Do Kids Know?". He himself has just found out that he has cancer. When he learns this, he decides to try to reconcile with his daughter, Claudia (Melora Walters). But she hates him, almost as much as she hates herself, because he molested her as a child.

Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is a divorced cop. A real loser. Insecure. He meets Claudia when he's called to her apartment for a noise disturbance. He falls in love with her as soon as she opens the door, despite her bloodshot eyes and runny nose from the lines of cocaine she's constantly doing.

Quiz Kid Donny Smith (William H. Macy) rocketed to fame in the early years of "What Do Kids Know?", and is now an unsuccessful appliance salesman because his parents stole all his money. He's desperately in love with Brad the Bartender, who has a mouth full of braces. Donny decides that getting corrective oral surgery will make Brad notice him, but his plans to ask his boss for a loan backfire when he's fired from his job. His breakdown in the bar is one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie.

Finally, Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is a modern-day "Quiz Kid", a wunderkind who is undefeated on "What Do Kids Know?". But he's not at all happy. His verbally-abusive father has only one thing on his mind -- prize money. And Stanley has only one thing on his mind -- he wants to be a meteorologist. He's fascinated with weather. But nobody cares about this. They just want him to answer stupid questions.

This film is brilliant in every way imaginable. Script, acting, cinematography, music. It's the sort of film that seems to physically pull you closer and closer to the screen and leaves you gasping for air until the very last split second before it jumps to black and the credits roll -- that last tiny fraction of a second in which Claudia Gator quickly glances at the camera and you see the tiniest glint of a smile. A real smile. A happy smile.

This movie left me happy. There is hope after all.

Dissecting Magnolia
An examination of underlying plot themes

I really do have love to give, I just don't know where to put it!
Quiz Kid Donnie Smith

Introduction

Paul Thomas Anderson is almost too damned clever for his own good. While Magnolia (New Line Cinema, 1999) can easily be considered his best and most ambitious cinematic effort to date (as of this writing), part of its story went right over the heads of a good two-thirds of the movie-going public who paid good money to see it. What's both sad and amusing about this (to me, at least), and a testament to Anderson's off-beat genius, is that while most of these viewers realized that they were missing something, they didn't pick up on all the hints as to what it actually was (musical and Biblical references notwithstanding). Even if you've seen the film several times, chances are you still don't see the big picture that Anderson was looking at when he wrote, cast, and directed the film. This writeup is an attempt to shed some light on what was actually going on in the mind of one of Hollywood's most interesting new directors.

On a personal note, I should go ahead and tell you this up front: I love this film. It absolutely floored me when I first saw it in the cinema, and left me emotionally and psychologically entranced for nearly a week afterwards. I went back to the theater to watch it twice more before its run ended (something I haven't done since I was a kid), and bought the DVD three months in advance of its release. It's one of my favorite films because it fucks with both your head and your heart in ways that send you spinning, and keep you coming back for more.


The Book says we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.
The Natural History of Nonsense by Bergen Evans

Rub-a-dub

Briefly, the surface story involves the lives of nine main characters who all live in the San Fernando Valley, and takes place within a span of 24 hours. There's the dying father (Jason Robards, in his final filmed performance), his young wife (Julianne Moore) and male nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his famous lost son (Tom Cruise), a boy genius (Jeremy Blackman), an ex-boy genius (William H. Macy), a game show host (Philip Baker Hall) and his estranged daughter (Melora Walters), and the police officer (John C. Reilly) who falls in love with her. Apart from the aforementioned familial relationships, these characters have no apparent connection with each other at first glance. Over the course of the film's three-hour run time (excluding credits), we are exposed to a myriad of links which exist between these people, climaxing in one of the most bizarre plot devices that has ever been used in a serious dramatic picture.

Reduced to its most simplistic elements, Magnolia is a tear-jerking drama that revolves around the lives of two very famous and rich old men who are dying of cancer. Both of them have been ruthless, adulterous bastards for most of their lives, and experience epiphanies of regret as they cling to their loved ones in the final moments of mortality. The peripheral characters behave like they do (for the most part) as a direct result of their relationships with these men, and the laundry list of ways that their own lives have been fucked up as a result of the association. There's a lot of shouting and cursing (I don't think I've ever heard the word cocksucker so many times in one film), and a river of tears are shed before the final scene with the estranged daughter and the policeman, closing the film with a raw and beautiful glimmer of hope.

What do critics know?

Equally lauded and panned by critics, Magnolia was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as numerous other professional accolades. It won many of them, including a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Tom Cruise, several National Board of Review trophies, and Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Film awards from the Toronto Film Critics Association. The Berlin International Film Festival went nuts over this movie, proving that the Germans are indeed a weird, artsy bunch. Nevertheless, this is a story that is operating on so many different levels at once, the average viewer can easily get lost in the complicated plot elements at work and completely miss the underlying source material during their first (and in most cases, only) viewing. To call this motion picture overambitious would only be fair if Anderson had failed to make it work. The fact that he manages to pull it off would be surprising were it not for the strength of his screenwriting abilities and the outstanding performances given by the film's rather large cast. And okay, let's face it: He's an amazing director.

Magnolia is such a complicated narrative work that if you haven't seen the movie yet, I doubt the above synopsis will spoil it for you. Besides, my objective here is to expound upon the framework of the story that isn't readily apparent. But before I get to that, I have another piece of background information that you might find interesting. If you haven't seen the film, you may want to stop reading at this point.

The damned

There was another complete story line in the original script of Magnolia which was shot but later cut from the film in the interests of length. It involves the lives of Marcie, who we meet at the beginning of the movie when officer Jim Kurring finds her husband's body in the bedroom closet; Marcie's son (the tenth main character), known as "the Worm", who is an LA gangsta wanted for numerous crimes and suspected of the murder of his mother's husband; and Dixon, Marcie's streetwise grandson who tries to help Kurring solve the crime, but instead serves to complicate the plot in numerous ways that are left unresolved. Had this story line been completely included, it would have extended the film's run time by at least thirty minutes. Apparently Hollywood's major decision makers don't think American audiences are willing to sit through a feature film of that length (as the concept of intermission remains a practice of bygone days), and demanded that Anderson cut the film down to three hours. The shooting script of the film, published by Newmarket Press, includes this deleted story line, and helps to flesh out some of the loose ends. If you find yourself captivated enough by this film that you want to know more, read the script. (I had initially believed that there was a novelization of the film available, but apparently that isn't the case.)


Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?
— "Deathly" by Aimee Mann

Our feature presentation

Shortly after the publicity surrounding Boogie Nights died down, Anderson started writing the script for Magnolia, which he initially envisioned as a "quick and dirty" piece about people who live in the valley. He wrote for eight months, but most of the material came during a week he spent at William H. Macy's cabin in Vermont and the week that followed during October of 1998. Anderson's father, TV actor Ernie Anderson, had recently died of cancer in 1997, and much of the surface plot comes from the director's experience in dealing with his father's death. That being said, Magnolia is a story that is based on two principal sources of inspiration: The lyrics of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, and the literature of Charles Fort.

Wise Up

Back in the late 1990s, much of P.T. Anderson's social life revolved around certain artists in the Los Angeles avant garde music scene that had some small promise of mainstream acceptance. His girlfriend during the inception of Magnolia was none other than the quirky Fiona Apple, and he has long maintained a friendship with Michael Penn's significant other Aimee Mann. Apparently the lyrical body of Mann's work got under his skin, and one song in particular, "Deathly," provided a spark of inspiration. Listening repeatedly to demo tapes of songs that would later compose both the film's soundtrack and Mann's 1999 album Bachelor No. 2 or, The Last Remains of the Dodo, Anderson conceived of the character Claudia Wilson Gator (the coke-fried basket case movingly portrayed by Melora Walters). From this seed, fueled by the emotions conveyed through Mann's music and the loss of his father, came the story line centered around Claudia's father Jimmy Gator, and extended out to the story line centered around "Big Earl" Partridge, the executive producer of the What Do Kids Know? game show.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I had never heard of Aimee Mann until I saw this film. You might remember her as the lead singer of the 1980s new wave group 'Til Tuesday. It turns out that she's a remarkably gifted songwriter who has been putting out solo albums since the early 1990s. As she was Anderson's primary muse in the creation of Magnolia, it's only fitting that her work should be prominently featured in the film. And boy, is it ever. Eight of her original songs appear on the soundtrack (not counting the small bits of others sprinkled here and there), as well as a beautiful cover of Three Dog Night's classic hit "One (is the Loneliest Number)", which plays underneath the rapid-fire opening sequence of the film (after the prologue) that introduces the film's main characters.

One of the most startling moments in Magnolia is centered around one of Mann's songs. When I first saw this scene unfold on the screen in the movie theater, my jaw literally dropped in disbelief. All of the main characters manage to reach their lowest point of desperation and anxiety simultaneously, and experience a collective epiphany while singing along with "Wise Up". I have never seen the fourth wall broken like this, and it sent chills down my spine. I have no idea what inspired Anderson to do this, and am frankly amazed that he had the balls to even attempt it. It is one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, as the effect it produces in the audience is one of gut-wrenching empathy with the characters.

Part of Anderson's overt use of Mann's music in the film came from a desire to expose her work to a larger audience. This worked as expected (for me, at least), and the director even shot a video for "Save Me" on the various sets of the movie, complete with many of the characters as silent "extras". And who can blame him? Wouldn't you do the same for your muse?

Note: A listing of the songs on the film's soundtrack is available at the bottom of this writeup.


Things fall down. People look up. And when it rains, it pours.
— promotional tagline for Magnolia

And so it goes

Magnolia prominently features something that is unconventional in modern cinema: a prologue and an epilogue. This is Anderson's best effort (and a commendable one at that) to try and explain the enigmatic source of the rain of frogs which takes both the film's characters and the audience by complete surprise. This scene is unquestionably the movie's most memorable, as nothing like it (to my knowledge) has ever been attempted outside of the genre of science fiction. It is both shocking, confusing, and hysterical — a moment of complete madness that seemingly comes out of nowhere. You might be initially inclined to disregard the incident as ridiculous fantasy, but as the awestruck child prodigy Stanley Spector remarks during the amphibian shower, "This is something that happens." And he's right.

Anderson takes the rain of frogs from chapter 7 of Charles Fort's compendium of documented natural oddities, The Book of the Damned (1919). It seems that Anderson is a big fan of Fortean themes, and created the prologue in Magnolia specifically to expound upon their influence. It's a clever and entertaining method of getting his message across, but falls short of actually citing his sources directly. What he does instead is give the viewer little hints, strategically placed in the background and woven in subtle ways throughout the context of film, which only the keen observer would notice.

Anderson throws a lot of these hints at the audience. There's too many to list them all here, so I'll just give you an easy example, which appears during the first 90 seconds of the film. The prologue's opening vignette is accompanied by the following narration:

In the New York Herald, November 26, year 1911, there is an account of the hanging of three men. They died for the murder of Sir Edmund William Godfrey; husband, father, pharmacist and all-around gentleman resident of Greenberry Hill, London. He was murdered by three vagrants, whose motive was simple robbery. They were identified as Joseph Green, Stanley Berry, and Daniel Hill. Green, Berry, Hill. And I would like to think this was only a matter of chance.
Compare it to Charles Fort's narrative in chapter 1 of Wild Talents (1932):
In the New York Herald, November 26, 1911, there is an account of the hanging of three men, for the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, on Greenberry Hill, London. The names of the murderers were Green, Berry, and Hill. It does seem that this was only a matter of chance. Still, it may have been no coincidence, but a savage pun mixed with murder.
Clearly, you'd have to already be familiar with Fort's book in order to spot this reference. So what does Anderson do to point us in the right direction? He shows us the book! It's on screen much later in the film, in plain sight, for almost ten seconds while the camera slowly tracks over Stanley Spector's library table. If you're paying close attention, you can't miss it. As it happens, also scattered amongst the numerous textbooks on meterology is yet another interesting volume, Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women. An engrossing and detailed historical profile of some of the most bizarre entertainers and human oddities of all time, it was written by magician and actor Ricky Jay, who not only narrates the prologue and epilogue of the film, but appears as the character Burt Ramsey, the What Do Kids Know? floor director.

The other vignettes in the prologue take place during more recent years, and are consequently from sources other than Fort's books. Anderson takes a few liberties with dates and names and other minor details, but this is primarily to enhance the dramatic quality of the narrative. It all still qualifies as Forteana though; properly documented events that purportedly occurred, which are typically classified as unexplainable and disregarded as fantastic coincidence. It happens all the time... or so the story goes. (See the update at the bottom of this writeup for more information.)

Exodus 8:2

8:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 8:2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs: 8:3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: 8:4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
— The Bible, Exodus 8

Among the myriad of hints in prop and dialogue that Anderson gives us throughout Magnolia to suggest that there is something else going on besides the dramatic plot, there is a recurring one which is deliberately less than subtle. Surprisingly, it was not a part of the script, but added during the 83+ days of shooting. One day during the phase of production meetings, actor Henry Gibson (who plays the role of acerbic lush Thurston Howell in the bar scenes) approached Anderson with a copy of the Bible, bookmarked to Exodus 8. Anderson didn't know that the Fortean arcana regarding the rain of frogs was supported by Biblical references to the plague of frogs that God had cursed Egypt with in Exodus. Realizing that this reference would be recognizable to a much broader segment of the audience than anything he was already planning to use, he decided to incorporate it into the film at every practical opportunity.

It was a brilliant move. Even if you aren't familiar with the Bible, there are so many visual cues to the numbers 8 and 2 together, as well as the outright planting of "Exodus 8:2" in the background, that the average person would have to be half-blind and high on mescaline to miss all of them. Just for fun, I decided to take a list of known instances where the reference appears in the film and compile an index that is timecoded with the DVD release. How many of these have you been able to spot on your own?

  1. 0:00:29 In the prologue's first vignette, the hanging victim wears a sign around his neck with the number 82 on it.

  2. 0:01:57 In the second vignette, the side of pilot Craig Hansen's red plane sports the number 82 in giant white numerals.

  3. 0:02:19 When Hansen is playing blackjack, he holds up his fingers and says, "All I need is a two." Delmer Darion, the dealer, replies, "All you need is a deuce," and turns over an eight of hearts. "THAT... is an EIGHT!" exclaims Hansen, obviously pissed. "Glad you like my work," quips Darion, and Hansen leaps over the table and proceeds to physically assault him.

  4. 0:02:46 In the third vignette, the placard outside of the awards dinner for the American Association of Forensic Sciences shows that the meeting started at 8:20.

  5. 0:03:04 When we first see Sidney Barringer preparing to jump from the apartment building, the window washers' ropes are coiled up against the ledge to form the number 82. At the same time, the narrator states that the date is March 23rd, which is the 82nd day of that year.

  6. 0:03:44 Meanwhile, downstairs on the sixth floor, the camera tracks down the hall to the Barringer family's apartment. Their apartment number, 682, is visible on the door above the lock.

  7. 0:04:41 While Sidney Barringer is loading the shotgun, the hands on the clock behind him (on the nightstand) are allegedly on the 8 and the 2. (I can't personally confirm this from the DVD.)

  8. 0:06:53 The phone number in the "Seduce and Destroy" segment changes from 1-877-TAME-HER to its numerical equivalent: 1-877-826-3437.

  9. 0:07:35 - 0:07:51 A montage sequence with narration indicates that Jimmy Gator has eight Emmy awards and two children.

  10. 0:11:20 While we listen to officer Jim Kurring's voicemail personal ad, he states that he takes messages at box number 82. He actually says "eight two" rather than "eighty-two".

  11. 0:11:28 During the police briefing, Kurring sits at the back of the room. The clock above the bulletin board on the wall shows that the time is 8:02 AM.

  12. 0:12:56 A transition title reads: Partly Cloudy, 82% Chance of Rain.

  13. 0:34:45 When Quiz Kid Donnie Smith enters Solomon & Solomon Electronics, there is a white sign on the door which reads "Exodus 8:2" in black. It is on the glass, at the top of the door frame.

  14. 0:53:58 In the Smiling Peanut bar, there is an 8 and a 2 handwritten in blue on a dry-erase scoreboard next to an electronic dartboard. In a closer shot at 1:48:58, you can see that the team names are listed as Frogs and Clouds.

  15. 1:05:39 When the What Do Kids Know? game show goes live, a man in the studio audience holds up a white poster with "Exodus 8:2" written on it. It is taken from him by a stagehand.

  16. 1:06:23 - 01:06:29 Jimmy Gator informs the audience that the kids team is heading into their eighth week, with two days and two games left to play until they beat the show's all-time record.

  17. 1:07:08 Marcie's mug shot, taken in the LAPD's North Hollywood precinct, has a placard with the number 8208208208200 on it.

  18. 1:22:49 In a wide shot of the game show set during a break, we see that the adults have a score of 1025, while the kids have a score of 2000. Adding the numerals of each score together yields 8 and 2.

  19. 1:44:35 When Jim Kurring asks Claudia Wilson Gator for a date, she initially suggests they meet at 8 o'clock, but Kurring doesn't get off work until 10 o'clock - two hours later.

  20. 1:48:50 Okay, this one's a bit of a stretch: During Donnie Smith's drunken soliloquy, he mentions graphite, "in the form of pencil lead". Lead's atomic number is 82.

  21. 2:20:26 While Donnie Smith sings along with "Wise Up," we see a giant replica of his $100,000 award check illuminated on the wall behind him. The date on the check is April 28, 1968.

  22. 2:21:27 When the camera cuts to Frank T.J. Mackie sitting in his Saturn outside Earl Partridge's house, the California license plate on the car reads "3MHI436". Noder Lord of Haha notes that adding the numerals on the tag together yields 16, or 8 x 2.

  23. 2:22:16 During an establishing shot at an intersection on Magnolia Avenue, the rain finally stops. This shot is actually run in reverse, as evidenced by the order of the traffic lights - but that's just trivial. During the shot, a white light box sign on the left side of the frame turns on, catching the audience's eye. The sign clearly reads "Exodus 8:2". It is visible in close-up for a split second through Jim Kurring's car window at 2:45:22 as he drives by. There is also a billboard with "Exodus 8:2" on it visible on the left side of the frame at 2:45:40.

  24. 2:50:15 During the frog storm, Claudia Wilson Gator is cowering in the corner of her apartment as her mother beats on the door outside. As she crawls over to the door, you catch a glimpse of two piles of books. The left pile contains a yellow phone book with the number 82 written on the center of the book's spine.

  25. 2:50:37 As Stanley Spector sits in the darkened school library during the rain of frogs, there is a poster on the end of one of the book stacks which comes into focus as the camera zooms in. The numbers 8 and 2 stand out among the grid of colorful blocks on the poster.

  26. 2:52:14 The hanging sequence from 0:00:29 is repeated.

There's supposed to be a few more of these in the film, but I either can't personally substantiate them or consider them to be too reaching. Besides, I think it's more interesting to try and pick up on the more subtle elements, such as the numerous references to Masonic symbols, and the creative way that Anderson works images of the magnolia flower into the background. There are a lot of strange things going on in this film.


What can we forgive?
— Jim Kurring, in the epilogue

So Now Then

Magnolia is a beautiful motion picture filled with pathos, about a bunch of lost souls trying desperately to figure out a way to stop the downward spiral of their miserable, fucked up lives. I think the moral of the story is that no matter how bad things get, you can't turn things around and recapture hope until you realize that it's the stupid routines in your life that are slowly killing you.

But as I've tried to explain, Magnolia is also a story about strange and unexplainable occurrences, bizarre coincidence and acts of apparent chance and circumstance, and the surprising intersections of seemingly unrelated people and events which defy reason and scientific explanation. And we generally say, "Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it." But it is in the humble opinion of this writer that strange things happen all the time. I've seen these things happen, and so have you. I've even seen them take place right here on E2! And so it goes, and so it goes, and The Book says we may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.

Source information:
The New Line Platinum Series DVD of Magnolia, ©2000 New Line Productions, Inc./New Line Home Video, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The texts of Charles Fort's books, as cited above
http://www.ptanderson.com/featurefilms/magnolia/secrets.htm
http://www.moviemaker.com/issues/38/38_anderson.htm
http://us.imdb.com/Title?0175880


The soundtrack

Album Executive Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson and JoAnne Sellar
Executive Producer for Reprise Records: Danny Bramson
©1999 Reprise Records, an AOL Time Warner Company.

  1. One - Aimee Mann {2:53}
  2. Momentum - Aimee Mann {3:27}
  3. Build That Wall - Aimee Mann {4:25}
  4. Deathly - Aimee Mann {5:28}
  5. Driving Sideways - Aimee Mann {3:47}
  6. You Do - Aimee Mann {3:41}
  7. Nothing Is Good Enough (instrumental) - Aimee Mann {3:10}
  8. Wise Up - Aimee Mann {3:31}
  9. Save Me - Aimee Mann {4:35}
  10. Goodbye Stranger - Supertramp {5:50}
  11. Logical Song - Supertramp {4:07}
  12. Dreams - Gabrielle {3:43}
  13. Magnolia - Jon Brion {2:12}


Epilogue
Update: January 20, 2003

This writeup has been very well received, and I am grateful that so many of you took the time to read it and respond to it. However, I feel compelled to share with you some "new" information that casts some of the statements I make here in a different light.

DejaMorgana was kind enough to bring to my attention that two of the stories presented in the prologue of Magnolia are actually Anderson's own retelling of popular urban legends. These are fairly well documented on the web and elsewhere (citations are available below for your own edification), and I do not dispute them. I am not the sort of person who follows these sorts of things, so my research into this writeup was focused on the artistic elements of the film rather than the authenticity of the vignettes that Magnolia portrays as genuine historical events. The film's story is, after all, a work of fiction.

For some moviegoers, it seems that Anderson's liberties with the truth spoiled their enjoyment of the picture. To pass off the ironic stories of the scuba diver and the suicide as fact (when they are widely known to be urban legends) is "cheating" - the argument being that PTA should have picked actual, verifiable accounts of Forteana in order to make his case. Strange things do happen all the time... but these particular things never did. I can see the reasoning behind this position, and if for no other reason than to support the statements I make earlier in this writeup, I wish he had done so.

But he didn't. So far as I know, the example I cite from Fort's Wild Talents is real - in as much as we can believe that anything Fort wrote about actually happened. Historical record seems to support it. But the question at hand is this: Does it really matter? Some say yes, but I respectfully disagree.

In my mind, it all comes down to artistic license. When I saw the rain of frogs scene, I had to laugh at the size of the frogs - they were huge! Every single documented case of frogs falling from the sky describes them as being quite tiny - no bigger than the tip of your thumb. But did this ruin the film for me? Not at all. The scene would not have anywhere near the visual impact if Anderson chose to use mature tadpoles. Was this "cheating?" I suppose so. But you know what? It's only a movie.

There are many other reasons why Magnolia isn't among everyone's favorite films: It's way too long; it's trying too hard to be clever; it doesn't have enough character development; the rain of frogs as a deus ex machina is tedious and overly foreshadowed, and so on (add your own reason here). Perhaps Anderson's efforts to make the viewer suspend their disbelief and fall under his spell are flawed, but my moviegoing experience was not diminished by it.

I still maintain that strange things happen all the time, and that this is one of the major themes of Magnolia. The fact that Anderson uses clever myths to support his story while representing them as real only leads me to conclude that he knows how to engage and captivate his audience in an entertaining manner. I for one do not resent this deception... if anything, it makes me appreciate him even more for being a sneaky bastard.

Source information:
http://www.robertfulford.com/UrbanLegends.html
http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/scuba.htm
http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/opus.htm
http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/library/blbyol9.htm
http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa072097.htm

A few reviews of Magnolia which offer a counterpoint to the writeups presented here:
http://www.3blackchicks.com/bamsmagnolia.html
http://www.montykins.com/Magnolia.asp

A final ironic note: At over 5,000 words, this is far and away my longest writeup. Like Anderson's film, many of you might think it too long for its own good. I might even agree.

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Magnolia

In the buds of spring, poets presume innocence
-I see the clenched fists of women
Defiant against winter's injustice yelling
“I am beautiful, I am beautiful, I will never be anything but beautiful”
Teething on six a m frost- we, anything but fragile- blossom resilient
We, anything but gentle- stand with fists shaking to the sky
The fists of my grandmother, of my mother, of my aunt, of my sisters, my own among them
All trembling on my magnolia tree
-“I am free, I am free, I will never be anything but free”
We will open our white sinless palms skyward unquestioningly
So even God can marvel at our unforgiving strength
Our bloodied tulips triumph-never pleading with patriarchy for approval-
of whom does a tulip need approval?
-I have never been so beautiful as in spring
My daisy petaled fingers will never be trampled on
Up through cracks in concrete my dandelion convictions will persist
-Whitman keep your yawps- we unbarbaric shall sing our chorus nineteen times
I have never been so free as in spring

Never yearn for a white picket fence, girl
Rather dream of a white magnolia tree on which your fists can shake in spring

Mag*no"li*a (?), n. [NL. Named after Pierre Magnol, professor of botany at Montpellier, France, in the 17th century.] Bot.

A genus of American and Asiatic trees, with aromatic bark and large sweet-scented whitish or reddish flowers.

Magnolia grandiflora has coriaceous shining leaves and very fragrant blossoms. It is common from North Carolina to Florida and Texas, and is one of the most magnificent trees of the American forest. The sweet bay (M. glauca)is a small tree found sparingly as far north as Cape Ann. Other American species are M. Umbrella, M. macrophylla, M. Fraseri, M. acuminata, and M. cordata. M. conspicua and M. purpurea are cultivated shrubs or trees from Eastern Asia. M. Campbellii, of India, has rose-colored or crimson flowers.

Magnolia warbler Zool., a beautiful North American wood warbler (Dendroica maculosa). The rump and under parts are bright yellow; the breast and belly are spotted with black; the under tail coverts are white; the crown is ash.

 

© Webster 1913.

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