Magnolia ★★★★★

I do not advise watching Magnolia while writing a screenplay with a large ensemble, as the film's outsized ambition did a great job of making my own ideas seem awfully small (I'd better stay away from Altman until the first draft is finished). When Magnolia was released, I was a teenager and, between this and Boogie Nights, I strove to make one of these outsized pop epics that juggles multiple narratives and works both as an exercise in pure filmmaking and attempts to be about everything (needless to say, this led to some horrible early attempts at screenwriting). Now I can admit to myself that my own storytelling abilities are much more in line with filmmakers who are more quiet observers of human behavior than the ones, like P.T. Anderson, who strive for a God's-eye view of the human narrative. Honestly, I was more aware than ever that there are more than a handful of scenes, moments, even narrative threads in Magnolia that are complete bullshit, but somehow, this doesn't affect my love of the film at all. Anderson is transparently seeking the emotional validation from his audience that most of the characters are seeking from each other - he's Stanley Spector, the wunderkind who just wants to be loved. Anderson's style has become more rigorous, which has resulted in one masterpiece and one near-masterpiece; still, revisiting Magnolia makes me look forward to his making a movie that combines the more disciplined storytelling of his last two films with the heart-on-his-sleeve openness of his earlier work.

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