Magnolia ★★★★★

"Flower Power"

A Big Titted Analysis

Everyone loved Paul Thomas Anderson’s melodramatic opera, “Magnolia”, back in 1999, except Kevin Smith (but fuck that guy because he hasn’t made a good film since “Dogma” as far as I know - I haven’t seen “Red State”, so maybe I shouldn’t say that but still fuck him because he has a different opinion than mine). Everyone who does enjoy 'Magnolia' has sited the acting, the music, and the Altmanesquenessness in it. Some of you may have some questions about the shower of frogs sequence, and possibly a few harsh feelings towards some of the characters. Here's what I think:

PART I
God’s A Rapper and He Doesn’t like Pedophiles.

Religion has historically been very important in art, and while I wouldn’t call myself religious, I have tried to understand certain aspects of Christianity and its influence on film. In “Magnolia” there is a key aspect to interpreting one of the meanings of the film that lies in its many references of Exodus 8:2 from the bible. If you have read your Exodus then the most blatant reference you’ll notice was in the scene right before the start of the Quiz show. In that scene a woman is shown holding a sign that clearly displays the words "Exodus 8:2" written on it, but gets quickly thrown out of the audience by security. But what does Exodus 8:2 have to do with anything you ask??? Hmmmm??? Well, let me tell ya'!

I’m gonna go ahead and list some examples of references to the numbers 8 and 2 in the movie (from the trivia section on IMDb woot woot).

1. The weather forecast is 82% chance of rain.
2. The gambler at the start needs a 2 in blackjack but gets an 8 (oh-ho!).
3. Jim Kurring's box number at the date hotline has got something like an 8 and a 2 right next to each other.
4. Sydney Barringer's mother and father's apartment number is 682.
5. The forensic science convention starts at 8:20.
6. Delmer Darion flips over a stack of cards to reveal the 8 through 2 of diamonds.
7. Right after Jim Kurring sees Donnie Smith climbing up the building, you can see a flash of a sign on the side of the road that says "Exodus 8:2″ (it's visible again when the frogs fall and hit Kurring's car).
8. The number on the firefighter's plane.
9. In Marcy's mug shots, her criminal record number is 82082082082.
10. In the bar scene there is a chalkboard with two teams, the frog and the clouds, the score is 8 to 2.
11. Its spray painted on the cement as graffiti next to the boy.
12. The kids were two days away from entering their eighth week as champions.
13. Quiz Kid Donnie Smith won his 100 000 dollars on 28 April 1968.
14. The first two numbers of the Seduce and Destroy Hotline (1-877-TAME-HER) are 82.
15. One of the hanged men has an 82 on his clothes.
16. Jim says he gets off work at 8:00, and Claudia suggests they meet 2 hours later for a date.

So there’s some pretty crazy stuff right there to look at. Also, here is Exodus 8:2 (so you get why it’s so significant):

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.”

Another significant piece of the puzzle comes from the young kid who raps to Jim after his discovery of the murders. Here’s some of that fly rhyme for you:

"Check that ego, come off it, I'm the Prophet,
You're living to get older with a chip on your shoulder.
He's running from the devil, but the debt is always gaining,
When the sunshine don't work, the good Lord bring the rain in."

The wee little poor child refers to himself as the "Prophet" which, at face value, could be interpreted as just mindless egotism, but it could be also interpreted that the boy is in fact an extension of God. Later, the little scoundrel takes Jim's gun after Jim loses it like a dumb bum. But, remember during the frog shower, the gun falls from the sky along with the frogs (which I think could be a sign that the boy had some God-like control over what was to happen, thus he is in fact an incarnation of God).

The next two lines of the rappidy rhyme are a warning to Jim that he's living to move higher ("to get older") yet there is something burdening him. The little kid is telling Jim that what he is doing isn't right and warning him to stop. Jim, being tired and not really too interested, doesn't listen to the mini-rapper. This can be compared to when the Pharaoh of Egypt did not listen to Moses in the Bible (see, I know this shit kinda). The message in this part of the ditty is not just for Jim’s ears, but it can also symbolize the incorrect nature that is in the lives of all the characters in this film.

It is dire that I mention how all the characters end up recognizing their faults yet struggle and often fail to overcome them. For example, Earl uses his final breaths to admit how he mistreated his son and wife and begs for the forgiveness of Frank (his son) but he does not receive it, Linda feels horrible guilt and regret for screwing around on Earl and tries to remove her name from his will but can't, and Claudia is addicted to cocaine but is too much of an addict and can do nothing to stop it. They are not able to redeem themselves, because their own apathy for themselves and others has become too much a part of them. Thus, they need the baptism of the frogs as mercy, as a helping hand. Another theory I have is one that can be backed up by the last part of the rap. The final line from the rhyme warns that if God is ignored, he will bring on the rain, which essentially means: If you live your life thinking that you can go through it without having to face up to the consequences, you will feel the wrath of your decisions (the consequences are collectively represented by the frogs), or: you may be through with the past, but that doesn't mean the past's through with you. Both of these theories I think have some weight, but I tend to lean towards the second one just because it can be backed up by the previous scene with the little wee child.

Because I fall more to my second theory, I believe the rain of frogs signifies God smacking the ensemble upside the head and saying “wise-up” (teehee). Almost immediately after the frogs, all the characters seem to make peace and have evolved or, in the example of Earl dying (obviously), Jimmy Gator being left in his burning house, and Linda in the car crash, have failed. This shows that although God (the little rapping kid) was there to help, not everything always ends up hippidy-swiggidy, and sometimes there are people who have committed such horrible sins that they can’t help but be punished instead of saved. Redemption in "Magnolia" is acceptance of one's past and the acceptance of the consequences of one's past choices.

"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us".

PART II
Big-titted-Mary Jane or:
Fathers and Sons (diggin' deeper)

Frank T.J Mackey is immediately shown as the teacher of ostensible truth, sexual strength, and self-control who with arms nailed to an unseen cross is projected as an illuminated savior. Now, while this may be, he is also first presented to the audience behind the glass of a small T.V screen, thus signifying how what we are seeing from this person (and several others who are first shown behind that glass) is a small aspect of their life (their public “life"), and more than anything (for Frank specifically) represents how this man’s media persona is nothing more than a prison that cages his vulnerabilities and true-self. His assumed control and power over his own vulnerability (fear of his undeveloped feminine component generalized as "woman") results paradoxically from the rejection of his father followed by the incessant care of his slowly dying mother whom he was unable to save. All attempts to find a stable centre fail for Frank since he is only partially complete, a shell in need of guiding. Frank's all-encompassing impotent rage is projected along with his need to control the symbolic “woman” who constitutes the loss of his childhood and manhood. Similar to a fatherless boy of da’ ghetto (♫and his mama cries♪ ), he shuns the excessive identification and nauseating closeness associated with his mother and her powerless circumstance. To acquire her world would only confirm his loss and her death’s power to destroy. To him she only means burden and loss of freedom; thus he abuses “woman” in order to maintain control and detachment. Furthermore, his loss of masculinity resulting from the inability to control the inevitable suffering and eventual death of his mother lead him to create and identify with what he lacks, a powerful male image. His artificial self-acquired mastery over himself results tragically from lack of opposition since he cannot win the badge of manhood by defeating a villain that is missing or a cause that is inexplicable.

Frank, the rejected little boy, finally confronts his pep-pep who is now unable to reply, apologize, or express his guilt. Without the articulation and acceptance of his father's sin, Frank cannot forgive or overcome; he can only endure his memory and let it completely disintegrate him to the bone. The cathartic release of his tormented repressed anger and simultaneous conflicted fear of another loss of and desire for his missing father is probably one of the most gripping scenes ever to happen in a motion picture. Frank faces uncertainty but his acceptance of his past and his anguished self, the veil of his repression and denial of his history is lifted and results in the loosening of his current defenses and his false self. The painful return from/to his original position confirms that rebirth is painful.

PART III
Lotsa' Love to Give

One of the best characters in the film, the former child star Donnie Smith who takes pride in being once struck by lightning, and whose self-earned success was rottenly stolen by his good fo’ nuffin’ parents, has love to give yet has not learned that love is a shared journey (this is due to the fact that he has never loved/never has been loved before). Even the big sexy embarrassed bartender won't accept his pathetic presentation of love.

His subsequent theft from his past employer (which probably stemmed from him wanting to get even with his surrogate parents) represents the stealing of love to compensate for and remedy a projected defect, his mouth and teeth which were once the source of his former success and power. Interestingly enough, when Donnie is in the bathroom at the lounge he whimpers to himself, "We will suffer by the sins of our fathers" - a direct reference to an Exodus 25 line, as well as a telling theme of the film.

During the rain of frogs, Donnie, in the midst of returning to his past employer’s establishment to return the money, is rudely bitch slapped by a falling frog which causes him to lose his grip and fail in his mission to rectify his wrong. When he sees that his face is now truly disfigured, he realizes the futility of changing outside appearances. Salvation and beauty truly lies within. With the intervention of Jim Kurring, Donnie returns the stolen money and accepts that he is injured but not deficient to the extent that he has to steal love. Since Donnie is pure at heart, he is absolved and is now free to choose his future in the present.

Claudia, the coke-head who is unable to forget/deal with her distorted past caused by her father, and fears rejection from Officer Jim Kurring. Claudia tries fixing herself through reenacting the past by testing lovers of her father's age, but of course it doesn't work because the substitutes are always empty and the exercise is ultimately destructive. From Jim, Claudia learns that only truth works.

Jim Kurring doesn't require a change, only completion by another (Claudia), but he as well demonstrates his universal deficiency by losing his gun. This loss of power is later recovered by God (the little kid who stole it in the first place so he could fix Jim's life). Jim's stability rests on his identification with his religion and the law which he chooses to interpret selectively as a wise judge with the power to render mercy.

Claudia is saved once she takes a risk, truly opens up, and accepts hope in Jim rather than fearing the concept of some kind of unchanging present governed by an unrelenting past. Her optimistic future (the accepting teary-eyed smile at the audience) can be a metaphor for true redemption itself and completes the theme for the end of the film.

PART IV
One Last Thing

Paul Thomas Anderson is really quite a marvel. I'm not saying that in an attempt to kiss his ass like a geeky fan-boy who likes his soundtracks and dialog. The man had a greater grasp on understanding humanity as a whole at the age of around 27-28 than most old, and wise people, do. And that's it. He just gets human beings. The older he gets, the better his understanding of us gets. For that, he is a marvel, and my favorite film director. Also, this film's great. I forgot to mention that there's a great sense of humor that works throughout the film as well (specifically John C. Reilly as Jim Kurring).

Okay.
I'm finished.

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