I cannot deny that P.T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" is one of my favorite movies (and I have probably seen over 2,000 movies in my life). Not only am I more than impressed with "Blood", but I am very impressed with almost all of P.T. Anderson's movies, including "Boogie Nights", which is another favorite of mine.
I think my biggest problem with P.T. Anderson is his lack of originality with his direction and the themes of his movies. Magnolia and Boogie Nights seemed to be a rip-off of Robert Altman's genre of movies (huge casts and the ambitious connections between each character). Punch Drunk Love appeared to be a rip-off of the off-beat love story genre, very similar to Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine, etc. Hard Eight is probably his most original creation, although it appears to be a rip-off of the whole gangster genre, kind of like Means Streets and the typical "Scorsese-like" film.
Upon first viewing "Blood" I saw real creativity. I loved the music in coordination with what was going on in the film. I loved the opening sequence with the mountains and the sweeping landscapes. However, I soon realized that P.T. had stolen much of the camera work and technique from Kubrick's films, especially "2001." The ominous music, the sweeping landscapes, and the human condition were all themes that Kubrick used in this film, in addition to his other films, which could readily be seen in "Blood." "Blood" also took a lot from "Sierra Madre" which is apparently where the Daniel Day Lewis's character was inspired by.
This was just a thought, and I am curious to hear what other people think about this issue, and what people generally think about "Blood."
I hadn't seen Blood since it came out, so I forgot some aspects of the shots and all of the specific sequences. But now that you reminded me of the bowling alley shot, I read somewhere that PT was going to paint the entire bowling alley white as a nod to Kubrick. Kubrick, as you probably know, used the colors white and red, and used white to characterize the menacing quality of the environment, character, etc. Unfortunately, PT couldn't paint the bowling alley white because of some property rights issues.
I personally think that PT was most inspired by Kubrick in those two shots of the mountainous landscape in the beginning and middle of the movie, which had that loud crescendoing music. I thought that was a nod to the beginning of 2001, which had very similar landscape shots, and very similar, daunting music of what was to come.
Nonetheless, I thought these were interesting observations, along with your observations as well.
I would be hard pressed to call it an "issue". Anderson is so naturally gifted that people often forget that he is a young filmmaker and is still undergoing a metamorphosis with every film. Expect this to continue throughout much of his career and watch as his work becomes an amalgam of all those who influenced him.... As is the case with every filmmaker.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a masterpiece without question (I personally think it blows everything Kubrick did out of the water, mainly because everything I've loved from his films is found in this and more.) The ending was inspired by A CLOCKWORK ORANGE without a doubt, the ulraviolence, the smirk, the eye, the movement of the character and even the lie, Daniel had his bitterness towards Eli in his heart from the beginning, and nothing was going to prevent him from freeing it. So bring forth those gigantic speakers and blast that classical music, I'M FINISHED.
I've personally loved every film Anderson has ever made. He's one of those rare filmmakers who was just born to do this. He's taken heat from some critics for "copying" the styles of other great directors (yes, I'm calling him a great director), but it seems ludicrous to use that as a weapon against Anderson.
Part of the reason the accusation has never stuck is that Anderson has never denied it. Too many artists, whether in film, music, or any other creative field, try to hide their influences to project an image of originality. Anderson, however, dedicated There Will Be Blood to Robert Altman, one of the "victims" of Anderson's "plagiarism."
Considering that three of Anderson's five films were finished before his thirtieth birthday, it would be ludicrous for him to pretend that he hadn't picked up a few tricks from filmmakers more experienced than himself. So he doesn't hide it. He wears his influences on his sleeve, and I respect him for that. It also helps, of course, that he's consistently churning out excellent films.
I agree wholeheartedly with btnh1999. We're ALL influenced by someone, often many "someones". These influences are apparent in every aspect of our lives. The difference between "being influenced by" and "copying" is huge. The main point is where you take that influence, and whether or not you add your own perspective, your own originality. Any competent director can copy a shot, or a whole movie. But does it connect with you personally in some way, or show you something new?
Ask Scorcese, Speilberg, even the Coen brothers about their influences. I believe they've all credited those they have "copied" from, who has influenced them, and what they've done with that inspiration. In that perspective I give PTA an A-/B+. And I feel, based on his work to date, his best is yet to come. This film was a stretch for him in many ways, a big risk, and he came up aces.
Personally, all of PTA's films have affected me beyond the viewing experience itself, emotionally, mentally and psychologically. And not just while I'm watching it, but for days, months, years..... That, in my opinion, puts him in the category of "great directors".
Sierra Madre was made by John Huston, not Stanley Kubrick. You rightly pointed out that much of his films rely on music. but it goes way back to his earlier films such as the maniacal Dr. Strangelove, Spartacus, and Paths of Glory. He loved the use of sound (or the lack of it), as much as music. P. Thomas Anderson shouldn't be pigeon-holed just yet. He is a young, talented director. This is a part of his work. 'Nuff said.
The two biggest influences that I noticed in TWBB are John Huston (the stark landscapes are right out of Sierra Madre or Fort Apache), and D.W. Griffiths. The movie actually plays like a silent film at times, and the shot looking doan the railroad tracks and the steadycam shot of the automobile driving into town must have been allusions to "Intolerance." That is okay. There are only seven basic plots, and while TWBB has some obvious influences, so does most great art. I am not equating P.T.A. w/ Michaelangelo, but there is no David without the influence of the greeks.
Disturbingly, I think the obvious Kubrick ripoff at the beginning of There Will Be Blood goes to appeal to younger film lovers to whom "2001" seems dated from that hazy period existing before they were born. As for the "We're all children of Kubrick..." quote: yes, we're all children of Kubrick, but fortunately most of us are smarter than to ape someone whom one can only come off as a pale imitation against. It's sort of like Vanilla Ice trying to be Beethoven. Not a smart move. And to all the apologists, yeah... enjoy The Master and every film PTA releases before it finally becomes apparent (as it inevitably will, The Hobbit, anyone?) that he's not a genius. But don't worry, there's always reality television for all those flash-in-the-pans crowned too early by our too eager, celebrity obsessed and talent-starved culture.
"However, I soon realized that P.T. had stolen much of the camera work and technique from Kubrick's films, especially "2001." It's impossible to 'steal' camera work. First of all PTA didn't shoot the film, Robert Elswit did. He may have been influenced by 2001 but because the film genre go in opposite directions it would be impossible to copy it completely.