“Let’s just start right with the trip down memory lane, shall we? Back in high school, I had a buddy who was quite the movie buff. This was just at the start of what would soon blow into a film obsession for me. While we didnt always share the same taste in film, I did have much respect for his movie knowledge. One of his absolute favorites was Magnolia. Before I’d even seen it, he’d talk about it alot, most of which went over my head, because really, this is the type of movie that just has to be experienced first hand.
One day, as would become a typical pastime for our group, he hosted a movie day. It was early summer (I feel it may have even been Memorial Day, or at least a similar feeling early summer weekday). About a dozen of us crammed into his movie watching room. I think the couch squeeed four people on, and then there was a recliner or two. The rest of us (me included) sat on the floor, or pillows, or armrests. In other words, not the most comfortable of seating arrangements. This film is three hours long. Not one of us (most of whom were watching this film for the first time) complained. We were all just so \m/ absorbed by it. I think two hours passed before I even looked at my watch.
I learned a lot about film from this movie. This was one of the first times that I got even the slightest concept of what it is that a director does. Mostly, it’s because said friend of mine was pointing things out as we were watching (the long tracking shot at the tv studio, the 8:2 references, the tie in between characters).
It also introduced me to so many fan-\m/-tastic actors: John C Reilly, William H Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and of course, I already knew Tom Cruise. To this day, those are still some of my all time favorite actors, and Magnolia is most of the reason for that.
I think that the screenplay for this film is one of the most brilliant I’ve ever encountered. I still dont believe it lost the Oscar to American Beauty. There’s so many other films that try to do the whole ensemble-cast-with-seemingly-self-contained-stories-about-random-characters-that-are-actually-all-related-somehow thing, Crash being the most obvious example. And I dont think any other film masters that technique as well (my main argument against Crash for Best Picture *shakes fist*). What I feel makes it work so well is that each segment ends off with just enough of a cliffhanger. You’re dying to see what’s gonna happen next in that story. But then you’re taken back into the heat of another moment that you’d been on the edge of your seat for. And it plays out to another high moment, and cuts to something else. Always leaves you wanting more. That’s what gives it that quick pace, so that you dont even realize you’ve been sitting in front of your screen for 3 hours.
I also love the whole coincidence theme, which I think is a big part of why the character connections work out so well. The opening sequence, where the narrator is giving some examples of coincidences, is so absorbing. And then when it continues with the sequence that essentially introduces all the charaters, you’ve hit the point of no return.”