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Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #61 Magnolia

Box Office: $22.5 Million

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song

Oscar Wins: None

MovieRankings.Net: 89/100

Available To Stream: Amazon Prime ($3)

Magnolia is a mess of a movie. It's also bloated with characters and too long. This is absolutely a movie with many flaws. But the strengths and genius of Paul Thomas Anderson far outweighs the negatives. There are parts of this movie that don't work at all for me (the frogs) but the pieces that do (especially the Tom Cruise/Jason Robards stuff) are so brilliant, they stick with me forever. A movie doesn't need to be perfect for it to have great meaning.

I feel like you see this kind of movie when a director finally gets major creative control. This was the follow up to the Best Picture nominee Boogie Nights and Anderson was given the keys to the castle. With Magnolia, he's guilty of just doing too much. He's so creative, he literally had too many good stories to tell. A 189 minute run time is far too long and the degree of difficult rises when you are jumping from story to story.

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My favorite storyline is the Tom Cruise/Jason Robards/Philip Seymour Hoffman one. A son losing a father is so complicated. Mixing the volatility of JT Mackey (Cruise) with Hoffman's Phil who is so tender and caring is perfect. Think about that scene with Hoffman and Cruise talking and how kind Hoffman is and compare that to the same actors in Mission Impossible III. In that movie, Hoffman is so evil and terrifying. As great as Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio are, Philip Seymour Hoffman is my favorite actor of that generation.

I haven't even mentioned how believable and sad Jason Robards' performance is. The regret and pain is conveyed so well. Anderson's father died of lung cancer right before he worked on this script so you have multiple older fathers dying of cancer and this movie showcases so well the anger that can often times swallow up that grief. What Magnolia does so well is showing the brutality of dying. It seems like in most movies, old and sick people die peacefully. Here, it is guilt that is almost bursting out of these men.

We're not supposed to like these men but instead we are left with the pain and the grief of the people they are leaving behind. They say that you are never on your deathbed wishing your worked more and spent less time with your family. But are you also replaying the worst things you've ever done as a last wish for some sort of atonement? I imagine those feelings are not unique and why older people can drift towards the embrace of a religion that offers a clean soul.

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I mentioned some flaws earlier. I could do without all of the quiz show elements. That should have been its own movie. There is something very interesting about what happens to child stars and how they can adjust to normal adult lives afterwards. I'm just not sure it belonged here. The Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall) personal life is a fascinating look at evil but I didn't need to see him at work. 

Similar to The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia had the misfortune of coming out in 1999. If this had come out in another year, it would have had a much better chance of getting a Best Picture nomination. 1999 was just an absolutely stacked movie year. Among the three Oscar nominations it did receive was a Best Supporting Actor nod for Cruise. It has been the last acting nomination he has received. If you had told me then that would be the case, I'd have assumed he died very young. Watching this made me wish Tom Cruise the great actor would return. But I'll get more into that with the next movie on the list next week.

I wouldn't put this movie in the top half of Phillip Thomas Anderson's filmography. This is a guy who made Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood and Licorice Pizza. But it's the one that makes me the most emotional. My dad died of cancer when he was only 42. While he thankfully didn't have the regret that Robards character did, he was fucking angry to die so young. I was obviously filled with grief when he was sick and dying but I was furious too. Magnolia shows that you don't always leave this mortal coil with a peaceful look on your face. Sometimes you leave kicking and screaming. Other times you leave so sad at the things you may have done. But no matter what, we all leave eventually. It takes work and luck to leave with peace.

61. Magnolia

62. The Talented Mr. Ripley

63. Tommy Boy

64. The Usual Suspects

65. In The Line Of Fire

66. My Cousin Vinny

67. Awakenings

68. JFK

69. Toy Story

70. Home Alone

71. Jerry Maguire

72. Titanic

73. Billy Madison

74. Apollo 13

75. Braveheart

76. Edward Scissorhands

77. Cape Fear

78. The River Wild

79. What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

80. 12 Monkeys

81. Stir Of Echoes

82. Mission: Impossible

83. Total Recall

84. Quiz Show

85. For Love Of The Game

86. Being John Malkovich

87. Men In Black

88. Scream

89. Alive

90. Three Kings

91. Glengarry Glen Ross

92. Die Hard With A Vengeance

93. The Blair Witch Project

94. Twister

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks