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August 01, 2005



Magnola is an odd movie which, after having watched nearly 2 dozen times I'm still picking details out of.

It does come together, just not in the sense you'd think. The key to the movie is mid movie during the game show. An audience member holds up a sign that says "Genesis 8:2", a stage hand quickly takes the sign away. Exodus 8:2 reads: "And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs". In the movie after the borders are smited with frogs, all the charicters are finally able to let go of thier past, even though ""the book says, we might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

The numbers 8 & 2 are also hidden everywhere throughout the movie, including weather forecast: 82% chance of rain, a gambler needs a 2 in blackjack but gets an 8, the coil of rope when the boy commits suicide, the first temperature reading etc. etc. Also magnolas are hidden as well.

After the frogs start to fall, Jim Kurring and Donnie Smith take cover under a Mobil gas station. The original name of Mobil was Magnolia Petroleum. The Masons symboligy is also worked in many times as well. When Jimmy Gator's producer puts his hand on his shoulder, before the show starts, we see he is wearing a ring with the Mason's symbol on it. Similar to the Masonic farewell, "We met upon the level and we're parting on the square", the phrase is a Kipling quote, "tried on the square" is part of the official Masonic farewell. One of Stanley's library books is "A History of Masonry". The 82nd Mason lodge is located in Magnolia, Arkansas.

No I didn't do that all from memory, I went to http://imdb.com/title/tt0175880/trivia


I find that sort of thing interesting, but -- and this is a huge BUT -- one shouldn't have to work that hard to "get" a movie. That sort of trivia should just be gravy, a reward for anyone who cares to notice or anyone who watches the movie that many times. I think the movie could have been a lot more accessible and meaningful if it had been tightened up. A lot. And I'm not talking about just accessible for the masses -- Anderson is clearly not after that, and I consider myself a much more savvy movie-watcher than most. I just ended up feeling that all (or most) of those wonderful actors and roles ended up with no place to go. And I'm not sure I can ever forgive Anderson for making them all sing that Aimee Mann song. That was downright embarrassing.


I'm with Crut... I highly recommend giving Magnolia a second (and maybe third) look. While I agree that, perhaps, the film is a bit too long, I'm not sure what I'd have cut. Julianne Moore's character always seemed the most extraneous, but even it is worth keeping. Bill Macy's character has to exist so that the game show kid has meaning, and the game show kid has to exist so that Phillip Baker Hall exists, which has to exist so that Melaura Walters exists, so that John C. Reilly exists.... it just goes on.

As for the Aimee Mann part, I found that haunting and moving, though I'm the kind that tends to be moved by stuff like that. It's such a startling moment that you don't expect. I don't know... by that time, I'd bought into the movie, so I was willing to go wherever it took me.

As for the "Biblical" development, I understand why people hate it, but you can't knock it like it was something that was just "snuck" in there. It was foreshadowed from the very beginning and, to a guy who always loves to find the religious undertones in, well, everything, it was perfect.


But a good deal of it could have been rewritten to allow for fewer characters and a tighter, shorter film. The performances were terrific -- but too brief and shallow. Lots of my favorite movies are really long, so that's not the problem. And I tend to enjoy movies that consist of intertwining vignettes, so that wasn't it either. I just don't think that Anderson was entirely successful here. Which isn't to say that I'm sorry I saw it, not at all. Just that I was disappointed that its potential wasn't fully realized.

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