Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blood Oil Water

This is a photo my mom calls, "The Grapes of Wrath." I cherish it. She's the blonde wearing the scarf and attitude on the far right. Her brother Jimmy is balancing the apple on his head. He's just as funny and sweet to this day. They grew up in Arkansas and harvested apples in the summer. This precious photo hangs in my entry hallway.

My mother grew up in a small town called Nashville, Arkansas. In high school, she was a cheerleader, voted Miss Congeniality and was on the Homecoming Court, but at the end of the day, you either had money or were poor.

Her family wasn't in the lucky crowd, so after graduation, she picked up and moved to California with her sister and a friend.

Thank God we live in America, where one is not bound by class rules. Or better yet... Thank God I live in Southern California, where it really doesn't matter. I've lived other places and this is my happiest place on earth.

Blogger Petunia Face referred to a Langston Hughes quote the other day. It's one of my favorite poems.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-- And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

I love inspiring films that don't necessarily seem so. "There Will Be Blood" was dark and authentically American. Parts of the film took my breath away. The music alone. I suffered countless earaches as a kid and at moments the soundtrack mimicked the constant marching sound I’ve described to people, but no one ever understands. It is still with me.

Throughout the film, haunting and repetitive classical music built tension like "The Shining."

I could go on and on in detail about the scenes, but if you haven't seen it, I could ruin it for you, so I won't.

"The Grapes of Wrath" kept coming to mind while I watched it. When the final stunning scene was over, I jumped online and was pleased to discover I was on the right track.

PT Anderson was homesick in London when he saw the California-themed cover of Upton Sinclair's novel, "Oil!" He picked it up and it served as the inspiration for this film.

Anderson was born in California. He wrote/directed "Magnolia," which I assume is named after the street in the valley, where he grew up.

PT researched oil's roots by visiting museums in Kern County, where I spent a few years reporting. He went to The Kern County Museum in Bakersfield and the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft. I did live shots many mornings in those museums, browsing artifacts from The Dust Bowl and Hee Haw between segments. There's a city named Oildale in Kern County for goodness' sake. Maybe the cover below is the one that spoke to PT? It reminds me of driving down from the Grapevine into Taft, then into Bakersfield.


WDL said...

super fun to get this insite into your "down home" roots.

Hope you are well! Its finally sunny here today, but as I write this, the clouds are rolling over chicago!


applevenusian said...

That is a wonderful photo, Suzanne! I see where you get your attitude. :)

I loved "There Will Be Blood" and am anxious to start reading "Oil!" When the credits rolled, I turned to my husband and said the first thought in my head, "What a mindf*$k of a movie!" The starkness and brilliance blew me away and being a huge Radiohead fan, I cheered for Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack.

suzannemarques said...

wdl - i love the "down home" nod. you are the cutest. i have a bit of the southern hospitality in me, thanks to mom. :)

horry (applev) - most certainly so on the tude! i'm my mother's daughter. :)
i'm so glad someone else saw the film & doesn't say it's all about daniel day lewis' performance. yes, he is fab. of course! but so is the whole film. i love your nod to radiohead too. didn't jonny greenwood do such an amazing job?!

Gary Faules said...

Not only do I love the Grapes Of Wrath photo but the fact that it is presented with dignity and love makes it all the more appealing. MY mother and her entire family endured that great depression and dust bowl era as well and I grew up learning not only al that they had to go through but realizing how fortunate I was to not have to.

I was very honored to have been the guest of the Steinbeck museum in Salinas. If that wasn't honor enough I was taken to John Steinbeck's childhood home where I was fed a wonderful lunch on the very table Steinbeck ate at with his parents.

That afternoon I sat in John Steinbeck's upstairs bedroom at the very desk and typewriter that he used when he plunked out The Red Pony as well as The Grapes of Wrath.

When you get right down to it, even Steinbeck learned of those trying times the same way we did... from those who actually made the journey like many of our parents and their families. What an awesome photo. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a treasure.

Radio Catro said...

I really like the way you put all together: The story behind the picture, the books and the films. Very nice post, reminds me the year I spent in Tulsa.

I liked "There Will Be Blood" so much.


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