Amy Ryan
November 07, 2007 AT 06:00 PM EST

Two tales of Dust Bowl Americana in this edition of Trailer Blazer:

There Will Be Blood
(Dec. 26) Is that title a threat or a promise? In this turn-of-the-century tale, based on Upton Sinclair’s book Oil!, faith and Mammon (represented by young evangelist Paul Dano and wildcatter Daniel Day-Lewis, pictured) apparently come to blows, and it looks like they both lose. Even in high-def, this looks relentlessly grim and grimy, though the title card that touts director Paul Thomas Anderson gives me hope that there’ll be more than bleakness and Oscar-chasing on screen.

The Great Debaters (Dec. 25). Here’s another movie, à la Seabiscuit or Cinderella Man, in which an underdog competitor comes to represent the fighting spirit of downtrodden Americans during the Depression. Only this time, instead of a racehorse or a boxer, it’s an African-American college debate team. The trailer makes it look like all of America was tuned into the radio broadcast of the climactic debate between the all-black team from a small Texas school and the bluebloods of Harvard (Really? What a quaint country we used to be!), but such details aside, it looks like we’re supposed to be swayed by the stirring rhetoric, the hissability of white bigots (like John Heard, in a thankless-looking role), and the sight of young African-American kids standing up for themselves and fighting with words instead of sticks and stones. Oh, and the credits noting the participation of Oprah Winfrey (who produced) and Oscar-winners Denzel Washington (who directs and stars as the debate professor) and Forest Whitaker. Uplifting? No doubt. Predictable? Almost certainly.

addCredit(“There Will Be Blood: Melinda Sue Gordon”)

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