Greg Sandow has a series of posts up about popular vs high culture. (Nothing new about that.) Several times he (or someone he is quoting) refers to Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood as works of popular culture, and this brings up what I think is an interesting issue.
The project of postmodernism to remove the taxonomic wall between "popular" and "high" culture has been remarkably succesful. In fact, it has been so succesful that there are signs that it is being rebuilt, this time with "popular" culture occupying the "superior" turf, with its "authenticity" and "audience ownersdhip" tropes carrying the rhetorical day.
It looks from here as though this new wall is as artificial as the old one, and the seemingly automatic classification of There Will Be Blood as a product/artifact of "popular" culture is an example of its arbitrariness. Under what criteria is Mr. Anderson's film on the same side of a defining line as, say, Blades of Glory, and on the opposite side of that line as Edgard Varèse's Amériques or Elliott Carter's Piano Concerto or Symphony of Three Orchestras (not to mention Wagner's Ring cycle), all of which have much in common with There Will Be Blood?
I have some ideas about this, but I am interested in reading your thoughts and reactions first. Please leave a comment if you are so inclined, and I promise not to drink your milkshake.