Paul Thomas Anderson

Inherent Vice

Over the weekend, the New York Film Festival took on a distinctly pungent scent, thanks to the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, a star-studded adaptation of Thomas Pynchon‘s novel of the same name. Featuring Joaquin Phoenix as a weed-friendly detective — fine, he’s a stoner — the film is already garnering lots of attention for its shaggy vibe, its massive cast and a free-floating narrative that will likely appeal to both the Anderson faithful and viewers who approach the material with the edge taken off (if you know what we mean). But is that the key to unlocking the film’s charms? Over at Awards Daily, Sasha Stone caught on to the trend early, writing about the first round of tweets regarding the feature, issued immediately following its NYFF press screening on Saturday morning, mentioned its “stoner noir” vibe more than, well, just about anything else. But is Inherent Vice just a “stoner” movie — or, perhaps more appropriately, a movie that can most easily be classified as a “stoner” film above anything else? Let’s take it to the critics.

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Inherent Vice

In its 2009 review of writer Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice,” Rolling Stone said that it was “the funniest book Pynchon has written,” and called it “a crazed and majestic summary of everything that makes him a uniquely huge American voice. It has the moral fury that’s fueled his work from the start—his ferociously batshit compassion for America and the lost tribes who wander through it.” Switch out some words and an emphasis here or there and you’ll have an appropriately perfect way to describe director Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film adaptation of Pynchon’s novel. Anderson’s Inherent Vice is a wild and weird noir-tinged freakout that brings the filmmaker back to the ensemble pieces that sparked his early career, but goes above and beyond the brooding aplomb of more recent work like The Master.

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Inherent Vice Movie

In 2012, Owen Gleiberman wrote a piece for Entertainment Weekly explaining why he had fallen out of love with the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. In the article, Gleiberman shares his own thrill of discovering Boogie Nights at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival and the impact it had on him as a film critic; he then goes on to discuss his perceived problems with There Will Be Blood and why Anderson’s films no longer affect him the same way. I came across Gleiberman’s article recently during my struggle to detail my own relationship to Anderson’s films. Like Gleiberman, my first Anderson film was a revelation. As a manager for an independent theater in a small town, it was my job to assemble a 35mm print of Punch-Drunk Love during my Thursday shift and sit by myself through a midnight technical screening. I was tired after a long day and annoyed that I hadn’t been able to pawn what I assumed to be another Adam Sandler comedy off on any of my coworkers. Naturally, I spent the rest of my evening in a state of shock at what I had seen. In that empty theater at two in the morning, I watched a movie that could have been made just for me; Anderson and Sandler overclocked my sense of empathy and made Barry Egan the most heartbreaking character I had seen on screen. And so began five years of obsessing over Anderson’s previous films – Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia – […]

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Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Josh Brolin‘s performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t wildly dissimilar to his work in Men in Black III. They’re very different films and performances, of course, but both prequels feature Brolin inheriting a role from another actor. Brolin eerily embodied Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, while in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For he’s channeling Clive Owen’s work as Dwight McCarthy from the first movie. This is Dwight before he had to change his face, which, in case you haven’t read Frank Miller‘s comics, is why Owen isn’t back playing the character. Whether Josh Brolin studied Clive Owen’s performance never came up in our wide-ranging conversation with the actor, who’s clearly pleased with both the film and his performance. With the exception of Labor Day – a film I’ll readily go to bat for — it’s the first time since True Grit Brolin hasn’t had to carry a movie. Not because he isn’t the lead, but looking at Oldboy, Gangster Squad, and Men in Black III, the end products often weren’t on par with Brolin’s work in them. Thankfully, that’s not the case in this instance, nor should it be in the near-future. Brolin has Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice coming up, the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, and Everest, a survival pic boasting an impressive cast. He’s also playing Thanos in the Marvel Universe. Brolin has a lot going on at the moment, but he took the time to speak with us at the junket for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

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Capote

There’s a unique double-take aspect to Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s magnetism that defined many of the diverse roles he inhabited. Hoffman was a chameleon, able to lend even the smallest part a distinct impression that he knew the character’s entire history. But Hoffman’s chameleonic skills were internal, not external; he “looked” relatively the same across much of his work. More specifically, Hoffman looked like a man we could pass by on a crowded city street without ever noticing, and that’s partly why his roles could take us by surprise. As Hoffman carefully unfolded his characters, we began to realize he was rarely as “normal” as first impressions made it seem; his characters were often weighed down by some burdensome personal history, a phantom force that they continue to reckon with daily. Hoffman’s charisma was subtle and patient, captivating an audience that eventually began to associate him with the best of late ‘90s and early 21st century American movies. Hoffman, in effect, became a signature of quality, a sign that legitimated a project as thoughtful, worthwhile filmmaking. By the time he won the award for Best Actor for 2005’s Capote, it was for fans of P.T. Anderson and Todd Solondz a belated recognition of a committed and unorthodox talent; for the rest of Hollywood and those who had not yet fallen under his spell, this was an introduction an unlikely leading man.

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Branagh Swan Song

This is a special edition of Short Starts, where we look at the Sundance shorts program class of 1993. 1992 and 1994 are very notable years in the history of the Sundance Film Festival. Mostly for features. In between, the 1993 event should be recognized for its short film program. It was only the second year of this section — though shorts were an increasingly significant part of the fest since 1988 — and it remains, two decades later, probably the most important (if not best) batch of short films to ever come together in Park City. Among the filmmakers receiving their first real notice in this program were Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, David Wain, Eugene Jarecki, Tamara Jenkins, Ted Demme, Stanley Tucci (as writer/producer), Gary Fleder, Alex Sichel, Mike Mitchell and animators Eric Darnell and Matt O’Callaghan. Their early works played alongside shorts by Michael Almereyda, Lourdes Portillo and two eventual Oscar nominees, Christian Taylor‘s The Lady in Waiting and Kenneth Branagh‘s Swan Song. It is the last film that is especially relevant now because Branagh helmed the biggest new release in theaters this weekend, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. That’s the latest franchise entry for the actor-turned-director, another feature that’s very far removed from his initial reputation as a filmmaker interested primarily in Shakespeare adaptations and movies with an old fashioned dramatic sensibility (I don’t care how Shakespearean his Thor movie seems, it’s still just a Thor movie).

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odenkirk

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup you’re going to want to be following if you want news about which cult movie icon has just been cast in Guardians of the Galaxy. If your eyeballs and brain have been anywhere near an episode of Mr. Show or Breaking Bad, then chances are you’re a pretty big fan of the comic stylings of the respected though curmudgeonly Bob Odenkirk. Well, good news for you, because Odenkirk just wrote a movie called Girlfriend’s Day that he’s also going to star in. According to a release from Magic Stone Productions and Odenkirk Provissiero Entertainment, Best Worst Movie and The American Scream helmer Michael Paul Stephenson will direct the film, which sees Odenkirk playing a famous author in a world where greeting card writers are celebrated as heroes. The film will apparently see Odenkirk’s character and his rivals engaging each other in a campaign of murder and deceit, all in the name of creating the definitive greeting card for the hot new holiday, Girlfriend’s Day. Sounds pretty weird, but in that good way.

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penntough

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily info dump of casting news. Today we’ve got reports of new jobs for Internet favorites like Simon Pegg and Peter Dinklage, as well as a bunch of pictures of actors holding animals, because why not? Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film, Inherent Vice, is said to have somewhere around 20 important speaking roles, so it’s starting to look like it may call for the most star-studded cast he’s ever put together; or at least the most star-studded since he last did an ensemble piece like Magnolia. Anyway, Cigarettes and Red Vines is reporting that the next big name likely to join the film is Sean Penn, as he’s currently in negotiations, and if the PTA-centric blog had to take a guess as to what role he’s up for, they imagine he’s going to be playing hard-nosed loan shark Adrian Prussia. They also have the interesting news that Penn’s signing would make him the fourth member of his family to work alongside Anderson. They’re really a very thorough blog.

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benicio

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s headlined by news of three big actors working with three well-respected directors, but it also has news about new jobs for ladies like Keira Knightley, Reese Witherspoon, and the Dowager Countess. Benicio Del Toro is the talented and unique sort of actor who manages to be interesting to watch even when he’s in a project that isn’t that great. The dude was fun in Savages. Basically, you can set your watch to him. But pair him with a director who’s good at working with actors, and you’re likely to get pure magic. That’s why The Wrap’s news that Del Toro is in talks to join Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is basically the best thing that’s happened all day. Big actors often times give their best performances when working with Anderson, Del Toro is a big actor—it’s perfect. Also, he’s supposed to be playing a lawyer in the film, which, if you’ve seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you know can get pretty entertaining. Zang.

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Broken City Trailer

Broken City seemingly has all of the ingredients to be one of those action/dramas that is so cheesy it delivers – there’s Mark Wahlberg being tough, there’s Russell Crowe with a horrendous spray tan and a Donald Trump-lite combover, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones with an equally horrendous spray tan, and there’s director Allen Hughes, who has some street cred as one half of The Hughes Brothers directing team. And corrupt politician dramas are usually fairly entertaining, right? Not so much here. Broken City, instead, is largely a misfire. The film’s plot meanders and leaves many open threads, likely the result of re-edits, and none of the characters are particularly likable. There’s just so much a balls out Russell Crowe performance can save a movie, and shockingly enough, Crowe doesn’t even have all that much screen time. The film opens with Wahlberg’s NYC Detective Billy Taggert shooting someone in the head in a NYC housing project, Bolton Village – he has a beard, so clearly, he is coded as being troubled. He is tried (now beardless), since his self-defense plea is questionable at best. There is evidence that surfaces that can put him away, but Republican-seeming Mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Crowe) decides to keep that evidence for his own eventual gain, allowing Taggart to go free, albeit without his job.

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Robert Downey Jr

What is Casting Couch? It’s a column that’s trying to talk about casting news on a day when Oscar nominations are king. Pity it. Paul Thomas Anderson is the sort of filmmaker who casts amazing actors in his movies and then directs them to the best performances of their careers. From Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight, to Tom Cruise in Magnolia, to Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, to Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, this has always been true. According to Showbiz 411, Robert Downey Jr. may be adding his name to that list soon. They say that he and possibly Charlize Theron are looking like they’re going to be the stars of Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice. If this ends up being true it would, of course, be completely awesome for film fans, and probably be the biggest thing that’s happened to Downey’s career since he got cast as Iron Man. That’s a win-win for everybody.

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Paul Thomas Anderson

Speculation surrounding what Paul Thomas Anderson’s next project is going to be like is usually intense enough in the film geek community, but when the guy starts making claims in interviews that his next film is going to be like a Cheech and Chong movie, well then people really start scratching their heads. The project in question is called Inherent Vice, and it’s an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that the director has been said to have been working on for about as long as we’ve known he was going to make The Master. Pynchon’s book is set in ’60s-era Los Angeles and features a drug-soaked private investigator named Larry “Doc” Sportello as its protagonist. It’s a story that’s awash with music and cultural references from the era, and in a profile that The New York Times did on Anderson, he gave the publication a little bit of insight into what the process of adapting this rich tapestry of experience from the page to the screen has been like. What’s most notable is that, unlike how we heard There Will Be Blood was an adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s book “Oil!” and then the two proved to only have loose connections, this time around Anderson is looking to do a fairly faithful adaptation of Pynchon’s work, so much so that he seems to have been working with the author, who is famously reclusive and not prone to accepting visitors. When asked to elaborate on the cooperation that’s gone on between […]

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A week or so ago, our Christopher Campbell wrote a piece posing the burning question: What is the Meaning of The Master? The fact is, he isn’t the only one asking. Some have harshly compared writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson to the film’s “titular” cult leader, believing Anderson also has no clue what he’s trying to say. Campbell theorized, “Maybe the reality is that there is nothing there. And yet maybe that lack of meaning is in fact its meaning,” but then went on to discount that interpretation of the film’s point, along with others. What is Anderson trying to say about religion? Is he saying, as Campbell speculates, that it’s all meaningless? In simple reality, to the obvious disappoint of many, is that Anderson is attempting to do no such thing. Even as it attempts ephemeral whatdoesitallmean-ness, The Master can be broken down to one simple sentence: a beautiful, tragic friendship between someone who has no interest in answers and a man who knows he has none of them. It’s solely a story of two distinct men, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Some could argue that’s too simplistic of a story for Paul Thomas Anderson, but Anderson has never been a “message” filmmaker. He’s always been a “relationship” filmmaker. The Master strives to be nothing more than another character study from Anderson told on a big, bold, beautiful canvas, not a hard-hitting critique of religion.

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Culture Warrior

In 2002, a shift occurred in the structure and thematic concerns that inform the style, characters, and narratives of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. Anderson’s fourth film, Punch-Drunk Love, clocking in at only ninety-four minutes (exactly half the length of his previous Magnolia) seemed a necessary exercise in modesty for the ambitious auteur, a means of proving himself capable of telling a story that focuses on the lives of less than a half dozen characters in a running time that is far from daunting. This film seemed, at the time, to be a momentary departure. Certainly Anderson, after working Adam Sandler toward what will certainly remain the greatest performance of his career, would return to constructing complex labyrinths depicting the intertwining lives of many memorable characters. After all, Punch-Drunk Love only featured two members of Anderson’s signature ensemble (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman). But as There Will Be Blood indicated, Anderson intended no such return to Altmanesque mosaics, opting instead to dive even further into the impenetrable psychologies of enigmatic leading men, an interest that has almost inevitably led Anderson’s trajectory to The Master.

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Now that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master is in slightly wider release than it was in its opening weekend, perhaps it is time to discuss this period drama, which is perplexing both critics and regular moviegoers alike. More than the fact that a lot of people are now able to finally see the film, the interesting thing is that many have now watched it two or three times (at least) in an attempt to get more out of the thing. Countless reviews have pointed out that The Master is difficult to fully understand on a single viewing, and audiences of all levels of intellect are coming out declaring that they need to see it again. Plenty are doing so, but are they any closer to finding answers? No film requires or should require multiple viewings, and pretty much any film watched more than once can deliver previously unseen pieces and welcome new considerations. But The Master, whether constructed out of certain meaning or, as might be hinted through a significant line from the film, Anderson just made it all up as he went along without too much thought, is the sort of glorious cinema that we look at as a fun puzzle. We can imagine that one day a documentary similar to Room 237 will present obsessive PTA fans over-analyzing everything from the commanding performances to the film’s subtler nooks and crannies.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

To paraphrase Loverboy, everybody’s waiting for the weekend… to read the best original movie-related content on the web. So, come on baby, let’s go back to the start and give the past week of Film School Rejects a second chance. But first, we want to remind you of the category links on this page that will help you find the most recent reviews (including new releases Dredd 3D, End of Watch and The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and trailers (new spots for The Hobbit and The Life of Pi included) as well as the sidebar of all your favorite columns. And, of course, this week brought the start of Fantastic Fest, so you’ll want to look back on what films we’ve covered so far, such as Frankenweenie and Holy Motors. Keep this link handy through the next five days or so.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? As you can tell by our spotlight on his filmmaking tips, we’re a bit PTA-obsessed this week (which makes sense considering the presence of The Master in theaters). Philip Seymour Hoffman can talk us into just about anything. Regardless of those embarrassing pictures Hoffman took of us, it’s fantastic and fascinating that we live in a time where we can get a first-hand look at the beginning of a filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson. This is the first time “A Paul Anderson Film” ever appeared, and it’s what eventually led to Boogie Nights (followed by a huge amount of acclaim). From humble beginnings…comes…The Dirk Diggler Story. What will it cost you? Only 30 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Paul Thomas Anderson

By now, a large amount of people have been able to see The Master and to build a few sandcastles with Paul Thomas Anderson. The director has grown from a young man fascinated by the nondescript buildings with porn being shot inside to a formidable creator, exploring twists on religion and family. He’s got film fans in his palm, which makes every new project he releases an event movie. But he still remembers to wait until the coffee is poured. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a 70mm heavyweight.

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All right, all you great big, bright, shining stars out there. It’s time to hear what Paul Thomas Anderson has to say. With recent movies like There Will Be Blood and his latest, The Master, the director is smack in the middle of a stretch in his career in which he’s defining a new genre called Discomfort. Boogie Nights looks downright cheerful by comparison, so it’s nice to go back and listen to the writer/director discuss his great, early achievement. And here we have it, all 37 things we learned listening to PT Anderson talk about Boogie Nights. You got the touch…!

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In his vitriolic review of Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard’s self-indulgent mess that screened at Cannes in 2010), renowned critic Mark Kermode said: “the movie is incredibly boring and incomprehensible, but so boring and incomprehensible that critics concluded it must be quite profound.” With that quote in mind, I carefully read every single glowing review I could find of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s new film The Master (including one already on this site) after watching it at the Toronto Film Festival. Before the love fest, I walked out of the theater feeling confident that everyone else in attendance hated it as much as I did. Instead, it seems as if everyone has found a safe place for their beloved director’s latest to hide by looking for praise anywhere they could. The film follows the life and tribulations of former sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) whose rather random but instant bond with Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) turns into a lasting friendship that puzzles everyone around them. Quell is a deeply damaged soul who appears to be guided by his basic human needs of sex and violence but also hides greater emotional devotion to a long lost love – one he tries to retrieve years too late. Lancaster Dodd is an equally insane but significantly more eloquent oddball thanks to his natural ability to influence others around him. While his ego knows no bounds and his methods reveal no logic whatsoever, he displays such a sense of self-assurance and persuasion that he can […]

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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