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Best Of...Paul Thomas Anderson

by Zac Weber
Best Of...Paul Thomas Anderson by Zac Weber
My admiration for Paul Thomas Anderson and his films runs deep. This was a rather difficult endeavor. At the top, I was torn between the director’s two obvious masterpieces: There Will Be Blood and The Master. Both movies are complex and operate as fascinating character studies as much as existential explorations. In the end, I chose The Master because of its collection of performances. Daniel Day-Lewis’ work in TWBB is one of the greatest performances of all-time, but the weight of Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams’ excellence is too much to overcome. Both movies benefit from soundtracks composed by the incredible Jonny… Read more

My admiration for Paul Thomas Anderson and his films runs deep. This was a rather difficult endeavor. At the top, I was torn between the director’s two obvious masterpieces: There Will Be Blood and The Master. Both movies are complex and operate as fascinating character studies as much as existential explorations. In the end, I chose The Master because of its collection of performances. Daniel Day-Lewis’ work in TWBB is one of the greatest performances of all-time, but the weight of Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams’ excellence is too much to overcome. Both movies benefit from soundtracks composed by the incredible Jonny Greenwood, as does the third selection – Inherent Vice. I had placed it third until I saw the film in 70mm at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. It was simply astounding, and I could not deny how wonderful it looked projected on the big screen. As an arthouse-stoner-mystery romp, I think the appreciation for this film will only grow. While most of PTA’s films feel like intricate period pieces, Inherent Vice takes the aesthetics of 1970 Los Angeles to the next level – dissecting the waning enthusiasm of the 1960s counterculture and the malaise of an ever-evolving self-identity. These themes can also be found in Anderson’s lush and funky drama Boogie Nights, which features PTA’s most playful camerawork. The film chronicles the porn industry’s Golden Age in the 1970s, and the result is a rise-and-fall from grace that is both hilarious and tragic. While Boogie Nights is the easiest of PTA’s films to digest, I actually prefer the subtly of Punch-Drunk Love. There is a lot cooking underneath the surface, and Adam Sandler does not get enough credit for his understated performance. The abstract interludes by visual artist Jeremy Blake are mesmerizing and affect a range of feelings. Finally, we end with Magnolia and Hard Eight. In Magnolia, I simply find the whole experience emotionally draining, and I am not eager to rewatch the film. The performances are quite good, especially Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but at times it feels like PTA is striving too hard for obscurity. As Anderson’s premier, Hard Eight is hardly something to scoff at. The narrative feels tedious at times, although Phillip Baker Hall commands your attention throughout the entire picture. When you add up all the elements, Hard Eight lacks the confidence found in the rest of the director’s oeuvre. In closing, let me add if you can see any of these films in 35mm or 70mm, go. The experience is unforgettable.

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