In the spirit of Director week at SILASIDL, I decided to reverse my dour dismissals of the Scott brothers in favor of the love train. I love Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s actually a love that’s waned a tad over the years, but no figure helped define my “I’m really interesting and deep” adolescence better than this guy.
Scorecard: 2 Divergent Masterpieces, 1 Flawed Personal Epic, 1 Strange as hell Romantic Comedy, 1 starter film that was jacked by a studio.
Sydney/Hard Eight – There’s some good stuff in here (especially Phillip Baker Hall and John C. Rielly showing what they can do under PTA’s direction), but I never saw the original version so I have no idea how good it can be. The most long standing aspect of the film (besides the studio butchering it) seems to be internet nerds getting into passive-aggressive arguments over which title is more appropriate. The pretentious PTA love crew likes Sydney cause it’s the title PAUL wanted. The snarky PTA love crew likes Hard Eight because they think the pretentious PTA love crew is being pretentious and they’re just being contrarian. I chose Hard Eight cause normal people will understand which fucking movie you’re talking about.
Punch-Drunk Love – A really likable film I appreciate for a bunch of reasons. One, it really echoes the kinds of dysfunctional relationships you see in John Cassavettes films (specifically Minnie and Muskovitz). Two, the films works tremendously well as an analysis of the popular “Adam Sandler character” and what an aggressive man-boy would be like in real life. Thus, it ends up being a neat little character piece. Three, there’s some genuinely funny moments. Four, in terms of form it’s pretty adventurous. Five, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Six, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s mattress man commercial on the DVD.
Magnolia – This is that flawed one I was talking about. It’s long winded, audacious, occasionally didactic, and in 1999 it was my favorite movie ever. This is where the whole adolescent thing comes in. The themes and ideas seemed so revolutionary to me at the time. Part of that was my inexperience, part of that was PTA being ahead of the curve in terms of “we’re all interconnected” stories. Which is a good thing because the twee-ness of that genre was nowhere to be found in this sobering film. In retrospect, it’s almost refreshing to see the audaciousness on display. It’s kind of a punk movie in it’s own weird way: the rains of frogs and whatnot. Even the “interconnected-ness” is more of a “we’re in this together, don’t be such a dick” kind of way and I come to appreciate the frank beauty in that. Also, some people dismissed it as a Short Cuts rip-off and that’s not exactly fair.
There Will Be Blood – Now a qualified masterpiece. Better than that it’s a fascinating 3 hour character examination that manages to be completely riveting. Also, it’s easily his most accomplished film in terms of a more “adult” direction. I could really write and entire paper on the film but I’ll just adjust one thing I found fascinating in terms of the films construction. [Spoiler] The entire film is actually building up for the ending time jump. Some people just saw it as “the ending” but in retrospect the entirety of the film is the examination and evidence of how a driven (but secretly decent man) can end up becoming a monster. It’s also comes at you like a batshit insane ending, filled with nervous laughter and action bursting off the screen. The more I’ve watched it, the more you see what’s really there… and it’s fantastic.
Boogie Nights – The original masterpiece. When I first saw this, I had no idea how good it was. I think this might be the most re-watchable movie I own, as I love it everytime. It’s remarkably all-encompassing: It’s deep and dark, yet light and airy. It’s straightforward yet nuanced. It’s audacious, yet grounded. It’s as close as you can get to a perfect movie and has one of the best completely cast performance I can think of. Every single person who gets a moment makes it count. Plus it’s another one of those batshit insane endings that totally work (skinny Alfred Molina!)… It’s also a quote machine.