346 – Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

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As we enter the second phase of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s career, it looks more and more like I will actually finish the retrospective this go-around. And just in time for the end of the year. Punch-Drunk Love is the film in which Anderson shifts from grand explorations of humanity featuring dozens of well-rounded characters to intimate character studies charged by intense actors and similarly intense filmmaking. And the man PTA chose to help him usher in this new era? Broad comedy superstar Adam Sandler. Surprisingly, it works.

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292 – Men, Women & Children (2014)

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Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, but that’s barely relevant) spent the early days of his directorial career making some really well-regarded films. Even if Juno or Up in the Air haven’t received universal acclaim, there is evidence there of a quality filmmaker. All of which makes Reitman’s recent career trajectory so baffling. Reitman’s Labor Day was released at the end of January to pretty middling reviews; I described it as “conventional and entirely disposable,” and my opinion has not changed in the intervening months. It is surprising to see another feature from the director so quickly, but perhaps Reitman learned something from the earlier debacle. Perhaps he’s ready to come back stronger than ever with Men, Women & Children. Perhaps not.

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289 – Live Read: American Beauty

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s back; Jason Reitman’s Live Read series returned to LACMA tonight with a reading of the American Beauty screenplay by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood). Before the reading began, Reitman described this series as being “so much more fun than directing movies.” That must be especially true for the still-young filmmaker lately, as his last two movies have not been well-received; Labor Day was lifeless and uninspired, and his latest – Men, Women & Children – has gotten so many bad reviews that I haven’t even seen it yet. Me! I see everything.

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