It’s all been leading up to this. After revisiting his feature filmography up to this point, it is finally time to review Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film: Inherent Vice, based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name. Pynchon’s work has been considered unadaptable up to this point, as evidenced by the fact that no one has really tried in the last 50 years. But Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t just anyone. The filmmaker has embraced the challenge, describing his movie as a mixture of a classic noir, an Airplane!-style slapstick, and a Cheech and Chong-era stoner comedy. Does he hit that high? Or does Inherent Vice fall all over itself in a bad trip, man?
I haven’t seen Inherent Vice yet (god-willing I will have seen it by the time you are reading this), but I hope it signals a new direction for Paul Thomas Anderson, not because I am tired of his examination of the darkness in solitary men, but because he has so perfectly examined this in his previous three films. Punch-Drunk Love‘s Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) has a boiling rage that is finally ameliorated when he finds another person with whom to share his life. There Will Be Blood‘s Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) tries to do the same, but his overwhelming greed is too much to bear. But what of the two main characters in The Master? Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) battle the same darkness as these other men, but head-on. Is the outlook for them any better than that for Daniel Plainview?
We’re so close to the end of our Paul Thomas Anderson retrospective that I can practically taste it. Unfortunately it tastes like crude oil, which isn’t something you really want in your mouth. But perhaps my taste buds are simply confused by the sensory experience that is There Will Be Blood. While the movie doesn’t come with a scratch-and-taste card, Anderson’s 2007 film is plenty immersive on its own.
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.
I’m officially at the halfway mark of my Paul Thomas Anderson retrospective. This one is a real treat, as at this point – without rewatching three of his newer films – Magnolia is my favorite PTA film. I was first introduced to it a few years ago, and it kind of kicked my cinephilia into high gear. Magnolia is a treat to watch every time; there is always a new detail or theme or storyline to examine. And my latest viewing was no exception.
We are less than a month away from the release of Inherent Vice and I am only on the second film in my Paul Thomas Anderson retrospective. My prospects for completing the project are not looking great, but I shall continue on anyway. The good news is that Boogie Nights is the last PTA movie that I had not seen previously, so I have now watched each of his films at least once. Boogie Nights was released only one year after Hard Eight, Anderson’s debut, but his artistic progression is so great that you might be forgiven for guessing something more like ten years had passed.
My Alejandro González Iñárritu retrospective did not go as planned; I only made it halfway through his filmography before Birdman was released. I have resolved not to make the same miscalculation with Paul Thomas Anderson before his latest film, Inherent Vice, hits theaters. So despite the fact that that movie doesn’t come out until mid-December, my new review series starts tonight, with one of the two Anderson films I had not seen: 1996’s Hard Eight.