Evil Ash checking in again.
There are certain “event” directors, where when their film is pending release, it is considered a “must-see” event, regardless as to whether it turns out to be good or bad. You work your schedule around it, and you PLAN on seeing it opening weekend. There are only a handful of directors that fall into this category. Some are obvious; Tarantino, Eastwood (yes, still), Scorsese, Spielberg, Nolan, and some select others.
After the run he has had for the last 25 years, the always a bridesmaid, never a bride auteur, 8-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson needs to be in this category. Going back to Sydney aka Hard Eight, released in 1996, Anderson has had his foot on the on the independent gas pedal and has never let up since. He followed Sydney with a pair of ensemble, ambitious, and over-the-top masterpieces; Boogie Nights released in 1997 (Burt Reynolds greatest performance), and Magnolia, released in 1999 (Tom Cruise’s greatest performance).
These 2 movies cemented Anderson as our modern-day Stanley Kubrick. Both directors had similar styles, especially when it came to their shared love of one-point perspective shooting and their fondness for perfectly centered shots, and long tracking shots. The opening crane shot that goes into the club at the beginning of Boogie Nights is truly spectacular.
Again, much like Kubrick, Anderson takes his time between movies; sometimes as much as a five-year hiatus; you can see why. His movies are an absolute sight to behold visually. In 2002, Anderson teamed up with unlikely indie darling Adam Sandler to make, what I thought, was a quirky and brilliant film, the grossly underrated Punch Drunk Love. His use of color (Barry’s blue suit worn throughout the entire movie), objects (the Harmonium) and symbolism in this movie makes it more than just a bizarre and violent love-story. It borders on something taken straight out of the French New Wave.
I also have to mention that the chemistry between Sandler and Emily Watson on screen is absolutely titanic. it drives the movie. Without it, the film would have fallen flat. Anderson would then take a five-year break to work on what many – including myself – consider his masterpiece; 2007’s There Will Be Blood. When I read that Anderson was adapting Oil! – Upton Sinclair’s book from the 1920’s – into a screenplay, I thought, why? I read the book 30 years ago in college and it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Boy, was I wrong.
The movie is Anderson’s apex as a filmmaker and he is in full Kubrick mode with some of the most gorgeous tracking shots you’ll ever see on film. Daniel Day-Lewis also turns in one of the most iconic (and most quotable) performances in film history.
Anderson followed up this masterpiece with 2012’s The Master, starring longtime collaborator Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and his new muse Joaquin Phoenix. Both turn in very dark and stunning performances. It is truly a disturbing movie at times (the World War II beach scene) and failed to earn its money back at the box office.
Regardless, like all of Anderson’s movies, it was a critical darling and earned numerous Oscar nominations. The comparisons between Lancaster Dodd’s cult “The Cause” and Scientology are undeniable and must have pissed a lot of people off, including friend and collaborator Tom Cruise.
Anderson followed this up with 2014’s Inherent Vice, again starring Phoenix and Josh Brolin. This is my least favorite of Anderson’s movies as the plot is confusing and at times incoherent. Again, this movie failed to make its money back at the box office, even though it had two bankable stars that turned in solid performances.
That leads us to Anderson’s last movie, 2017’s Phantom Thread, starring Day-Lewis in his final performance before going into retirement. Lesley Manville and Day-Lewis both turn in spectacular performances in this 1950s London period piece about the fashion industry. Anderson really drives home the concept of co-dependency and family drama in this film. There’s a lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s themes in this film, and I truly believe there’s a reason Manville’s character is named “Alma” (Hitch’s wife).
This leads us up to the current COVID day. Anderson, as per his norm, has been on a three-year hiatus, spending his time directing music videos and working on, what I hope, will be his next masterpiece. There’s not much to go on with regards to the plot or theme of this latest work, except that this is a period piece set in 1970s San Fernando Valley (flashback to Boogie Nights) about a high school student who becomes a famous child actor.
Principal photography has already started as of August 2020 and the cast is looking good as Bradley Cooper is set to have a major role in the film. The most intriguing aspect of this movie is that the 17-year-old lead will be played by none other than Cooper Hoffman, the son of late screen legend and longtime collaborator Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who passed away in 2014 of a drug overdose.
There’s a lot of speculation here as this is Cooper’s first film role and I can’t even find a current photo of the younger Hoffman online! This has to be very cathartic for Anderson, as the elder Hoffman was his greatest on-screen partner, and they were close friends for 20 years. Anderson told pod-caster and actor Marc Maron on the WTF podcast:
“I knew what love at first sight was. It was the strangest feeling sitting in a movie theater and thinking, ‘He’s for me and I’m for him.’ And that was it.”
I could go on and on about one of my favorite directors ever, but better to stop now before they throw me out of here! I’m obviously excited by this, as we should be. Plus, Anderson is working off an original script, which is always a good thing. Filming has just commenced in Encino, California and as of today, there is no release date yet announced.
Are you excited about a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie in the pipeline? Your thoughts on a 17-year-old Cooper Hoffman starring as the lead?
Sound off Outposters and let me know what you think!
Hugh “Evil Ash” Feinberg.