I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Master

As I start writing this I haven’t read any reviews or comments on THE MASTER yet, but I’m betting there’s alot of this:

1. It’s a masterpiece, if you don’t get it you’re dumb, why don’t you go see some mainstream movie like whatever that one movie is called, the one that you like, I don’t know the name because I don’t watch that kind of crap or know what it is

2. It’s pretentious nonsense that is pretentious, if you like it it’s Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s totally meaningless. Boring. The critics! Fuck!!!!!

Probly heavier on #2.

I would like to propose a third view, which is B. Kind of in the middle of the two. But in a separate column I think.

This is not a normal movie, so my thoughts could change after more time for digestion, or after a second viewing, which I don’t necessarily foresee happening, but life is full of surprises. It is easily the least entertained I have ever been by a Paul Thomas Anderson joint. But it’s good.

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix from 8MM) is a Naval veteran who comes back from the war with his brain not quite in one piece. He’s a raging alcoholic, the kind that mixes his own concoctions out of chemicals and paint thinner if he has to. He’s some kind of sex maniac, introduced humping a sand-woman he and some buddies made on the beach. Ha ha, just jokin around, right guys? But then he can’t help but run over to the shore and frantically jerk off.

He has a problem with his temper. He gets into fights. The drunkenness and the fights make it hard to keep a job and a girlfriend.

But one day he drunkenly stows away on a yacht where Lancaster Dodd (P.S. Hoffman, THE GETAWAY) is holding court and having a wedding for his daughter. The credits assure us this is unrelated to any real persons or movements, but you’ll notice he and his book/group “The Cause” have a few totally coincidental similarities to L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology. Freddie hangs around and witnesses various “processing” and “applications” where Dodd asks questions and instructs people on focus exercises and talks about past life regression and things. Especially in these early scenes these people seem to be speaking a different language, you have no idea what the guy is talking about and he says things that make everybody laugh knowingly but we, and Freddie, have to just nod our heads politely to fit in.

But also Dodd seems to be a charismatic leader, he enjoys a good drink, smiles and says encouraging things that make people feel good. Like, before he goes to bed he announces to everybody “What a day! We fought the day, and we won. We won!

I think some people might’ve been expecting a full on nut-punch of Scientology, but that’s not this. Like the movie itself it’s not 1 or 2, it’s B. Dodd is no saint. He can’t always control his rage. He’s suppressing something that is only talked about ambiguously. He’s left behind a string of ex-wives, and his current one Amy Adams is fierce and loyal but in my opinion underappreciated. His own son thinks he’s making it up as he goes along. When one of his greatest supporters (Laura Dern – good to see her in a movie again) asks about a part in his second book which seems to contradict what he’s told them for years he flips out on her.

On the other hand he’s never shown to be a deliberate fraud, he seems to really believe what he’s saying. When Freddie beats up or even just throws food at the movement’s enemies Dodd gets pissed, lectures him and compares him to an animal eating its own shit. And he seems to really like Freddie, a man with very few likable qualities. When his wife, daughter and son-in-law get paranoid about Freddie’s motives Dodd disagrees. A friend pointed out it might be a crush, but I think it might be a genuine friendship. Or a fascination with not being able to control him. He’s used to people getting in line behind him, listening to him intently, sitting next to him uncomfortably silent when somebody questions their beliefs and he has to call them a “pig fuck.”

My favorite part of the movie is when the Chicago police show up with an arrest warrant for Dodd. It shows a funny contrast between the two main characters and how they channel their anger. Dodd goes into grandiose prick mode, throwing around words like “silly” and “farce” and asking things like “What honor do you serve? What code?” Freddie chooses the other route, the one where you start fighting and four cops have to drag you all the way to the station and to your cell as you wiggle around like a fish. Then there’s a long, unbroken take of both of their side-by-side cells. Dodd leans casually against his bed, not saying a word or flinching as Freddie screams, bangs his head against his bed, tears off his clothes and crushes his toilet. I’m sorry, Cinerama audience, that I laughed during this scene. I thought it was appropriate laughter, I thought it was deliberately funny, but I think you disagreed.

Freddie is the reverse of Dodd. He’s dumb and unfocused and uncontrolled, he can’t let go of his memories of an old girlfriend instead of not being able to stick with one wife. He’s traveled around and experienced different jobs and cultures, but probly saw most of it blurry or in doubles. He always has to run off ’cause he attacked a guy or accidentally poisoned somebody with his moonshine or something.

Another great scene is the real uncomfortable one where a skeptic publicly confronts Dodd and gets into a big argument with him. I love the long stretch of the guy saying “Excuse me” and Dodd ignoring him. Might be the 21st century version of that kid throwing firecrackers in BOOGIE NIGHTS.

This has less of a story arc than most P.T. Anderson extravaganzas. I saw a couple walk out about 20 minutes in, which seemed ridiculously early to give up on a movie like that, but I guess they wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Not sure how they ended up in that theater but I suppose they made the right choice in leaving. I’m not sure they would’ve shared my view that the faster paced cuts in the section where Freddie has to repeat a couple different exercises endlessly made it seem like a training montage. They probly would’ve needed a Survivor song.

Obviously I don’t believe in Scientology or this fictional Scientologyesque deal, but still you’re rooting for it to work on this poor bastard, because something‘s gotta. It seems to give some kind of discipline and stability to most of these people, but never gets Freddie off the booze or the anger or the boners. Dodd claims it can cure some forms of leukemia, but even combining forces with Amy Adams it can’t stop Freddie from chugging his whole flask first thing in the morning. It’s probly why Dodd is so hooked on him, and why the end of the movie is intentionally frustrating. All that and he’s still left passed out, nuzzling a sand boobie.

The filmatism is great, very quiet, sometimes heightened by an eerie and unique score by Jonny Greenwood. If you’re thinking THERE WILL BE BLOOD and 70mm though you should know this is not trying to be an epic. If it is it’s epic intimacy: giant heads talking to each other. Alot of it is confined to one house or wherever they’re living. It skips around a bit in chronology and some time does pass but most of it is in less than a year I think, since Adams stays pregnant the whole time.

Not surprisingly, the best thing about the movie is the acting of the two leads. Hoffman perfectly embodies this intelligence and arrogance, charisma and fury, this controlled craziness. Phoenix is more of a weirdo, very physical, with a weird hunched over posture. You know how he has that scar above his lip? You try to ignore it when he’s playing Johnny Cash, but in this one he seems to emphasize it, talking only from that side of his mouth, looking like Jonah Hex at times. And sometimes like Popeye. He’s even a sailor. No pipe, though.

Kevin J. O’Connor has a small part, nothing too memorable but I’m happy for him because he was also in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. He will be the only member of the p.t. anderson players who’s also in all the Stephen Sommers movies.

It was filmed in 65mm (the first non-documentary to use it since Branagh’s HAMLET in ’96) and Seattle’s own Cinerama theater is showing it on an actual 70mm film print. It looks great, of course. Having recently seen SAMSARA at the same place though I can finally admit that it’s the filming on big ass film that makes the difference, not the projecting. SAMSARA looked at least as good and probly better projected digitally. (That’s 4K though which I understand is higher than Imax’s digital projectors. If they call it Imax stick to film prints only.)

Like some of the hi def stuff, 70 mm closeups give all kinds of detail on the faces, you see all the pores and bumps and scars. At one point I realized geez, that freckle is bigger than my fist. And in one part I noticed that Joaquin’s ear was pierced. That’s out of character.

I mean this… I thought it was really, uh, interesting. And I don’t mean that as lukewarm praise. But I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody. If it bores the shit out of you I get it. I’m not sure I understand specifically what Anderson is going for with this one, I just think he has two great actors playing two interesting characters and bouncing off each other while he slathers them in topnotch filmatism. Alot of people will be disappointed that there aren’t any great in-jokes about milkshakes and shit. Or after one of the various jerking off scenes somebody could’ve yelled “I’m finished!” That would be a real crowdpleaser, you know.

SPOILERS? A buddy of mine asked if I thought the end was supposed to be a dream. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Yeah, it’s really surreal that he’s alone in a movie theater in a small town in the middle of nowhere and is handed a phone with Dodd calling from London. But I just took that to mean that was how impossibly connected the guy was by that point. What was more significant to me about the ending is that Dodd finally tells him where they met before… and it’s some past life bullshit. This whole time he’s been mentioning it and you keep wondering if there’s gonna be some kind of twist or something, how these guys are connected. Nope. In the end he’s got nothing to offer. No need to stick around. Back to the sand boobies.

things I learned while researching this review:

* L. Ron Hubbard spent some of his childhood and more of his adulthood living in Bremerton, Washington. He also went to Queen Anne High School in Seattle for a year. More importantly it turns out Hank Ketcham, the creator of Dennis the Menace, went there.

* In 1982 Hubbard composed a soundtrack album to his book Battlefield Earth, called Space Jazz and featuring Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. I kinda want to get this, actually.

* Rex Reed hated THE MASTER but says it “might not even be the worst movie ever made” in comparison to “such hollow, juvenile, superficial trash as” THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (by “the dismally overrated, no-talent Charlie Kaufman”)


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 10:58 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “The Master”

  1. Spoilers:

    The movie theater telephone sequence is a dream… the rest of the movie is not. There’s a quick cut after Dodd hangs up that shows Quell waking up in the same theater… plus he tells Dodd later in England he’s there because of a dream he had. The cut from the dream in the theater is very subtle and Quell mumbles alot, so its easy to see why this is confusing. I think “The Master” is probably the film of the year: Paul Thoms Anderson has made the father-son relationship complex a recurring theme in many of his films, whether subjugated within his multi-storyline narrative (“Magnolia”) or tangentially within genre (“Hard Eight”, “Boogie Nights”), but “The Master” may be his most pointed and raw effort yet. From the first time stunted, angry seaman Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and learned doctor Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) meet, the overtures of the father-son relationship are overt and tense in the way Dodd says “alright…” in that fatherly tone of a man siting behind a large desk, patiently accepting his sulking son’s presence either good or bad. And from there, “The Master” gels into a sublime series of scenes where father and prodigal son connect, disconnect, argue, love and work through repressed emotions caused by post-war stress. For those that have called “The Master” pointless, I humbly disagree. Not only is it probably one of the most touching examinations of the push-and-pull that separates and joins people, but it reigns as a subtle miracle of the three act structure, revealing everything in small glances and a technical cinematic prowess that feels unmatched in current cinema. I could go on for days about this film….

  2. Yeah, this movie can go fuck itself. I guess I lean more towards Vern’s idea of reaction #2, which is a shame because, well, most of you guys know how thoughtful and over-analytical I can get about some movies and because I used to be a PT Anderson fan.

    I feel like I “got” most everything there is to get about this movie, but I won’t expend the energy here diagramming scenes, parallelisms, period piece details, the gulf between Freddy’s pugnacity & his fighting ability, the status of Freddy as representative of WWII sailors/veterans, the “drifting” imagery & diction, the comparison between Freddy’s “poison” concoction (He runs away from his victim, unsure if dead or alive, leftward across a dirt field.) and Dodd’s poisonous nonsense philosophies (Freddy rides a motorcycle away from Dodd, rightward across a desert field.), the connective “Freddy trying & failing & soliciting & failing & having the tide dissolve his second sand girl & then finally getting to have sex with a human female” thread, the inversion of Master as cult leader versus “master” in terms of being an independent man, etc..

    I know a thing or 2 about filmatism, and I’m an observant, perceptive, smart guy. I see all this stuff. There’s a “there” there, no naked emperor. I appreciate all this stuff. And I wish I hadn’t spend money & time on it. I feel like a worse person, a person with an unrecoverable 2 and a half hour hole in his life, after seeing THE MASTER.

    Any which way I figure it, no matter how positive I try to be, no matter how much I give others the benefits of my many doubts, I arrive at the conclusion that the director is laughing at us, insulting us, & deliberately putting onscreen as much ugliness & incompetence & simple-mindedness as he thinks he can get away with (and all, as Vern sorta mentions, in a not-entertaining manner).

    And a lot of the reviews are painful to read, with people desperate to grasp something to praise. Dude made an ugly movie full of ugly, stupid characters who have ugly, stupid notions of entertainment & a taste for horrid fermented beverages. Describing it that way kind of reminds me of CALVAIRE more than any other movie. That’s not a good thing. I’m certainly not going to compare THE MASTER to any good movie I can recall. Maybe HAPPINESS, but without the jokes or the edgy discomforting material. Not interested in this kool-aid.

    Also Amy Adams is hideous in this movie. What a fucking anti-accomplishment.

  3. Holy shit. First two responses couldn’t have been more sincere and well thought out examples of Vern’s potential-audience-reaction juxtaposition. Nice work boys.

  4. I enjoyed the climatic fight scene on the roof. Jet really paid back that asshole who beat up Uncle Tak.

  5. Well, I find this all kind of depressing. Not because I’m a huge fan of PTA, but because I keep trying to be but never quite managed it. I’ve dutifully sat down and viewed all of his movies in an honest attempt entertain myself but somehow each and every one of his movies just failed to click with me. I can’t even articulate why that is and it’s always bothered me, his movies all have the look/smell/taste of greatness – I should be into this shit! So you’d think I’d be happy that some people seem to be agreeing with me this time out, but I’m not. I’d always assumed that I was missing something and if I kept trying maybe I’d grow to love the works of Paul T Anderson but It’s starting to look like that ain’t gonna happen, which is a shame.

  6. Space Jazz is amazing.

  7. If you hate The Master you should cleanse your pallet with a viewing of Miami Connection. I don’t know. I think hatred of The Master seems completely unwarranted.

  8. I just can’t see myself getting much out of a movie where somebody smashes a toilet and I’m not allowed to laugh at it.

  9. You can laugh. The filmmaking is mucho serioso and stately, only once I sank into the movie, there were a few points where I laughed. Alone, but whatever – if the walkouts didn’t take me out of the movie, people can stand me chuckling. Maybe people get stony because the movie takes work; you rarely know where it’s going even on a scene-to-scene basis, so you’ve got to absorb the straight-faced weirdness and put the story together on the run (or on the walk – it ain’t fast-paced.) It’s like a puzzle; maybe even designed to throw you off-balance like one of the processing sessions. Yeah, I liked this a lot – more than most/all of PT Anderson’s other stuff.

    Wound up in a 4k screening of this, which really did look remarkable. Which might have made some of the difference for me – I was really drawn into the movie just on a visual level.

  10. One thing I suspect is throwing people off about this movie is they are expecting some sort of biography/takedown of Scientology, but then it turns out to really be more about an unpleasant weirdo and his bizarre, intense relationship with a cult leader. Personally, I loved it, definitely one of my favorites from this year. I saw it over a week ago and it’s stuck with me, different scenes and images and ideas keep rolling around in my mind.

    Mr M:

    Recently I believe you hooked up a groom-to-be with a few copies of MCBAIN to give to his groomsmen. I was actually the best man at that wedding. Thanks and I am looking forward to watching it.

  11. FWIW, I found THE MASTER to be frequently very funny, mostly due to Dodd’s constant pomposity and Freddy’s inappropriate reactions to pretty much everything. That’s just me, though. I hear a lot of people say they thought the film was boring or slow, and I just didn’t feel that way at all. I found in constantly weird, fascinating and compelling. I guess I was just more into what the movie was doing.

  12. That’s awesome, Dan. I’m glad that copy of McBAIN went to a good home.

  13. Are we talking about THE McBain ,the movie that is also known as “Christopher Walken-invades-South America-and-shoots-down-fighterjets-with-a-handgun”?

  14. That’s the one. It’s so good, I kind of want to get married just so I can give it out to my groomsmen.

  15. Okay, wow, sounds like I need to watch MCBAIN ASAP. The groom also got me an amazing, 18-year-old bottle of scotch, yet I’d say I’m equally excited about both gifts.

  16. Yeah, Dan, I guarantee you’ll get a kick out of it. Walken gets into a knife fight with Bolo’s non-union Vietnamese replacement in a bamboo thunderdome in the first five minutes, so you’ll know you’re in good hands right off the bat.

  17. You simply can´t go wrong with a Glickenhaus-movie. Paul Thomas Anderson however, you can.

  18. Filmmakers just don’t strive for excellence the way they used to.

  19. I highly recommend BLUE JEAN COP for any motherfuckers out there. New York really looks like a gritty shitty cesspool in that one. Not exactly touristfriendly, but definitely action-cinema friendly

  20. The Original... Paul

    October 1st, 2012 at 11:29 am

    “Magnolia” is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I’m honestly not sure which way I’d go on “The Master”. If only there were some way to find out if you’d like a movie or not, before you actually went and, y’know, saw it.

    I know one thing though: “Dredd” has finally put an end to the two-month-long depress-a-thon that I’ve had. I’m not in any great hurry to go back there. Even for the great P S Hoffman.

  21. Based on the collective enthusiasm ’round here, I just ordered a used DVD copy of McBain. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years about obscure Christopher Walken movies: they’re usually either hidden gems or utterly inert. McBain sounds like it’s the tits.

    I gave up on PT Anderson quite some time ago. Boogie Nights— fuckin’ loved it. Absolutely kinetic filmmmaking. Doubled back and watched Hard Eight on VHS, and was again impressed. But since then… it always seems like he’s panning for gold where there’s none to be found. Plus any director who thought he could mold Adam Sandler into a serious actor has to be at least a partial nutter.

  22. Having not seen THE MASTER, I can only assume that its message, conveyed in intimate closeups and subtle gestures, is “Y’all seriously need to watch McBAIN.”

    Important update: I’ve liked all of P.T. Anderson’s movies, but PUNCH DRUNK LOVE is the only one I ever feel like rewatching. It’s trippy and funny and sweet and isn’t 17 million hours long. I approve.

  23. The son said it himself (and it’s about this movie): “He’s making it up as he goes along.”
    The performances are great, but there is less than nothing to the story.

  24. Amazing Larry -You did the right thing.I´m not sure I would recommend it solely on Walken. The movie was pretty light on weird Walken-esque theatricalities if I remember correctly. But it is an awesome fucking action-movie nonetheless.

  25. “but there is less than nothing to the story.”

    Darth Brooks – You make this sound like DREDD.

    “You simply can´t go wrong with a Glickenhaus-movie. ”

    Unless your name is Jackie Chan.

    But yes, applause to SHAKEDOWN.

  26. Scientology is one of those fascinating as hell train wrecks that just keeps on giving, whether its Hubbard’s ridiculous story of pulp sci-fi writer into cult leader thousands of poor bastards look up to or the recent fiascos for the Church or their concentration camp* for members in the outs, their theology, chiseling every Hubbard writing/lecture into gold plates and locked into a steel vault that can survive a nuclear blast, Operation Snow White, etc.

    *=Ah yes “The Hole” where punished members reportedly have to march in endless circles around a palm tree for hours daily, regardless of weather. (Or if you’re wheelchair handicapped.) Really sounds like something from RIKI-OH.

  27. RRA – speaking of scientology have you seen this site created by those damn geniuses at Rockstar:

    http://www.epsilonprogram.com/

  28. I found this fascinating piece after THE MASTER premiered, where a former Church of Scientology executive (enforcer really) reviewed the movie.

    http://markrathbun.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/a-scientologists-take-on-the-master/

  29. Anderson’s a bit hit or miss for me as well. I honestly just can’t stand Magnolia, despite some fine moments. The film as a whole just doesn’t work for me, and I think there are some much better “we are all connected” films out there. Boogie Nights is pretty great. I also liked the Adam Sandler one. But I appreciated the look of There Will Be Blood more than I actually enjoyed the film. Although, maybe I need to revisit that one. Sometimes I feel like he has trouble drawing compelling characters. A lot of people compared There Will Be Blood to Citizen Kane, but where Charles Foster Kane was a fascinating character throughout the film, Daniel Plainview didn’t really work for me.

  30. Vern mentioned SPACE JAZZ, I found this at Youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF3B5yH5sJo

    Interesting.

    According to wikipedia, Hubbard also produced this cheese-monstrosity that somehow poor Edgar Winter was corraled into performing. (So cheesy, it would turn Wisconsin lactose intolerant.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuVtjiP0-LU&feature=relmfu

  31. I was one of those people that was expecting a nut-punch of Scientology, because Scientology deserves every nut punch it can get, but when I read The Master really wasn’t that, my interest waned, I’ll still probably check it out on blu ray though

    let it be known that I think Magnolia is a great damn movie though

    p.s. Joaquin Phoenix’s character reminds me of my late grandpa, who was also a surly WW2 sailor that had a drinking problem (and here’s an interesting fact, he was there personally when they nuked the bikini atoll islands)

  32. I hope we don’t have to wait another half a decade for the next PTA joint though

  33. nabroleon dynamite

    October 1st, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I agree with Amazing Larry. Hard Eight and Boogie Nights are the shit and each movie afterwards got less and less enjoyable.

    When The Master comes to the almighty Redbox I’ll fuck with it…

  34. Despite what the others in your theatre felt, The Master is quite funny. (P.T. Anderson is a lot of things, but humorless isn’t one of ’em).

  35. they killed The Giggler maaaaan…

  36. on the topic of Magnolia, to be fair it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and it was the very first “everything is connected” movie I ever saw and the whole idea was mind blowing at time since it was new, but I have no idea whether the movie holds up today or not though

  37. Magnolia really divides people. I have a lot of friends whom I normally agree with about movies who will defend that film, but for whatever reason it doesn’t really resonate with me. It has a great opening sequence and an interesting turn by Tom Cruise (in fact, all the actors are pretty good). I just remember thinking that they were using that everyone is connected theme as an emotional cop out.

  38. I was really blown away the first time I saw MAGNOLIA but I don’t think time has been kind to it. It’s a movie absolutely packed with great scenes, great acting, great filmmaking, but what does it all add up to? The theme of “Everything is connected” is superficially intriguing but not really all that interesting when you stop and think about it. It’s like how Edgar Allen Poe described chess: “What is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound.” Yeah, everybody in the movie has some connection to everybody else, but so? What good does it do them? Are any of these connections particularly meaningful? So that guy’s dad produced the game show that guy was on 30 years ago. And I’m supposed to get what out of that exactly? You can Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon everybody on the fucking planet if you want, it doesn’t mean you and Nelson Mandela have a real powerful spiritual connection. The whole theme of the movie is like some stoners watching the Discovery Channel and realizing that all matter comes from the Big Bang: a mind-blowing revelation that isn’t particularly useful or descriptive of life as we human beings actually know it.

    The frogs are still pretty cool, though.

  39. Magnolia is a story about people who can’t see the forest for all the trees. They are all miserable, when they don’t really need to be. They could be happier, but they don’t see how, even when it’s painfully obvious. In other words, they are very similar to a lot of people we all know.

    The ending is a big wake-up call to all of them. Look out: There is a big, magical world out there. Anything can happen. Anything is possible. So stop dwelling in your own misery.

    One of my favorite movies.

  40. I agree with everything you said except for the part where you said “MAGNOLIA is a story.” I don’t think it is. I think it’s a bunch of character vignettes juxtaposed together to create the illusion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. It builds to a resolution of some kind, etc. Each of MAGNOLIA’s individual subplots might fit that definition, but the movie itself doesn’t. A singalong montage does not a climax make.

  41. I’ll do you one better and say that I actually dislike/disagree with MAGNOLIA’s “everything is connected” worldview. That’s a wonderfully romantic conceit and a sometimes enjoyable fantasy and all, but it’s also a bunch of phoney baloney horseshit. Based on my experiences, the world tends to be random and disorganized and inherently meaningless, except in whatever order and meaning we project on to it. I’ve never experienced a moment of emotional synchronicity with a group of random strangers, and I suspect I never will.

    It’s one of the things I love about Robert Altman’s SHORT CUTS, which is basically like MAGNOLIA if you took all that crap out of it. It’s a bunch of characters who interact with each other and effect each others’ lives in important ways… only none of them have the perspective to realize any of this, have no idea who they’ve effected or who has effected them, and don’t necessarily come out of it with some great spiritual catharsis. It posits an idea that I kinda like, which is: maybe we’re all connected, but so what?

  42. As Stu would say, all this MAGNOLIA talk is why we have a forum.

    As for THE MASTER, PTA missed a marketing opportunity by not advertizing this with the Masters golf tournament. Confuse those old white men!

    also if THE MASTER, criticized by some as awards bait, does well and score truckloads of awards and Oscar nominations….does this mean it’s a Master Baiter?

  43. “…create the illusion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.” for me pretty much sums up PTA’s entire output. Magnolia was a strange experience since it really seemed as though I should have been feeling SOMETHING (the way the score crescendoed every five minutes tipped me off) but I just didn’t give a shit. This is unusual since I’m usually a giant pussy that gets all teary-eyed at the slightest provocation – I cried when Data’s daughter died on Star Trek and they were both robots. And don’t even get me started on UP, just thinking about that movie puts a lump in my throat.

    Anderson is undoubtedly a very smart guy, but I get the impression that he really only understands people on an intellectual level. His characters all seem like really good simulations of people rather than actual people. They would fail the Voight-Kampff, in my opinion.

  44. Mode7,

    It’s funny you say that, because I actually see Anderson as maybe overly emotional view of human beings, as opposed to an intellectual one. Like, to the point where I’ve wondered if he’s bi-polar. Every one of his films since after BOOGIE NIGHTS seems to wildly vacillate between emotional extremes. Everything is either a manic high or soul-crushing low. One of the things that turns me off about MAGNOLIA (which I would say is a film I like overall, at least in terms of technical appreciation) is that I watch those characters and I don’t relate to them because I just don’t have extreme emotions all the time like those people do.

  45. I think in a way we actually kind of agree, except that my take on it is that he puts overly emotional people up there on the screen because that’s how he sees other human beings, not because that’s who he actually is. I get the feeling there is very little of PTA in the characters he writes, just the end result of keen observation and a firm grasp of psychology. At a certain point an artist has to empathize with the characters they create and I think this is where PTA falls short – he just hasn’t got it in him.

  46. I pretty much love PT Anderson, ever since seeing BOOGIE NIGHTS fourteen years ago or whatever it was. Anyone whose worst movie is MAGNOLIA is doing a pretty good job I’d say.

    But this is his worst movie now. The acting’s great, it’s shot great, but either the script was a mess or there’s 25 minutes of cut footage that I’d like to see sometime.

    So Freddie’s a piece of shit, basically, but although we see him wise up and give up on the cult, he’d never hit any particular low beforehand (at least no worse than his time in the service) that would give us in the audience any sort of satisfaction. Is Freddie finally woken up by that ridiculous “Pigeon Post” speech? If so the punch doesn’t really land. And what’s with the “unpublished work?” The Amy Adams sink handjob that doesn’t really address much that’s shown in the film? What’s the purpose of the daughter?

    So, all right, I’m willing to hear other opinions but this was a beautifully filmed stinker. It’s okay, all the great directors have one now and then, but hopefully it will light a fire under PTA’s ass to direct something again before 2017.

  47. Also, was that next-to-last scene meant to evoke the ending of THE LONG GOODBYE?

  48. The Original... Paul

    October 2nd, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Yeah, there’s a few interesting-looking films coming out, both in multiplexes (“Looper”) and in the art film world, so I’m gonna give “The Master” a miss. Sorry.

  49. Keep us updated, Paul.

  50. I do gotta admit that PTA still has pull with me. I’m gonna go see his goddamn new movies in the theatre no matter what, due to my love of his early works and due to, you know, being part of the culture and, most importantly, due to not being Paul.

    Even if you’re not a fan, I think you’d concede there’s at least one moment in each of his films that tries damn hard, sometimes with too much build-up & meandering around it, to take your breath away, earning your attention &, in most cases, your ticket money —
    the moment we have to decide with Don Cheadle whether to take the money after the serendipitous tragedy of the failed hold-up in BOOGIE NIGHTS,
    Ricky Jay narrating the freaky intro in MAGNOLIA,
    TJ Mackey’s collision with reality & his own misogyny in MAGNOLIA,
    or Donnie Fisher’s “I have love to give” confessions,
    Adam Sandler with a motherfucking tire iron in PDL,
    maybe “I drink your milkshake” in TWBB (very overrated movie),
    can’t remember HARD 8 well enough at the moment to list one from that movie,
    and the “processing” confrontation in THE MASTER or any scene where PSH is acting his ass off, which is all the scenes, as he’s trying to grow a rose in the crack of the barren boring sidewalk that is PTA’s latest script.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    October 3rd, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Not to be a dick, Paul, but I hated LOOPER. If you go in expecting SURROGATES rather than 12 MONKEYS you might be pleasantly surprised.

  52. “Everything is connected” was a marketing tagline. Does the film ever state that theme such manner? I don’t remember. But I don’t think a movie should be faulted for it’s poster. It’s usually the marketing department that comes up with that stuff.

    Anyway, every storyline touches common thematic ground. All the characters need a wake-up call, which is delivered in the end. I don’t see why the separate storylines would need an stronger connection than that. I think you people are too much concentrating on the marketing aspects of a film.

    BTW, I think it’s pretty easy to point out the reason a lot of people don’t connect wit PTA’s films: Almost all of his characters are miserable people. Like, really really miserable. A lot of people have a hard time connecting with miserable movie characters. It’s completely different from most movies, where you have a normal character, who just happens to go through miserable circumstances. John McClane goes through a lot of misery, but he is not a miserable person.

    In PTA’s films the characters are victims of their perception of the world. They are not acutely suffering of misery because of exterior circumstances. They have just been raised bad, without the kind of love that a child should have. They are misguided losers. They are deceiving themselves, either knowingly, or unknowingly. They are angry at others, and especially angry at themselves. Some of these characters might even seem prideful and self-satisfied, like Daniel Plainview, but in reality they hate themselves.

    I’ve known a lot of people like that in my life. The world is full of people like that. So it’s relatable to me. PTA has a lot of affection towards seriously flawed characters. A lot of audience members don’t have that affection.

    Magnolia is one of the handful of movies that have ever made me cry. PTA is one of the greatest filmmakers I have ever seen. And I don’t think he will ever enjoy mainstream success, because he loves the kind of characters that most people hate.

  53. Magnolia has great moments, but it’s not a great movie. It’s too fuckin’ self-indulgent, too aware of it’s SUPER-IMPORTANT MESSAGES, too much everything after awhile. It’s three hours of people losing their shit, with a throbbing tense soundtrack so prominent that Hans Zimmer would tell PTA to tone it down a notch. The Master is just the inevitable conclusion of PTA’s race to godhood. It’s a perfectly-directed film at the expense of being a good movie.

    The cult of PTA believe him to be God. Unfortunately, one of the members of that cult is Paul Thomas Anderson himself.

  54. I actually am glad you’ll keep watching, Mouth. PTA is one of a handful of directors that I feel oddly, and stupidly, protective of. It’s hard to defend this script but I just want to be like, “come on guys, it wasn’t that bad, look at the pretty pictures, boy Joaquin Phoenix sure played an excellent dirtbag, it might not have been good but at least it wasn’t boring,” etc…

  55. [“It’s a masterpiece, if you don’t get it you’re dumb, why don’t you go see some mainstream movie like whatever that one movie is called, the one that you like, I don’t know the name because I don’t watch that kind of crap or know what it is.”]

    I simply found it a bore. There wasn’t enough narrative in this tale to guarantee a running time of two hours and 30 minutes.

    And frankly, I find it disgusting that you set out to insult anyone who might disagree with your opinion of this film by calling them “dumb” at the beginning of your article.

  56. Check out ole “Reading Comprehension Rosie.” Rosie the Ripper.

    Vern was clearly pre-addressing the presumed expectations of most “reviews & comments,” as he stated in the opening:

    As I start writing this I haven’t read any reviews or comments on THE MASTER yet, but I’m betting there’s alot of this:”

    He’s mentioned on many previous occasions that he wades into the cesspool underlining IMDB, aintitcool, etc., and so he and everyone here are aware of the likelihood of the existence of his #1/#2 dichotomy of reactions to THE MASTER. It has nothing to do with insulting those who would disagree; it’s merely an observant summation of the current sociological pattern of internet movie talkbackers vis-à-vis an obviously polarizing major film.

  57. You mean we’ve gotta read every single little word now before we’re allowed to become outraged? Can’t I just pick and choose the ones I like?

  58. How dare Mr. Majestyk call all of us “little” and “outraged”!

  59. Now I’m not sure if I’m the dense one, and Rosie was being facetious. Very dryly facetious.

    So I shouldn’t be so harsh. Either way, she has a right to her opinion, especially since she agrees with me on how boring THE MASTER is.

  60. I finally got around to seeing this, and I’m not sure what the difference is between this and THERE WILL BE BLOOD, why that one gets the thumbs up and this gets some dirty looks. They’re both long, meandering, exceptionally filmed and performed character pieces without any obvious plot or any kind of satisfying resolution. I like both quite a bit, and I doubt I’ll watch either one again.

  61. Holy fuck.

  62. What? Who died? I only get a “Page Unavailable” when I click on the link.

  63. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Found in his apartment. Apparent O.D.

    Man, the Oscar montage is gonna be a total fuckin’ bummer this year.

  64. Well this ruined my Super Sunday.

  65. Philip Seymour Hoffman is fucking dead? Jesus tap dancing Christ

  66. He fought against the day, and he… did not win today.

  67. I just watched Synecdoche, New York this afternoon. It ends with him saying he must die. Fuck.

  68. Sweet Zombie-Jesus!This was unexpected and certainly most unwelcome news. Another one bites the dust…

  69. I really did like him a lot, I remember a Conan interview with him once about a decade ago that was hilarious

  70. His character in BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOURE DEAD is gonna draw some contrasts in light of this.

  71. Even in the most minor roles the guy would walk in, throw the movie over his shoulder and walk off with it. And when given enough room to really shine, well, see the above review. Holy shit, this sucks. R.I.P.

  72. I thought his Freddy Lounds was one of the few, if not the only improvement RED DRAGON had over MANHUNTER. I watched THE MASTER recently and while it had it’s issues as far as I was concerned, none of them revolved around what he and Phoenix were doing. He did some of his best work with Paul Thomas Anderson, and it’s utterly sad that relationship ended here.

  73. PSH’s character Scotty J is legend. I bought THE MASTER on blu ray about a week or two ago but haven’t gotten around to it. And now it sits by my TV like a fucking ghost. It’s like the Mitch Hedberg album DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOSH in that, I’ve got it and I’ve had it for awhile, but I never listened to it, because if I don’t, then there is always that one little bit of the performer left to discover. Or, more appropriately, Gandolfini’s ENOUGH SAID and his turn in KILLING THEM SOFTLY. I know I’ll get around to all of it, but it’s going to be a bit of a bummer, and even more so if I really enjoy them.

  74. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiQkdprJso0&feature=youtu.be

    I found this conversation with Philip and philosopher Simon Critchley on another site and am feeling compelled to share it wherever I can. It’s very prescient now, and is probably the best explanation of an actor’s motivations that I’ve seen in awhile. All this “dark last days” bullshit being shoveled to us by ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT and TMZ is made utterly irrelevant here, because you could tell he was someone so still utterly engaged with what he was doing. As well as speaking fondly of the roles in the PTA movies and other things like HAPPINESS and SYNEDOCHE, NEW YORK.

    And I really appreciate THE MASTER much more, for how he interpreted the primary relationship of the film. It is sitting there the whole time staring at you in the face, but done in such a way that could easily sidetrack anyone. I’m no exception, but I totally and utterly get it now.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>