Film Review : Inherent Vice (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 69%
Academy Award Nominations for Best Costume Design and Dapated Screenplay

Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsome, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, ERic Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Michael K. Williams, Hong Chau, Jena Malone, and Martin Dew

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

It’s been just over two weeks since my last post. Apologies for that. My viewing habits happen to be changing week to week but good news is that I should have a few more posts coming up after I finish seeing the Oscar nominated films. I also may write up an actual post on the Oscar nominations but I’m debating it because I’ve honestly stopped caring about the show. Anyway, thanks for reading as always.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON HAS A NEW FILM OUT! YES!

Being my favorite living director right now, I have been excited for this film while also actively avoiding anything related to the film. I wanted to go into this thing fresh. Turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I watched the trailer or how many articles I read, I would have left the theater confused either way. I honestly have no clue what the hell happened in this film. Now, normally this would be a negative. Normally, this would be an indication that the screenplay was weak, disjointed, or too complex. That isn’t the case for this film. I heard and understood every single line of dialogue in the film. I just don’t know what most of it means. Sure, the film is complex and offers about a thousand different characters with their own connections with the story. Some of these characters appear in the beginning and disappear for two hours only to be revealed at the end as a major plot device. Some of these characters only grace their presence once and after the scene changes they’re gone. I don’t have a problem with too many characters. Hell, Magnolia is one of my favorite films of all time and there are just as many characters in that as this. What makes this such a hard watch is simple, we experience the film like our main protagonist Doc Sportello experiences it, in a very foggy haze. It’s this haze that makes things murky and confusing. There is nothing wrong with that in my mind. PTA has crafted a film that even he doesn’t understand. Seriously, he said that in an interview with Marc Maron. While I haven’t read the source material, he states that a lot of the films dialogue and story arc is just how Thomas Pynchon wrote it in his book. Pynchon, who is one of the most unique writers of the last thirty years, had his book translated into film beautifully by PTA. The only problem with that is how it affected the audience which was a mixed bag.

I had two reactions during the two and a half hour run length of the film. The first half I was actively trying to keep up with the story and understand everything that was happening. I wasn’t enjoying the film that much. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a grasp on the significance of each character or that Joanna Newsome, who acted as the narrator of the film as well as a friend to Doc, would keep chiming in with Pynchon jargon. Don’t get me wrong, Newsome was great in this, and I liked the narration. It just didn’t help with the frustration of trying to figure out what’s going on. Halfway through the movie I decided to give up and just let the amazing cinematography, acting, and 70’s vibes wash over me. I should have done that from the beginning because I enjoyed the film so much more.

Joaquin Phoenix plays our protagonist Doc, a weed smoking private eye who is tasked to put this puzzle of a story in the right pieces. I’m not even sure if he does by the end or if everything that he went through was even real. PTA did a fantastic job of making the film feel like you just smoked a huge doober. The cast is overbearing at times. Del Toro, Short, Witherspoon, Wilson, and Roberts aren’t in the film enough. This is all Phoenix, Brolin, and Waterston. Josh Brolin plays Bigfoot, a longtime acquaintance of Doc and also the person who wants to see Doc arrested. Waterston plays Doc’s ex ladyfriend whom has gone missing. We see her in flashbacks and sporadically through the film but she’s incredible whenever we do. The last scene we see her in is especially impressive as it’s a long, almost seven minute take with just her and Doc talking, and then some. The comedy comes mostly from Brolin, Phoenix, and a hilarious Martin Short. The cast kicked ass is what I’m saying.

Obviously I’m going to have to see this again. Even if I wasn’t confused I would see it again given that it’s a film by a living, and young, legend of cinema. There’s just something about PTA’s films where these whole other chambers reveal themselves and open up on repeat viewings. This review is a lot shorter than what I expected a PTA review would be but honestly, I can’t talk much about what I don’t understand. I’ll say this though, there is literally nothing like a Paul Thomas Anderson film. It’s a strange, hypnotic, hysterical, haze of a film that demands repeat viewings and crackpot fan theories. There are scenes in this film that are bizarre and puzzling mixed in with scenes that are just flat out outrageous and funny. It’s always a fun time in the cinema with PTA.

Plus, I don’t mean to spoil anything, but at one point Josh Brolin tells Doc that he smells like a patchouli fart. That’s hilarious. Damn hippies.

4/5




THIS DAY IS HERE! Inherent Vice trailer released!

The day has finally come. I can now stop typing “Inherent Vice trailer” into youtube every other day. Now that I’ve seen it, I will not watch it again so I can go into this thing as blind as humanly possible. I did get thrown off at first by the vibe. The last two films were so dark and complex and this seems more like a mix between Boogie Nights and American Hustle. Josh Brolin yelling broken Mandarin is hilarious and it seems like Phoenix is even more physical than his role in The Master. The film seems more erotic and funny than his previous efforts, but I’ll watch literally anything regardless of subject matter if it was written and directed by aul Thomas Anderson. He’s my favorite director living today and in my top three of all time. I can’t fucking wait for this.

The New York Film Festival Preview!

Friday night is opening night of the NYFF! I already grabbed my ticket for “Gone Girl” premier which has me pretty fucking excited. I’m going to try to grab cheaper tickets for “Inherent Vice” and “Birdman” but it’s looking like I’ll only be seeing one of the big three. I am however going to try to pick up some tickets to some lesser known films during the next three weeks. I may be somewhat broke, but I’m hoping to see three or four films this year to go along with the Gone Girl premier. In case any of you are near the tri-state area and are thinking about attending this years festival like I am, here are, along with the big three, my most inticiapated films at the 2014 NYFF!

Gone Girl

Fincher is one of the first directors to really get me into film. I grew up being blown away by “Fight Club” and even though my liking for the film has subsided (I still like the film, just not as much as I did in High School), his filmography is filled with incredible works. Zodiac and Se7en are two of the darkest and bone chilling films I’m seen in mainstream film and that credit goes to Fincher. His ability to invoke dread and suspense through perfectly lit backgrounds has always impressed me. Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo were huge disappointments but this new film looks like a return to form for the director. I can’t wait for Friday.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director. Every single thing he has made is a damn masterpiece. If I wasn’t such a broke bastard I would be 1st in line to see his new film, a film which I know nothing about. I won’t watch the trailer if one ever comes out. I won’t look at the production photos that leaked. The image above is the only thing I know about the film besides the cast. I like it this way. I’d rather just be immersed in his films rather than wait for parts I liked from the trailer. I can’t imagine a world in which I’d like a film better than There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, or The Master but the fact that I know he can out do himself only cements him as the next coming of Kubrick.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I love depressing films. Naturally, this fact means that the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu have struck a particular chord with me. When I heard that he was making a film that would star Michael Keaton as an out of work actor who used to play a super hero called Birdman and that the whacked out, bizarre, hysterical film would be edited in a way that it looked like it was done in one shot, well, I fell love. I fell in love with the idea. The film is closing out the festival and snagging tickets will be hard. I’m going to try though. Keaton looks like he might grab an Oscar nomination and the whole film looks bonkers. My kind of film.

Others that seem interesting…

Citizenfour

A documentary about Edward Snowden from director Laura Poitras. The Oscar nominated documentarian flew to Hong Kon to interview Snowden and while she was there, captured the unfolding of what we know as the life of Edward Snowden. The film is apparently a once in a lifetime film that captures the reaction of the world and Snowden as he continues his quest for freedom.

’71

Tells the story of an Irish soldier who was abandoned by his unit during the riots of 1971 in Belfast. The film looks like a tense action thriller and has tickets available right now. This is one that is definitely doable as far as price and ticket availability goes. It helps that it looks pretty intense as well. The film stars Jack O’Connell.

Foxcatcher

The film has made its round on the national/international film festival circuit and seems to be finding its final resting place before official release at NYFF. The film, lauded by some, shunned by others, offers without a doubt a lock for Best Actor during the academy awards with Steve Carell playing the insanely creepy John du Pont. Some of you may know the true story behind the film but for those who don’t I’m not going to spoil anything. I would also avoid the trailer because it seems to give away too much. Bennett Miller knocked it out of the park with his first two films, Moneyball and Capote, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one. The film is going to be playing towards the end of the festival.

Hill of Freedom

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema. Sang soo Hong may not be as well known as his Korean contemporaries but his films such as “Woman on the Beach” and “In Another Country” were both well received. Having not see either of those films, this may be as good a starting point as any. The film is shot in a frenzy of non linear scenes as our protagonist tries to sort out letters sent to her from her lover after she drops them. She is sorting the chronology and the viewer is given the same task. I love the concept.

Map to the Stars

Cronenberg has always been hit or miss with me. I love History of Violence and Videodrome but found Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method to be somewhat disappointing. However, the man is a daring filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from doing something out of the ordinary or considered taboo. I like striving for something different which is why I’m interested in this. The cast includes Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska. The story is about a hollywood family and the lives that are lived within that family.

Classic Review : Hard Eight aka Sydney (1996)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring – Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson

John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing much money. Under Sydney’s fatherly tutelage, John becomes a successful small-time professional gambler, and all is well, until he falls for Clementine, a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker.

This may be the first time on this website that I’ve mentioned my adoration for Paul Thomas Anderson. I’ll cut to the chase. I think he’s the best working director in the business and I honestly believe he is the second coming of Stanley Kubrick. I’ve seen Magnolia and There Will Be Blood over ten times each and The Master, while confusing and frustrating at first, is now one of my favorite films of the last five years. From the composition of his shots to the construction of his screenplays, I just don’t think there is another director that can keep up with him. That being said, I enjoyed the shit out of the only film of his I have yet to see until tonight.

Phillip Baker Hall plays Sydney and plays him well. PTA crafted a very intimate and deep character study of the man named Sydney. At first you really can’t get a grip on why he is helping out this young kid who is face down in his hands outside of a waffle house. He takes the kid, played well by John C. Reilly, and basically teaches him how to make money in the casino business. What follows is roller coaster of a film that really gets into fact that our past lives can always come back up given the right circumstances.

Phillip Baker Hall is one of my favorite actors. I thought he was the best part of Magnolia and is always showing up in great films as supporting characters who completely steal the scenes they are in. I still think his work as Jimmy Gator in Magnolia is his best work but he was fantastic in this. As the leading man, he carries the entire film from start to finish. We see his transformation coming from absolutely nowhere due to his complete lack of hard emotion and nearly deadpan delivery of all his lines. If you look hard enough though, you can see a brooding sadness behind his eyes at all times. It’s truly a wonderful performance. Paltrow and Sam Jackson play their characters very well and the ending was earned and lasting.

Seeing the first film of my favorite director after all these years was an interesting experience and I’m going to have to revisit it again. It reminds me of watching Blood Simple and realizing that the Coen brothers have been talented since they first put a camera on somebody. The same can be said of PTA. He’s still a young guy and will hopefully be making flawless cinema for decades to come.

4.5/5



Film Review : Amour (2012)

IMDB Score – 7.8
RT Score – 93 %

Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Award Nominee for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture
Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or Winner

…and there I sat staring at my television.

This is the third time this has happened to me after viewing one of Michael Haneke’s films. The other two films being Cache and The Piano Teacher. This film however left a different lasting effect on me. The film tells the story of an elderly couple trying to get through life after after Anne, played stunningly by Emmanuelle Riva, suffers a stroke. Jean-Louis Trintignant gies a tour de force portrayal as Anne’s husband Georges who now has to care for her.

Like most of Haneke’s films, there really isn’t a lot to say about Amour. His films are the essence of emotion for me. He may just be the best director living today. I’m a self acclaimed Paul Thomas Anderson fanboy but I can’t possibly choose between the two. They are different and yet make films that leave such a lasting impression on the viewer. Amour is exactly about the films title, love. Riva and Trintignant put entire lifetimes worth of experiences and emotions into their characters and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see them together. I’ve always been able to forget that what I’m seeing on the screen is a film and tell myself not to be too upset or angry with the people I’m watching, but it was hard with this one. The realism just seeps through and as a person with a grandfather going through the exact same thing Anne was going through in the film, it was a tough but important watch.

This is an important film. It’s a complete portrayal of the bounds humans go through to care for the people they love. Haneke holds nothing back. It’s a personal film unlike any other really. I’m actually happy this film lost the Best Picture award to Argo last year because this film really wasn’t in the same league as the others. It’s a film that requires patience and a strong will to get through but rewards the viewer with such a real experience into what thousands of people go through every day. How can you compare that to films about a tiger in a boat or a murderous slave hellbent on revenge?

You just can’t.

5/5