This week at Filmotomy we are celebrating Paul Thomas Anderson and the brilliant films he’s made over the last 20 years. I myself have been a big fan of his since I first saw Boogie Nights sometime in the late 1990s. I thought it was bold and entertaining as hell. Then I saw Magnolia and knew right then and there that he was a genius and a top-notch filmmaker who I knew I’d be enjoying his films for a long long time.
Nowit’s 2018, and he’s proven me right. His films may be getting more obtuse, but they’re no less enjoyable. Even my least favorite film of his, 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love is a fun watch. So now I feel it’s time to reveal what my favorites are of his based on the different film categories.
Favorite Cinematography – There Will Be Blood (2007)
One of the most intense looking films I’ve ever seen, every frame is shot with such precision from DP Robert Elswit, who won the Oscar for Best Cinematography over such other classic films like No Country for Old Men and Atonement. My favorite image is when the oil is shooting up from the ground, and the sun has gone down and we see Daniel Plainview starring at the oil and the fire and realizing he’s struck black gold.
Favorite Female Performance – Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights (1997)
Always a consummate professional, Julianne Moore has given film fans some great performances, and what she brings in Boogie Nights is one of the best. She has to balance playing a porn actress with being a motherly figure to Mark Wahlberg’s character, and she comes across as being confident and utterly lost.
Favorite Male Performance – Joaquin Phoenix, The Master (2012)
There is no doubt that Joaquin Phoenix has been one of the best actors in film over the last 20 years, and he shines brightly as Freddie Quell in The Master. He plays Freddie as a mixed-up, alcoholic soldier with PTSD who falls for the righteously evil Lancaster Dodd (who is essentially playing L. Ron Hubbard, who started up the religious cult of Scientology). I like how in The Master, Joaquin Phoenix is constantly smirking and giving his best Elvis Presley curled upper lip face.
Favorite Screenplay – Magnolia (1999)
I have absolutely no idea how the hell Paul Thomas Anderson came up with this story, but he did, and on paper, this shouldn’t work, but on film, it works, and it works brilliantly. It’s been described as a mosaic, and that’s accurate, because he weaves multi-storylines into a 3-hour epic drama about broken people searching for answers to their lives and not always getting what they’re looking for. The dialogue from Tom Cruise as he’s talking about “respect the cock and tame the cunt” definitely seems “problematic” now in during this “me too” movement year, but in the context of the year 1999, and how society was back then, it was not only not a problem, but it was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, alongside other great films like The Sixth Sense and Being John Malkovich.
Favorite Film – Inherent Vice (2014)
I think I can sum up why of all PTA’s films, Inherent Vice is my favorite. It’s just fun! It doesn’t take itself seriously, and that’s not something I can usually say about a PTA film. Inherent Vice lets loose and comes off almost completely from the mind and perspective of it’s main character, Larry “Doc” Sportello, played by Joaquin Phoenix. He’s a private investigator who gets involved with some very shady people in a hazy-lazy drug-fueled 1970s Los Angeles. I don’t always know exactly what’s going on in the film, but I know I don’t have to because that’s not PTA’s main intent. He wants you to get lost in the story, just as Doc is, and keeping up is a pointless endeavor. I just love to sit back and get a buzz from the drug-fueled story. Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen eating a chocolate covered frozen banana is the MVP of the film – LOL.
Now that you’ve seen mine, please tell me what are your picks in these 5 categories. Please leave a comment below. Thank you.