Uptight fashion designer is spellbound by a young waitress and pulls her into his wondrous world, then loses interest and goes back to his old bitchy, needy ways. She resents her treatment and finds a way to make herself needed once again. Retired movie star Daniel Day-Lewis appears with upcoming movie star Vicky Krieps (Gutland, The Young Karl Marx) and, as the designer’s sister who runs the business while he stomps around being a fragile genius, Lesley Manville (of most Mike Leigh movies). Katy did not like it. Apparently the third movie of the year in which men are poisoned by mushrooms (I haven’t caught Lady Macbeth yet).

Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope:

Woodcock is reminded more than once of his place in the class system, that he doesn’t own the house in which his House is located; he’s paying rent to a wealthy client landlord. Like an architect, he’s bound to these clients, financially and spiritually: their bodies inspire his designs, and their money allows him to pay the rent. The thematic connection of designers and architects to filmmakers, and thus to the dreaded autobiographical thread, is never too fruitful for critics to follow, and it doesn’t work here at all. But what this project does reveal about Anderson is his interest in turning away from isolated obsessives toward the alchemy of collaboration.

Rewatched on the fancy new blu-ray. I’m not this movie’s biggest fan (some of my favorite film critics revere it) but its depiction of two socially awkward people in love is pretty delightful to watch, and feels more true than your Silver Linings Playbook and other recent attempts. The plot reads like a total Little Miss Sunshine quirk-fest (man finds harmonium on the street, gets robbed and stalked by phone sex operators, buys thousands of puddings in order to make a big romantic gesture) but in practice it never seems lame or trite. This time around I appreciated how the music gets weirder, pinging and scratching, according to Sandler’s frame of mind.

A. Cook:

There is an attractive spontaneity here that is largely absent elsewhere. More importantly it is the first, and perhaps only, Anderson film that feels wholly his. It is much harder to pick out the filmic references this time around. No doubt both Boogie Nights and Magnolia were intense labours of love but this film shows Anderson free from the shackles of Scorsese, Altman and his other inspirations and free from audience and critical expectation.

Junun (2015, P.T. Anderson)

Cool music documentary with emphasis on the music – no narration or explanation, only a few titles and stories. The best story isn’t even related to the album, but a guy who feeds birds from the roof of the fort where they’re recording, and whose family has done so for countless generations.

Shot with a camcorder and a drone. Shye Ben Tzur is a singer, composer and organizer, then there are bunches of great musicians playing great instruments, then there’s Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead sitting engrossed in his guitar/laptop world. Engineer Nigel Godrich comes out regularly to knock noisy pigeons off the sound baffles.

Baffled pigeon:

Drone’s-eye view of bird feeding:


Oddsac (2010, Danny Perez)

Psychedelic imagery with a paint-splatter wash of colors and great music by Animal Collective.

Does it turn into a horror movie at the end, or was it one all along?

Coincidentally the day after I watched this, Perez’s first narrative feature was announced (premiering at Sundance this January). Sign me up.

It feels, accurately, like an adaptation of a long, wordy book, in that it’s a long, wordy movie that crams in characters and investigations and descriptions and dialogues and backstories through its runtime, leaving little breathing room or sense that it’s all adding up to something. And it feels like one of those sprawling PT Anderson ensemble dramas, in that it’s packed to the gills with great actors, some of them never better than here. And it’s faithful to the madcap trailer, in that it contains those lines and comic scenes. And it’s similar to Big Lebowski, in that they’re both quizzically-plotted red-herring comedies featuring addled detectives. But it’s like none of these things, the visuals closer to Anderson’s The Master than I was prepared for, the mood less comic and hopeful. Some of the critic reactions I looked up mention the dark, disillusioned second half of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, a good point of reference. It’s being called the first Pynchon adaptation, but only because nobody (myself included) saw the semi-official Gravity’s Rainbow movies Impolex and Prufstand VII. Random movie references, presumably from the book: a company called Vorhees Kruger, a street called Gummo Marx Way.

This is Joaquin Phoenix’s show, but his cop frenemy Josh Brolin keeps trying to kick his ass and steal it. Also great: Jena Malone as an ex-junkie looking for her husband, Katherine Waterston as Doc’s ex-and-future girlfriend with questionable allegiances, and Martin Short as a depraved dentist. Plus: Martin Donovan, Omar, Eric Roberts, Jonah from Veep, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Hong Chau and Joanna Newsom.

D. Ehrlich:

Anderson has imbued [Joanna Newsom] with a spectral dimension – every conversation she has with Doc sheds light on his isolation, but each of her appearances ends with a cut or camera move that suggests that she was never there, that she isn’t an antidote to his loneliness so much as its most lucid projection.

MZ Seitz, who is “about 90 percent certain [Newsom] is not a figment of anyone’s imagination.”:

Phrases like “peak of his powers” seem contrary to the spirit of the thing. Vice impresses by seeming uninterested in impressing us. Anderson shoots moments as plainly as possible, staging whole scenes in unobtrusive long takes or tight closeups, letting faces, voices and subtle lighting touches do work that fifteen years ago he might’ve tried to accomplish with a virtuoso tracking shot that ended with the camera tilting or whirling or diving into a swimming pool.

G. Kenny:

The movie walks a very particular high wire, soaking in a series of madcap-surreal hijinks in an ambling, agreeable fashion to such an extent that even viewers resistant to demanding “what’s the point” might think “what’s the point.”

D. Edelstein:

It’s actually less coherent than Pynchon, no small feat. It’s not shallow, though. Underneath the surface is a vision of the counterculture fading into the past, at the mercy of the police state and the encroachment of capitalism. But I’m not sure the whole thing jells.

Seitz again:

Something in the way Phoenix regards Brolin … suggest an addled yet fathomless empathy. They get each other. In its way, the relationship between the stoner “detective” who pretends to be a master crime fighter and the meathead cop who sometimes moonlights as an extra on Dragnet is the film’s real great love story, an accidental metaphor for the liberal/conservative, dungarees/suits, blue state/red state divide that’s defined U.S. politics since the Civil War.

A. O’Hehir:

Like Anderson’s other films (and like Pynchon’s other books), Inherent Vice is a quest to find what can’t be found: That moment, somewhere in the past, when the entire American project went off the rails, when the optimism and idealism – of 1783, or 1948, or 1967 – became polluted by darker impulses. As Pynchon’s title suggests, the quest is futile because the American flaw, or the flaw in human nature, was baked in from the beginning.

Long-awaited follow-up to There Will Be Blood has a similar episodic construction – power-hungry man meets someone equally strong-willed but very different, feels he needs to conquer the other man in order to progress. This one doesn’t come together as well, possibly because Philip Seymour Hoffman’s emerging religion is supposed to be similar to Scientology but with hardly any concrete details – the movie dances around its own (and its characters’) intentions.

Joaquin Phoenix is a burn-out ex-navy drifter singularly talented at making harsh alcoholic concoctions from whatever chemicals are around. He and Hoffman are the stars here – the Sunday and Plainview of this movie – and the other actors are almost incidental. Hoffman has a devoted wife (The Muppets star Amy Adams) and a frighteningly lookalike son (Jesse Plemons). Laura Dern has a small role as the family’s host, and later, the only believer to question Hoffman’s shifting rules (drawing rage instead of a reasoned explanation).

The movie is long and sprawling, and has plenty of uniquely wonderful shots. It seems disappointing compared to its predecessor – a movie less explicitly about religion which comes across as more spiritual and insightful.

Slant:

The Master drifts for long expanses, like the wanderer at the heart of the film, running on only the fumes of drama and action… [Phoenix] seems perpetually out of synch with dynamics of the group to which he belongs, and his apparent disinterest in the details of the religion he embraces is probably the best case for the film’s own detachment from the same—a line of reasoning one can accept abstractly without deeming it a virtue.

Plastic Bag (2009, Ramin Bahrani)

An American Beauty plastic bag, dancing with me for twenty minutes. Only this bag’s journey is very well filmed and the bag has the voice of Werner Herzog – two innovations that would have greatly helped the last plastic bag movie I saw, The Green Bag. A blatant environmentalism screed, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it’d have the same ending as Children of Men, but it had the same ending as AI: Artificial Intelligence instead.

The Dirk Diggler Story (1988, PT Anderson)

An actual fake doc, but not a polished one. I thought it was rigged to look amateurish until I read online that it was actually edited on two VCRs by young Anderson. Narrated by PT’s father Ernie Anderson, a big-time TV announcer. It’s nice that he was willing to participate in his 18-year-old son’s movie about pornography, homosexuality and drug addiction. The most fun part of the movie is hearing this straightlaced announcer pronounce titles like “White Sandy Bitches” and “Bone To Be Wild”.

Dirk is explicitly bisexual in this one, but otherwise it hits some familiar plot points from Boogie Nights: Dirk’s drug addiction, his ill-advised recording career, his buddy Reed. There’s less nudity in the short, and it ends with an on-set fatal overdose for Dirk. My favorite bit that didn’t make the feature was a group prayer for God to protect us against premature ejaculation.

Horner (Burt’s character) is played by The Colonel in Boogie Nights, the only actor who returned. Well, Michael “Diggler” Stein had a cameo as “stereo customer”. He turned writer/director after that – his last film starred Andy Dick and Coolio.

Las Hurdes/Land Without Bread (1933, Luis Buñuel)

A half-hour documentary that has been discussed to death – how much of it is real? Can it be considered surrealist? Etc. Taken at face value as a portrait of an extremely poor mountain community, it’s well made, interesting, and too vibrant (and even humorous) to blend in with your average educational short. I still can’t believe they had a donkey killed by bees, and shot a mountain goat then hurled its body off a cliff, all to make points about the difficulty of life in this place. At least they didn’t kill any people on camera, although the narrator may have exaggerated (or undersold, who knows?) their conditions. Was released in ’33, had a French voiceover added in ’35 then a newsreel-toned English voiceover in ’37 – I saw the French version. I assume the bombastic music was on all three versions.

Senses of Cinema calls it “a documentary that posits the impossibility of the documentary, placing the viewer in the uneasy situation of complicity with a cruel camera probing the miseries of the urdanos for our benefit.”

The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1998, Sylvain Chomet)

This 20-minute movie gives me inexpressible joy. It’s a good antidote to the world-weary realism of The Illusionist, back way past the anything-goes surrealism of Triplets of Belleville into a pure comic cartoon world. A starving policeman dresses as a pigeon, barges into a bird-feeding old woman’s house and demands a meal, then does the same all year until she tries to eat him for Christmas dinner. Full of delightful little details (and at least one sad bird death).

The Italian Machine (1976, David Cronenberg)

“Let’s figure it out, Gestapo-style.”
A series of betrayals leading to an obsessed mechanic gaining ownership over a unique motorcycle. Made for TV, so people call each other “meathead” and “turkey”.

Beardy Lionel (Gary McKeehan of The Brood) hears that a collector’s-item motorcycle is in the hands of a collector. This will not stand, so he grabs his buddies (Frank Moore, second-billed in Rabid, and Hardee Lineham who had a cameo in The Dead Zone) and heads over posing as reporters to figure out how to free the bike from the boring rich guy (played by Guy Maddin’s buddy Louis Negin). Lionel sucks at pretending, though, so they’d be screwed if not for Ricardo, a dull cokehead hanger-on at Negin’s house who helps them out. Cronie’s fascination with automotive machinery peaked early with this and Fast Company, then came back with a brief vengeance with Crash.

Our beardy hero first meets Louis Negin:

Bottle Rocket (1992, Wes Anderson)

Cute sketch, with the Wilson brothers and Bob from the Bottle Rocket feature, plus the gun demo scene shot exactly the same way (just in black and white). They’re budding criminals, robbing Luke’s house then a book/video store, taking one guy’s wallet. No Inez, Futureman, Kumar or James Caan.

Something Happened (1987, Roy Andersson)

An AIDS lesson with didactic narration, illustrated with Andersson’s expertly composed setups of depressed-looking white people. One particular pale balding guy is seen a few times. It ends up less depressing than World of Glory, at least. Commissioned as an educational short but cancelled for being too dark

Within The Woods (1978, Sam Raimi)

Ah, the ol’ Indian burial ground. “Don’t worry about it,” says Bruce Campbell, “You’re only cursed by the evil spirits if you violate the graves of the dead. We’re just gonna be eating hot dogs.” Then he immediately violates a grave of the dead. Nice test run for The Evil Dead, with many elements already in place, like the the famous monster’s-pov long running shot, girls being attacked by trees, evil lurking in the cellar, knifing your friend as he walks in the door because you thought he was a demon, and of course, “JOIN US”. Hard to make out the finer points of the film since this was the grossest, fuzziest, lowest-ass-quality bootleg video I’ve ever seen.

Clockwork (1978, Sam Raimi)

Woman at home is stalked by jittery creeper (Scott Spiegel, director of From Dusk Till Dawn 2). He sticks his hands through her crepe-paper bedroom door, stabs her to death, but she stabs him back, also to death. It’s not much in the way of a story, but Raimi already has a good grip on the editing and camera skills for making decent horror. How did 19-year-old Raimi get his lead actress to take her clothes off in his 8mm movie?

Sonata For Hitler (1979, Aleksandr Sokurov)

Music video of stock footage from pre-WWII Germany stuck inside a ragged-edged frame surrounded by numbers and sprocket holes. Halfway through, the music mostly fades away, replaced with foreboding sound effects.

Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers (2001, Simonsson & Nilsson)

Drummers break into an apartment, play catchy beats in the kitchen and bathroom, with a slow bedroom number in between, then a destructive romp through the living room. But just as they finish, the inhabitants return. Clever and fun, and just the thing that probably should not have been extended into a two-hour feature.

Wowie-hell, a super awesome movie.

D-D Lewis is Plainview, ruthless oilman and master manipulator who worked hard to get rich and aims to get richer and nobody better get in his way. Paul Sunday Dano (the kid from L.I.E., the vow-of-silence brother in L.M. Sunshine) plans to start a church and get rich off religion and nobody better get in his way. They get plenty in each other’s way but little Sunday is no match for the awesomely awesome awesomeness of fuckin Plainview, the scariest man in the movies. There is, finally, blood, but before it shows up, TWWB has already out-horrored this year’s batch of horrors.

C. Jerry Kutner:

There Will Be Blood is a well-shot, well-acted film with epic ambitions, but where it falls shortest is in its attempt to link Plainview to the greed and folly of the Reagan/Bush years. All the obvious elements are there – oil, blood, unfettered dog-eat-dog capitalism, and its unholy alliance with organized religion – but unlike, say, Chinatown or even Citizen Kane, There Will Be Blood never quite connects the dots. Thus, politically speaking, Anderson’s latest film fails to move beyond the specific to the universal. It remains a story about aberrant individuals, setting us up for some great unexpected insight about community and our present-day world that it never delivers.

Manohla Dargis:

It’s an origin story of sorts. The opening images of desert hills and a droning electronic chord allude to the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose murderous apes are part of a Darwinian continuum with Daniel Plainview.

Glenn Kenny:

The “blowing” of this gusher causes H.W.’s deafness (conveyed in one of the few portions of the movie which adopt the subjective point of view, e.g. the dropping out of the soundtrack as Plainview rescues the boy and carries him to safety), and renders him alien to Plainview. H.W. has been the only person Plainview has ever really confided in. Now he can’t communicate with him. Plainview’s exchange with his right hand man Fletcher Hamilton (Cieran Hinds) is telling in a number of ways. “Is H.W. okay?” Fletcher asks. “No, he’s not okay,” Plainview says. Soon, he looks again at Fletcher. “What are you so miserable about? We’ve got an ocean of oil under our feet…and only I can get at it!” Note the use of the first person singular here. Of course it suggests Plainview’s selfishness, callousness…but it also suggests a sundered partnership. Had H.W. been standing with Plainview and Fletcher, uninjured and whole, Plainview would have been speaking to H.W., and he would have said “we.”

Michael Koresky:

For all its measured pacing, exquisitely framed long takes and parched period beauty, There Will Be Blood finally cannot contain the reservoirs of Day-Lewis’s intense melancholy. Not so much a slow burn as a damning accumulation of moments, unforgiving in their spareness, the film seems structured like a two-and-a-half-hour self-denial capped by a horribly therapeutic self-actualization.