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The Good, The Bad, and the Badass: Paul Thomas Anderson

Aug. 5, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

In a new on-going series on JoBlo.com, we’re going to examine and dissect the work of some of the most exciting people working in films today. Actors, writers, directors, composers, you name it, we’ll take a look at their work. In future weeks, we’re going to take suggestions from our readers, but to kick things off we decided to look at a director who- while certainly divisive- is without a doubt one of the most exciting directors of our generation.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Anderson is part of a group of directors to emerge in the mid-nineties from film festival circuit. Like David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jonze, David Fincher (well- actually, his first movies never really played the circuit, but he’s certainly a contemporary), Anderson first blew on to the scene with 1996’s HARD EIGHT. Compared to his later films, HARD EIGHT seems a minor work, the film sat on the shelf two years while Anderson battled the distributor- Rysher Entertainment- over what cut to release. While HARD EIGHT eventually made it to Cannes in the “un certain regard” section, things didn’t really pick up for Anderson until his next film- BOOGIE NIGHTS- which put him on the map as one of the great contemporary directors.

Anderson’s filmography can be divided into two distinct halves. The first part of his career, up to PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, seems defined by the influence of auteurs like Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, and Robert Altman, with his sprawling multi-character narratives, and energy. The second half, starting with THERE WILL BE BLOOD, seems more closely patterned on the works of someone like Terrence Malick, although it could be argued that his later (possibly) Malick-inspired movies are better than anything Malick’s done since his heyday in the seventies. Stanley Kubrick also seems to be a major influence.

His best film

BOOGIE NIGHTS. I know, I know. Most of you would have chosen THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Certainly, there’s no arguing the fact that it’s a great movie, but to me BOOGIE NIGHTS will always be the jewel in Anderson’s filmography. I was only about 15 when the film came out, and for all I knew it was just “that movie about porn with Marky Mark.” I eventually saw it on Pay TV, and really- the only reason I was interested was for the promise of Julianne Moore and Heather Graham naked. Hormones. The movie itself confounded me, but then a funny thing started to happen. Whenever I would come across it on The Movie Network (the Canadian HBO) I would stop and watch part of it. Then I taped it, and would watch certain scenes over and over again, like Amber Waves’ fake Dirk Diggler documentary or the entire “Long Way Down (One Last Thing)” sequence. I really started appreciating the craft behind the film, and as I got a little older, I started to realize that this wasn’t just a movie. It was art.

I’d say that nowadays, BOOGIE NIGHTS probably ranks in my top 5 favorite movies of all time, and it’s one that I re-watch pretty much every year (along with Martin Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS’ which was obviously a major influence on Anderson). I never, ever get tired of BOOGIE NIGHTS, and whenever I’m feeling uninspired, it reignites my love of film as an art. It’s a masterpiece that stands out in a filmography that has more than one masterpiece. I should also mention that Burt Reynolds’ was robbed of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he richly deserved for his portrayal of the fatherly porn director Jack Horner (even if his behind-the-scenes clashes with Anderson meant they’d never work together again).

His most underrated film

Easily MAGNOLIA. My expectations for this movie were sky high back in 1999, and I went to see it in theaters opening day. I immediately loved it, even if it was far different than what I was expecting. A lot of critics and fans were put off by it, saying it was pretentious. Kevin Smith- back when his opinion really meant something- was outspoken in his hatred of it. While sure, the “it’s raining frogs” ending is certainly a little out-there, it’s nonetheless a striking image in a film full of them. However, it’s the performances that make MAGNOLIA, particularly Tom Cruise in a major departure (for the time) as self-help guru Frank T.J Mackey, who hides the abandonment issues he harbors behind a wall of affected misogyny. His final confrontation with his dying father, played by Jason Robards Jr. (who actually died of cancer shortly after the film’s release) is one of the most nakedly emotional, heart-wrenching scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie. Cruise was absolutely robbed of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he richly deserved (in favor of Michael Caine’s “cute” performance in CIDER HOUSE RULES).

His most overrated film

“Overrated” for Anderson is a relative term. My choice is probably THE MASTER, even if, coming from a marginally less successful director, it would have been considered a career highlight. Again, this is a relative term, as THE MASTER is still an 8/10 in a filmography full of 9s and 10s. THE MASTER is perfect in many ways. Visually it’s striking, with Anderson’s innovative use of 70mm film being particularly memorable. The performances are likewise excellent, with Joaquin Phoenix being immediately forgiven for the I’M STILL HERE debacle thanks to his superlative acting. Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman is similarly great. But, if it has a failing, it’s the story. An examination of cults of personality (being based on Scientology) is interesting, but after a while the story stars to peter out, especially if compared to Daniel Day-Lewis’ CITIZEN KANE like rise and fall in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, or the epic storytelling in MAGNOLIA and BOOGIE NIGHTS. Even PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is more affecting.

His most memorable moment

This is a hard one. Most people would choose Daniel Plainview’s “I’ve abandoned my son” meltdown in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. But for me, it has to be the whole "Long Way Down (One Last Thing) section from BOOGIE NIGHTS, as Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly (my favorite performance in the film after Burt Reynolds) and Thomas Jane rip off Alfred Molina's drug-addled Hollywood big shot.

What's next?!

Anderson usually takes several years off between movies, but he’s already hard at work on his next film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s INHERENT VICE, re-teaming him with Joaquin Phoenix. It’s a sprawling private-eye tale set amidst the late-sixties counterculture movement.

My Five Favorites

1. BOOGIE NIGHTS
2. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
3. MAGNOLIA
4. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE
5. THE MASTER

What are your favorite Anderson films? Least faves? Best moments from his movies? Strike back below!

Extra Tidbit: Who should we tackle next?
Source: JoBlo.com

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7:36AM on 08/05/2013
Wow, what a cool article!
Wow, what a cool article!
Your Reply:



4:53AM on 08/05/2013

Awesome new series. Definitely will be looking forward to the next.

Tackle David Fincher or Quentin Tarantino next!
Tackle David Fincher or Quentin Tarantino next!
Your Reply:



12:46AM on 08/05/2013
Magnolia is my favourite film from him, with There Will Be Blood and Boogie Night fighting it out for second. I totally agree that The Master is overrated. Hated that flick.
Magnolia is my favourite film from him, with There Will Be Blood and Boogie Night fighting it out for second. I totally agree that The Master is overrated. Hated that flick.
Your Reply:



6:13AM on 08/05/2013

Digging the new column

Awesome stuff guys!
Awesome stuff guys!
Your Reply:



4:33AM on 08/05/2013
Great idea for a new column. Without a doubt the best director named Paul Anderson in the biz (though there really isn't much competition).
Great idea for a new column. Without a doubt the best director named Paul Anderson in the biz (though there really isn't much competition).
Your Reply:



9:51PM on 08/05/2013

Keep the Anderson train running

Do Wes Anderson next.
Do Wes Anderson next.
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5:17PM on 08/05/2013

nice new segment

there was something that hypnotized me with there will be blood. Everyone else i talk to about it, says it was boring, and I think to myself, did they see the same movie i did? Day-Lewis killed it in that movie.
there was something that hypnotized me with there will be blood. Everyone else i talk to about it, says it was boring, and I think to myself, did they see the same movie i did? Day-Lewis killed it in that movie.
Your Reply:



3:31PM on 08/05/2013
cool read :) Anderson is about as good as it gets with modern cinema... I like this new column, I was hesitant at first thinking that it would be a rating of the filmmaker as either good, bad or bad ass (bad ass being my least favorite term when judging film, but I know how shmoes are) but I dig this.
cool read :) Anderson is about as good as it gets with modern cinema... I like this new column, I was hesitant at first thinking that it would be a rating of the filmmaker as either good, bad or bad ass (bad ass being my least favorite term when judging film, but I know how shmoes are) but I dig this.
Your Reply:



+2
9:51PM on 08/05/2013

Great idea

I love the way you've categorized things for this series, keep it up. Although I admire PTA I only really like half of his movies (There Will Be Blood and Hard Eight in particular). Certainly looking forward to his next.

David O. Russell has a very strong batting average, so a post on him would be great. i concur with many of the other suggestions here, but let me second posts on both Linklater and Fincher. A post on Robert Rodriguez would be fun as well.
I love the way you've categorized things for this series, keep it up. Although I admire PTA I only really like half of his movies (There Will Be Blood and Hard Eight in particular). Certainly looking forward to his next.

David O. Russell has a very strong batting average, so a post on him would be great. i concur with many of the other suggestions here, but let me second posts on both Linklater and Fincher. A post on Robert Rodriguez would be fun as well.
Your Reply:



+2
10:04AM on 08/05/2013

I'm a star, I'm a star...

What a director to start a column with! And I whole-heartedly agree with just about everything you've written. Big fan of PTA (well, who isn't anymore??) and Boogie Nights is far and away my favorite of his (though I do adore everything else, as well). I'd say his most underrated is PDL, but you make a good case for it being Magnolia. And yes, yes and more yes - the infamous drug deal scene is likely my favorite scene in all of cinema (up there with "What are you doing, Dave?" *chills just
What a director to start a column with! And I whole-heartedly agree with just about everything you've written. Big fan of PTA (well, who isn't anymore??) and Boogie Nights is far and away my favorite of his (though I do adore everything else, as well). I'd say his most underrated is PDL, but you make a good case for it being Magnolia. And yes, yes and more yes - the infamous drug deal scene is likely my favorite scene in all of cinema (up there with "What are you doing, Dave?" *chills just typing that* and the Talos attack in Jason & the Argonauts). My girlfriend randomly quote that to one another constantly. "We came here to motherfuckin' do something and we're gonna motherfuckin' do it!" "You guys wanna play baseball?"
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8:48AM on 08/05/2013

I Look Forward To More of These Articles

I've only seen three of his films but There Will Be Blood turned me into a PTA fan. Now whenever I here that a new film of his is being released I look forward to seeing it and will drive out of my way for it if I have to. His films are nothing like anything else being filmed which makes them especially unique. This doesn't make his film better every time as I'll agree there was a lot about The Master that turned me off (and a lot I liked-particulary the amazing cinematography and the
I've only seen three of his films but There Will Be Blood turned me into a PTA fan. Now whenever I here that a new film of his is being released I look forward to seeing it and will drive out of my way for it if I have to. His films are nothing like anything else being filmed which makes them especially unique. This doesn't make his film better every time as I'll agree there was a lot about The Master that turned me off (and a lot I liked-particulary the amazing cinematography and the performances by everyone involved), but at least you know if PTA's name is attached you are in for something unexpected and unpredictable. Ranking the three films I saw:
1. There Will Be Blood.
2. The Master.
3. Punch-Drunk Love.
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7:13AM on 08/05/2013
Love Magnolia.my favourite among his films.also like Boogie nights,PDL.There will be blood is highly overrated.The Master didn't live upto his reputation.
Tidbit : Hitchcock,Kubrick,Spielberg,Scorsese,Tarantino,Nolan,James cameron,Hayao miyazaki,David cronenberg,Richard linklater
Love Magnolia.my favourite among his films.also like Boogie nights,PDL.There will be blood is highly overrated.The Master didn't live upto his reputation.
Tidbit : Hitchcock,Kubrick,Spielberg,Scorsese,Tarantino,Nolan,James cameron,Hayao miyazaki,David cronenberg,Richard linklater
Your Reply:



+2
4:33AM on 08/05/2013

I Dig This Article.

P.T. Anderson is one of my all time favorites and I agree with most everything you've said. Though I would switch Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love around on your top five list.

As for who you should do next I'd like to see Quentin and Fincher and a few others on here eventually but I'd say the horribly overlooked Danny Boyle.
P.T. Anderson is one of my all time favorites and I agree with most everything you've said. Though I would switch Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love around on your top five list.

As for who you should do next I'd like to see Quentin and Fincher and a few others on here eventually but I'd say the horribly overlooked Danny Boyle.
Your Reply:



+2
12:47AM on 08/05/2013
I love "There Will Be Blood", "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia", but I found "The Master" to be incredibly boring. The only positive for me was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I still haven't seen "Punch Drunk Love", its been on my Netflix instant queue for what seems like forever.
I love "There Will Be Blood", "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia", but I found "The Master" to be incredibly boring. The only positive for me was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I still haven't seen "Punch Drunk Love", its been on my Netflix instant queue for what seems like forever.
Your Reply:



8:28PM on 08/08/2013
Tom Cruise overacted a little. I understand an actor going over the top but he was a little too much. I actually think his performance is overrated, but that is apparently only one man's opinion. I did admire the film as a whole. Boogie Nights is my favorite of his as well. I did enjoy this column very much.
Tom Cruise overacted a little. I understand an actor going over the top but he was a little too much. I actually think his performance is overrated, but that is apparently only one man's opinion. I did admire the film as a whole. Boogie Nights is my favorite of his as well. I did enjoy this column very much.
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5:09AM on 08/06/2013
Agreed with the rest of my fellow Schmoes; love this column already.
Have to disagree, though, on Magnolia being his most underrated film. Maybe it didn't get the attention it deserved when it came out (to be honest, I'm not sure) but I do know that it's gotten plenty of praise and love ever since. In my opinion, Hard Eight is the perfect candidate for most underrated. I remember seeing it the first time and I was like "Meh". But several years later, after having been wowed by Anderson several
Agreed with the rest of my fellow Schmoes; love this column already.
Have to disagree, though, on Magnolia being his most underrated film. Maybe it didn't get the attention it deserved when it came out (to be honest, I'm not sure) but I do know that it's gotten plenty of praise and love ever since. In my opinion, Hard Eight is the perfect candidate for most underrated. I remember seeing it the first time and I was like "Meh". But several years later, after having been wowed by Anderson several times, I decided to give it another and then I fell in love with it. It's a small, sad and superbly austere masterpiece.
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12:47AM on 08/05/2013
PTA has always modelled his films after Altman.
PTA has always modelled his films after Altman.
Your Reply:



8:39AM on 08/05/2013
Incredibly wrong. I don't know if you haven't watched his films, or haven't watched altmans. Magnolia is clearly modeled after Altman. However, Boogie Nights is clearly modeled after Scorcese, so much that it's called his Scorcese film, and There Will Be Blood is his Kubrick film, called his Kubrick film. I'm not sure if he calls them this, I doubt it - prolly the fan name, but there's dozens if not hundreds of pages for each movie that compare the visual style of the director of the film,
Incredibly wrong. I don't know if you haven't watched his films, or haven't watched altmans. Magnolia is clearly modeled after Altman. However, Boogie Nights is clearly modeled after Scorcese, so much that it's called his Scorcese film, and There Will Be Blood is his Kubrick film, called his Kubrick film. I'm not sure if he calls them this, I doubt it - prolly the fan name, but there's dozens if not hundreds of pages for each movie that compare the visual style of the director of the film, and often interpretations of homages (like the way DDL kills the guy at the end of blood, his form is almost identical to that of the monkey breaking the skull at the beginning of 2001. It's hard to accept as a coincedence. But uh ya, whoever told you that, and you relayed it on here, your absolutely wrong
8:41AM on 08/05/2013
And full disclosure, I'm a dick in the AM, but ur still wrong
And full disclosure, I'm a dick in the AM, but ur still wrong
7:08AM on 03/10/2014

WOW

I may or may not have just read all of the previous good, bad and ugly articles... Gotta say digging this column
I may or may not have just read all of the previous good, bad and ugly articles... Gotta say digging this column
Your Reply:



11:40AM on 08/05/2013

Awesome

This was a really neat look into Mr. Anderson's career! I agree with almost everything. The one thing I don't is that I think you are being too kind to 'The Master'. Great performances for certain, but the characters aren't likable in any way, and their ambition, such as it is, is slight and makes for a boring film.
This was a really neat look into Mr. Anderson's career! I agree with almost everything. The one thing I don't is that I think you are being too kind to 'The Master'. Great performances for certain, but the characters aren't likable in any way, and their ambition, such as it is, is slight and makes for a boring film.
Your Reply:



11:37AM on 08/05/2013
the soundtrack, tension, and chaos in the Molina scene is its own level of crazy.

add in tom jane's stache, forgetaboutit.
the soundtrack, tension, and chaos in the Molina scene is its own level of crazy.

add in tom jane's stache, forgetaboutit.
Your Reply:



11:32AM on 08/05/2013
Nice. It's all good w/ PTAnderson. Magnolia's my fave, but I think TWBBlood is actually his best. Boogie Nights is awesome, but I've always considered it like a Scorcese directed Seinfeld movie. It's just about nothing but a blast to watch.

I wish you could do one of these every day! Can't wait for awesome directors that have produced serious stinkers as well . . .

Final thought: Kevin Smith's opinion NEVER meant squat. His rant about Magnolia might be the most meaningless thing
Nice. It's all good w/ PTAnderson. Magnolia's my fave, but I think TWBBlood is actually his best. Boogie Nights is awesome, but I've always considered it like a Scorcese directed Seinfeld movie. It's just about nothing but a blast to watch.

I wish you could do one of these every day! Can't wait for awesome directors that have produced serious stinkers as well . . .

Final thought: Kevin Smith's opinion NEVER meant squat. His rant about Magnolia might be the most meaningless thing he's ever thought & spit out.
Your Reply:



3:00AM on 08/05/2013
Interesting new column. Quick question: what are the criteria or qualifications for [link] for The Good, The Bad and The Badass?
Interesting new column. Quick question: what are the criteria or qualifications for [link] for The Good, The Bad and The Badass?
Your Reply:



12:43AM on 08/05/2013

Malick?

Writer doesn't seem to have a keen eye for cinematic language. None of P.T. Anderson's films are reminiscent of Malick's sensibilities at all. The second half of his career so far is more akin to Kubrick stylistically.
Writer doesn't seem to have a keen eye for cinematic language. None of P.T. Anderson's films are reminiscent of Malick's sensibilities at all. The second half of his career so far is more akin to Kubrick stylistically.
Your Reply:



1:04AM on 08/05/2013
Ever see Days of Heaven? MAJOR influence on THERE WILL BE BLOOD. And watch THE THIN RED LINE and then THE MASTER.
Ever see Days of Heaven? MAJOR influence on THERE WILL BE BLOOD. And watch THE THIN RED LINE and then THE MASTER.
2:10PM on 08/05/2013
tonyt87, not only are you totally wrong but to be wrong after phrasing your comment that way is awesome. Keep being.
tonyt87, not only are you totally wrong but to be wrong after phrasing your comment that way is awesome. Keep being.
3:47AM on 08/05/2013
To me, Anderson is very hit or miss. I loved Boogie Nights, but I hated There Will Be Blood (even though Daniel Day-Lewis was great in it). Magnolia I kinda liked and Punch Drunk Love left me indifferent, and I have no interest in The Master. I personally feel he's a bit overhyped.

extra-tidbit: Scorsese
To me, Anderson is very hit or miss. I loved Boogie Nights, but I hated There Will Be Blood (even though Daniel Day-Lewis was great in it). Magnolia I kinda liked and Punch Drunk Love left me indifferent, and I have no interest in The Master. I personally feel he's a bit overhyped.

extra-tidbit: Scorsese
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