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September 10, 2012


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St. Genet Parochial School

Man, excellent review. Particularly excited about Phoenix's movements and mannerisms from this and previous films.

Chris O.

Two stellar reviews. Wow. Interesting PTA is working with a new DP, one who's shot Francis Ford Coppola's last three films.

My grandfather has told me he witnessed other sailors draining torpedo fuel through bread then drinking it in '45 or '46. "Those guys would drink anything," he says. Strangely happy to see this brought to life.

Jason M.

Goddamn is that Kent Jones piece great. Fantastic review there as well, Glenn. Can't wait to see the movie in 70mm.


I'm seeing this at the Ziegfeld tonight and am positively giddy.

David Ehrenstein

And I am positively comatose. As Manny Farber put it back in 1962:

"The three sins of white elephant art (1) frame the action with an all-over pattern, (2) install every event, character, situation in a frieze of continuities, and (3) treat every inch of the screen and film as a potential area for prizeworthy creativity."

The Master is the whitest of white elephants. Anderson is fascinated by charlatans and manipulative borderline sado-masochistic power relations. This is a far simpler rendering of same than There Will Be Blood The 70mm is nice, redolent of the "Grand Rapids Style" ie. George Stevens. But without Stevens' moral conviction. Hoffman has exhausted his bag of tics, while Leaf has grown some new ones -- none of them effective.

Having been "rushed" by the Xenu-ietes in their early days (it was turned ino a religion so L. Ron didn't have to pay taxes) I can say it reproduces its inanities with great accuracy.

So what?

Today Scientology is on the ropes thanks to that "Vanity Fair" piece on Mapother by Maureen Orth (which I hghly reccomend.)

I don't reccomend The Master at all.

Wait for Amour -- a REAL movie.

Tom Block

Here we go.

David Ehrenstein

Here we go where, Tom? Did you see the thing? Do you have anything to say about it?


Excellent review, Glenn. I was lucky to see a 70mm screening in Chicago and, even though there were a lot of things I instantly loved about it, I couldn't help but also feel disappointed in what you call the lack of a "conventionally revealing climax." All of the Big Acting Scenes are in the first half of the movie and I was hoping for another Phoenix/Hoffman barnburner at the end to give the film a sense of harmony and closure (even though I fully appreciated the symbolism of Freddie finally accomplishing in the last scene the thing he'd been trying and failing to do for the rest of the movie). However, in the month or so since I saw it, I've grown to really appreciate the restrained and ambiguous ending, which is basically the opposite of the galvanizing, exclamation point-like ending of There Will Be Blood. It is truly haunting.

That Kent Jones piece is ridiculously good, so much more than a movie review.

David Ehrenstein

What should be the "climax" is of necessity muted by the story. Freddie (Leaf) is emotionally disturbed and Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman)regards him as an ideal lab rat on which to test his (inane) ideas. Needless to say they don't work.But being a con man he can't acknowledge failure. And so Freddie has to be sent away as his continued presence is a reminder of Dodd's ineptitude. Of course he promises they'll meet again "in another life." But a fat lot of good that does for Freddie in this one.

And a fat ot of good it does any viewer who has been paying attention. Ad it's here tat Anderson and Dodd are one and the same. "The Master" is a vast distraction from an empty center. Ad in this it's in the tradition of (wait for it)

"Heaven's Gate."

Dan Coyle

So it's no SpaceCamp, is what you're saying.

David Ehrenstein

It's no "Parenthood" either.


Wouldn't argue that Nolan isn't a pretty big deal, but I'm genuinely curious why he's on this list and, say, Tarantino isn't.

Glenn Kenny

Um, because Quentin Tarantino fans are less likely to make death threats when he's snubbed?

No, that's not it. That falls under the category of "genuine fuckup," if I may be so indelicate. But oddly enough, in all the back-and-forthing about the gallery, which went through a brief period of not being limited to Americans (just imagine!), the name wasn't even mentioned. Which now strikes me as pretty goddamn odd and something to ponder.

David Ehrenstein

I wonder why Tom Kalin, Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes aren't on that list.

On second thought I don't.

David N

Great list, obviously, but aside from Tarantino, I'm wondering how close to inclusion David Lynch and Michael Mann came..?

Glenn Kenny

David N., if you take "living" as "still making or likely to make features," that kinda gives one an out on Lynch, who seems really unlikely to do so anytime soon. As for Mann, I know there are plenty of folks who would have liked to see him in either Nolan's or Cameron's slot...and I'm willing to take 100% responsibility for that call.

I might have fought more for Van Sant were not "Restless" so green in memory.

David Ehrenstein

Oh really. I think it's underrated. But it's difficult to discuss as few have seen it thanks to "Imagine"

Gus remains a key American filmmaker fr "My Oen Private Idaho" alone.

Brian Dauth

No Gus Van Sant?!? Just in the first decade of the 21st century he expanded the possibilities of cinema (both non-narrative and genre-based) with GERRY; ELEPHANT; LAST DAYS; PARANOID PARK; and MILK. Who else in that decade was that consistently good? Almodovar for sure, but he is not American.

Haynes' MILDRED PIERCE was great, but he had not been that good since SAFE and Kalin has also been hit-and-miss.

Glenn Kenny

All right, you got me. (Or, in Pythonese, "That's a fair cop.") Really, I think my signal contribution to the feature was insisting on "Great" rather than the more self-cornering "Greatest."


What, no Swanberg?

But seriously, where is James Gray?

And while I don't think he has quite enough mileage on him to yet be considered Great, given a few more years, and Jeff Nichols ought to bump somebody off that list.

(Van Sant should be there too.) For my taste, I'm a bit relieved to see that Eastwood didn't get included. I'd take Mann over Nolan any old day of the week. Todd Haynes, too, for that matter.

Harry K.

I just missed De Palma. Not to be over-critical, but ooh, I missed him.

Harry K.

Also, there's a typo in the piece itself. There Will Be Blood was Anderson's fifth picture, not his fourth.


Not to be pendantic, but "There Will Be Blood" was Anderson's 5th feature (unless you're not counting "Sydney" aka "Hard Eight".)


Oops - just saw Harry's comment.

I'd agree with those who'd have Tarantino in there (I'd have him instead of the overrated - at least to me - Nolan).

Harry K.

...and it came out in 2007.


When Dave E refers to Joaquin Phoenix as Leaf I think of the old barber played by Eddie Murphy in Coming to America ranting about Cassius Clay.


Any successful list makes me want to watch or re-watch, so : kudos. The name I expected/wanted but that became more and more improbable as I worked my way up the list was Steven Soderbergh. Did he at least get a cursory toss in the back-and-forth?

Glenn Kenny

Um, Aaawalll, not to be all name-droppy and such but that's where the in-law codicil was invoked. Also, I dunno HOW that number snafu on PTA came up, I know very well which film "The Master" is...looking into fixing...

Joel Bocko

The most interesting omission to me is Steven Soderbergh for many reasons, including the obvious. He didn't even make the runners-up!

And yes, QT deserves a spot way more than Nolan if the criterion is anything other than box-office cache, at least IMO (I also think of all the directors you listed, Nolan's are the least 'American' in character or theme if that has any meaning...or relevance). And De Palma got gypped. :(

As for Lynch, fair enough on the 'working' caveat, but I'd argue that he's earned a place on any list of living American director, ever - even if the inclusion's fucking posthumous!!


Glenn, have you had a chance to read Richard Brody's piece on The Master? I respect him a good deal as a critic even though it seems I rarely agree with him. I think his piece on The Master really gets at some of the things that are swirling around in my head a day after seeing it.

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