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 THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)

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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:46 am

Looks interesting. Might go check it out.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:00 pm

Armond White slams it, and compares it infarourably to RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION.

Quote :
Battle of the Andersons
by Armond White on Sep 17, 2012 • 12:56 am

Resident Evil has fun with 3D, The Master makes fun of religion

Compare the unoriginal use of 3D in Hugo–standard diorama compositions with objects poking out toward the viewer–to Paul W.S. Anderson’s astonishingly lively 3D compositions in Resident Evil: Retribution where heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) fights the Umbrella Corporation’s viral experiments that produced a plague turning mankind into zombies. Anderson’s images vivify the entire expanse of the wide screen to keep your eyes busy surveying the breadth of action while also pulling your vision inward for an appreciation of depth–and emotion.

My point isn’t to measure Paul W. S. Anderson against Martin Scorsese; that’s too easy–an almost unfair contrast of innovative imagination to uninspired convention. Adventurous Alice embodies modern anxieties (Anderson’s stimulus) as opposed to geeky Hugo who drags us back to the irrelevancies of tired cinephilia (Scorsese‘s desperate recourse). It’s time now to assert Paul W.S. Anderson’s status as one of contemporary cinema’s most thrilling talents. He deserves a clarifying comparison to the fraudulent, annoyingly monickered Paul Thomas Anderson whose film The Master opened the same week as Resident Evil 5.

It’s inevitable that Paul Thomas Anderson’s artistic ambitions should be unavoidably juxtaposed to Paul W.S, Anderson’s artistic success. Their differences immediately reveal how a pseudo-serious indie artiste fails the aesthetic and emotional impact of commercial craftsmanship. The Master, a roman a clef about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his paradigmatic follower, is a dull, nihilistic and mean-spirited presumption of cultural history whereas the futuristic fantasy of Resident Evil: Retribution turns nihilism into Apocalyptic Pop. This is the classic White elephant vs. Termite art parallel once coined by critic Manny Farber.

Memorably dubbed “P.T.” (as in the huckster-showman P.T. Barnum) by New York Press’ Godfrey Cheshire, Paul Thomas Anderson makes “big” movies that resemble the 1960s studio epics today’s film geeks never experienced–and so become fools for the highly-hyped affectations of a brand-name charlatan. The Master’s opening sequence–an extended pantomime of a WWII sailor’s shameless perversities–presents Freddie Quell’s (Joaquin Pheonix) sexual exhibitionism as if defining his character. Its blatancy is similar to the puritanical bluntless about the porn industry in P.T.’s Boogie Nights. Quell symbolizes the neuroses prone to authoritarian exploitation. Essentially a coming-of-age story, The Master’s bad father figure is cult leader Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman doing the same psychotic mastermind as in Charlie Kaufman’s unbearable Synecdoche, N.Y. There’s a similarity to P.T. and Kaufman’s egotistic conceits. They trade on “smartness” and both directors are incapable of providing an enlightening, entertaining vision.

Resident Evil: Retribution doesn’t sell “big ideas” or “controversy.” It continues the video-game-based series that Paul W.S. Anderson has assayed three previous times, always growing. Anderson’s taste for the kinetic excitement that gaming has in common with cinema inspires him to turn gaming conventions into idealized pop myths. Serious ideas about our entropic destiny are used to confirm humanity’s positive will as embodied by resilient Alice (athletic, emotive Milla fulfills the warrior promise of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and shows a convincing maternal gentleness in a terrifying domestic tangent). This universal lesson opposes The Master’s cynicism in which P.T.’s vague storytelling alludes to notorious religious beliefs then particularizes its “expose” with pessimistic displays of Quell and Dodd’s actorly neuroses. It’s a secularist epic for audiences of the vampire age who don’t believe in religion anyway–there’s no possibility of rebirth or conversion, just suspicions of torture as Dodd manipulates Quell to follow orders and reveal his pain. Yet Alice (in a Wasteland rather than Wonderland) meets cynicism head on and does spectacular battle with it. That used to be the purpose of movies–at least until the indie era permitted disaffected filmmakers to obfuscate moral predicaments with narcissistic indulgence.

Resident Evil: Retribution reworks popular notions of dystopia. While P.T. means to impress critics, Paul W.S. Anderson has fun with 3D and has greater impact. His opening and closing sequences are unforgettable. In the first, Alice’s tragic memory plays in reverse: disaster is shown (equal to the opening of Peckinpah‘s The Wild Bunch) then remedied with a visionary optimism like Michael Jackson’s Earth Song music video. In the last tableau, her beyond-belief premonition creates a Heironymous Bosch cliffhanger. And throughout the film, Paul W.S. Anderson goes through the structures and levels of game-playing the way epic poets and novelists went through varied events to describe the full tenacity of human experience. Set in the Testing Floor of a Soviet war experiment with soundstage Times and Red Squares, then with a very modern vision of the White House, Resident Evil teases the idea of both movie and gaming fantasy. It puts the modern urge to survive (Faith) in witty context.

If you’re indifferent to Scientology, The Master will seem much ado about hoodoo. Given his trendy aversion to the subject of Faith, P.T. replays his antipathy toward religion same as in There Will Be Blood. He reduces reprobate Quell and charlatan Dodds to Method acting showing-off. Phoenix’s humpback and hare-lipped snarl/smirk recall a DeNiro yokel and Hoffman’s posturing again exposes his script’s grandstanding. The only subtlety is P.T.‘s in-joke reference to Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry, Richard Brooks 1960 film version of Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel exploring religious hucksterism. This confirms that P.T. doesn’t just imitate his previous models Altman, Kubrick, Lynch and King Vidor; he‘s also inferior to Brooks. There will be copycatting!

All that ballyhoo about The Master being shot in 70mm means nothing in the digital cinema age (too many oppressive home-video close-ups waste technology specifically designed to give tactility to what might be lost in distant scope). Praising this shows ignorance about cinematography. Instead, the smart-about-movies crowd should be looking at Paul W.S. Anderson’s aesthetics. A photo album sequence compositing shots from the previous Resident Evils activates the screen’s fields, planes, and composition quadrants. The story may be a relay of obstacles and levels that test Alice’s intelligence and perseverance (“As I became more powerful, the human race became weaker” she worries) but the film stays lively, the action-narrative relentless. Note: The best visual P.T. can muster is an over-obvious jail-cell scene that puts id and super-ego side-by-side.

Compare that redundant ambiguity to the sequence where Alice confronts her manipulation by the Umbrella Corporation in a factory. The image of her robotic replication surely recalls Spielberg’s A.I. (a summary reference for the Resident Evil series) but it also painfully signifies her political disillusionment–not only that, it inspires her determination to fight on.

The Master’s cynical bombast defines the worst aspects of our anti-religious era; its solemn audacity is unconvincing (a fashion show scored to Ella Fitzgerald and a naked females musical number recalling Eyes Wide Shut are two of the most embarrassingly banal sequences in recent cinema). The fun and fascination of Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution proves the work of a true cinema artist; it transforms a genre franchise with visionary newness.

http://cityarts.info/2012/09/17/battle-of-the-andersons/
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:13 pm

We all knew White would pan THE MASTER. That he would do so with such a preposterous review--even by his own standards--is surprising.

THE MASTER has received many raves and was the darling of the Venice film festival, but the review I'll be mulling over most as I go into the screening will be Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's. (For what it's worth, Vishnevetsky has mixed feelings about THE MASTER.)
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:36 pm

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky wrote:
As if to link the central character's sexual compulsion to the nautical theme, one of The Master's first scenes features Freddie jerking off into the ocean. (Seaman is, of course, homophonous with semen.)

laugh laugh laugh

Don't tell me you seriously look up to this smug, smartass, excessively verbose (and this is coming from a fan of White) film studies major?
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:01 pm

Largo's Shark wrote:
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky wrote:
As if to link the central character's sexual compulsion to the nautical theme, one of The Master's first scenes features Freddie jerking off into the ocean. (Seaman is, of course, homophonous with semen.)

laugh laugh laugh

Don't tell me you seriously look up to this smug, smartass, excessively verbose (and this is coming from a fan of White) film studies major?
"seamen sounds like semen lmao"

-Me, 12 years old
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:06 pm

Ah, I do like his writing quite a bit. There's nothing wrong with sounding like a film studies major if that's your niche, and it's where Vishnevetsky has put himself. He's a much better writer than White.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:19 pm

I hate all self-indulgent niches, and I hate his prose. At least White is to the point.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:30 pm

Reading White is like reading an incoherent rant that is barely more developed than a set of bullet points. White rarely takes the time to develop or support his arguments; it's just a lot of out-there claims from the self-proclaimed last apostle of the Church of True Cinema that have been organized into paragraphs.

Vishnevetsky doesn't strike me as excessively verbose. At least he's clear and coherent. Frankly, I wish I wrote as well as he does.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:39 pm

Harmsway wrote:
Vishnevetsky doesn't strike me as excessively verbose.

It's how he waves his command of the dictionary around to impress rather than cut to the point. His writing also lacks any wit, which you'll in Armond's output aplenty.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:57 pm

His prose seems less ego-driven to me than it does to you. Admittedly, I've read enough academic studies stuff that perhaps I've simply grown accustomed to this mode of writing, with its "higher" vocabulary and everything else that goes with it.

Between him and White, I'm more likely to take the latter to task for sounding pompous. Vishnevetsky, at least, does not have a prophet complex.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:19 pm

It's not the vocabulary itself, it's how he wields it and his tone, which yes, does remind me of a lot of young know-it-all academics, with no real experience of life beyond their cosy, white, upper middle class bubbles. Send him to Sudan.

Armond was damn right. There should be no film critics under 40.

Quote :
Between him and White, I'm more likely to take the latter to task for sounding pompous.

White is lovably eccentric, like a crazy uncle. Vish is just bland.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:40 pm

Largo's Shark wrote:
It's not the vocabulary itself, it's how he wields it and his tone, which yes, does remind me of a lot of young know-it-all academics, with no real experience of life beyond their cosy, white, upper middle class bubbles. Send him to Sudan.
The guy's an immigrant from the USSR. I think that automatically counts as some "real experience of life."

Of course, your critique along those lines would have more sting if you weren't something of a young know-it-all yourself, Sharky. (As are most of us on this forum.)

Largo's Shark wrote:
Armond was damn right. There should be no film critics under 40.
Tosh. If film criticism was only an old man's game, we'd have missed out on the entire French New Wave.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:09 pm

Largo's Shark wrote:
Armond White slams it, and compares it infarourably to RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION.

I always want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he's clearly just taking a piss here.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:04 pm

Harmsway wrote:
Largo's Shark wrote:
Armond was damn right. There should be no film critics under 40.

Tosh. If film criticism was only an old man's game, we'd have missed out on the entire French New Wave.

Rules are there to be broken. I wish you were right, but sadly the Cahiers du Cinema crowd were an exception, not a rule.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:04 pm

Python wrote:
Largo's Shark wrote:
Armond White slams it, and compares it infarourably to RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION.

I always want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he's clearly just taking a piss here.

He's clearly not. Read the review.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:12 am

Terrific reply to Armond's review:

Quote :
This is brilliant. He's making an important point about cinematic presentation and technological advance -- vis a vis digital cinema (and his correct observation about the 70mm used to film The Master, which gives it no added visual value unlike, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and is further incongruous with the technological advances in cinema presentation that digital film and 3D technology represent) -- that he wraps up in the shell of an article that he knows people will loathe and disregard (for the sole reason that it disagrees with popular consensus).

White is making fun, as he always does, of superficial pop cultural film criticism and its inability to entertain ideas of value or meaning for the sake of the "quality" (in a very typically mainstream Hollywood fashion) of a film's narrative composition. He's well aware that he's wrong, and he's making the point that the general public ONLY cares about a vague, subjective notion of "quality" -- which explains why they get so worked up about him -- which is fundamentally irrelevant to a film's ability or attempt to communicate meaning, which is how we should be judging films.

The meat of this piece is the question of whether the future of cinematic technology lies in the films we dismiss instead of the films we praise, and whether their ability to grasp those shifting technological mores -- as Resident Evil does here, and, in another example, Project X -- makes them in some sense more historically valuable than beloved films that have no say in the matter. A historical analogy would be to The Birth of a Nation, which is a repugnant film in every manner other than its formalist importance -- cross-cutting, match-on-action, etc -- but still regarded as great for its formal influence alone. The same with Triumph of the Will (although Resident Evil is neither racist nor fascist, unless you smell fascism in profit).

This is great satire that would only work if people got upset about it, so thanks everyone for your participation.

http://cityarts.info/2012/09/17/battle-of-the-andersons/
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:41 pm

Finally caught up with THE MASTER on Blu-ray. It's great that Hollywood can still occasionally produce a cerebral and ambitious film like this one (a throwback, perhaps, to the artistically fearless spirit of the early 1970s) - that THE MASTER exists at all is a rather wonderful thing. Having said that, Anderson's latest flick doesn't entirely come off (although it still towers above the common herd). Dealing as it does with religious charlatanism and the pursuit of profit, it feels like a companion piece to THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but seems markedly less impressive and original. It isn't always convincing or compelling, and the narrative is sometimes choppy and incoherent. While Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a superb performance that's more than worth the price of admission, the film is most seriously hampered by Joaquin Phoenix's scenery-chewing turn as its almost wholly uninteresting protagonist (the role appears to have been written with a young Jack Nicholson in mind, but, alas, a young Jack Nicholson Phoenix is not). Make no mistake, though, THE MASTER most definitely has its moments, not to mention stunning cinematography by Mihai Mălaimare, Jr. and a splendid score by Jonny Greenwood.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:21 pm

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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:35 pm

I still don't know quite what I think about this movie.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:52 pm

I value your opinion a lot on this, considering you followed its development for so long. I even remember you emailing me the script back in 2010.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:07 am

THE MASTER, as it turned out, is probably more interesting than a simple anti-Scientology/cult screed, which is what the project threatened to turn into and so many people wanted it to be. But it's also not the Flannery O'Connor-ish study of the ambiguities and tensions of cult religion that I was hoping it would be. It's a film with too many ideas, too many different strands.

I am very apprehensive about Anderson's next film, INHERENT VICE.
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:27 am

Harmsway wrote:
I am very apprehensive about Anderson's next film, INHERENT VICE.

Have you read the novel?
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PostSubject: Re: THE MASTER (2012, dir. by PT Anderson)   Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:15 am

Not yet. It's supposedly a trippy, shaggy-dog detective story, ala a cross between THE LONG GOODBYE and THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
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