Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master

I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master last night, and while I’m still processing it, here are a few initial observations and reactions:

It is not as good as Boogie Nights, which has the memorable characters of The Master while also having a more engaging plot, but there is more nudity.

It might be as good as Magnolia, and is definitely better than Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood.

Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams all give outstanding performances. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a physical performance better than Phoenix’s in that his character is always a searing presence on the screen, and how his body (and especially his face) moves is more memorable and important than what he says. It is rare for me to feel that Hoffman gets overshadowed because he is my favorite actor, but in this film, he does. With that said, if Hoffman ever starts a cult, I will be powerless to resist joining. I used to think of Adams as Jim’s annoying girlfriend on the first season of The Office, but now I will think of her performance here.  The quiet violence of her character (which erupts most memorably in a scene where she gives Hoffman a handjob after warning him never to let her find out that he is having sex with other women) is a nice contrast to the bravado of the men’s. The three performances are so good that they almost act as a detriment to the film itself, as the whole gets overshadowed by its parts.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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