The Master (2012)

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Jesse Plemons, Rami Malek, Lena Endre, Madisen Beaty

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Expectations: High. I’m a big PTA fan.

I don’t know… I don’t know… I don’t know… These were the words that I repeated as I left The Master and walked to my car. I continued through the car ride, and now I’m typing them. The feeling hasn’t gone away in the slightest. I don’t know if The Master was good, I don’t know what exactly The Master was saying, I don’t know if I liked The Master. It’s a tough one, this film, and coincidentally I felt somewhat similar after seeing There Will Be Blood in the theater in 2007. But where that film ended with a definite conclusion, and a scene that remains unforgettable and distinctly quotable, The Master does neither.

The Master is about two men. One is Joaquin Phoenix, playing a troubled ex-Navy man named Freddie. The other is Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the master, the leader of The Cause, a cult/movement concerned with curing people’s problems by confronting their past traumas and digging up past lives. Through the movie, we’re glued to these two men, for better or worse, and through them we are supposed to uncover the story of the film. I don’t really mean that in a plot sense, as the film contains a narrative that makes sense and is easy to follow, I mean it like the true story of the film is in the subtext of their interactions and it’s for us to unravel what the character’s motivations are and any meaning we might derive from this.

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Mary and Max (2009)

Starring Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, Bethany Whitmore, Renée Geyer

Directed by Adam Elliot

Expectations: Moderate. Heard good things.

The past few weeks I’ve been doing my best to wipe my cinematic slate clean of everything that’s been clogging it up for the past year (or more). While this is theoretically impossible for me with my Netflix Queue maxed out at 500, another couple hundred on the Instant Queue and hundreds of other films I’d like to see not represented there, I’m doing my best to prioritize and pave the way for an upcoming year filled with new and exciting movies. What I’m getting at is that I’ve intended to watch Mary and Max for the past thirteen months. My co-worker watched the film in October or November of last year and highly recommended the film to me. She knew I was a huge fan of claymation, and she cited the character depth in the film as something that I would probably connect with. I took the film home with the distinct intention to watch it within a few weeks. Time passed and I soon found myself at the end of December, a period in our work schedule where an imposed furlough makes it so that we’re all off work for the final week or so of December. I said to myself, “Perfect. I will finally get to that Mary and Max movie during the furlough.” You can probably see where this is going, and perhaps I’m revealing too much about my procrastinating tendencies, but I never did watch the film. Instead it languished in my mind for the entirety of 2011, until I found myself once again at home on the first day of our December furlough. When I thought of Mary and Max again (as I do every few days or so) I realized just how long it had been “something I’d get to.” Lately, I’ve forced myself to schedule things like this to bring order out of the procrastination chaos, and after my realization that it had been a full year, I decided right then and there to finally watch it this week. And I did. And I loved it.

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