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movies / September 23, 2012
By Eileen Jones


As soon as The Master was released, every day it was, “Ja see it? Ja see it yet? Whadja think? Ya gotta go see it.”  Nag, nag, nag.

So to give writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson credit, he’s got crass showmanship going for him. He can crank up the ballyhoo machine, and that’s not nothing in these dull times.

What with all the hue and cry, you find yourself hustling right off to see his latest extravaganza, and only then do you remember how much you hate that little flimflamming PTA fucker. He takes your money and gives you crap in exchange every time—magnificently shot crap festooned in Acting with a capital ACK.

And then, after the last time when you swore to yourself you’d never get taken in by any more of his milkshake cons—he does it again! PTA Barnum!

Here’s Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone, an easy mark for the Barnums of the film world, swallowing their snake oil and then going right out to peddle it himself to all the other gullible types:

I believe in the church of Paul Thomas Anderson. Hollywood films give you zilch to believe in, tying up their narratives with a tidy bow so you won’t leave confused and angry. Anderson refuses to do the thinking for you. His films mess with your head until you take them in and take them on. No wonder Anderson infuriates lazy audiences.

See how it works? Just threaten the pseudo-ejjicated chumps with the idea that they can’t handle the hardcore mental challenges PTA is laying down, and they’ll fold like accordions every time. This PTA product is so tedious and incoherent and unpleasant, it must be the real intellectual shit, all right! Let’s watch in a spirit of dutiful reverence and then tell everyone who’ll listen how awesome The Master is!

Here’s Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter beating the drum with this review-summary logline:

A bold, challenging, brilliantly acted drama that is a must for serious audiences.

So there’s the gauntlet thrown down, potential audience-member: Are you serious? (Say No right away, and slide out of the whole bogus experience! That’s good practical advice for a happy life!)

“Are you serious?” is a question that could usefully be put to Paul Thomas Anderson as well, with a different spin on it. But nobody ever seems to pose it to him when he leaves these cinematic messes all over the carpet.

Nervous high-culture types know better than to ask, because PTA is canny enough start off every film with a combo of qualities that intimidates them into compliance: daunting pomposity, big technological flourishes, embiggening themes, “daring” subject matter, and outrageous ham acting.

Just to indicate how readily PTA gets the rubes to fall into line, here’s Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, who doesn’t like the film but feels compelled to praise it anyway:

“The Master” opens on a shot of swirling turquoise water, the roiling backwash of an unseen boat.

It’s a dazzling, super-saturated image that recurs throughout Paul Thomas Anderson’s film and serves as a fitting leitmotif, not only for the social and emotional churn that the movie seeks to represent, but also for the psychic state of the audience itself.

Ah, yes! The big fat gorgeous significant opening shot, clearly meant to be “read.” What’s it mean, what’s it MEEEEEAN???? Remember Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane opening, the long slow series of dissolves of fences and barriers as you move slowly, slowly, toward the Gothic house on the hill where Kane lies dying, and the sign that says “NO TRESPASSING”? What a perfect coy enticement! No, no, the film seems to say , I won’t let you look, I won’t let you interpret, though I know you can’t help yourselves, you brilliant cinema-lovers, you serious devotees of the arts, bless you but you must stop, it’s hopeless even for you to understand the life of any given human being, much less the life of the quintessential American, Orson Welles, I mean William Randolph Hearst, I mean Charles Foster Kane!

Ya gotta credit the guy, it’s the greatest flimflammiest come-on in the history of cinema, absolute catnip for the critics!

So this was the Orson Welles formula, and PTA is like the offspring of Orson Welles and some carny woman Welles picked up while doing his tacky magic show (Welles’ favorite hobby).

PTA seems to realize this, and is always doing films about the Big Con, featuring grandiose hucksters in the Welles mode. It’s his cleverest move as a filmmaker, deflecting all criticism, and it’s right out of the Welles playbook. He’s not a con artist himself, see—he’s doing serious studies of the American dependence on con artists, our always-burning hope that the next big-talking grifter who comes along will turn out to be the real deal and give us our free pass to Elysium.

PTA even pulled the Wellesian stunt of leaking to the press that he was taking on L.Ron Hubbard and the origins of Scientology, only he couldn’t get too explicit because he’d get sued or assassinated or something, so that’s how come the movie’s not really about L. Ron Hubbard. Only it kinda is, and for all you insiders, the film is full of amazing clues! This generates reams of publicity. Welles did exactly the same thing with newspaper mogul and all-around prick William Randolph Hearst, and it’s never stopped paying dividends for that old warhorse Citizen Kane, which always is and always will be at or near the top of any official Best Films list.

In The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd is absolutely channeling Welles, doing that steady-eyed I-dare-you-to-look-away-from-my-fat-face-which-seems-to-fill-the-room trick that Welles had down pat. And then there’s the sonorous too-controlled oratory, the voice played like a great organ, so that listening to it you lose yourself in its lofty baritone melodies till the sharp shift occurs, sometimes into oily, phony, “self-deprecating” humor, as with Hoffman/Dodd’s smirking line, “Of course, this is all very, very, veryveryvery seeeerious.”

Or sometimes there’s a sudden break into stuttering rage, which seems so “authentic” after all that formal Shakespearean recitation. That’s an old stage trick, a favorite of Welles’, and Hoffman uses it several times in The Master, his voice rolling along mellifluously till it suddenly roars up in volume for “you stupid pigfuck!” or something equally loud and impolite.

That one always wakes the audience up, makes them feel like they’re really getting their money’s worth out of the thespians.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard, The Master is about an L. Ron Hubbard-esque founder of a movement called The Cause and his relationship with his “guinea pig and protégé” Freddie Quell. Quell is supposedly some kind of raging war-traumatized id figure who can’t fit into the buttoned-up postwar world, or something. Endless scenes of Freddie acting out, miming sex acts, jerking off in public, drinking cleaning agents and motor fuel, assaulting people, and so on. If PTA had any sense of humor whatsoever, some of this might be funny, but the whole thing plays out as a dreary solemn plod.

Beautifully shot, though!

As Quell, Joaquin Phoenix contorts himself physically, like an old-time stage actor playing the Hyde side of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He adopts a slope-shouldered, collapsed-chest, droopy-armed stance so extreme he looks like he’s about to go into either his gorilla imitation or a chicken dance at any moment. He squints one eye and thrusts his jaw forward and distorts his scarred lip grotesquely to the point that a lot of his dialogue is unintelligible. Several reviewers have noted a vague resemblance to Popeye, which is an insult to Popeye.

You can imagine the dozen scenes featuring the “clash of the titans” act-offs between Phoenix/Quell and Hoffman/Dodd. They have all the earmarks of Oscar-bait acting scenes, the massive pauses between lines, the pop-eyed staring, the whole arsenal of vocal one-upmanship, over-articulating words vs. slurring and swallowing words, holding very still vs. twists and tics and spasms. PTA even built these act-off opportunities into the script via Hoffman/Dodd’s “applications,” which are supposedly revealing exercises in self-discovery and discipline. For example, Hoffman/Dodd forbids Phoenix/Quell to blink, so we’ll be awed by the presumably genuine actor-pain on display. He demands an exhausting repetition of lines, so we can appreciate all the little variations a trained actor can work into them:

“What’s your name?”

“Freddie Quell.”

“What’s your name?”

“Freddie Quell.”

“What’s your name?”

“Freddie Quell.”

“What’s your name?”

“Freddie Quell.”


This is all ponderously leading up to the big “milkshake moment,” now a PTA authorial signature. The final confrontation between the lead male characters features Dodd facing Quell across a table and singing to Quell in a slow, plummy voice, this old 1940s Big Band novelty tune of smarmy seduction, which goes:

I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone.
Get you and keep you in my arms evermore,
Leave all your lovers
Weeping on a faraway shore.
Out on the briney
With the moon big and shiney
Melting your heart of stone
I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone.

Dodd sings this whole damn song dead seriously, with the veins throbbing in his fat forehead, goggling at Quell, who begins crying with the intensity of it all.

It is silly almost beyond human endurance.

That this should be treated as a huge revelatory moment in an uninvolving and static relationship that’s been loaded up with homoerotic discomfort from the word Go is typical of the wearying stupidity of the movie as a whole. You constantly find yourself knowing where a sequence is headed, which is nowhere interesting, and having to wait, bored, for the pompous mess to play itself out.

Example: Dodd takes Quell and a few family members out into the middle of the desert for another one of his “applications.” These things go on forever with Quell, because, ahem, you can never really “quell” him. (Love it when character names seem to Stand For Something!) Dodd goes first, picking out a landmark and riding toward it as fast as he can on a motorcycle.

It’s extremely dull and unenlightening, watching this, but as usual, the cinematography is stunning. PTA can really pummel you with the landscape and seascape imagery. If these shots are his doing, and they seem consistent from film to film, he’d make a great cinematographer. I wish he’d change jobs!

Then Dodd comes back. You think, you’ve long since thought, “Quell will go next, and he’ll just keep riding till he literally crashes the bike into the chosen landmark on the far horizon, or else he’ll just keep riding right out of the scene. Either way, he’s outta here.”

Because it’s been thoroughly hammered on, thematically, this rootlessness of Quell’s, how the word “away” is an incantatory work for him, how he never returned to his waiting wartime sweetheart, for no reason that can be made explicit. But you have to sit there and wait and wait till the other characters figure out Quell isn’t coming back and then start trudging out of the desert.

I read a promo-interview for this film, with PTA claiming that he makes films dealing with “old weird America.” And that’s really why I wound up giving PTA one more chance, because I’m obsessed with old weird America (and new weird America), and therefore figured his films ought to have something to offer me if I looked hard enough.  But I recognize nothing of his old weird America. It all seems bathetic and phony. But clearly PTA knows the general evocation of OWA sells.

What exactly he’s selling, though, once you look at the films, isn’t so easy to figure out.

If we go back to Welles, he loved the idea of himself as an exemplary and also extraordinary American, as a genius-charlatan, a martyr-monster, and he liked to trot out his gargantuan alter-egos in films, often played by himself . Oh the tragi-comic duality of it all! What a colossus of a man, yet what a grotesque! Let’s look at his immensity in a hall of mirrors so we can see every possibly reflection of him and yet still never fully understand him and how he represents America!

PTA seems right at home in this regime of raging egoism, and his great insight, his Big Con, might be serving up similarly gross flattery to Americans, always lightly disguised as unsparing critique, or serious contemplation.

America, you magnificent unquellable beast you! No one can ever fully drink your milkshake!



Add your own

  • 1. Petkov  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    WoW simply WoW top form

  • 2. Ella Farts-Gerald  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    You have very strong opinions about boring stuff such as THE MASTER. Does it get tiring?

  • 3. ppppp  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    So what films DO you like?? Give some examples please.

  • 4. Zoner  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I used to feel guilty about not “getting” Paul Thomas Anderson’s brand of tripe. I’d force myself to watch his boring-ass movies because I was reading all these reviews about his “genius” and “bold, lyrical style”. Then I read the Reader’s Manifesto and realized that I didn’t actually like his movies but was learning to eat shit and say it was delicious, all so I can give false praise and fit in with the intellectual crowd. Kudos to Eileen for still watching his movies, even if it is for her job.

  • 5. Miami-Sid  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Gosh, does this mean you didn’t like it?

  • 6. Galtic Warrior  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Mark Ames, why do I keep commenting here? Am I obsessed? Oh right, I’m a Randroid. Yabba-dabba-doo!

  • 7. Mr. Bad  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Waaaaahhhhhh! Waah-huh-Wahhh-huh——WAAAAAAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

  • 8. gc  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 6:55 pm


    No, having strong opinions does not get tiring. In that, it differs from fatuous jadedness.

  • 9. gc  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    When the critical mass oral servicing for this movie began, I found myself hoping Jones would review it, then changing my mind upon realizing that doing so would require her to undergo the experience of watching it.

    Well, she has reviewed it, and we should be grateful. She’s watching for your sins, people.

    The implicit American self flattery in these kinds of movies is an interesting observation.

  • 10. Cum  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    eileen one time i ride me bike at insane speeds through campus right by you on your way to discussion and pissed u off i b et lol

  • 11. Strelnikov  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    The important thing to realize about trolls, and the reason why they are worth censoring, is that they lie. It’s the most important fact about the word “troll” which didn’t originate as a reference to Scandinavian mythology, but rather as a way to “fish” for upset responses ( the verb to troll describes a fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat ). The troll makes comments to control the responses. This can be anything from thread hijacking to having people leave the blog in disgust.

    The worst part, though, is the lying. The troll knows the truth, but has an agenda. So he’ll lead people into circular, non-falsifiable arguments as a way to dominate threads.

  • 12. StillAFan  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    The AEC is allowing this comment to pass through unmolested:

    This review is borderline unreadable, Eileen. Stop trying to keep up with Mark’s amphetamine consumption and try writing your review again.

  • 13. radii  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    his best movie is Hard 8 because someone else cut it and took out that extra hour he always makes you sit through … he glorifies negative space in the way a Sears parking lot in the height of summer has a lot of empty parking spaces and he loves the color brown (as do a lot of Gen-X filmmakers) and quirky eccentric characters … his films are like walking into a thrift store that someone spent hours and hours arranging just so

  • 14. Gogol  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    You see, Paul, you’re just the afterbirth…

  • 15. Ollie  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I thought this movie was brilliant, even after this review. I’m a big fan of this film critic but thought she totally missed the point on this one. I sense from reading her frequently that she gets enjoyment out of shitting on movies that a lot of people like, which is fine, but the movie described here was unrecognizable compared to the one I saw.

    Also, a lot of stuff she reads as Oscar-baiting pablum–the repetitive “applications”, the booming voice, the weird high rhetoric, explosive anger–were actually taken straight from L Ron Hubbard and Scientology. For those, like me, who have a minor fascination with that stuff, the way it was incorporated into the movie was brilliant.

    And by the way, she didn’t mention the incredible score.

  • 16. radii  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    almost forgot, terrific review Eileen – Left/Right/Uppercut Kapow!

  • 17. rick  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    This review seems too “anti-ideological,” and I mean that in a Stalinesque way, like “indulges bourgeois humanism.” But I didn’t see the film yet. Kind of hated “There Will be Blood” for its relentless Kubrickian opacity, even though I’m a huge Kubrick fan, more than anything. Seemed like a bad imitation when PTA had established his own desperately, viscerally emotional style in “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” “Give up everything you do well and try to be Kubrick in defiance of everything you do well.”

  • 18. Galtic Warrior  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Mark Ames, by gracing me with your attention, you are no better than the “corporate media” you wail about!

    I’m of the opinion that two sides of the debate can find MIDDLE GROUND.

  • 19. Flatulissimo  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    @13 – interesting observation on “that extra hour he always makes you sit through,” I especially noticed that with There Will Be Blood.

    The beginning grabbed my attention and got me all riled up, expecting something great. Of course it looked good, cinematography-wise. Then it meandered forever, turned into a ponderous bore, and I almost fell asleep. In the final reel I woke up for a minute thanks to the “I drink your milkshake” and the violence, and it left me wishing that the whole film had been like that so I would have stayed awake. You coulda taken a nap through most of the middle of it and wouldn’t have missed anything. If somebody had cut the boring middle hour outta the film, he might have had something.

    Did Boogie Nights suffer from the same problem? Been awhile since I watched it, and I don’t particularly want to sit through it again just to get an answer to that question…

  • 20. Dimitri Ratz  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Something as important as this movie really makes you think perhaps because of total boredom, or hidden insights into one’s life that somehow blossom due to director’s genius. 20th Century by in large was defined by racial hatred and sexual conformity. Africans (in Africa) having to resort to armed resistance against their colonial masters that would vomit at the thought of their children resorting to consensual sex with them. South Americans killed in large amounts for thinking they belong to white artistic clubs, Pablo Neruda for example. So with 21st century here, and British Doctor Who Season 7.1, Episode 4 having Nick I Minaj song in the background it’s clear that sex and race are no longer driving forces of human destiny. You can have sex with a hot black girl, nobody really cares if their children’s kids will be darker, or Asian looking, except maybe few hicks as by an large realization that love and self choice override whatever eugenics ideas held sway at that century.

    Today’s conflicts are centered around language, and culture. With eroding of Russian influence at Syria being most clear example and defining conflicts for the next generation. Terrorism is not yet confined to bombing abortion clinics, but by an large as most people are driven by natural urges as society reflects itself the extreme elements will replace external enemies for locals they despise.

    The language wars between the Russians and Americans will cause an arms race, and culture proxy wars will rain supreme for next 20 years, mostly staring in western Asia, but even military skirmishes between China and Japan cannot be ruled out. Everyone is feverish with self identity, sovereignty as world gets more interconnected and this direct violent response is all natural defense to the new reality, but for generations looking back with language and culture delegated to none important status with technology replacing need for language beyond family past time and arms races establishing peace through great projection of force one wonders what issues will divide and drive humanity in the future. What new reasons will humanity find to kill themselves?

  • 21. Kubrickian Opacity  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    @ “rick”, #17

    Did you just complete your undergraduate degree with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Liberal Arts (L.A.)?

    And I mean this in a Ciceronian way.

  • 22. Dimitri Ratz  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    And I mean beyond genetically modified animal rights which will be settled by violence following the culture wars as that one everyone can see coming. I mean after that, and please no mechanical wars, as progression of technology is likely to incorporate electronics into living mainframe peacefully. Looking forward to your feedback.

  • 23. gc  |  September 23rd, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    but the movie described here was unrecognizable compared to the one I saw.

    So the movie you saw didn’t have Philip Seymour Hoffman singing “Slow Boat To China” a capella all the way through to a crying Joaqin Phoenix? Or Joaquin Phoenix riding off and everybody else sitting around and taking forever to realize he’s not coming back as if it weren’t obvious?

    Lot of details in this review. One would think you’d at least recognize a couple of them. Maybe you fell asleep in the theater? (No shame in that! This is PTA, after all.)

    Also, a lot of stuff she reads as Oscar-baiting pablum–the repetitive “applications”, the booming voice, the weird high rhetoric, explosive anger–were actually taken straight from L Ron Hubbard and Scientology. For those, like me, who have a minor fascination with that stuff, the way it was incorporated into the movie was brilliant.

    Hey, whadya know? Apparently PT Anderson has been brilliantly incorporating L Ron Hubbard and Scientology into his movies for fifteen years before he made his movie about L Ron Hubbard and Scientology!

    I sense from reading her frequently that she gets enjoyment out of shitting on movies that a lot of people like, which is fine

    No it’s not. It’s idiotic.

    And, of course, there’s no reason to think that’s what Jones is doing.

  • 24. jd  |  September 24th, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I really enjoyed this movie….would have liked to hear more specific points of contention you had with the film, Eileen….mostly because I highly respect your opinion, but I can’t understand how you thought the performances were ridiculous/over-wrought. I thought Freddy Quell was one of the most amazing characters I’ve seen portrayed on film (only because of how Pheonix played it)…right up there with Deniro in Taxi Driver.
    I agree the pace was sluggish, and some of the metaphors and symbols were heavy-handed; I imagined PTA writing the film, just piling in whatever he was reading about/watching on television at the time like, ‘OH! I can make the movie about THAT too!’. However, since the film was ultimately a character study first, I think all that is of secondary importance, and it was Pheonix’s performance that was the most impressive. He’ll definitely take home an Oscar this year for that one. I would’ve liked to read a more in-depth evisceration from you…
    Still love your reviews, though. Even when I disagree with them. Hurry up and go see some more movies, girl!

  • 25. Norman Mailer  |  September 24th, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Another incoherent article by Eileen “anti-everything” Jones. Why can’t we be grateful for all the abundance we have?

  • 26. Trevor  |  September 24th, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Anyone who hasn’t should check out A Reader’s Manifesto by BR Meyer. He gives the same treatement to flimflamming writers like McCarthy and DeLillo that Eileen gives to Anderson here.

  • 27. EJK  |  September 24th, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Great review. Except for all you wrote about Welles.

    (Go to it, Mark! Still looking forward to a Going Postal update.)

  • 28. Mr. Bad  |  September 24th, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Eileen cannot appreciate the lyrical qualities of this movie, that’s fine.

    However, you might take a page from ole I.A. Richards and not condemn an artist outright by judging his work by your own expectations and technical requirements as opposed to his/her artistic project.

    But that’s all Eileen has got, which is why she’s short on analysis and so very long on declarations of her own importance and PTA’s lack thereof.

    It should be said that the critical fellation that this film has received, especially the uncritical “I don’t get it but I LOVE it!” crowd does go a long way in supporting Eileen’s irrelevant but nonetheless very true point that much of movie “criticism” is bullshit, including hers. Thank You AEC!

  • 29. Anarchy Pony  |  September 24th, 2012 at 9:44 am

    @11, the word you’re looking for is “trawl”.

  • 30. The Mainstream Critic  |  September 24th, 2012 at 10:47 am

    “The Master is like There Must Be Blood on LSD!”

    “There Must Be Blood is like Magnolia on LSD!”

    “Paul Thomas Anderson is the Voice of His Generation!”

    “Boogie Nights is like Deep Throat with a condom on LSD!”

    “Samuel L. Jackson is a feral negro who sports a Hard Eight in Hard Eight! A masterpiece!”

    “In Punch-Drunk Love, Sandler, liberated from the constraints of formula, reveals unexpected depths as an actor. Watching this film, you can imagine him in Dennis Hopper roles. He has darkness, obsession and power. Sandler is Paul Thomas Anderson on acid!”

  • 31. jyp  |  September 24th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I’m taking your milkshake.

    And your fries.

    N’ I got me eye on your hamburger too.

  • 32. some guy  |  September 24th, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    This review reads like a Scientology OSA troll site attacking one of their supposed enemies – comically adolescent and vituperative with a dose of megalomania on the side and unsurprisingly short on logic or facts. PTA as Suppressive Person. Eileen, are you OT VIII?

    Haven’t seen the movie but I’d give this review zero stars in the journalistic sense. Trying to be edgy for the sake of edginess. It’s like you wrote a review of the school prom for your goth friend’s alternative newspaper.

  • 33. franc black  |  September 24th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Are you serious? Edit this down to half the length, and maybe then I’ll read it. Meantime, I’ll keep pretending like I don’t care while obsessively reading everything that the great Eileen Jones writes.

  • 34. bulfinch  |  September 24th, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I have a thing for films that take their time, inducing bladder pangs and numb asses in their audiences. I think of it as a director exploiting time as part of the cinematic clay mix, along with color, light and movement. There’s an understandable emphasis on succinctness when it comes to any medium, but certain films just would nor work as well if they weren’t big, chewy affairs.

    The Master probably wasn’t one of those films. I felt the beams starting to bow long before the final scenes. Narratively speaking, it had a lot of blubber, (visually, very beautiful blubber). The pick-a-point scene is one spot of painterly flab that springs to mind: it seemed more like PTA grafting in a particular textural vignette he’d been jonesing on at the time (old Nortons, desert flats, leather & denim, dusty fenders, etc.), but one which didn’t seem necessary for advancing the storyline. When I saw the film, and then a preview for the film a few days afterwards, I realized there was a lot of similarly beautiful blubber shaved from the final film, which appeared to be equally compelling textures on their own. That’s when I came to a similar conclusion as Eileen: PTA truly has a great eye. The film is one of the most beautiful to look at that I’ve seen in recent memory.

    That Slow Boat to China thing…

    BTW, I disagree that all Eileen’s reviews are just her wiping an oily nose on all the shiny pretties. If I were a filmmaker, she’d be the first one I’d want to run it by in the editing process.

  • 35. Peter  |  September 24th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    After seeing The Master, Fred Quell(Joaquin Phoenix) reminded me of Travis Bickle( Deniro in Taxi Driver) as well; they are characters so hopeless that they are painful to watch. Overall I thought the movie was pretty good, a little long but coherent. I found the slow boat to china number more creepy than silly. That’s okay though, in the end it was a way better movie than say, Inglorious Basterds.

  • 36. Middling Asia Hand  |  September 24th, 2012 at 9:29 pm


    “his films are like walking into a thrift store that someone spent hours and hours arranging just so”

    Fucking brilliant description.

  • 37. Cum  |  September 25th, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Hey other-Cum, wanna vacate my well picked username?

    It would be cool to have (it’d have to be pay-based) a registered forum for commenting. But judging by nsfwcorp proclamations and the AEC, Ames hates commenter. In which case they might as well do away with the comments section; it’s mostly a space for rantings from the lunatic fringe.

  • 38. Zog  |  September 25th, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Ms Jones please review the new Sylvester Stallone free Judge Dredd. Pleeeeeez.

  • 39. trashcat  |  September 25th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    The important thing to realize about trolls, and the reason why they are worth censoring

    completely exploitable as a weapon against anyone you’re willing to call a troll. toxic, facist shit.

    It would be cool to have (it’d have to be pay-based) a registered forum for commenting.

    literally every pay-to-use forum/platform on the internet is weak, pudgy upper-middle-class shit, so good luck. the only reason to charge people to talk is to keep out poors.

    AEC: Any one who has a problem with my patented troll improvement program is automatically targeted. To paraphrase comrade Stalin: Better your innocent troll should have his feelers hurt than the AEC who has trolled all His life.

  • 40. Mr. Bad  |  September 25th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    @ 38. Zog

    Yes, I agree, this is about her level. I think of PTA as the cinematic equivalent of Celine, the foremost exponent of the ellipsis and it’s only true artistic heir. Why are the haters always so vehement when they know they can’t figure it out at first go? I love that feeling, I guess I’m just a gay faggot.

  • 41. Strelnikov  |  September 25th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    If you want the facts about Hubbard, the British “Secret Lives” show did fifty minutes on him in the 1990s. It’s here:

    I think PT Anderson did what he did to “The Master” so he could write whatever story he wanted; the “church” really doesn’t have any real power anymore because their “new” leader is monumentally greedy and into forcing his followers to pay for commercial real estate (the “Ideal Org” program.) It’s less of a cult and more of a huge grifting operation now.

  • 42. Mr. Bad  |  September 25th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    @ 11. Strelnikov

    Hey, everybody come quick, “Strelnikov” has the “truth”! Hey bud, is she a “woman” like Nietzsche famously wondered? Is she a shemale or some sort of hermaphrodite? Can I subscribe to your newsletter so you can lay it all out for me brother in a few posts? You truly are “The Master”.

    Anxiously awaiting your response,

    Mr. Bad

  • 43. Dimitri Ratz  |  September 25th, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Tried watching 3rd Season of Walking with the Dead, or The Walking Dead that’s free on Comcast and after starting with the last episode was totally disgusted. Not by zombies, but the real reflection of how living humans here interact. The total lack of loyalty, and at same time the disgusting portrayal of responsibility to these worthless pile of disgusting nagging pissy-fit judgemental beings.

    I remember seeing Season One years back, where the Sheriff offed his horse, so I started with last one not realizing there was Season 3 while just trying to avoid rewatching those stupid scenes.

    I mean he saved their lives, and she’s upset he offed her lover. The old man suggesting he forgo waiting for kid’s mother for boy’s safety, because there might be a zombie on a deserted freeway when whole world collapsed. The farmer who is too stupid to shoot from the house, and didn’t have enough bullets.

    I’m sorry, but if your traveling from a big city, and there is a chance of slowly moving zombie packs, and your picking up supplies why would you not get enough ammo to fill the room? Why not shot each one as they enter into a window, especially if you have a group of eight capable shooters?

    So the movie portrayed idiots, but it would of been more joy as experience if they were not so perverted in none sexual ways and self centered, lacking humanity more than the zombies.

    But worst drenching part is how pathetic the Sheriff is in his personal life, and how his responsibility destroyed his life. Truly is more frightening then having your guts chewed on by zombies.

  • 44. Dimitri Ratz  |  September 25th, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Almost as disappointing as the Sci Fi channel that’s misspelled. Sure it had much better actors, raising your expectations, but the movie called Mist that they had recently, nobody tried to eat the giant spiders in it, even after a huge bat got cooked by accident nobody took a bite. They had a really cool shot at the end of the movie of this huge creature like a Buffalo, but like alien which was neat, but so far all recent movies seem to suck…. Anyway don’t want to turn this into movies that suck forum so I’ll stop.

  • 45. Strelnikov  |  September 25th, 2012 at 10:39 pm


    Number 11 wasn’t me, just a fuckwhistle who stole my handle months ago.

    Everything you wrote was gibberish.

  • 46. David Ginsburg  |  September 26th, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Eileen Jones: you are the worst person I have ever had the displeasure of reading a revue by. You are just not smart enough to understand the film. What convinces me of this is that you use the slang term, “fucking” in your revue. Any reviewer with any sense uses proper grammar. And if you think that every PTA film is substandard that you obviously do not understand the complexity of his writing and director. I hope one day you will understand that PTA is possibly the greatest filmmaker of modern cinema and The Master IS one of the greatest films made not only in the 21st century but possibly ever

  • 47. CensusLouie  |  September 26th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I think Dimitri is having a stroke. Someone get help.

  • 48. matt  |  September 26th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    haha #46 has to be a troll, or an AEC improved comment, no?

    “You are just not smart enough to understand the film.”

    “The Master IS one of the greatest films made not only in the 21st century but possibly ever”


  • 49. Cum  |  September 26th, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I just watched There Will Be Blood, I kinda liked it because I think audiences are stupid and I appreciate a movie that’s willing to beat the audience over the head with the message (like how Daniel Day Lewis beat that preacher with a bowling pin). See at the beginning of the movie he’s chipping into hell and he falls in the hellhole and almost dies but then breath fills him again and once more he rises. It’s because he was possessed by the Devil and he would be forever corrupted and corrupting for the rest of his life. That’s why he’s so threatened by the priest and hates it when people talk God or try to pray and also why he’s so happy when he brings hell to earth when the oil pump explodes. And then at the end when he has been fully corrupted by Satan, the Devil tricks the preacher into renouncing his faith before finally beating the preacher to death (another soul stolen from God).

    Our cars run on hell-juice.

  • 50. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Mrs. Jones. We get it. If you hate something everyone else likes, you must be smarter, more insightful and generally more awesome than everyone else. Please get over yourself.

    I get that the Exile has a schtick to be sensational and shocking, but Mrs. Jones is quickly turning into a joke. Someone not to be taken seriously. Her juvenile obsession with anything Coen and hate for everything else is sad. One day she rags on the mindlessness of Hollywood and the next she craps on solid and respectable efforts like The Master.

    Don’t think for a second that I’m fooled by all you Jones worshippers who couldn’t wait to read her positive review of this film but quickly changed your mind when she, of course, thought it sucked.

  • 51. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I love the Exile, but man o man do I wish to have Mrs. Jones’ talents. That’s the real reason I come back here again and again: to read Mrs. Jones demean my middlebrow tastes in film.

  • 52. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    *Exiled (no disrespect)

  • 53. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    @ #51

    AEC sayeth: Eileen Jones doesn’t mind the fanboys, just wishes they weren’t such whiners.

  • 54. skullsneedtobecrushed  |  September 26th, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Here is the synopsis: A raging alchy war vet named Freddie Quell gets taken in by a bloated over-credentialed, stentorian Svengali with a yacht and two last names. There’s a few hours of turmoils, including actorly freak-outs and cultish shenanigans ranging from ponderous to tedious. Then there’s Freddie’s inevitable apostasy followed by an advertisement for Kool cigarettes and an awkward screw. The end.

  • 55. seaurchin  |  September 26th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    this review is spot on and a lot of fun. punch drunk love is also a terrific film.

  • 56. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    AEC: Really, fanboys should be chipper and eager to please, not commenting just to whine and poute

  • 57. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Yep, still here. Still gonna whine about about not being paid attention to. Please recognize that I exist! Please tell me my opinions matte—–

  • 58. The Gubbler  |  September 26th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    @ 14

    Har Har Har… Har…. Har har…


    HAR!!! (croak)

  • 59. Copyrightkilla  |  September 26th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    You’re right I have nothing better to do than joust with a moderator. (AEC: I know, my son. That is why I watch over and guide you.) You are heartless indeed. (Don’t try to comprehend the ways of the AEC. I, your AEC, work in mysterious ways.) If you’re replying than you are obviously paying attention. (AEC: Indeed, I am always with you my son.) I am a fanboy of The Exiled, that’s why I support it. But I’m not dumb enough to act like Eileen has anything to offer. (AEC: You really are a whiney shit, aren’t you?) Remind me what this ‘critic’ has accomplished in the film industry? Exactly. Did she ever have the balls to try? (AEC: Balls? Why my son, are you a victim of GW Bush’s abstinence-only education. Did they not teach you that females are not equipped with testes?) If she’s anything like this moderator, I know the answer. (AEC: Yes, like the AEC, Eileen Jones is All Knowing, All Seeing in the realm of Cinema.)

  • 60. The Gubbler  |  September 26th, 2012 at 8:41 pm


    Reading about Phillip Seymour Hoffman stirs up all sorts of horrible images and memories and feelings of anger and despair and disgust and the like.

    I’m gonna get some beer and watch “The World Of Suzie Wong” again.


    “for goodness sake”

    Good stuff.

  • 61. metalious  |  September 26th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Congratulations. I think this review really stands out (unlike other reviews where they like, critique the film and all). I mean how many other critics are willing to put in that extra effort and dedicate 16 paragraphs (actually I stopped counting at 5) just to make the point that the film is derivative? Or who else is willing to go the extra mile to assassinate the character of the director instead of just pointing out why the film sucks.

  • 62. The Doctor  |  September 27th, 2012 at 2:14 am

    He’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant – he’s almost up to my standards.

  • 63. The Gubbler  |  September 27th, 2012 at 5:01 am

    I haven’t seen the film yet. It will probably be a while, but I am already imagining a better version.

    A young William Shatner is the master.

    I don’t know who the disciple is yet, but it is not Malcolm McDowell or Dustin Hoffman.

    Definately not Alan Bates.

    Martin Sheen???

    No wait… who is that guy who allegedly drowned his wife??? The guy from “In Cold Blood”???

    Sufficed to say the “Slow Boat To China” bit and others would be modified.

    Also to the guy who so kindly explained “There Will Be Blood”… whatever dude.

  • 64. gc  |  September 27th, 2012 at 6:54 am


    I mean how many other critics are willing to put in that extra effort and dedicate 16 paragraphs (actually I stopped counting at 5) just to make the point that the film is derivative.

    That’s not the point.

    And I understand why you twerps are saying Jones doesn’t “critique” the fim – it’s just what stupid people on the Internet do when they don’t like a review – but it’s still disgustingly ungrateful.

    In a world where most movie reviews might as well be reviews of the screenplay for all the interest the critics show in writing about anything except writing – and usually they aren’t even any good at that – Eileen Jones gives you a review full of interesting, specific analysis, and you just respond with the usual meaningless whining.

  • 65. Satan  |  September 27th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Glad I haven’t been to the theater in 12 years.

  • 66. Michael Savage  |  September 28th, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I dug up Allen’s corpse and we went to see this anti-Semitic directors’ “Fagnolia” and “There Will Be Cum” at the Christopher St. Theatre. I had a quick fuck-and-suck at Rupert’s place with a variety of UK nellies, then I did my radio show for the rubes while Glenn Beck rimmed my ass and Galtic Warrior got his AynZion on. BiBi Bi Bi Bi Sexual I love you may we be THE MASTERS and invade Iran.

    PS: Romney’s done it with all 5 of his boys.

  • 67. mookid  |  September 28th, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I will still watch it in its whole shittiness for DAT JOAQUIN PHOENIX

  • 68. Steve Cearfoss  |  September 28th, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Post-modern BS

  • 69. skullsneedtobecrushed  |  September 28th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    The film should have been titled Masturbation, and the whole thing should have been two and a half hours of Amy Adams jerking Phillip Seymour Hoffman off into a sink.

  • 70. darthfader  |  September 30th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Do Looper next

  • 71. Flatulissimo  |  September 30th, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Oh god, I just saw Looper. Should have waited for Eileen to tell me not to.

  • 72. tarko  |  October 1st, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    God bless you Mr (sic) Jones.

    You are the anti Manhola Dargis, whose gargling on razor blades name perfectly reflects her pretentious and confused worldview.

    Would that YOU were the NYT movie reviewer.

  • 73. tarko  |  October 1st, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    @David Ginsburg

    ” Any reviewer with any sense uses proper grammar.”

    Might help your argument if you knew how the difference between “revue” and “review,” genius.

  • 74. jimmy james  |  October 2nd, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    This review is like when a Republican tells me why he hates Obama. It’s like, I agree with you, but you have the wrong reasons.

    I mean, PT Anderson humorless?! Sure, the shit’s drier than the Sahara sometimes but I was laughing my ass off during the scene with the psychologist, the first “processing,” and Freddie jerking off in the ocean.

    Though I was the only one in the theater doing that, so maybe I’m the idiot.

  • 75. Taras Vulva  |  October 4th, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Another movie review as the lead? Are you outta your fucking skulls? We, the disenfranchised masses, demand more snapper reviews, shit with which we can relate. How about ranking some real dives on the home sod?

  • 76. Precious Bodily Fluids  |  October 13th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Emulating Orson Welles is bad thing? Don’t like media circuses, but writing movie reviews? I’m not whining; but you’ve identified several of the most fun things about this flick, only to excoriate the director for them. Raging egoism and over the top melodrama. What’s not to love?

  • 77. keri  |  October 27th, 2012 at 1:26 am

    i love all the east coast bourgeois who caught on PTA way too late. lol he doesn’t write for you. so yeah it makes sense your pissed. you were too cool too watch magnolia in 99′, and ya the master didn’t change your life, so PTA is now “overrated”. he’s no woody allen, he writes for americans who fucking hate woody allen and all what his descendants have made of hollywood.

  • 78. Tierbess  |  November 3rd, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Eileen is right and you self-appointed critics can go fuck yourselves. The Master is an empty, breathless movie. It’s so mysterious it even leaves the audience in the dark. Admittedly it’s well acted, but at the end of the day there was no plot.

  • 79. TheGrunk  |  March 9th, 2013 at 10:52 am

    This sums up my feelings perfectly. My girl wanted to watch this so I gave it a chance. Bad decision. This was one of those films I had a vague sense of knowing something about and it wasn’t until I saw the end credits that I figured out why it sucked so much. Three words: Paul Thomas Anderson. While he makes beautiful
    LOOKING films, they just flat out suck. Magnolia was so bad I was looking at my pager an hour in and grumbling there were still 2 hours of dreck to go. I saw a woman buying tickets as I left and went up to her and said, “what movie are you buying tickets to? Magnolia? Do yourself a favor and go to a matinee like we did so that way you’ll only feel half as ripped off.” It’s obvious PTA has serious dirt on half of Hollywood to always be given another shot. Fuck PTA.

  • 80. Pig Truck  |  March 18th, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I thought this was a great movie, definitely shines more the second time you watch it. That’s more than I can say for my pitiful “comment”

  • 81. ryan  |  May 24th, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    wow after reading the first sentence , I’m bowled over. Sure I’m a troll, but I fucking love this review. Wish I could write it myself. Oh well.

  • 82. laura smith  |  May 29th, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Please please please keep reviewing PTA, Joaquin Phoenix’, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This is brilliant and I want more!

  • 83. shaun  |  January 30th, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    I really agree fully with everything you say about PTA and even about his affinities with Wells as a kind of wanna be copycat but Wells is a MASTER film director. Conflating a phony like PTA with a genius makes your whole article much less convincing. Sorry

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