"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Hurricane Joaquin : Top Five Joaquin Phoenix Performances

The tv newsman with the impeccable hair and the vacant eyes is telling me that Hurricane Joaquin is tempestuously coming to a boil out in the Atlantic. Hurricanes and blizzards are the only time that weather is taken away from the tv weather person, be they the disingenuously jovial and cringe worthy comedy type of "weatherman", or the impossibly built and erotically charged type of "weather girl" (notice the term is 'girl' and not 'woman', no 'woman' over 23 need apply), and given to the vapid, dead-eyed mannequin that mindlessly reads the teleprompter every night, otherwise known as the "anchor person". As weatherman Schecky Numbnuts or Barbarella Bombshell slouches off in a darkened corner of the tv studio, no doubt rueing their plight, Johnny Handsome moves his fantastically whitened teeth up and down and tells me that Hurricane Joaquin is a powerful and unpredictable storm that is potentially on its way to ravage the eastern seaboard of the United States. I turn the sound off to avoid listening to the monotonous prattling of the orange faced man with the strenuously somber look, who deep down is praying that the Hurricane death count rises high enough so that the story will have 'dramatic resonance' with viewers and advertisers. 

Even with the sound off I cannot escape Hurricane Joaquin, as updates flash across the bottom of the screen. I chuckle every time I see the name Hurricane Joaquin crawl across on the news scroll, because I think of another Joaquin, the polar opposite in every way of the insincere Johnny Handsome, the enigmatic actor Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin Phoenix may be the best actor on the planet, and if he isn't the best, he is certainly the most interesting. Just like his name sake Hurricane, Joaquin Phoenix is powerful and unpredictable, tempestuous and raging. Instead of voyeuristically watching people in peril on the other side of the country from a force of nature called Hurricane Joaquin, I have decided to watch another force of nature, Joaquin Phoenix, rage in his best film performances, right here in the comfort of my own home. 

In tribute to Hurricane Joaquin here is a list of Joaquin Phoenix' best performances. So sit back, relax and enjoy The Master of the inner wound and the outer transformation, Joaquin Phoenix. 

If you are in Hurricane Joaquin's path, I genuinely implore you to please stay inside and stay safe, as hurricanes are serious and potentially very deadly business.  If you are going to watch Joaquin Phoenix films, the advice stays the same…stay inside…and stay safe. 

TOP FIVE JOAQUIN PHOENIX PERFORMANCES

5. GLADIATOR (2000)

Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and it's lead actor Russell Crowe won Best Actor. At the time of the film, Crowe was arguably the best actor and biggest star in the world, which only makes it all the more impressive that Joaquin Phoenix nearly steals the film right out from under him. Phoenix plays Commodus, the emperor's rather erratic son, who rises to the throne by killing his father in a jealous rage. Phoenix performance is electric, as he vibrates with a disconcerting and unsettlingly mania, a result of a very, very deep father wound. What makes Phoenix so good is that his energy, both physical and emotional, is sustained and focused yet unpredictably dangerous and capricious. The scene where he threatens his own sister with incestuous rape and the murder of her son, is chillingly effective. Phoenix greatest asset in playing Commodus is that he never gets stuck playing things at the same level. Commodus is certainly a mad man, which is why he is just as frightening when he is being reserved and quiet as he is when he is raging, because you don't know where his cruelty and wrath will fall next. Phoenix never lets Commodus be a caricatured villain, instead he creates a character that so desperately wants to be loved, and when he isn't, he wants others to feel the hurt that he carries so deeply inside him. Gladiator, at its heart, is a very conventional film, but Joaquin Phoenix' carefully crafted and nuanced performance raises the film from being somewhat mundane to being compulsively entertaining.

4. INHERENT VICE (2014)

Inherent Vice, directed by P.T. Anderson, is much like the man who stars in it, very strange, wondrously layered and terribly overlooked. Phoenix' work in this film is a tribute not only to his transcendent talent, but to his commitment to his art. His character "Doc", is created with such meticulous specificity that only a master craftsman could have pulled it off. Phoenix is able to convey a painstaking depth in the form of Doc's emotional wound, and a subtle charisma, that drives his character, and the film, through it's labyrinthian plot while never losing it's urgency and vitality. His scenes opposite his nemesis Josh Brolin, are pieces of comedic and dramatic gold.  It is really an extraordinary achievement to behold, and a credit to the artistry, magnetism and charm of Joaquin Phoenix.

Click here for my full review of INHERENT VICE.

3. WALK THE LINE (2005)

Joaquin Phoenix is sort of a strange looking guy. He has a cleft lip, a sunken sternum and a messed up, hunched back looking shoulder. And yet, despite all of these oddities, in Walk the Line, Phoenix goes full-on chameleon and transforms himself into the barrel-chested baritone, American icon Johnny Cash, without skipping a beat. It is a remarkable performance, all the way down to Joaquin doing much, if not all, of his own singing. What makes the performance all the more impressive is that it isn't an imitation of Cash, but rather an original creation that is close enough to the Johnny Cash we know to keep us placated, but unique and particular enough to keep us riveted. Once again, Phoenix creates an internal wound so vivid as to propel his character and compel the viewer all the way through the film. Walk the Line is at times a pedestrian piece of filmmaking, but Joaquin Phoenix' work in it is so magnetic that it is transcends and elevates what surrounds it.

2. HER (2013)

Her is the story of Theodore, a sensitive man living in the near future who falls in love with a computer operating system. It is directed by Spike Jonze and it stars our man of the hour, Joaquin Phoenix as the aforementioned Theodore. In the film, Phoenix sublimely uses his physicality to convey the isolation, desperation and emotional arc of the fragile and deeply damaged Theodore. Just watch and marvel at him walking around the futuristic Los Angeles in varying degrees of slouch. He also uses his greatly under appreciated charisma and magnetism to captivate the viewer while romantically playing opposite nothing but a voice. Her is really just a run of the mill love story, but both Jonze and Phoenix turn it into a poignant, touching and tragic commentary on human frailty and disconnect in the modern world. Joaquin Phoenix creates such a genuine, tender and delicate character that his hurt and his hope are palpable, as evidenced by two extraordinary scenes, one a dinner with his ex-wife exquisitely played by Rooney Mara, and the other when Theodore has a frantic conversation with his operating system/lover on the steps leading into a subway. Both scenes are exquisite examples of Joaquin Phoenix'  power as an actor.

Click here for my full review of HER.

1. THE MASTER (2012)

Acting is like walking a high wire, and the great actors, like Joaquin Phoenix, can do it without a net. In The Master though, Phoenix not only walks without a net, he goes without the high wire altogether. Joaquin simply jumps off the precipice and into the abyss with his arms and heart wide open, embracing whatever may come. What comes is nothing less than sheer brilliance, the master work of a true creative genius. In the film, again directed by P.T. Anderson, Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a malcontent in post World War Two America, with emotional and mental scars from the war and from his life before it. Phoenix contorts his body and his face to such extremes that he is unrecognizable in the role. It is such a virtuoso display of physicality that it boggles the mind. Every tortured contortion and deformity on Freddie's face and body tells the story of a specific and detailed inner hurt in outer form. It is not hyperbole to say that Phoenix' performance as Freddie Quell is the most transcendent piece of acting captured on film this century, and maybe even the last century as well. There is no other actor working today who could have done what Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master. His work is so vibrant, so vivid, so original, so unique, so detailed and so alive that it was a quantum leap in the evolution of the art of acting. A performance like that was previously inconceivable, and only the truly inspired genius of Joaquin Phoenix could have brought it life. Actors for generations to come will strive to match the audacious magnificence of Joaquin Phoenix performance in the aptly titled  The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix has proven to all of us that he most certainly is...The Master. I bow to his talent, and tip my cap to his mastery.

 

Enjoy the Joaquin Phoenix movies and stay safe!!

Philip Seymour Hoffman

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ONE YEAR AGO I PUBLISHED THIS ARTICLE ON PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN DAYS AFTER HIS UNTIMELY DEATH ON FEBRUARY 2, 2014. I REPUBLISH IT NOW AS A TRIBUTE TO HIS ARTISTRY AND AS A SOMBER REMINDER OF HIS STRUGGLE.

There have been countless articles and commentaries about Philip Seymour Hoffman since his death this past Sunday. I doubt I can add much to the cavalcade of remembrances, but here are a few thoughts.

As a teacher, I occasionally will show film clips of actors that put a visual to a technique I am teaching. It is not something I do too often, but as I said, I occasionally do it. In talking with some clients after Hoffman's death, I realized that every time I showed a clip to students, it was of Philip Seymour Hoffman. That is how good he was, that I used his work to teach points to people and I never even realized it because I never even thought about it. Hoffman was so good that we never even had to think about it. His talent was off the charts, but the reason I used him as a teaching tool was because his skill, craft and technique were impeccable.

An example of his craftsmanship is his masterful use of his hands. Here is a clip from The Master that I use to show students about the effective use of an actor's hands in telling a story, specificity and detail in movement, defining character, and working with the camera. 

 

The clip above is also a great lesson in the use of physicality and focus. Hoffman doesn't give his opponent his focus, or square himself off to him completely until he fully commits to verbal combat, and the results are explosive, which he quickly realizes and tries to regain his composure for his audience members. Also, notice how when the shot goes wide, Hoffman uses his hands down at his waist level as opposed to at his shoulder level in the close up. He uses his hands to fill the shot he is occupying. He also doesn't randomly gesticulate, each movement is specific and detailed and punctuates his dialogue and voice.

The next scene is from Boogie Nights, and it is Hoffman's character Scotty J's introduction to the audience. It is an absolute masterpiece of an entrance. Hoffman uses the setting, his costume, his physicality and his breath to tell the audience immediately who this guy is and we instantly know him.

A few things to notice in this entrance. Hoffman doesn't just walk in and hit his mark. He enters at his own pace, still effected by the sick girl being carried out behind him. He hesitates, and awkwardly walks to his mark. Then at his mark, he surveys the pool party before him and takes a big breath before entering. This breath is fantastic in humanizing Scotty for the audience. We feel for him, he is a shlubby mess, but we feel for him after that breath. We understand that he is insecure, self conscious and fragile. That breath makes us allies of Scotty J. It is awesome. 

Then also notice when Scotty J meets Dirk Diggler that he uses his hands. He plays with his sunglasses, he tugs on his shirt in order to cover his belly, he indicates with his hands whom he is talking to or about. Even in the coverage of Dirk and Reed Rothchild where we only see Scotty's back, Hoffman still uses his hands, which gives even more of a visual life into what could have been a flat and basic scene in the hands of a lesser actor and director.

Finally, take a look at Hoffman's monologue from the film Happiness. See his use of breath to give inner life and fullness to his stillness. Then watch as the camera pulls back and his hands are revealed, he then rubs them against the chair. He becomes tactile when it serves the shot in order to show more of his character. When the shot was tight and he couldn't do that, he used his breath to reveal his character's inner life and wants, but when the camera is pulled back he can use his hands to reveal more and he does. (My apologies….sadly, the Happiness clip has been pulled from the internet, but I strongly encourage you to go watch Happiness directed by Todd Solendz, and in particular watch the scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman's character is at his therapists. You will know it when you see it. That is the scene I am describing here. As a replacement scene, check out Hoffman's work from Charlie Wilson's War. Notice his physicality, his posture and stance, his voice and breath, and finally how he uses his hands. Notice also how he adapts his physicality in order for his performance to be appropriate to the camera frame. This is master craftsmanship combined with sheer talent and passionate commitment. )

 

These are just three very brief examples of the craft and detail that Philip Seymour Hoffman brought to all of his work. I highly recommend viewing his entire body of work in order to see many more examples of mastery. The highlights of his work for me, can be seen in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Happiness,  Punch Drunk Love, Doubt, Capote, Synecdoche, NY and The Master. Watch his hands, watch his physicality, watch his focus and watch his breath. He uses everything in the actor's tool bag to bring life and humanity to all of his characters. I think that is the thing that strikes me most about Philip Seymour Hoffman. As a character actor, he wasn't given a whole lot of screen time to create memorable characters and bring them to life, but he used his talent and skill to bring the smallest of characters into clear focus, and his films were so much better for it.

I think that is why he is so beloved in the acting community. He was an average looking guy, with a doughy body and that usually means you don't get too far in this business, but he overcame all that through hard work, skill, commitment to craft and talent. He went from a character actor to a leading man for no other reason than he was great at acting. He didn't give a shit about celebrity or the Hollywood game or any of that nonsense. He loved acting and film and theatre, and that's why we loved him. Most people who get into acting don't do it to be a celebrity, they do it to be an artist, and Hoffman epitomized the actor as artist. In a business where casting decisions are made based on the size of one's Twitter following as opposed to one's skill, or where a "leaked porn video" is worth more cache than time spent working in the theatre, Philip Seymour Hoffman was a beacon of artistry that showed the way for artists to make the most of the opportunities Hollywood can present without buying into the nonsense of all that comes with it.

I was lucky enough to see Hoffman on Broadway a few times. Twice in "True West" with John C. Reilly and once in "Long Days Journey into Night". He was a magnetic stage actor, who filled theaters with his physical presence and drew the audience in with his delicate humanity. I regret not being able to see his Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman", just like I will regret not being able to see him in any other plays or films. His death is a profound loss for actors and film and theatre lovers everywhere.

One final comment, in the past few days many people have written about Philip Seymour Hoffman and either their interactions with him, or how his death has effected them in some personal way. This is a natural tendency when someone famous dies. We all personalize these things because we feel as if we know the person because we've spent so much time watching them work that we feel we know them. We don't, of course, but that isn't going to stop me from doing the same thing.

To me, Philip Seymour Hoffman had the perfect life. He was a highly respected, award winning actor who worked in great art house type films (P.T. Anderson type-films) and also made some great money in more blockbuster type films. He did fantastic plays on Broadway and also directed other smaller plays. He had a fine family, three young kids, and enough financial security that he should never have had a care in the world. Perfect. Except it wasn't. This is something I have in common with Philip Seymour Hoffman. He had been sober 23 years leading up to his heroin overdose. I have been sober 22 years. We are both of the same generation, both from New York and we both have the same disease. He died of his disease, and I am still living with mine.

I was absolutely speechless when I heard he had died. After more than twenty years of sobriety you sort of assume that you have slain the dragon and you don't have to think about it ever again. The truth is, you haven't slain the dragon, you have just driven it from the kingdom, and if you don't build up large castle walls, the dragon can come back and obliterate you. It has happened to me, where the thought occurs to you that maybe, just maybe, you could have a beer, like a normal person, and your life could go on uninterrupted. You can convince yourself of nearly everything, and convincing yourself that you are normal is the insidious voice of the disease whispering in your ear. 

There are some things you can do to counter the dragon whispering in your ear about your normalcy. You can not listen, but that only works for so long. That is not a defense, it is a white knuckling attempt to ignore reality. The better option is to build big castle walls in the form of surrounding yourself with people who don't use. This almost always means eliminating your friends from you life. It can also mean eliminating a spouse or family member from your life. This is hard to do, but it is what is needed. You can fool yourself into thinking you can get by without it, but you won't. You will fail, and you will die. I know, I know…"I'm loyal", "I'd never turn my back on my friends/wife/family etc etc". Yeah, I get it. You're the exception to the rule. The rules don't apply to you.  Your recovery will be different. 

Bullshit. No it won't. You will fail, and you will die. This is reality. Reality is that you should not go to bars, or parties or family gatherings if there will be drinking there. You can't go. If people don't get it…fuck them. You must be as relentless against the disease as the disease will be against you. The disease doesn't care how, why or with whom you use…it only cares that you use. You must be as vigilant as the dragon, and this son of a bitch dragon, he don't sleep.

If you don't have the disease but someone you love does, these rules apply to you as well. You must be as ruthless as the disease. You can cut no slack, you can offer no sympathy, you can only offer a way out, and that is contingent upon the user stopping their use. You cannot argue, or debate or bargain. The deal is, you stop using, and I'll be your best friend and ally. If you use, I will not tolerate your presence. You have to hold yourself to that. It also wouldn't hurt to be an example and not use yourself, even if it isn't "your problem". The truth is, you need to change your life almost as much as the addict does, so be an example of courage through the changes you make.

I've heard and read a lot of people saying Hoffman was "selfish" or an "asshole" for loving the needle more than he loved his kids. I find this line of thought really repulsive and misguided. Hoffman had a disease that killed him. It is a truly cunning disease that doesn't change how much you love people, but it does change how you love people. So hearing people diminish Hoffman's struggles by saying he simply chose this way of life is infuriating to me. That is not to say that those things have no place being said to an addict, they do. If saying those sorts of things makes someone stop using, then go crazy with it. One of my favorite things to say to a male addict is to tell him to "be a man", meaning, clean up and take care of your family and kids and life…"be a man!" (by the way, this is only an option to use if the person saying it has been through recovery and is sober themselves…please keep that in mind).  Here is a brief clip of the approach:

 

 It might work, it might not, but when the disease has a hold of someone, you do whatever it takes to wrest control away from it, and if that means getting rough, then you get rough. The way I see it is this, when someone in your life is in the throes of addiction it can be a nuisance, an annoyance, a nightmare and a pain in the ass, and you can say all sorts of insensitive and outlandish things like "you're selfish" or "you love the needle more than you love your kids". But when someone dies from addiction, you should say none of those things, all you can say is, it is a tragedy, and seeing it any other way simply reveals you to be an emotionally immature, empathetically obtuse, narcissistic nit-wit and jackass. 

In conclusion, the world lost a truly remarkable artist this past week to a disease that is as unscrupulous as any. I hope we take both Philip Seymour Hoffman's fantastic work and tragic death and use them as lessons for our art and life moving forward. I know I will use it as a joyous reminder of the artistry of acting, and a terrible and tragic reminder that the dragon never sleeps.

Inherent Vice : A Review?

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!!

Inherent Vice, directed  and written by Paul Thomas Anderson, is an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix and boasts supporting performances from Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon among many others.

At this point in writing a review I will usually give a brief synopsis of the film's story. As I hopelessly stare at this ever ravenous and judgmental computer screen, with it's incessant hunger for words, wisdom and insight, I realize I am intellectually barren on this topic, hollow at my core, devoid of even the most primitive capacity to explain the labyrinthine plot of Inherent Vice. I have scoured my brain, even put on the complete Pink Floyd collection in search of inspiration, but to no avail. To paraphrase Ned Flander's beatnik parents on The Simpsons, who didn't know how to discipline young Ned, "I've tried nothing and I'm all out of ideas!"

The revelation that has dawned on me is that this is not really a 'review', but would more accurately be described as a 'viewers guide'.  Inherent Vice is a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by rolling papers. I have seen it twice already and it wasn't until well after the second viewing did things start to take shape for me in regards to figuring this film out. What I hope to do in writing this 'guide' is not explain the film to you, I think that is an impossibility, since my experience of the film will most assuredly be different from yours, but instead of explaining, I hope to help prepare you for your experience of the film. 

Inherent Vice is a film that is like a delicious Duncan Hines yellow cake with chocolate frosting, so dense and layered that it can be exquisitely delectable but at the same time down right overwhelming. The film is really three layers/films in one, if not many more. The key to watching Inherent Vice is to choose which version, or level, of the film you think you will most enjoy and gorge on it from there.  Here are the three scrumptious layers that are most apparent to me. Mmmmmmmm, yummy layers.

1. The Surface Level. On the surface level, Inherent Vice is a stoner mystery comedy. Think Cheech and Chong meet Chinatown. Personally, I don't get into stoner films, they just aren't my cup of tea, or drug of choice, or whatever metaphor you'd be more comfortable with. So I didn't appreciate the film on this level a great deal, although I admit it is pretty fun trying to figure out what is actually real and what is a just a hallucination in the mind of Joaquin Phoenix' character "Doc". A lot of people do dig stoner comedies though, and if you do, you may very well really like Inherent Vice just as an entertaining, fun movie and nothing more. If that is the case with you, then dive right in and enjoy. If not, then head to level two.

2. A Political/Social Commentary. Dig a little deeper with Inherent Vice and you will find a meditation on American corruption, fascism, and the exploitation of the individual and collective psyche by government and corporate interests through marketing and manipulation. On this level, it is all about the co-opting of the sixties liberation and freedom movements, both personal and political, by the establishment. As you watch, take note of how nothing is ever what it seems on the surface, like the dental conglomerate that is really an Asian drug cartel, or the drug-addled-hippie-musician who is really a spy for Nixon. Everything is something other than what it appears, every person and every group has a hidden nefarious motive at the core of their actions. So, don't have a freak out man!! Remember...paranoia is just a heightened sense of awareness!!

Level two is also riddled with political and social symbolism. As a prime example of level two symbolism, take note of one scene as an example,  in which Josh Brolin's "Bigfoot" character, the symbol of the establishment, kicks in Doc's door and then gobbles down marijuana by the handful as an intimidating show of power, which is really an allegory for the usurping of marijuana culture by the establishment in the form of legalization. Weed is now 'officially' integrated, and by being so legitimized, it loses it's mysterious power. Weed has now been neutered as a political statement and muted as a sacrament for the counter-culture and a symbol of their anti-authoritarianism and rebelliousness.

If you have four hours to kill (in one hour increments)… a really great primer on the exploitation of the individual and collective psyche by those in power, and how they manipulate through marketing, is a series of documentaries from the BBC titled, The Century of the Self. It is about Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays and his creation of of the public relations industry. It is long, but it is a truly great documentary, and it really lays the groundwork for understanding the massive manipulation that unfolds on level two of Inherent Vice, and in our actual lives to this day.  Here is a link…Century of the Self. 

3. A Jungian Psychological Exploration. On level three the story of Inherent Vice is really the tale of the spiritual/psychological quest for wholeness and reunification with the Self by the bringing together of the opposites. Ok, this might be the least apparent and most inaccessible level of the three described, but I found it the most interesting. The way to understand this is to see all of the characters in the story as parts of Doc's psyche. Doc, the long haired, counter-culture hippie, and Josh Brolin's "Bigfoot", the flat-topped-square-establishmentarian, are symbolic opposites of the same coin, Doc's psyche. Shasta, Doc's ex-girlfriend, represents the Anima (feminine power) and Doc the Animus (male), with Doc trying to re-connect with the anima in order to be complete and whole. Also notice the other opposites that come together, Nazis and Jews, the Black Guerrilla Family and the Aryan Brotherhood, Nixonites and hippies, etc. Another thing to keep an eye out for are the religious/spiritual symbolism, including the Christs with Uzis (no, that is not a misprint), and the Buddhas, both gatekeepers and guardians that keep Owen Wilson's character, and Mickey "Wolfmann" mentally, emotionally and psychologically hostage.

The great symbol of wholeness in the film is hiding in plain sight. It is...of all things…pizza!! Trust me, when you see pizza or hear the word pizza, pay attention. Pizza is round and is the symbol of wholeness, so when Doc, or the other characters whom are symbolic parts of his psyche, are looking for, ordering, or eating pizza, they are really searching for wholeness and reunification with the Self. Thus the eating of pizza represents the integrating of wholeness and through this synthesis with wholeness, they, and the part of Doc's psyche they personify, are healed. This is the story of level three, Doc's quest for re-connection with Self and wholeness. 

Thus ends the 'viewers guide'. Those are just some of the ways you can choose to look at the film. You will probably find much more, as the film speaks to people in the language that they can hear. I never read the Thomas Pynchon book the film is based on, so readers of that book might have a greater understanding and appreciation for the film on every level. 

Just a few quick final notes on some of the specifics of the film. First the acting. Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead role of Doc, and he is his usual stellar self. Phoenix' work in the last few years, especially his previous work with P.T. Anderson in The Master, has been so ingeniously brilliant it is beyond description as merely the craft of 'acting'. Phoenix' artistry is so rare and original that I cannot compare him to any other actor we've ever seen, but rather to another revolutionary artist from another form, Pablo Picasso.  Phoenix is so far out there in terms of what he brings to a role, his authenticity, originality and inventiveness that he can only be described as some sort of Picasso-esque mad genius. But beyond his obvious transcendent talent, he also brings an immense understanding and mastery of his craft and a painstakingly meticulous specificity to the details of his work. Joaquin Phoenix is as unique a talent as we have in the acting world, and he is at the height of his powers. We should all consider ourselves blessed to get to watch his work.

Josh Brolin has a supporting role and is as good as he's ever been. Brolin devours the role of "Bigfoot" like his character "Bigfoot" devours that platter of weed, or his Japanese pancakes ("MOTO PANACAKU!!"...Oh wow man, I just realized, just now, that a pancake is another round food symbol of wholeness!! Bigfoot is demanding, in the language of the east, more servings of wholeness to integrate!! Wholeness prepared and delivered by a man of the East!! Whoa….). Brolin brings an unwavering focus and intensity to "Bigfoot", which plays as both frightening and funny. Brolin can be an underrated actor, but here he shows he is the real deal when in the right role, and his performance is a key part in making Inherent Vice work.

Robert Elswit is the cinematographer on Inherent Vice, and his work is dazzling. Elswit has worked on many of P.T. Anderson's films, and his work is always exquisite, and Inherent Vice is no exception. This is the second film of note for Elswit this year, his cinematography on Nightstalker is stunning as well. It is without question that Elswit deserves not only an Oscar nomination but an Oscar win for his work in either Nightstalker or Inherent Vice. Elswit, like Phoenix, is another artist at the top of his game.

And there you have some random, scattered thoughts on the enigmatic Inherent Vice.  I can honestly tell you that I am not sure which parts of this 'review/guide' were real, and which were simply entertaining hallucinations, but I guess you'll figure that all out when you see the movie for yourself. 

I do hope you find the viewer's guide useful, but remember, those are just some of the ways to watch the film. You will probably find much more, as the film speaks to people in the language with which they can hear it, and that is it's greatest strength and a tribute to the mastery of director Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson is the great filmmaker of our time, and Inherent Vice is a tribute to his complexity and the intricacy of his work. I found the film to be fascinating, I think you may too.

© 2015

FOR REVIEWS OF OTHER FILMS RELEASED DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON, PLEASE CLICK ON THESE LINKS TO THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING , WHIPLASH , BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) , FOXCATCHER , WILD , AMERICAN SNIPER , A MOST VIOLENT YEAR , THE IMITATION GAME , NIGHTCRAWLER , STILL ALICE , SELMA , MR. TURNER , CAKE .