Sam Mendes' "Skyfall"

(PG-13) ★★★★

What has happened to James Bond !!?? Should we start calling him James Bourne??? The change that has happened with this franchise since Daniel Craig entered the fold with Casino Royale back in 2006 is actually a very good thing  BUT purists, you know those people that are nostalgic and never want change in anything, are pissed off. I've heard everything that needs to be heard about Skyfall -the 24th and newest entry of the series- from it's the best Bond yet to it's a total disgrace. Know what was a total disgrace? Those Pierce Brosnan Bonds. Talk about miscasting. The only good one Brosnan ever made was Golden Eye. With Skyfall we are entering a new era of Bond. That's a good thing. In the film --directed by the great Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) -- our boy James is a drunk, has to deal with the first gay Bond Villain in Franchise history, gets shot and presumably killed, hates on British Intelligence, has NO Bond girl by his side, has a key character of the franchise die in his arms and re-visits his terrible childhood.

That's actually one thing I never thought the Bond movies would do; Go back to his past and reveal his haunted memories as an orphan. So it happens, Bond is one tortured soul. A man with flaws and more than enough glitches to offend the most innocent of fans. Now you see why this bond might not be suitable for everyone? It takes risks and most of these risks pay off big time. Once upon a time I used to think that they should have chosen Clive Owen for the role but after Casino Royale --let us forget the misbegotten Quantum Of Solace-- and Skyfall, the choice of Craig seems to be a real no brainer. Bond is as human a character as he's ever been before, thanks in large part to Craig's acting chops which reveal an extra layer of humanity to Bond. This is an actor that has invested his talent on making the role his own and he sure has done that. Almost everything works in Skyfall. From the trippy, visionary opening credits to the the new theme song sung by the ever-so talented Adele.

Of course, with all this in depth talk of what is essentially a popcorn picture one must say that the action is relentlessly thrilling. There are around 4 action set pieces here that will take your breath away and the villain -played by the ever so great Javier Bardem- is excellently evil. Bardem seems to revel in playing these fucked-up villains with bad haircuts, whatever gets him turned on I guess -- but mad props to him for another great performance. In fact I'm gonna stop right there because the film is too good to reveal in its entirety but to say that everything you thought you knew about the franchise is thrown out of the window with this one. Mendes, working with a tightly woven script, does visual miracles here. Smart move hiring the great Roger Deakins as his cinematographer. It wouldn't be out of place to call this the best looking Bond film I have ever seen.  At 143 minutes the film rarely drags even with a few minor bumps here and there + an overtly dragged on/predictable finale. It is then no surprise that reading all the rave reviews of late, many people have claimed this a renewal of the franchise. For the purists out there it will take some getting used to, because this Bond is here to stay.

Spielberg's "Lincoln"

(PG-13) ★★★★

At first it isn't easy to succumb to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln - its darkly lit, talkative scenes aren't what we are used to getting in a Spielberg movie. The political talk is in every frame, this is a move that is more about dialogue than it is about action. A real shock given that this is a filmmaker known for popcorn entertainments raised to the level of art (Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, War Of The Worlds). Lincoln is no such beast. It is quietly meditative with no rousing bombast or grand set pieces. The screenplay written by Tony Kushner brings us to 1865 a few weeks before the vote for a 13th amendment - this one would abolish slavery and free African American slaves. President Lincoln tries his damnest to convince Democratic delegates to vote for the amendment. It doesn't help that he is in the middle of a bloody civil war that has taken the lives of close to 600,000 Americans. We only see a glimpse of this war at film's opening, Spielberg is more interested in the war of words than in war itself. If you think this is a biopic of the President think again, this is a film about how the famous 13th amendment got passed.

Abraham Lincoln is slyly played by Daniel Day Lewis in another performance that will be remembered for the ages. His Lincoln is a man of many flaws but with enough heart, soul and drive to push the amendment forward. It has almost come to be a predictable thing to have a great Daniel Day Lewis performance but it is always highly welcome. Day-Lewis uses gestures and physical traits that are astonishing for his performance, the intensity that rages in his eyes is that of a man that is not playing Lincoln but IS Abraham Lincoln. He will surely be eyeing a third Best Actor Oscar come early next year. The film is full of great performances; James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson play lobbysists aiding the president in  trying to turn democrats to their sides, Tommy Lee Jones as Republican Thaddeus Stevens is phenomenal and will likely be an Oscar contender as well. Stevens fought his entire life for an 13th amendment to happen and the sheer look on his eyes when it happens is triumphant stuff. Jones nails the role and brings about verbal fireworks to his juicy role that are too good to reveal - plus wait until you see his one BIG scene that takes place in the senate.

Verbal Fireworks. That is essentially the come-on for Spielberg's Lincoln. Don't expect visual stimulation in this picture, it is all about words and tactics uttered by these famous politicians. Some scenes might be a bit draggy but Spielberg tells the story in such an un-Spielberg kind of way. With an abundance of restraint and silence. Who'd a thunk it possible for the Hollywood director to have this kind of film in him. The first time I saw Lincoln I was taken aback, expecting something else and ultimately leaving the theatre a bit puzzled. The second time I saw the film -knowing exactly what to expect- I was wooed by the great cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's camerawork and by how the film simply told the story in such an intimate and un-bombastic way. That is essentially Lincoln, a quiet beast of a film that is never too showy and never too self-aware of its grandiose story. An important, interesting one in fact, that everyone should know about.

(M) For Masterpiece

List will continually get updated over the next while ...

Sunrise (1927)
The General (1927)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
The Searchers (1956)
Vertigo (1958)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Rear Window (1954)
Breathless (1959)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
8½ (1963)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Lolita (1962)
Persona (1960)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Conversation (1974)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Chinatown (1974)
Mean Streets (1973)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Conformist (1970)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
The Fly (1986)
Platoon (1986)
Brazil (1985)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Raging Bull (1980)
Back to the Future (1985)
Blow Out (1981)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Schindler's List (1993)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Unforgiven (1992)
Fargo (1996)
Breaking the Waves (1996)
The Truman Show (1998)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Player (1992)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
Caché (2005)
Memento (2001)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
A History of Violence (2005)
Children of Men (2006)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Black Swan (2010)
The Tree of Life (2011)

"Marley" gets the legend right

Bob Marley's life is very well known inside and out but Oscar winning Documentary filmmaker Kevin Macdonald's "Marley" thinks otherwise and has enough surprises in it filled with haunting revelations to make it a real stunner.  It helps that Macdonald uses breathtaking concert footage, archival treasures and interviews with almost everyone that has had an impact or was a friend to the legend. As far as Marley documentaries go, this is as full fledged a portrait of the man as we are likely to see in our lifetime.

"Marley" is a one beautifully crafted piece of work that can be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike.
From his upbringing with a single mother in Kingston Jamaica to the identity of his dad, Norval Marley, a white marine that was very much absent in the singer's life. Some of the most fascinating parts of the doc have to do with Marley's dedication to his Rastafarian religion. "White people have Jesus, we have Rhasta Fari" he says in an interview. This belief entitles the Rastafarian to smoke a ridiculous amount of weed each day. Rastas such as Marley used it to get closer to their inner spiritual self and believe in the wisdom that came with smoking it.

The stories found in Macdonald's doc are highly fascinating. How Marley founded reggae through a single, unintentional chord. His roller coaster journey from Jamaica to America in search of a larger fan base. How he begged to revive Jamaica's government torn gang war, bringing a country together through his music and one landmark concert that resulted in two sworn enemies shaking hands on stage in front of of hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans. His fight with cancer and how he continued performing on stage despite his fluctuating health. However, most memorable is Rita Marley, his first and last love, with whom he had 3 children and how she stuck with him until the end despite his well known infidelity. The film states that Marley had 8 more children with several different mistresses, a total of 11 children that all agreed for this film to be made. Yet, despite all these facts, Rita Marley's memories of her partner are surprisingly beautifully remembered with compassion and -yes- a sense of true love.

The doc has a riches of archival footage including some magnificent concert footage of Marley and The Wailers performing in various different cities. We all know how it ends but Macdonald has ambition to burn, his documentary runs for a long 144 minutes yet the running time feels needed for it would  have probably been impossible to truly depict a life this grandiose and impressive in a shorter amount of time. Macdonald, a Scottish born filmmaker, who's been mixing it up lately with feature films ("The Last King Of Scotland", "State Of Play") and documentaries ("One Day In September", "Touching The Void") has already won one Oscar, he is almost -at least- guaranteed a nomination for Best Documentary with this one and judging by the contenders, his biggest comptetion will be well received films such as "The Central Park Five" and "The Queen Of Versailles".


(R) ★★★★

One thing you first notice in Rian Johnson's Looper is how it builds up its sense of dread with each successive, tension-filled scene. Nobody is safe here. The plot only builds up as layer after layer is revealed until the film's final shot. It's a hell of a ride and easily one of the best films of the year. Then why no mention of a possible Oscar Nomination for Johnson's visionary picture? You see, Science Fiction isn't something the academy has warmed up to in its 83 year history. Sure it rewarded Peter Jackson's The Return Of The King but what else did it reward before or after that? Looper is the kind of movie that can sometimes trip on its own ambitions but its originality is contagious, creating a new world we've never seen before. Credit must go to writer/director Johnson who after showing capable signs of competence in his first two films (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) finally hits one out of the park.

The film tells the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hit-man for an organized crime syndicate tasked with assassinating targets sent from the future.  They arrive from the future and bang with one shot they are dead. That is his job. Not complicated at all. That is until Joe's mob boss Abe (slimily played by Jeff Daniels) hints that the Rainmaker, a criminal mastermind from 2074, is closing the loops. That means he's sending Loopers back from the future to be killed by their younger selves. Just to hide evidence of the bloodshed. Joe's good buddy and fellow Looper Seth (an incredibly paranoid Paul Dano) is first in line to encounter his old self. He chokes, let's his future self go and is now being chased by Abe's gang with dire consequences. Joe is next and accidentally lets old Joe (a never better Bruce Willis) slip away. You see, Old Joe has a plan in mind. Find the rainmaker as a kid, kill him and set his future right.

You got that? I hope you do. It's a tremendously thrilling story that leads to Young Joe taking shelter at a family farm with a single mother (a tremendous Emily Blunt) and a kid that -you guessed it- might just be the Rainmaker. Joe is waiting for his future self to show up at this farm so he can shoot him, kill him and continue on with his work as Looper. The imaginative thought that went into the screenplay is a breath of fresh air that puts any other recent Science Fiction film to shame and Joseph Gordon Levitt -as good an actor as any around at the moment- does wonders with his role.  Don't expect a mind numbingly hammering experience such a the one experienced in Christopher Nolan's Inception, if you do pay attention to Johnson's linear story it can be followed and  make a lot of sense. No review should ruin the film's many surprises but suffice to say Looper's many twists are already being analyzed and debated by film fans. A sure sign that you've made a movie that is here to stay.

Ang Lee's "Life Of Pi"

(PG-13) ★★★½

"Life Of Pi" is a top notch visual achievement because director Ang lee infuses it with enough poetic imagery that even haters of the book will not help but appreciate the artistry at hand. Lee who's already been nominated 3 times and won once for "Brokeback Mountain" will surely get his fourth nomination for "Life Of Pi" which will only enhance his reputation as one of the most gifted filmmakers around. However I wouldn't put "Pi" in the same league as Lee classics such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "The Ice Storm" - the story's fairytale like familiarity almost sugar coats the impeccable 3D visuals. It is not just Lee that must be given credit for the visuals but also his cinematographer Cloudio Miranda. Remember that name, he might just get called up to the stage come Oscar time early next year. In fact, I'm predicting right here that Miranda wins it all on February 24th. He already performed visual miracles by making "Tron: Legacy" and "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" amazing looking pictures and with Ang Lee's new opus (out November 27th) he outdoes himself in terms of visual miracles. I mean really, this is just a stunning looking movie filled with images that are too good to be true..

The way Lee and Miranda shoot India in the film's setup is nothing short of gorgeous, focusing on every beautiful color and visual that comes their way. In this half hour we are introduced to our main hero Piscine -aka Pi- and the zoo that his parents have built up as a business. The religions that surround Pi confuse him, he sees himself as a believer in everything he sees. His dad -an atheist- is angered in the contradictions that surround his son's beliefs. The setup is slow but nevertheless complimentary for what's to come next. When the family has to leave India because of hard times, the film takes a dramatic turn. They hitch a ride with their zoo animals on a big ship to Canada where they will start a new life. Things -however- don't quite turn out that way. A magnificently horrific shipwreck happens that leaves Pi stranded on a tiny boat with a tiger he calls Richard Parker for 227 days. The way he must adapt to life with this dangerous animal is incredibly interesting to watch and no review should spoil that for you.

"Life Of Pi" flies high because of its amazing visuals and incredible use of 3D. None more apparent than in the film's middle section which lasts close to 75 minutes and involves -for the most part- just Pi and Richard Parker. That is when the film hits its peak and becomes a jaw dropping stunner. Lee and Miranda know that the way to grab an audience is not just by telling a story but by creating ravishing images that stick with you. The book had parts that you knew would translate very well from page to screen and had the potential to be true visual delights. Take for example the frightening scene where a storm of flying fish just suddenly appears out of nowhere and into Pi and Richard Parker's direction, or another scene where a slew of luminous jellyfish set the nighttime sea aglow with incredibly ravishing colors. Lee and Miranda handle Yann Martel's novel with the best possible care imaginable.

Martel's book had its hardcore fans but it sometimes struck me as too full of itself and with one too many ideas on its ambitious plate. Which is why the film's final third didn't necessarily work out the way I wanted it to. This is after all a movie that is a bit too facile in the way it plays with our emotions. I felt that at times it wanted to force tears out of me but alas that didn't work. Instead what I got was a film almost too prestigely wrapped-up for Awards season. No matter this is Lee's show as he brings us another visually sumptuous epic that does his name right. This is a crowd pleaser through and through and Oscar will be calling soon for both his and Miranda's triumph.

"The Sessions" The best and sweetest sex scenes of the year

(R) ★★★★

It doesn't take much to give in and enjoy Ben Lewin's fascinating "The Sessions". Based on the true story of California based poet and writer Mark O'Brien, the film deals with O'Brien's struggle with Polio and being forced to use an iron lung the rest of his life. It's not as grim a subject matter as you may think. O'Brien is played by John Hawkes, a man we will certainly see at next year's Oscar ceremony, in a performance that may recall Daniel Day Lewis' in My Left Foot but with more humor and playfulness. Having learned to twist his body, learn to breathe carefully and use a mouth stick to dial a phone and type, Hawkes gets all the mannerisms right and makes us believe that he truly is in this sort of state. It's no easy feat to act in a lying down position with an iron lung for an entire movie but if done well, this sort of showy performance usually spells awards for you.

O'Brien has been a virgin his entire life and decides to hire a sex surrogate to "de-virginize" him. That surrogate is Cheryl as played by Helen Hunt, in a supporting performance that will also be rewarded with a nomination. Hunt is spectacular bringing a sexy, fierce vibe that has been lacking ever since her "As Good As It Gets" triumph in 1997. The aforementioned sessions involving Hunt's Cheryl and Hawkes' Mark are the heart and soul of the picture. Cheryl has a 6 session limit with every disabled client she visits. The sex scenes are incredibly well handled and -dare I say it- the best and sweetest sex scenes I've seen all year in any picture. This is in fact the first movie I've seen where premature ejaculation is actually dealt with in a sweet, non joking way.  Hunt and Hawkes have chemistry to burn in those scenes. Which reveal secrets about both characters that we might not see coming. The screenplay is at its peak in these scenes, where every word counts and every gesture by these characters brings new depth to the story.

Mark is a believer. Visiting church every Sunday and getting the blessing of his priest -playfully played by William H Macy- to go on this journey to lose his virginity. One cannot understand why Mark would still believe in God given his physical state but he jokingly says there must be a god given the fact that someone must have had a sense of humor the day they created him. The playfulness that comes with this movie is a real treat. It's a small indie gem that gets all the details right. It's a testament to the way the movie is handled that the vibe is never menacing and that Mark's situation is never really handled in a way to manipulate your emotions or force you into tears. The film threatens to collapse in "TV movie cliches" and is shot like one too but the performances are just so strong and the story just so good that they elevate the movie into a true contender. "The Sessions" is an undeniably fascinating true story, one that makes you reevaluate your own life in ways you never thought you would. That's the sign of a great movie.

Pixar's newest treat

Sure, it might not be as good as past Pixar fare and sure, it follows a more traditional narrative structure and yes, it just didn't meet critical expectations BUT don't -and I repeat- DON'T discount Pixar's "Brave" as nothing but filler in the same category as "Cars 2" or "A Bug's Life". The film is too good to be shunned off and relegated to that low-leveled category. Let me explain why. Expectations can really kill the way you view a film. Before "Brave" even came out, the thought of another Pixar film coming to theatres gave critics and movie buffs a reason to smile in what would likely be another dull summer loaded with movie escapism and not too much food for thought. I mean, this is the same company that gave us some of the great animated films of the last decade and single handily brought us into -my opinion of course- the golden age of animation. Just look at the treasure trove of brilliant films this company has released since 1999; Toy Story 2", "Monsters Inc.", "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles", "Ratatouille", "WALL-E", "Up" and "Toy Story 3".  An impressive list that is practically impossible to match by anyone else, safe maybe Hayao Miyazaki's brilliant filmography of the past three decades or Disney's brilliant run of films from 1989-1994.

In"Brave" what we have is Pixar's best animation to date. Its eye popping colors bring about dazzling visuals that would make any true film buff water in the mouth. The animation is so well drawn out and compared to earlier Pixar films, "Brave" blows them out of the water in terms of sheer technical achievements -Time's Richard Corliss has echoed my sentiments in saying it is "the most ravishing and complex pixar movie to date". However its narrative is safer, bringing about memories of some of Disney's so called "princess stories" yet infusing it with post 21st century material. This is Pixar's first film featuring a female heroine and not just any heroine; a redhead that has a killer talent for bow and arrow. Merida is her name and she is a headstrong free spirit that wants to "change her fate" (of being betrothed against her will) at nearly any cost. Merida will not be held back. The story comes with twists and turns that I didn't see coming, outstanding visuals and wait until you see Merida's three younger brothers,  redheaded baby triplets that just want to cause chaos everytime they're on screen.

This film doesn't have the dark, underlying adult themes of "Up" but it sure is a great time at the movies. Its scenes go from wacky, to dramatic to downright scary. Will it win the Best Animated Feature Oscar? It's too hard to tell but something tells me we shouldn't discount its chances. I mean, after all a "good" rather than "great" Pixar movie is still better than 99% of animated movies released in any given year. This is just a case of high expectations not being met. "Brave" isn't a film that vies for greatness - instead it is a lovely film that is intentionally Pixar's first foray into the "Fairytale" genre. However, It doesn't necessarily follow the rules of the genre; Merida would rather use her bow and arrow than chase boys or find her prince charming. The movie isn't about being in love or living happily ever after. It is more about one girl's quest to find self-fulfillment and identity in a world empowered by men. Don't listen to the naysayers or those who's expectations were too high to reach, let yourself get swept up into "Brave" and its magnificent colors.

When looking at the Best Animated Feature of 2012, one cannot discount Tim Burton's imaginative "Frankenweenie" which has enough critics backing it up and will likely get a well-deserved nomination. Burton's Gothic treat is his animated follow-up to "The Corpse Bride", which still is his ONLY Oscar nomination to date. Yes, it's very hard to believe especially with a filmography that includes "Ed Wood", "Sweeney Todd" and "Edward Scissorhands". "Frankenweenie" is Burton being Burton (You could see that as a good thing or a bad thing). Based on his 1984 short about a young boy named victor that loses his dog, Sparky, and uses the power of science to resurrect it "Frankenweenie" is a labor of love for Burton through and through. Shot in beautiful Black and White and laced with enough dark Gothic humor to satisfy his many legions of fans, the film will likely garner Burton a well deserved second nomination and maybe -just maybe- his first ever win.  Other contenders this year include well received fare such as "Paranorman", "Pirates: Bands Of Misfits" and the recently released "Wreck It Ralph".

Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix and "The Master"

(R) ★★★★½

If you're ready to encounter a ticking time bomb on-screen then get ready for Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson's flawed but brilliant The Master. No review can prepare you for what Phoenix does on screen in this movie. It is not only the best acting you will see all year but also a performance that will be talked about for ages. Not to take anything away from Philip Seymour Hoffman as a Ron L Hubbard-like biblical propagandist, Hoffman is brilliant too and will likely get his fourth Oscar nomination as Dodd. Anderson doesn't just direct The Master, he infuses it with so much cinematic juice that your eyes will likely explode in sheer delight of its colors and shots. Sure some critics are already bitching that Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love) has made a film with no meaning and no direction but these same people are missing the point. The Master is episodic in nature, a shuffling of numerous, powerfully deliberate sequences -practically all taking place in Freddie Quell's head- that hit you hard when taken in as a whole. I came out of it both confused and affected.

Contrary to what many people are saying, this is not a film about Scientology. Even though Scientology does serve as a background, Anderson has slyly set up for us a character study involving Phoenix's Freddie Quell and his psychotic journey through hell. Every time Freddie is on screen you feel uncomfortable, an unpredictable character, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode at any moment. The anger and frustration that resides inside Quell is not healthy and severe medical attention is what he needs. He thinks he's found it in a man that is preaching a new gospel. Hoffman's Dodd is a well known scientists that has come up with his own religion, one that very much mirrors Scientology founder Ron L Hubbard's vision. Dodd sees in Quell a potential follower, a man knocked out by life and in need of a resurgence. A friendship develops and that is in fact the heart and soul of the film. Dodd and Quell need each other more than we are led to believe. They are first and foremost friends that are blatantly divided by their own beliefs. In one scene after the next we are only given glimpses of the bond that is developed between the two men.

Freddie's quirky mannerisms are memorable - a hunched posture, one eye widely opened more so than the other, a slurred speech from too much drinking and a broken walk. Freddie's alcoholism is severe. He has a drink almost every time we see him. Phoenix has created a character that will resonate with fans of cinema for years to come. The first 20 minutes of The Master focus on Freddie's failed attempts at life. His memorably preposterous stint with the navy is highlighted by a humping session with a sandwoman which leads to a jerk off session next to the beach. His job as family photographer at a retail store, which ends with him attacking a client nonsensically and losing his job. As a runaway in an undisclosed location filled with Asian workers which eventually leads to his own homemade moonshine poisoning a local old man and possibly killing him. Freddie being chased by the Asian workers, somehow getting away from them and eventually sneaking into a boat party that is populated by Dodd and his followers. The way I'm describing these events is the way Anderson presents them to us, in fragments - just like in There Will Be Blood's opening scenes, we are set up for a character study like no other and a man that is truly aggressive in nature.

The episodic nature of the film gives it the feel of a dream and much credit must go to cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., who will likely deserve every award that will come his way at year's end. Anderson loses track of his film once his vision shifts to England but no matter that section still remains a thoughtful, enigmatic piece of his deliberately dreamy puzzle. We are left with enough question sto wet our appetites for a second viewing. The Master's many powerful moments combine to make it a masterful whole. It is a testament to Anderson's brilliance as writer/ director that you forgive the flaws that come with his work. He is truly the best American director working today because there is so much going on in every frame and such carefully planned out thought to his shots.  So much happens in the film's 138 minutes that the mind can't grasp everything at once. The relationship formed between Quell and Dodd is one that will be dissected for years to come. They form an unlikely duo that is the heart and soul of the picture. What's truly remarkable about the therapy Dodd uses on Quell -such as questioning, feeling walls/windows, controlling anger- is that it actually works for a glimmering moment, much more than any of the army's tactics.

Phoenix has shown signs of brilliance in past roles -most notably in 2009's underrated Two Lovers- but here he really outdoes himself. If Daniel Day-Lewis' towering performance as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood left a shattering mark on cinema for decades to come, Phoenix's Freddie Quell will likely have the same lasting effect. Before The Master collapses in its final 10 minutes, there hasn't been anything better released in 2012. When it finishes there still hasn't been anything better in 2012. Its resonant images stay with you like a neverending wave at shore,  long after the lights have come up and the dust has settled. Here is an example of director and actor both at the peak of their powers making such powerful, relentless, united art that transcends anything that's come before it. Anderson's last 4 films have each been released 5 years apart, here's hoping we don't have to wait another 5 years for the master to release another one.