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The Master Cleanse

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” – P.T. Barnum

Same as the Humbugs of the World can be said for the millions of worshippers that devote their life and money to Scientology – or for that matter the billions that actually believe God exists. The Master, brought to us by our reborn P.T. Paul Thomas Anderson, offers a compelling look of post WW2 America and the formation of a cult and it’s charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and a discharged navy seaman drifter, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who’s only vocation is taking portrait pictures, concocting a mean batch of hooch, and a compulsive need to fornicate with everything from dime store broads to sand crotch sculptures…but most of all to sustain his drinking habit and Freddie Freeloading ways.

What makes this movie so remarkable and mesmerizing is that Anderson, who clearly depicts Lancaster and all of his followers as a bunch of whackadoodles, actually has you identifying with Joaquin’s obviously disturbed character who runs away with this circus surrounding Lancaster. By shooting it from Joaquin’s point of view with several long takes (with or without dialogue) that are so beautifully constructed and impeccably shot and edited, it easily surpasses any of Anderson’s previous films. As for Joaquin, thankfully he’s still here affirming he’s one of the best actors of his generation. I mean, the scene when he’s in jail and totals a toilet alone will most likely win him the Oscar for best actor…that is if he doesn’t lose to Phillip Seymour for his off key rendition of On a Slow Boat to China (which is so truly bizzaro) while Amy Adams’ creepy performance lends a helping hand playing his wife and with his willie.

So what is Paul Thomas Anderson trying to say? Well, it feels epic in scope and subject matter, but in a nutshell it’s really just an intimate portrait of a friendship between two nonconformist men wandering around during an innocent Bible fearing, homo shunning, prosperous patriotic time in America – all the while hoodwinking the other lost souls and suckers preceding all other cults that will crop up in darker times to come…like those people who don’t poop for a month and drink cayenne pepper and lemon maple syrup. I prefer a shot of turpentine myself.


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No doubt. God loves homos.

Doubt Meryl

Finally Oscar buzz proves itself worthy as the eagerly awaited Doubt opened this weekend. John Shanley succeeds in faithfully adapting his 2005 Pulitzer winner to the big screen almost verbatim with the divine helping hand from the Coen Bros’ DP, Roger Deakins, and as always – performances by Streep, Hoffman, and Amy Adams delivered.

 

Set in the tumultuous year of 1964 as the country deals with the aftermath of the JFK assassination, the civil rights and feminist movements, the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the race to the moon, the second coming, (who would go on to be more popular than Jesus) The Beatles, were making their debut at the Ed Sullivan theatre while just a few miles away the Bronx St. Nicholas Church School also struggles to keep up with the times by accepting there first black student (Donald Miller). Dictated by principal/gate keeper, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, (Meryl Streep) whose name itself reflects a Dark Ages ball buster, is set in her old ways of defacto disciplinarian that pits bunched granny pantied nuns vs. students. But while Sister Aloysius tries to hold the reigns by putting the fear of God into every boy and girl and scrutinizing every gesture and flirtation, in contrast, young Sister James (Amy Adams) joins the fold of old cripples, bringing her innocent and amenable teachings. However it is the new Father Brendan Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who challenges Sister Aloysius’ seemingly wicked ways with his compassionate, amiable progressive approach towards the impressionable students by sermonizing subliminal messages of doubt and faith. But this cool Priest image is soon shattered as we discover that his real interest in relating to students may really be to show them the light where the sun don’t shine. Sister James raises suspicion as she reports to Sister Aloysius of Father Flynn’s particular interest in Donald Miller, whom he has called out of class for a personal head to head confession while sucking down wine and probably some kneeling in the pew.  Sister Aloysius with no solid proof except for her keen sense of sniffing out a perv plays mother hen as she sets out to bring down Father Flynn at all costs and to protect Donald Miller. But the real twist to this tale is that there is no doubt that Donald is a homo too! Go figure…

Doubt Streep & Adams

 Meryl adds a New Yawkish (hawkish) accent to her resume as her austere performance with a cold calculated comedic timing – keeping her the center of attention. Soft-spoken Amy Adams, who still finds enjoyment in Frosty the Snowman, plays a believable new naive teacher believing these constrained preteens’ only desire is to memorize Franklin D. quotes when really they are sneaking in ballpoint pens and suffering from self-induced bloody noses to escape. Phillip Seymour Hoffman appears to have finally showered since his last unkempt roles in Synedoche, New York, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and The Savages, but still hasn’t found the time to trim his nails. Yet even with them clean claws to snatch up little boys he remains likeable, sympathetic, and idealistic.

Doubt Hoffman & Boys

Dirty HoffmanHoffman Dirty 2

But perhaps Doubt’s biggest surprise is the performance by Viola Davis as Donald’s mother. It would appear that all those Law & Order victims taught Davis a thing or two about crying on cue as she steals a scene from Streep with a supporting actress nom by displaying drizzling snot as she fights for her son to stay in St. Nicholas where his care under Father Flynn may be a bit too hands on but is less harmful than facing his Father’s fists at home. But for me personally, I’d rather be punched in the face than to be fist fucked. 

 Doubt Viola Davis

With the year coming to an end it looks as though Doubt will be taking home a few prizes leaving all us sinners condemned to hell for stealing some of God’s umpf by exposing his philandering Priests (and Michael Jack) and nose pickers yet again.

Hoffman Nose Picker

(Hoffman’s vice leading him to become a Priest)

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