Started by WorldForgot, March 22, 2022, 09:20:27 PM

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It has stayed with me since I saw it, which is the mark of something interesting. He seems to be getting conceptually bolder with every film, which is exciting. I wonder what a studio will let him greenlight next, given this movie's success...


Crazy how much money this movie is making. Nolan and James Cameron are simply an unstoppable force.

max from fearless

Dear Scrooby

Watching Oppenheimer, I couldn't help but think of PTA doing the whole 'men talking in rooms' thing in large format with The Master in 70mm. A friend kept saying after our first viewing of Oppenheimer that the middle of the film reminded him heavily of the TWBB town/camp being built sequence. I do feel that PTA has played in similar tonal, thematic, visual spaces but with more combustive, subtle, nuanced and feverish results which are very much left open to interpretation for the viewer (hence, their lack of popularity or box office success) Anyways long story short, just wanted to get your thoughts on PTA's next steps in light of what Nolan has achieved here. I know PTA makes EXACTLY the film he wants to make and that he could care less about conventional box office success, let alone following in the footsteps of others, but how does he compete in the way filmmakers do, now that Nolan has kind of raised the bar for R rated, 3 hour pictures? I felt that Licorice Pizza was a sweet picture with incredible technical prowess that left a lot to be desired at script stage (despite the critical acclaim) and overall, it didn't resonate with me on the level of say Phantom Thread which was astounding on every level. It feels like such a long time since TWBB and The Master, how does PTA reassert himself and take back his spot?

PS. One of the joys of watching Winning Time was watching it, seeing the amazing low angle close ups in that show and being reminded of The Master only to find that some episodes were indeed shot by Mihai Malaimare Jr. I love PTA's work as his on DOP but my lord, Mihai and Robert Elswitt really put their foot in those images.


Quote from: max from fearless on September 19, 2023, 01:26:06 PMWatching Oppenheimer, I couldn't help but think of PTA doing the whole 'men talking in rooms' thing in large format with The Master in 70mm.

PS. One of the joys of watching Winning Time was watching it, seeing the amazing low angle close ups in that show and being reminded of The Master only to find that some episodes were indeed shot by Mihai Malaimare Jr. I love PTA's work as his on DOP but my lord, Mihai and Robert Elswitt really put their foot in those images.

Oppie didn't work for me AT ALL.  I'm familiar with the story, and just found it totally uninvolving and desperately, crushingly boring. So much so that I left the 15-perf, 70mm, full-IMAX screening about 90 minutes in. Needless to say, it's box-office prowess is rather baffling to me.

Nice to see there's another fan of WINNING TIME.  It took a lot of heat--both from critics AND Lakers, but it was fun to watch. I had no idea that Mihai was onboard for some of the episodes--thanks for pointing that out.


Didn't you even stay for the 'splosion?


That's what everybody asks me!   :laughing:

No, I did not.  I couldn't imagine whatever it was being impressive enough to make up for what I'd already sat thru--nor did I know how much longer it would take to get there.   "Fuck it.  Streaming the 'splosion will be fine..."


Out of the starting gate—the colloquialism conveys anti-academia here—Scroob shall address the phenomenon of Licorice Pizza. Over the years the creative vision of PTA complexified on a precipitous upward trajectory from TWBB to The Master through to Phantom Thread. Simply put, PTA got smarter. Phantom Thread, as I have argued in print tirelessly for ages now, is a narrative with a structure to rival the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles. (It includes what I call the Triple Tone—the narrative is serious, funny, perverse, all at the same time—arguably the most complex technical feat an author can attempt.) Sophocles is widely considered in the running for the greatest literary author in Western history. Scroob will make the case—if called upon to do so—that Sophocles is the greatest. PTA consciously and successfully taking on the wondrous technicity of Sophocles is an unspeakable achievement. Phantom Thread brought PTA to the top of the magic mountain. What else to do after that, but step down a bit, to breathe easier? One cannot exist in a rarefied atmosphere indefinitely, or one will finally pass out, or burn out. Thomas Mann, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, always wrote a minor work (in both scope and size) after writing a major work. Apparently this was PTA's intention with Licorice Pizza : the artist needed a rest, needed to turn down the heat a bit. After the unspeakable achievement of Phantom Thread—which I have been tirelessly arguing is the most sophisticated storytelling to emerge from Hollywood since, well, Phantom Thread—there was nowhere for PTA to go in the short term. As Hitchcock would have put it, PTA required a "battery charge" after Phantom Thread. Now consider Nolan. He leapt straight from the colossal production of Dunkirk into Tenet—not the wisest move in retrospect. Nolan needed a rest, and Nolan knows better now. But PTA already knew better—hence, Licorice Pizza. Licorice Pizza is an unabashedly "minor work"—but PTA meant it to be so—just as Punch-Drunk Love is "minor" in scope compared to the broad character palettes of Boogie Nights and Magnolia—just as every composer of music who ever lived in Europe always composed minor works in between their major works. Beethoven didn't just write colossal works, he has many small-scale works, too. The Shostakovich waltz that opens Eyes Wide Shut is one of the composer's most minor works. The movie Amadeus makes a joke about how one of Mozart's most minor works was the most popular of his compositions after his death. So let us not misunderstand Licorice Pizza. It was meant as a small work, a breathing space, a relaxation. In the background, PTA's energy and Unconscious were slowly gathering power—for the next major work to come.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, "people talking in rooms" is cinema—that's what the Golden Age of Hollywood was all about : people talking in rooms. More significantly, "people talking in rooms" is literature—plays and the novel. It's a failure of understanding to approach "people talking in rooms" as some sort of limitation of storytelling vision. Absolutely not. If that were so, we would have to reject the ancient Greek and Roman plays—since they're "nothing more" these days than actors talking to one another—but since Europe preserved these ancient plays, one assumes that these plays may have something going for them. We would also have to reject Long Day's Journey into Night and Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire. What do these three plays have in common? They are first and foremost, and from first to last, based exclusively in interpersonal relationships. Oppenheimer has reminded the widest possible audience what is fundamental to a first-rate narrative : interpersonal relationships. Meaning (generally speaking) : "people talking in rooms".

I agree with you that Nolan was very obviously inspired by PTA. Dunkirk and Oppenheimer are the products of what I call the "humanist" Nolan. It is very obviously apparent—and Nolan would be the first to admit it—that the humanist PTA's storytelling, particularly in TWBB, inspired Nolan's approach to Oppenheimer. This is how it should be. Just as Coleridge took a cue from Wordsworth, or Samuel Beckett from Joyce, or Brahms from Beethoven, and so on and so forth. The best artists teach one another how to become better. The best artists inspire each other, and then they inspire us. Everybody wins.

Also note that TWBB was PTA's first literary adaptation. Same goes for Nolan and Oppenheimer. What does this mean? Adapting a ready-made narrative freed up a little bit of these artists' mind to go in directions possibly otherwise uninvestigated. Nolan uses his source material wonderfully well while following it judiciously, while PTA leaps off from his source material—almost right at the start!—to such an extent that the screenplay is almost an original.

These two storytellers are now fully grown-up. What they know now can't be taught. Who knows what riches they might produce. It seems unthinkable that PTA might make another film as accomplished as Phantom Thread—it's Sophocles, after all—but in these incredible times most anything might happen so it's absolutely not out of the question that PTA might surprise us with Genius Beyond Comprehension. But he doesn't have to go that far to impress us. But Scroob has no idea what the concept of "further" means with respect to PTA. Scroob remembers translating Homer. Back in the ancient evenings during the translations of the Odyssey and the Iliad, Scrooby often speculated where Homer might go next. Only twice in these two epic works was Scrooby correct in his assessment. Only twice. And each epic has something like 12,000–15,000 lines or whatever. So that's a lot of wrong guesses, or indeterminacy—or, to put it another way—that's a lot of genius storytelling. Homer was an ever-flowing fount of surprise. Similarly, PTA. It would be foolhardy to predict what an artist who took on Sophocles and won will do next. Anyway, a great work of art always comes as a surprise.

I have made the case before and I will make it again, if need be : Phantom Thread confirms PTA as our best living storyteller in film. I would go so far as to say that PTA—or possibly the humanist Nolan—might one day be up for a Nobel Prize in Literature (if we accept a film as a "filmed play"—because playwrights can win the Nobel Prize. Eugene O'Neill did).

Yes, Phantom Thread confirms PTA as our best storyteller—though Nolan is the most popular in the world right now. Please let us agree that there can be no worthier subject matter than Oppenheimer : the film is founded in so many fundamental story principles that it can serve as a three-year course in storytelling. And the film promotes scholastic study—the most worthy encouragement of all. (The promotion of scholastic study has a philosophic primacy over whatever it is that might be studied.) Elsewhere Scroob has defined Oppenheimer as the most distinguished blockbuster in Hollywood history.

One comment on one comment : "[PTA] could care less about conventional box office success". Let's say you're one hundred percent correct. Fact remains, though, that PTA will never get the budgets that Nolan enjoys unless PTA begins selling tickets. Phantom Thread made only $40 mil worldwide or thereabouts. Such a gross will not inspire studios to open their purse strings. Possibly PTA doesn't want a colossal budget because he is content with intimate stories. On the other hand, who can say that PTA doesn't have a 2001 : A Space Odyssey inside of him, but which needs a budget of big $$$ for it to be realized?

The colossal, and colossally unanticipated, storytelling success of Oppenheimer may have jolted PTA to some degree. What will he do? Scroob hopes he continues along the trajectory of Phantom Thread—exploring one subject in depth : the complexity of adult relationships. That is first-rate storytelling, from Aeschylus to the present day. No CGI required.

If Scroob had to speculate, Scroob would say : PTA is about to produce something as dense and complex and wondrous as Phantom Thread. But even though we might see it, we might not know what we have seen for years. PTA is ahead of Nolan, and PTA is ahead of us.