Tag Archives: Paul Thomas Anderson

Film Review: Elmer Gantry (1960)

A mounteback named Elmer Gantry is a traveling salesman who has a magnetic personality and looks for an opportunity to make money by sweet talks, and by permeating the words of the Bible in his passionate speeches. One day, he finds a purpose in life when he spectates an evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer and joins her organization.

Elmer Gantry is an American film produced in 1960 and was adapted from Sinclair Lewis‘s famous novel with the same title. By the time, the novel was published and released, the book received uproar and was widely criticized for writing out some bold details about the religious business and revivalism that happened in the United States a century ago. It was a satirical novel that gave the readers some idea of manipulating the staunch loyalist members of the evangelistic church and raising the money for the business.

The same case is with the film that sparks a lot of attention in the eyebrow-raising dialogues; especially when Elmer and Sister meet the other church leaders. The film takes quite a liberty to expose the concept of Revivalism. The way the organization is depicted functioning and the church leaders are portrayed concerning the religious affairs to cash their personal gains ridicules the traditional beliefs and practices of organized Christianity. Director Richard Brooks dared to touch the subject but the productional aesthetics are so sharp that the portrayal of selling religion in America is on the razor edge for the audience. Gantry and Sister Sharon are the messiahs of this cult for the White Americans. Observe a short church scene at the start where the African-Americans sang a hymn, their method distinguishes and Elmer, despite all the religious dedication to singing along with them, chooses to move on and look for a better market.

Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry is a blessing to the eyes of the audience. A role of a lifetime, a performance that occurs rarely in a generation. I felt that Burt and Elmer were to admire each other’s work and someone had a mission to unite them on a platform. From the beginning until the end, Burt mesmerized me and surely most of the viewers with his incredible performance. His pitch, his sermon, his body language, everything was just incredible. A lively and charming characterization of Gantry was made possible by Burt and I hardly believe anyone from that era would have nailed this role. I think of Gregory Peck but he would have looked too rich for Gantry. I think Anthony Quinn or Kirk Douglas would have pulled a performance if Burt was not given this role. Burt’s performance meets variations with time. When Gantry meets criticism after being caught in the scandal, he is shamed in the hall by limited angry spectators. They throw eggs and vegetables on him and he is mute and lost allowing them to throw their rage on him. What a magnificent shot that was when the trumpeter plays on his face and back, as he walks away in shame and people keep throwing the mess on him.

Elmer Gantry was not only enviable due to Burt’s phenomenal performance but also due to the superb assistance of the supporting performances of Jean Simmons as Sister Sharon and Shirley Jones as Lulu Bains.

If this film is remade, I would want Paul Thomas Anderson to direct with any of Joaquin Phoenix or Oscar Isaac being considered to play Elmer Gantry, Rooney Mara as Sister Sharon (plus she resembles Jean Simmons a lot), and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lulu.

The film is the winner of three Academy Awards that includes a deserving Oscar for Burt as the Best Actor. I think Elmer Gantry is one of the earliest pinnacles of portraying the deception of being some false messiah or a prophet. The quality of depicting hypocrisy, the corrupted hearts of showrunners, people being foolish, and some being gold-diggers is very well dramatized. Elmer Gantry is quite a cinematic example of compromising faith by applying materialism in the obscure art of selling religion.

Ratings: 8.4/10

Film Review: Licorice Pizza (2021)

So I am writing about someone who himself is some institute of filmmaking, Paul Thomas Anderson. Looking at the plethora of critical acclaim his films earn every time his new work is presented, I waited this moment to watch his latest venture, Licorice Pizza. And I knew the spark is there, the spark is just there.

Two hours of beautiful feeling and those instincts of cold whispers amongst young bloods that brood or shroud the gospel of emotions from head to toe. A kind of blue-ish feeling when a young boy Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and a girl Alana Kane (Alana Haim) meet each other first time and try to reason the birth of those unaccomplished meetings. We have watched trillions of times but there is a way to make young kids take their chances, accept or refuse, make a joke out of it, or make a point out of all seriousness. Paul made us feel that in some boozy vibrance. A magnitude of spectacle.

The warmth of the chemistry proceeds like the flourishing pinnacle. The relation leads to thick surprises and their excitement being together is the epitome of the symphony. Even when they are not together, impatience grows. I felt a lot, a bloody lot, when Gary and Alana phone each other and say nothing. The depth of the story surprises and gives its whataboutery of awkwardness. I embrace the entirety of the intense moment when the cops arrest Gary from nowhere; what a spectacular shot when Alana runs and tells him not to worry, and the handcuffed Gary stares at her like a d***head.

Licorice Pizza also tests the complicated relationship in some situational comic moments that also occurs out of nowhere because life is so uncertain. Alana grabs the opportunity to gather with big boys and make Gary feel. The whole change in shift to the restaurant and that silly stunt was necessary as the story assumed that humans, in all complications, can reach different places reasoning and finding their own identity until they slip and realize. A kind of this scene may have never appealed but Paul’s writing about the complicated relationship of two confused kids was berzerk.

How smartly the gas issue was raised?! The film portrays California of 1973 and OPEC‘s oil embargo also occurred the same year. Bradley Cooper as John Peters was so perfect! Very impressive soundtracks were played. The Mikado hotel reference also hints that Paul did this on purpose to show the early years of the first Japanese restaurant in San Fernando Valley that approves meticulous writing. And why not? After all, Paul’s film aesthetics are usually centered around San Fernando Valley.

I loved the onscreen pairing of amateur actors, Cooper and Alana. Looking at their personalities and stature, they do not remind you of some ideal figures but the story of common people. Both made their debuts and how impressive were they. For Paul, this was a friendly project as Cooper is the son of late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alana is an established music celebrity from the pop-rock band Haim for whom Paul has directed many music videos.

If the audience has ever loved Paul’s Boogie Nights, they will definitely love watching Licorice Pizza. Talk about a coming-of-age, raw buildup of young relations, desperate attempts of making money, and a few more, Licorice Pizza is an exceptional masterpiece.

Ratings: 8.8/10