This is the season in which Oscar-caliber movies reign supreme, lording over a landscape of peons with an iron fist. Dazzling trailers full of critical praise are unleashed to the masses, informing all of us that these are indeed the good movies to see this season.
Perhaps the earliest entry in that category this fall is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” a not-quite-about-Scientology film that, I guess, is sort of about Scientology.
It stars the always-dependable Philip Seymour Hoffman and a reemerged Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the part of an aimless, alcoholic war veteran who has sex with women made of sand.
Ironically, Phoenix’s bizarre relations with a sand woman end up being one of the few moments of the entire movie with any life. Beyond that, it’s hardly anything more than a two-and-a-half-hour meandering film that leaves a stale taste in your mouth.
But that hasn’t stopped the movie from receiving excellent reviews and the sure-fire Oscar talk. It obviously had all the pieces in place: a tremendous cast that included Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams (if seeing her give a handjob in a movie was on your checklist, or maybe to see Hoffman get one, be ready to mark it off), a director with a pedigree like Anderson’s, and a plot that touches on a compelling real-world subject.
It doesn’t matter; the movie is a bore. Going into it, I knew what kind of reception it was receiving from the esteemed community of critics. That thought was always in my head as I fidgeted in my seat, waiting for the movie to take a turn, to introduce a worthwhile element. Instead, I got to see some old ladies naked in a bizarre, misplaced, and useless dream sequence. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix’s contorted facial expressions, as if he just caught a whiff of a fart passing by.
This happens seemingly every year. Among the big-budget Oscar bait movies are the indie darlings, the small films that the public doesn’t see but are deemed excellent by critics.
In 2011, it was “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” a perfect example of why spy movies aren’t exactly meant to be realistic (i.e. it was tremendously boring). This year, it’s “The Master,” a movie that throws together abstract concept after abstract concept at you and makes you feel like an idiot if you don’t “get it.”
Naturally, all of this means that “The Master” will be nominated for many of the major categories at the Academy Awards. Hell, it might even win one or two. It will be lauded for its nuanced performances and issue-tackling, which is as vague and insulting to one’s intelligence as the movie itself.
Isn’t awards season the best?