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Master Lincoln Unchained

Posted by martinteller on July 1, 2013

Very small thoughts on three very big movies from last year.

Lincoln – I guess the worst thing I can say about this movie is that it’s pretty much exactly what’d you expect it to be.  Not a whole lot of surprises here (though the bit with Tommy Lee Jones at the end was a nice touch).  Maybe it’s not entirely fair to say a movie doesn’t have many surprises when everyone else saw it months ago, but the point is Spielberg isn’t doing anything that radical with the historical biopic.  Still, all the political drama is very engaging… how accurate any of it is, I couldn’t say, but it made for an intriguing journey.  The Mary/Robert stuff is perhaps superfluous but not unwelcome.  The craftsmanship is up to Spielberg’s usual standards and the Williams score isn’t too obnoxious this time.  DDL’s performance is the clear highlight, a riveting presence as usual.  Rating: Good (75)

Django Unchained – I don’t suppose I need to point out the appropriateness of watching this just after Lincoln, with their very different takes on slavery in America.  I’m sure that comparison has been made countless times already and besides, I really have nothing astute to say on the subject.  Nor do I need to comment on Tarantino revisiting the revenge fantasy milieu in the wake of Kill Bill and more closely Inglourious Basterds.  Don’t have anything too bright to say about this either.  In fact, this movie has left me quite speechless, not in the sense that it blew me away but just my viewing of it was very surface and I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought yet.  I’d like to see it again.  I did find it quite entertaining in most regards, with attention-grabbing performances by Foxx, Waltz and DiCaprio and some wonderfully executed shootouts.  Tarantino’s affection for the n-word is disquieting, however.  Historically appropriate or not, it’s uncomfortable how often it pops up, as if he feels like it’s okay that he uses it because he understands.  However, the accumulated effect of its prolific use here is actually less uncomfortable than a single instance in Pulp Fiction.  Rating: Very Good (83)

The Master – I was daunted as I started this up.  One thing I knew about it is that no one could agree on what it’s actually about, or if it’s even about anything.  Assuming that this wasn’t mere exaggeration, I anticipated having a very difficult review to write.  And it sure would be, if I was putting any effort into this.  A lot of the theories sound pretty good to me, but I’m not ready to commit to one yet.  The funny thing is that nothing outrageously inexplicable happens in the movie.  It’s just so hard to figure out what Paul Thomas Anderson intended to accomplish, or even ignoring authorial intent, what one could take away from it.  But Anderson did accomplish one thing: he made a very original and intriguing film.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an onscreen relationship quite like the one between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd.  Watching Phoenix and Hoffman craft these unique characters and bounce off them each other is a cinematic experience that actually felt fresh.  And blow me down, Amy Adams is actually interesting for once.  Maybe this entire movie is nonsense (“He’s making it all up as he goes along”) but it was very unpredictable and kept me wanting to know what was around the next corner.  Rating: Very Good (85)

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10 Responses to “Master Lincoln Unchained”

  1. JamDenTel said

    The only part of THE MASTER I find a bit frustrating is the scene where Dodd “contacts” Freddie in the movie theater. My guess is Freddie discovered, via the news or some other source, that Dodd had moved his base of operations, and that this scene was a dream on Freddie’s part, perhaps representing the passage of several years (though I think Anderson left the timeframe deliberately vague throughout, to evoke Freddie’s clouded view of things). Otherwise, I think it’s a…master-ful film?

    DJANGO, for me, gets better with repeat viewings. I’m glad you made mention of Foxx’s performance, since a few reviews I read suggested he was a weak link in the cast. But I think, especially on the aforementioned repeat viewings, it becomes clear what a subtle (and rather moving) performance he gives.

  2. nancy said

    I love this review – the quick takes. Here are mine. Lincoln. A good performance but the usual spielberg excess and lack of editing. I thought Mary and the kids could have been cut, and there were three endings. Django – love the characters T creates. Love them. Love that he has people act the way we wish they had acted (as in – watching the Klan boneheads arguing about the hoods). And I’m a sucker for a revenge flick. The Master – perhaps my fav movie of ’12 because of the acting and lack of an ending. Who was the manipulator? Did Freddie escape or just gain independence to start his own group? What was wrong with him anyway?

    • Nancy – Sorry for the late reply! Lincoln did have too many endings. Just when I thought it hit the perfect place to end, it kept going like another 20 minutes. The Master probably isn’t my favorite of 2012 (I’d have to check the numbers) but it was quite good.

  3. Alan said

    Yes, The master is a puzzle, what is it about? I couldn’t really fathom it, but it kind of lures you in and intrigues and fascinates while you are puzzling. Certainly Phoenix is quite stunning, And he looks so emaciated- you wonder if he did it for the movie or if he really is having some kind of health issue. I do detect some Kubrick like misogony in the movie. I couldn’t see why suddenly all the women are stripped while the men stay resolutly clothed- fun for the male cast and crew but must have beeen some women left feeling humiliated. Same as at the end when the Phoenix charecter is in bed-fucking -the woman on top fairly fully revealed in a certain way -breasts sagging a little and a little roundness to her midsection, while Phoenix is safely covered-although one wonders about the need for the cock remark something like-“it’s slipped out you need to put it back in?”

  4. Alan said

    Re: “Django Unchained”. I watched this late last night into the early morning. Basically hating every frame. Tarentino might be clever , but this movie I found pretty repugnant most of the time and quite ridiculous in places, particularly the final shoot out,where everyone is being hit (some multiple times) except the target (Foxx). Also it was pretty stupid that the German good guy was so appalled by the notion of shaking DiCaprios’ hand (because of his savagery in the dog’s killing the slave-that he shoots him and seems quite willing to suffer the consequence-hi death-well if he was so stupid in his response why wouldn’t he have done something at the time? I watched it half fascinated and have repulsed. I would not recommend- although have to say that Dicaprio’s performance was the best.

    • I would like to revisit it some day. I don’t recall having these issues with the film. I think the implausibility of the shootout is likely deliberate homage to any of number of films where bullets fly all over without hitting the hero (John Woo, anyone?).

      • Alan said

        Quick Reply! AS an observation-given the content and theme, it would seem a little inappropriate to use that kind of homage. AS a white guy, these films eg “12 Years a Slave” etc, I find very difficult to watch, as basically I know that they will include really upsetting brutality, I also found that I would have liked to see the baddy whites suffer A LOT MORE than they did, they were basically just popped off with a bullet, whereas we have a black woman whipped, branded, a hung upside down nude Jamie Foxx-about to have his balls sliced off, a black guy ripped to pieces by dogs. I guess I am a little too squeamish in some senses but then I contradict myself by wanting to see the white baddies suffer. Explain it I cannot.

      • I don’t think you need to explain it, it makes sense to me. It’s unsettling that Tarantino is more explicit in showing violence against blacks… but perhaps he thinks he’s being more sympathetic by emphasizing their suffering.

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