Oscar History

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Team Experience: The Master

I'm out and about again (finally!) so my greedy eyeballs will be on The Master soon. I challenged Team Experience to describe the film in three words since so many critics can't even settle on what it's even about (I'm avoiding reviews but the non-consensus as to meaning is out there).

Four brave souls took me up on the challenge...

Matt Zurcher writes:

Fevered heart need.
The intensity of The Master is impossible to understate. The style itself is unhinged -- crazy, even. The characters are bloated visions of Freudian extremes. The Master is filmmaking of the highest order, yes. But it's also cinema that works on its own terms, so full of cocky flair and delightful self-indulgence that the audience has no choice but to follow it wherever it wants to go. Anderson's fable can seem alienating or disorganized on first viewing, but a second reveals the director's compassion. Joaquin Phoenix's face is a shattered one, but his tears are so heartbreakingly believable. The passion and need that these two men feel for each other begs to be known. And in all the intellectualization of this film that we're going to see, let us remember that it's really just about two people who need each other and who love each other. It's the best love story I've seen since Punch-Drunk Love.

You can read Matt's full review here.

Beau McCoy writes:


Opaque Rabid Jazz
"The Master" makes "Cosmopolis" look as accessible as a Spielberg film. Purposely distant and muddled; what are we watching and why? Ferocity abounds in its many forms and incarnations. Moves like a jazz solo; we don't know where we're going. Why should it matter? Premature.

Alexa says:

Disappointing Beautiful Molasses
There's a truly great film here waiting to be pulled out of the molasses...

You can read more of her thoughts, here.

Finally, Jose was even more succinct but I suspect it's something of a spoiler so I'm putting it after the jump...

Lady Amy Macbeth
I chose the three words because I NEVER saw that coming from her. Also, the sink scene ew...

Oh great. Fevered hearts, including Lady Macbeth's needing and needing, scored to rabid jazz? Now I'm even more desperate to see it!

If you hit the jump I assume you've seen it. Can YOU sum up your response or describe the experience in three words?

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Reader Comments (22)

Rorschach test. Handjob.

But in a good way!

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Tufsy

Stunning, emotionally distant.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

The sink scene - which deserves an ew, no question - is actually my second favourite scene in the movie. I never saw her like that either but it was powerful.

My favourite scene (SPOILER) is Freddie's processing, where he's not allowed to blink. I couldn't blink either. So so so powerfully acted.

I know it's saying a lot, but I think this is the best performance of their careers for both Hoffman and Phoenix.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Bewitching, savage, oceanic.

It's Big Art but also knife-to-the-gut personal and tough to pin down. Plus, more literally, the ocean's a repeated visual motif.

September 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterAndreas

It's illogical to reduce The Master into three words. Three word responses are for mundane and common things. The Master is a gift. An unassuming one that seduces with a startling jolt backwards in your chair from a shoe-less foot in the crotch. Once you've decided you're okay with the seduction you're led on a path of what you've secretly wanted but believed it was out of reach. And no longer yours to have. I'll leave you with a three name highlight but not a summation.

Joaquin, Greenwood, Anderson

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

@4rtful: I love you. Always the rebel. :D

The film is really befuddling me. I genuinely don't know what to think about it. There are scenes here that are just marvelous, others that I couldn't for the life of me comprehend within the context of the story.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

OT: Spain's Oscar submission is Blancanieves (Snow White)

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentervv

Oh good, I was wondering when you'd be able to see the movie and talk about it. I saw it last weekend and have been pondering it since.

My three words: Joaquin Phoenix supercallifragilisticexpialadocious

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAR

I mean...the movie IS a period-set remake of "Punch Drunk Love," right?

I was in awe of the work by Hoffman and Phoenix, certainly, but the fact is that these men are not giving us the best "acting" of their lives, or even of the year. These are the best performances because they are affects, mannerisms, gestures, albeit grandiose and fantastical in their measure and proportion. But these aren't characters, these aren't people, I don't know what they are, but this is not acting.

What Adams does here? Jesse Plemons? THAT'S acting. Wowza.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Three words...hmmmm.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Three words: "What the F*$k!" (In a good way)

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Fraudulent corrosive gorgeous

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfilmdr

Beau, I had a similar reaction and went back about a week later. It all made a great deal more sense. And it was a lot funnier, too.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Three words hmmm...

interesting. confusing. vague.

I don't know what to think of it either.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Prometheus: Arthouse Version

Beautiful to look at, script seems like it was on the third draft when it needed to get to 15. Opaque enough that the viewer can lay whatever he likes on what it all means. Or not.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

@Beau: You've made me the envy of the world.

September 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful


What specifically is troubling you? After 4 viewings, I've discovered that the film has an incredibly tight, organized, specific structure. There's only one scenario that I believe wasn't necessary in the final cut. Maybe we can point you towards enlightenment. ;)

September 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterMatt Zurcher

I have 6, directed at PT, tied into my reaction to his last movie: Option The Bone People now, please.

September 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

When people say distant, do they mean There Will Be Blood distant? Or The Girlfriend Experience distant?

September 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColin Biggs

there's no master.

October 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Sluggish stupefying bore

October 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Perplexing. Perverse. Powerful.

October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonny
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