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Friday — May 27th, 2022: Well well well, another fantastic week in the books! [READ MORE]

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Licorice Pizza


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๐ŸŽ™️ EPISODE 400: 02.14.22

There was a time late last summer when I thought the movies were back. I had gone to see two movies IN PERSON at an actual MOVIE THEATER in a single calendar month! Wow. Looking back at it, it feels odd that both of those movies were documentaries (The Sparks Brothers and the Anthony Bourdain one), like why was I 'wasting' my rare trips out on such small-scale fare? But looking at it now, I think it honestly feels like that was the beginning of the end (of the pandemic) and not the end of the beginning or perhaps the middle of the middle part, or jesus christ kill me now please and thank you. Nevertheless, fast-forward several months, through an entire season, the holidays, a year. And I find myself in an uncomfortable seat in front of one of the tiniest screens at this AMC 24 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey to watch the new PTA film. Hooray! NOW: The Movies Are Back™, baby!
I think I was struck fairly early by the sensation, the gut feeling that this was not "Classic Paul Thomas Anderson." And that's fine. Batting a 1,000 is still batting 1,000 even if some of those hits are doubles. This is a smaller scale affair, decidedly more lightweight, though much more personal. This setting is Anderson's youth onscreen for the first real time, even if the two magnificent leads are pure fiction.

And therein lies the magic of Licorice Pizza: the performances of Alana Haim (of the sister rock group Haim) and Cooper Hoffman (of he is the son of frequent PTA collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman, RIP) are nothing short of magnificent, and considering that this is both actors' first film is nothing short of astonishing. They are both so deliriously good and natural, and sure it probably helps to have someone like Anderson guiding their maiden voyage, but I left the theater in awe. There is a scene where Hoffman, in an attempt to prove he is cool and adult-like, tries to smoke a cigarette naturally; his mannerisms in that moment so reminded me of his father it was eerie. It isn't fair to put that weight on it, on him, but it was nevertheless bittersweet.

This is also something of a rarity for PTA in that it treats the seemingly ensemble cast (on the poster for marketing purposes) as simply fodder for our dual protagonists. Wherein Boogie Nights and especially Magnolia featured a plethora of actors weaving in and out of the big picture, Licorice Pizza treats the secondary roles as speed bumps, symbols, hiccups, cautionary tales or quasi morality lessons. The appearances of Penn and Waits, Safdie and most notably Cooper are all in service of specific and disconnected vignettes. This is not an anthology but at its core, it essentially functions indistinguishably from one. Working — and more importantly, writing — must have been a refreshing experience for PTA. His dialogue is always fantastic but it felt especially fresh deployed in this fashion, what with being able to tactically reset the plotline at various intervals with new and mysterious characters, most either deeply inspired by or actual charisctures of real people; again — most notably here — Cooper in the role of Hollywood producer, Barbara Streisand boyfriend and insane person, John Peters. He steals this segment of the film: in and out in no more than fifteen minutes but legit LoL funny, captivating and owning an intense chemistry with Hoffman. It's essentially a glorified cameo but there's a benefit here in terms of leaving the audience wanting more.

And the "more" here being, naturally, Hoffman and Haim. These outsourced foils pepper their lives (and breathe life into the story) but they also act as tentpoles (?) or perhaps buoys for this burgeoning relationship. This is, without a doubt, the sweetest film Anderson has ever made. He's traded in intensity for kindness, and in that way, and given these times, this film felt right and perfect for the moment.

๐Ÿ„ฟ๐Ÿ„ฐ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ…ƒ ๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ„ต ๐Ÿ„ผ๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ……๐Ÿ„ธ๐Ÿ„ด๐Ÿ„น๐Ÿ„ด๐Ÿ„ต๐Ÿ„ต.๐Ÿ„ฒ๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ„ผ'๐Ÿ…‚ ๐Ÿ„ฟ๐Ÿ„ฐ๐Ÿ…„๐Ÿ„ป ๐Ÿ…ƒ๐Ÿ„ท๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ„ผ๐Ÿ„ฐ๐Ÿ…‚ ๐Ÿ„ฐ๐Ÿ„ฝ๐Ÿ„ณ๐Ÿ„ด๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ…‚๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ„ฝ ๐Ÿ„ณ๐Ÿ„ธ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿ„ด๐Ÿ„ฒ๐Ÿ…ƒ๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ… ๐Ÿ„ต๐Ÿ„พ๐Ÿ„ฒ๐Ÿ…„๐Ÿ…‚

CHRONOLOGICALLY
EPISODE 399 - (YOU ARE HERE) - EPISODE 401 ⫸

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also serves as one of the film's producers and cinematographers. It is his 9th movie. The film stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman in their debut feature performances, as well as Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper, and Benny Safdie. It was released on November 26th, 2021.

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