• Craig Hunter

Paul Thomas Anderson Films

Paul Thomas Anderson has written and directed several feature length films.  His films typically include ensemble casts and often involve multiple intersecting plot lines.  Many of his films take place in the San Fernando Valley in California where he grew up.  Some of the recurring actors in his films include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Baker Hall, Luis Guzmán, Melora Walters, Ricky Jay, and many more.

Let's talk about three of his earlier films that are my favourites.

Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights (1997) is the story of the life of fictional 70's porn star Dirk Diggler, loosely based on the life of John Holmes. The film depicts Dirk's beginning as Eddie Adams, played by Mark Wahlberg living with his parents in Torrence, California, and follows his rise--no pun intended--to adult movie stardom as the "immensely gifted" Dirk Diggler.  Then finally his fall from fame and addition to drugs and his comeback--no pun intended, again.

Let's look at three really good scenes from Boogie Nights.

The Nightclub

Jack Horner is an adult movie director played by Burt Reynolds in a career revitalizing role. Jack and porn starlet Amber Waves, played by Julianne Moore, are in a nightclub with most of the production crew and porn actors who work on his films, when Jack spots a young Eddie Adams across the room clearing drinks from a table. He tracks Eddie in the kitchen loading a dishwasher and asks him how old he is. Eddie starts to defend that he has appropriate paperwork to be working in the club and Jack explains "it's nothing like that." "I think there's something really special waiting to come out of those jeans." Jack invites Eddie over to his house and Eddie declines. Back at the table Jack sends Rollergirl, played by Heather Graham, over to Eddie to find out what's in his jeans.

Jack's House

Eddie and Reed Rothchild, played by John C. Reilly, meet for the first time at Jacks pool party a couple of days before the production of what will be Eddie's firms film.  Jack introduces Eddie and Reed. Eddie and Reed act like competitive children but you can see that there is friendship developing there. They conversation turns to working out.  "What do you squat?" Reed baits Eddie.  Reed claims to be able to squat much more than a cursory evaluation of his body would indicate.

The scene uses music to segway between party goers and serves as an effective introduction to multiple characters. These sort of long, uninterrupted scenes that seamlessly transition between characters and rooms are a hallmark of PT Anderson films.  The Colonel, who financially backs all of the films, is introduced to Eddie by Jack—who obviously knows where his bread is buttered. The close up of the handshake between the colonel and Eddie foreshadows a long and successful relationship.  They chit-chat and the colonel says, "Jack says you've got a great big cock...may I see it please?" Eddie pulls it out and the camera captures the colonel's reaction. "Well thank you, Eddie."

The Drug Deal

Dirk, Reed, and Todd Parker are at a drug dealer / buyer's house. This is their ultimate low point. They are there to sell a fake "half a key" of coke to the dealer for $5000. The dealer accepts the offer and as his bodyguard is weighing the bag of "coke" the three of them are sitting on the couch. Reed is pleading with Todd to leave, Dirk is quiet, and Todd is devising a plan to rob the dealer. The camera pauses on Dirk's face and zooms in on his eyes for a long time. His eyes say so much. You can feel that he is realizing that they need to get out of there, fast! Not only do they need to leave now but they need to alter the path their lives are on. Dirk stands up, "Sir, we gotta go." But Todd has other plans. I'm going to leave you hanging here but trust me, just watch the scene, what happens next is incredible.

That was a brief look at three great scenes from Boogie Nights.  Be smart and add this one to your dvd collection.  

Check out Boogie Nights on Amazon

Hard Eight

Hard Eight (1996) is Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature film...not his porn name.  This film starts off very subdued and ramps up the action after the midpoint.  Sydney, an ageing professional gambler played by Philip Baker Hall, meets John in the first scene of the film and becomes his sort of guardian angel.  Flash forward two years and Sydney and John have a close relationship like a father and son, they travel together and live in the same hotel rooms.

In the second half of the film, it is revealed why Sydney has taken John under his wing and Sydney has to take extreme actions to protect that secret from being exposed.

Let's look at three great scenes from Hard Eight.

The Coffee Shop

In the opening scene, we are looking through the eyes of Sydney as he approaches a coffee shop where a defeated man is sitting, head slumped, by the entrance.  Sydney offers to buy the man--who is John--a cup of coffee.

In the coffee shop, John is guarded and defensive because he thinks that Sydney has bad intentions.  Sydney set him straight and delivers a great line of dialogue.  Nobody delivers "set someone straight" dialog like Philip Baker Hall does. John soon reveals that he needs $6000 so that he can bury his mother.  Sydney offers to drive John to the casino and show him how to play the system to get a room and a meal.  John is desperate and accepts.

$2000 on Hard Eight

Philip Seymour Hoffman dawning a mullet is a loudmouth at the craps table.  He has singled out Sydney as "old timer" and is baiting him to make a bet in an obnoxious manner.  "I don't wait for old people" he sings.  Sydney is quiet and stone faced.  "$2000 on hard eight." He announces confidently as he tosses his chips onto the table.

Hoffman starts calling Sydney "big time".  He throws the dice but rolls a seven and they lose.  Sydney walks away showing slight disappointment with Hoffman calling after him, "Big time let me buy you a drink."


Sydney leaves the hotel and gets into a parked car in the parking lot.  Jimmy is in the car.  He tells Sydney that he is from Atlantic City originally and he has heard some stories about Sydney.  These stories explain some of Sydney's benevolent behaviour towards John.  Jimmy demands $10,000 from Sydney or he will tell John what Sydney has done.

After Sydney has given Jimmy the money he breaks into Jimmy's house.  He takes a gun from Jimmy's closet and waits for him in the dark.  Jimmy is at a casino laying craps.  He arrives at home with a woman.  Sydney steps out from the shadows and shoots Jimmy several times and commands the woman to leave.  He drops the gun in a sewer and goes out for breakfast.

That was a brief look at three great scenes from Hard Eight.  Be smart and add this one to your dvd collection.  

Check out Hard Eight on Amazon

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood (2007) is PT Anderson's best film. My favourite is still Boogie Nights but I think that this is the film that people will associate with PT Anderson.  I remember being shocked when hearing that No Country For Old Men won best picture at the 2007 Oscars.  This film was vastly superior in my opinion.

The film is about greed and competition, but more so about competition, besting the competition and destroying the competition.  Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day Lewis, is an oilman, as he will tell you several times in the film.  He moves through the film with a surly devotion to acquiring new oil, bettering his competition, and destroying his enemies.  He acquires vast wealth, but don't let that fool you, at the core, this film is about competition.

Lets look at three great scenes from There Will Be Blood.

Standard Oil

Daniel and Henry attend a meeting with Standard Oil to discuss the Coyote Hills tract.  Daniel quickly agrees to sell the tract and Standard makes an offer on his larger tracts in Little Boston.  When H.M. Tillford questions how he is going to transport the oil, Daniel is visibly angry.  Tillford then suggests that he could sell out to Stanford and spend time with his son.  Daniel completely overreacts and tells H.M. that he is going to cut his throat while he sleeps at night.

Later in the film, after the pipeline has been built, Daniel and H.W. are having dinner in a pub when some Stanford Oil execs arrive.  Daniel starts provoking them.  He gets up in Tillford's face, points out that he's running the business and taking care of his son.  Then he tells Tillford that he looks like a fool now.

Brother From Another Mother

A man named Henry shows up at Daniel's house one day, claiming to be Daniel's half-brother.  Daniel is sceptical at first but quickly tries to transition his brother into the business by taking him to a meeting with Standard Oil, and then to survey land for the pipeline.  They finish surveying the land and go swimming in the Pacific.  Resting on the beach, Henry suggests that they get some women and Daniel makes a reference to the "Peachtree dance".   A reference that someone from his hometown would understand, and Daniel notices that Henry doesn't react.

That night, Henry wakes up to Daniel holding a gun in his face.  "I want you to tell me something.  What was the name of the farm next to the hill house?

"Who are you?"

Henry confesses his deception and Daniel shots him in the head.

Eli Sunday

Daniel and head of the Church of the Third Revelation, Eli Sunday, are enemies.  Daniel doesn't like religion, or at least has no interest in it.  Eli is the only community leader of any significance.  And he showed opposition to Daniel when he bought the Sunday ranch.

Bandy, owner of a tract of land that Daniel needs access to in order to complete his pipeline to the Pacific, has demanded that Daniel go to Eli's church to be baptised before he will allow Daniel the access that he needs.  So Daniel goes to Eli to be baptised.  In the church, he is slapped and humiliated--this was also in response to a previous beating and humiliation that Daniel gave to Eli, shortly after his son's accident--in a theatrical performance to rid Daniel of his sins and perform the baptisement.

In the final scene of the film, Eli has come to visit Daniel in his huge home.  There, in the bowling alley, in Daniel's home, Eli drinks a drink and offers Daniel a business deal.  Bandy has died and left his land to the church.  Eli is motivated to sell quickly because of some bad investments that he needs to cover and offers to sell the land to Daniel for $100,000.  Daniel agrees whole-heartedly but only if Eli proclaims "I am a fraud and God is a superstition!"

He makes Eli repeat it several times and louder--in a similar fashion to Daniels humiliation during the baptisement--before he matter-of-factly informs Eli, "that land has already been drilled"  This is the "I drink your milkshake" scene that if you haven't seen yet you should just go and buy the film.

That was a brief look at three great scenes from There Will Be Blood.  Be smart and add this one to your dvd collection.  

Check out There Will Be Blood on Amazon

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