How Paul Thomas Anderson writes

Originally published at: How Paul Thomas Anderson writes | Boing Boing


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It’s really an excellent movie…


I was already a PTA fan when There Will Be Blood came out, but I felt the same way about that first scene. Someone threw the movie on towards the end of the night once and I was the only one who managed to stay up long enough to see any of it (maybe 15 minutes). I rented it the next weekend because I had to see the rest of the movie.


I had high hopes for Licorice Pizza and while it was certainly eclectic and charming in that PTA way, the pacing and plot ultimately left me disappointed.

It basically boils down to a “boy gets girl” movie trope set in 70’s San Fernando Valley culture. I suppose if you grew up in that area in that time then there would be more of a nostalgic connection. For me it was not much more than watching the main characters run around a lot on screen and otherwise doing not very interesting things in between.

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In some respects the storytelling structure was evocative of Citizen Kane in that elements of the first scene show up in the last scene, elements of the second scene are in the second-to-last scene, etc.

For example, Daniel Plainview breaks his leg in the beginning of the movie but doesn’t seem to bother him much over the next couple of decades until that final scene when the old injury has reduced his gait to a furious stagger. Then there’s also the running theme of his relationship with his son, where his tenuous grip on basic humanity is directly proportional to how closely H.W. is involved in his life.

Normally when a movie strays so far from the original source material as to be nearly unrecognizable, that’s not a good sign, but in this case it worked out pretty well.

(Side note: when I was house shopping about 10 years ago a house formerly belonging to Upton Sinclair was one of the ones I was interested in, but it was just a little out of my price range. These days it’s way out of my price range. But it’s a short walk from my current house so I can still go look at it whenever.)


He wrote Magnolia, arguably the best movie ever, in like two weeks.

I concur. Licorice Pizza was only the second PTA movie (and I have seen all of them, even the obscure ones) that did not wow me. It was a fun romp that felt more like a snapshot of a very particular point in time than a story worth becoming absorbed in.

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