With the Oscars just over a week away now, ÉCU checks out another great independent film and the award nominations it has received.

The American film director, screenwriter and producer, Paul Thomas Anderson latest (independently made) film The Master has been highlighted this Oscar season as three of its principle actors are up for awards. Anderson himself has previously been nominated for Academy Awards with his films Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999) and There Will Be Blood (2007). He was also ranked as the tenth-best working director by Entertainment Weekly in 2011, as the best director in the world by The Guardian last year and is seen as a master of American film by the American Film Institute.

He gained recognition as a director with Boogie Nights, a film which chronicles the rise and fall of a porn star (played by Mark Wahlberg) in LA during the 1970s – and features cameos by real porn actors. After this movie came Magnolia. It was a hit with critics and features a melange of a rather large ensemble of main characters and their oddly entangled lives, which stars Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly and Jason Robards. The idea of coincidences having meaning is presented to us at the opening of the film when the narrator describes the unusual events of three urban legends. The interconnections of the interwoven lives of the characters are then spun out so that we begin to wonder whether it is purely by chance that they are linked, or what it all means.

Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is probably one of his best-known and most critically successful films, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano – and notably Day-Lewis received numerous awards for his role, including an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. The film tells a rather dark and sinister story of a ruthless and money-hungry gold miner with the silver-tongued ability to deceive or convince, played by Day-Lewis, who gets into the oil business during the oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Southern California.

The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix (who is up for the Academy Award for Best Actor), Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, who are up for Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively. It features the story of a World War II veteran called Freddie Quell (who had to leave the army after having nervous breakdown and winds up as an alcoholic), played by Phoenix, who becomes enthralled by a religious movement. The film draws upon the early life of the founder of Scientology, played by Hoffman, and depicts how Quell and is led to travel with him, disseminating the beliefs of Scientology along the East Coast of the USA.

It is a very strange and challenging drama, which plays upon this role of a mentor or paternalistic figure and his troubled subject in a similarly bizarre manner to the father-son relationship in There Will Be Blood. Intoxicating rhetoric also plays a large part in both films, as Quell is captivated by the rhetoric of Hoffman’s character, just as others come under the spell of Day-Lewis’s character’s words.

Hopefully you’ll all get a chance to check out the indie films we’ve mentioned in the run up to the Academy Awards – The Silver Linings Playbook, Moonrise Kingdom, Amour, Django Unchained and Beasts of the Southern Wild (mentioned in our New Years special, which is also up for an Oscar). Enjoy!!

Gill Gillespie

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