Cinephiles have been salivating since 2009, when word seeped out that Paul Thomas Anderson had a “Scientology movie” in the works. Now gushing critics contend it was well worth the wait. Newsweek’s David Ansen calls the director “a kind of cinematic chemist who works with unstable, dangerously flammable human particles.” Indeed, Joaquin Phoenix (as damaged World War II vet Freddie Quell) goes toe-to-toe with the ever-thrilling Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as spiritual guru Lancaster Dodd, who is based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard). Together, the trio creates an artful epic, which Ansen calls “impeccable, classical craftsmanship in search of the live-wire moment of emotional truth.”
WORTH THE TRIP
Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
September 18 to December 31
It’s fall: break out the soup can! This season’s requisite Andy Warhol show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art lays out a dialogue of sorts between the pop art king and 60 of the art world’s most celebrated names, including Jeff Koons, Ai Weiwei, Gerard Richter, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, David Hockney, Chuck Close and Damien Hirst. Featuring 45 Warhol paintings, sculptures and films, this isn’t the first examination of his enduring influence and it won’t be the last. But it proves yet again that the shelf life of a can of Campbell’s is longer than even Andy knew.
Joseph Anton, A Memoir, Salman Rushdie
Two years ago, when his friend Christopher Hitchens published a memoir, Salman Rushdie described it as covering “this big, strange life of Christopher’s, which ranges from getting bikini waxes to trashing Mother Teresa.” Now Rushdie applies his formidable intellect to his own big, strange tale: the nine years spent underground following the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Forced to assume a new identity, Rushdie chose the alias Joseph Anton (an homage to Conrad and Chekov). “It always felt very strange to be asked to give up my name,” he once said, noting that he selected this title to “dramatize the deep strangeness and discomfort of those years.”
Charmer, Aimee Mann
In the quirky video for the title track of Aimee Mann’s new album, Laura Linney plays a robot doppleganger employed to relieve Mann of the rigors of the road. The concept is comic, but it reflects a theme Mann takes seriously: “people whose charm can become like a persona that then starts to block the person's real self.” Throughout the record, Mann’s ability to expose our idiosyncracies is on full display. Writes Rolling Stone, “Many of the characters in these 11 new songs are manipulative, aggressive or hot crazy messes — or the people entangled with them and wishing they weren't.”
Boardwalk Empire Season 3 Premiere
September 16, 9 p.m. EDT, HBO
The good news about the Prohibition-era mob drama's third season is that Steve Buscemi as bootleg boss Nucky Thompson is as intoxicating as ever — and now he’s got Bobby Cannavale (as thug/charmer Gyp Rosetti) to contend with. The bad news, of course, is that Jimmy (Michael Pitt) is still dead — despite the disbelief of Buscemi’s own mother. The shocking assassination of Nucky's former protege at the hands of her son just doesn’t compute. Pitt told New York magazine that while Buscemi was filming the new season, she kept asking "Did you see Jimmy at work?" "No, mom. He's dead. I killed him." And she's like, "He'll be back." "No, mom, he's not coming back."
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.