Awards Profile: Inherent Vice



Directed and Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Eric Roberts and Sasha Pieterse.

Synopsis: In 1970s Los Angeles, protagonist Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

The prolific writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has cinephiles all riled up for his upcoming film Inherent Vice, based on the Thomas Pynchon dark crime/comedy novel of the same name. The film is the first adaptation of one of Pynchon’s novels.

Joaquin Phoenix will play Sportello, which will be his second collaboration with Anderson – the two formerly worked on Anderson’s last film The Master (2012), which earned Phoenix an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The film also stars an eclectic A-list cast: Brolin, Wilson,  Malone, Witherspoon, del Toro, Short and Anderson’s longtime partner Rudolph. The cast is noticeably absent of frequent Anderson collaborators, such as Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Melora Walters, William H. Macy, Luis Guzman and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. This will mark Anderson’s second film that didn’t feature Hoffman, who was not in There Will Be Blood.

This is also the second film that Anderson has adapted from another text. There Will Be Blood is based on the 1927 political fiction novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, who became famous for his muckraking novel “The Jungle,” which exposed the horrors and unscrupulousness of the meat-packing industry.

The film has also been scored by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who scored Anderson’s last two films The Master and There Will Be Blood, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, so audiences can expect some elegiac tunes.

Anderson is also reteaming with cinematographer Robert Elswit, who previously worked on There Will Be Blood and took home the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2008. Elswit was previously nominated in 2006 for Good Night, and Good Luck.

Why it could succeed:

Inherent ViceWarner Brothers announced last month that the film would be released Dec. 12, 2014, making it an ostensible Oscar contender. This date pits the film against Ridley Scott’s biblical, high-budget film Exodus. This might seem like box-office suicide, but Anderson’s films have never been financially successful. His six feature-length films (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood and The Master) have averaged approximately $20 million each with a cumulative gross of approximately $125 million, according to However, Anderson remains a much revered filmmaker amongst both critics and self-proclaimed movie connoisseurs, and Inherent Vice, while most likely won’t attract the same magnitude of movie-goers as Exodus, will find a prominent position on many critics’ Top Ten Lists and nomination ballots.

Warner Brothers is surely expecting the awards season-friendly release date will make the film a contender for some Oscar nominations, of which Anderson is no novice. Anderson has been nominated for an Oscar five times in the directing and both original and adapted screenplay categories for Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood.

Despite the adapted source material, audiences can still expect amazing performances from Anderson’s star-studded cast, who he often allows to go off-script. In an October 2012 interview, while promoting There Will Be Blood, Anderson told The Daily’s Show John Stewart that

“when I get to the set, I just sort of throw the script out the window and hopefully (the actor’s) know it.”

Seven of Anderson’s actors have been nominated for Oscars, including Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master); Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights); Tom Cruise (Magnolia); and Daniel Day-Lewis who took home the Oscar in 2008 for Best Actor (There Will Be Blood). Phoenix seems like a dead-lock for a Best Actor nomination and might have a chance. He was overlooked for last year’s performance in Her and has yet to win an Oscar. He was nominated two previous times for Walk The Line in 2006 and Gladiator in 2001.

Why it might not succeed:

Anderson has exclusively written all of his films, which are often criticized for being anarchic and loosely plotted and having a superfluous number of plots-lines. However, his unconventional approaches and cinematic staples are what have propelled him to independent film stardom. His long takes, tracking shots, use of natural lighting, admiration for shooting on celluloid film and blend of comedy and drama have distinguished his films as pictorially attractive and thematically inimitable. While there’s little that can be said on the production of Inherent Vice thus far, Anderson can be expected to employ some of these techniques once again.

So far, it doesn’t seem like critics have tired of embracing Anderson’s auterism and a few Oscar nominations look inevitable.

Awards Speculation:

Best Picture
Best Director (Anderson)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Anderson)
Best Actor (Phoenix)
Best Actress (too early to tell)
Best Cinematography (Elswit)