The first trailers for Steven Spielberg’s and Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest feature films ( The Post and Phantom Thread) have arrived. When two of the preeminent directors working today release trailers, featuring some of the biggest stars in the business it is our duty to talk about it.
DIRECTED BY: STEVEN SPIELBERG
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 22ND 2017
SYNOPSIS: A thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.
Nate: Can we briefly discuss the poster for a second and talk about how on quick glance, this film could easily be mistaken as a film called STREEP HANKS? Other than that though, this feels very similar to Spielberg’s film Bridge of Spies.
Michael: I think this film also very much mirrors another true life story on investigative journalism, Spotlight (2015) that eventually won Best Picture at the Oscars. It seems to be going for that same sort of everyday hero portrayal that Spotlight and a few other films have done in the past. But in this climate of Trump’s war on “fake news”, this film also seems to be an allegory of sorts to current events.
Nate: I don’t think this particular genre suits Spielberg’s sensibilities quite as well as his other work in sci fi (E.T., Close Encounters) or more light hearted affair. That being said I very much enjoyed Bridge of Spies (did not think it was his best work but fine) and Schindler’s List is obviously very very good as well
Michael: It’s interesting that you highlight his sci-fi work, but I honestly feel some of his very best work is outside that genre. Schindler’s List as you mentioned, then of course Saving Private Ryan, Jaws and even films like Munich and the recent Bridge of Spies. I think Spielberg is a versatile enough auteur that he can pretty much pull off any genre. I’m definitely intrigued by this trailer and with the added bonus of having two heavyweights like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep this should very likely catch the attention of awards juries.
Nate: I agree that he is more than capable of making a great film outside the genre but I also think that Spielberg’s greatest talent that sets him apart from almost anyone in the history of cinema is his ability to make films appealing to everyone. It’s a rare talent but the cost of doing so is that sometimes he marginalizes his subject, in a way stripping the subject matter of its weight and heart.
Michael: So if we can compare this to Spotlight, how do you foresee this movie playing out? Again with two great leads in Streep and Hanks we should at least be assured that the acting will be great, right?
Nate: I’m not quite sold yet, I think Hanks’ accent in the trailer at least is very off putting, even in the brief snippets we’ve seen here, it fluctuates wildly. However, like Spotlight I could see this being certainly in contention for awards. That being said, it is a very very strong field this year. The bigger question is, do you think this coming fresh off the heels of Spotlight (a similar movie as you touched on) will harm opinion on The Post?
Michael: Yes, I think a rehash is definitely a possible sentiment, but with this current presidential administration, juries (not audiences necessarily) may want to make a statement of sorts in awarding it. But if it is to win any top prizes I think it should be because of its acting, screenplay, directing etc, and not for political motives.
ON STREEP / HANKS, THE SUPPORTING CAST AND JOHN WILLIAMS
Nate: What do you make of the Hanks, Streep pairing though? Obviously giant names but that does not always equate to fantastic movies.
Michael: Absolutely, in fact many times we’ve seen great talents left with a poor narrative that even their acting chops can’t save. I don’t think that will be necessarily the case here, but it is something to consider. Overall I think this movie will be a critical success, but to the level of other similar films or even Spielberg’s greatest? I would say probably not.
Nate: Agreed, I must say the trailer here hasn’t sold me but I had similar feelings on the Bridge of Spies trailer when it first came out, Critically well received but largely forgotten by much of the general audience is my prediction. If i had to place a bet, I’d say this film underperforms at the box office but nabs Streep her customary Oscar nomination come February
Michael: And perhaps Hanks as well, I’m always very enthusiastically supportive of his roles. And to compare to Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance did win for Best Supporting Actor despite a low key type of performance (though very much deserved) so who knows maybe the supporting cast could be recognized here like Bob Odenkirk.
Nate: Possibly, the supporting cast here is quite impressive as well featuring the aforementioned Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulsen and Matt Rhys. Clearly Spielberg has taken note of the many great talents on the small screen.
Michael: I also want to add that this is a Steven Spielberg film so that means it will feature a John Williams score. As you know Nate, the man is my film music idol so whenever he composes a new score (he’s 85 and still incredibly prolific) I’m excited. I look forward to hearing what musical themes will emerge from this.
FINAL THOUGHTS / ANTICIPATION SCORES
Nate: Let’s close here with an anticipation rating and a trailer score out of ten. For me, I would say an 7.5 for anticipation but just a 5 for trailer score. I just don’t think this particular trailer is particularly well cut but maybe that’s just me being a nit picky asshole. The names Hanks, Streep and Spielberg together though are more than enough reason to see this in the theatre.
Michael: My anticipation score is a 7; coupled with the great talent on both sides of the camera and my personal interest in historical/political/human dramas makes me very eager to see this film. I think the trailer is better than what you’re expressing Nate, I would give it a 7 as well. We learn all we need to learn about it in the 2 minutes 30 seconds, see the main cast, the director’s name etc, and I think it creates a good sense of tension and thrills, even if some know the outcomes.
DIRECTED BY: PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 25TH 2017
SYNOPSIS: Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life (no pun intended) disrupted by love.
ON THE GREATNESS OF PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON AND DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
Nate: Reminder: The last time PTA and Daniel Day Lewis came together, the result was the phenomenal There Will Be Blood. Like TWBB, Phantom Thread has a sense of hidden darkness to it, a mystery behind Lewis’ character just waiting to be uncovered
Michael: There Will Be Blood is among my very favorite films and was included in our list of 25 Greatest Films of the 21st Century, so to see Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis together again should make most film fans salivate. I am saddened however that DDL has indicated this will be his last film role, which I think everyone can agree is hopefully not.
Nate: Absolutely, but given what we know of Day-Lewis’ meticulous role selection process, you can pretty much be sure that the screenplay is extraordinary. He has not settled for less in the few times we’ve seen him in the past 20 years so I am beyond excited for this film. If this is the final performance in his stellar career, he will go out with a bang (and likely multiple awards to go along with it)
Michael: How astonishing would it be for him to to have a FOURTH Best Actor Oscar?!
Nate: Straying from the trailer for a second, does a potential fourth win secure him as the greatest actor of all time?
Michael: It’s a feat that’s never been accomplished, and while you don’t necessarily need awards to be considered great, I think his Oscar wins are just pure testaments to his immense acting ability. He’s certainly a must for a Mount Rushmore of great film actors and likely one of the greatest of the last 40 years.
Nate: I have him right there at the top of my list, but back to the Phantom Thread. What are your general thoughts on the trailer and the film at large?
Michael: As you mentioned earlier I very much enjoyed the shift in tone in the trailer from one that seems like a lighthearted period piece to one with suddenly a hidden darkness and a feeling of a “twist” ending of sorts. PTA’s last film Inherent Vice did not reach the level of success his previous outings have, and I think that some people thought perhaps he had peaked. But this is certainly a very enticing trailer filled with mystery and an unconventional protagonist at least. I think it has the makings of a really solid drama.
Nate: Obviously situated right in the heart of awards season, the studio seems to like its chances for awards. Unlike Inherent Vice, This one feels more focused and more conventional (at least from the trailer)
Michael: I also wonder if we compare it to There Will Be Blood in which we see Day-Lewis’s character descend into madness and eventually become a villain, if this could repeat itself. Does his character in this film become obsessed with controlling his muse and becoming the best tailor in the world? What will be the range of this character? Depending on that would determine if Day-Lewis is up for any awards.
ON POTENTIAL BOX OFFICE DISAPPOINTMENT AND FITTING ENDINGS
Nate: I did get some Black Swan vibes from the trailer, I think that there is something to be deciphered in the title Phantom Thread. If I had to venture a guess, I would say Day-Lewis descends into obsession and eventually murders his muse proclaiming that no one is worthy of wearing his creations.
Michael: Maybe to borrow a phrase from There Will be Blood, he’ll simply say “I’m finished”. Both as a character and as an actor, haha!
Nate: That would be super meta and perhaps a little too on the nose haha. I wonder how this film will fair critically and financially though. As we saw with Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, a late December release does not always bode well especially given the fact that this is (like Hateful Eight) another Star Wars year.
Michael: At the box office its success will certainly be a question, given as you say releases like Star Wars, but I’m sure with the names of Daniel Day-Lewis (and the fact this is presumably his last role) and Paul Thomas Anderson will have audiences definitely intrigued. I think PTA is one of the great directors of the last three decades and I’m always very eager to see his works. As for Day-Lewis, as we’ve said earlier, is he the greatest? Possibly and if this is indeed his final role, I’m sure as you mentioned Nate it will likely be a big bang.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND ANTICIPATION SCORE
Nate: The way this year has played out, Phantom Thread will have to blow audiences away to be considered. Moreso than most recent years, 2017 has been very heavy with notable names like Nolan, Spielberg, PTA and Del Toro in the mix along with newcomers like Gerwig, Guadagnino and the like as well. My anticipation for this could not be higher though so I’ll put it as a conservative 9. As for trailer rating, I’ll give it an 8.5; not much to really break down here as it chooses to keep its mysteries intact. What about you Michael?
Michael: Yes I very much agree that 2017 has had a great share of very noteworthy and good releases, so who knows where Phantom Thread will fall into this mix? But I am too again very anticipatory for this movie, largely based on the names of DDL and PTA. I would rank my anticipation to be an 8 and the trailer to be around a 7. I think it gives just enough to get you intrigued but is also vague enough to have you guessing and want to check out the film to see what ends up happening. With these names attached to the project, it would seem pretty difficult to not be at least a little excited, especially for film lovers.
Nate: Much like Day-Lewis though, this is the curtain call for this piece. We will obviously be back to talk about both these films and the other awards contenders as we draw closer to the Oscars. As per usual stay tuned to the site for reviews, features and the like.
Michael: And check out the next upcoming episode of the BTC Podcast where we discuss some interesting November releases and other material. As Siskel and Ebert once said “We’ll see you at the movies.”