Once more into the Valley with Paul Thomas Anderson

Tom Waits, Alana Haim and Sean Penn dine out in the Valley in "Licorice Pizza."
(Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc.)

I’m hanging at the Hangout in Long Beach, looking for the perfect holiday gift. Something cozy? Perhaps. Though I’m thinking maybe about just making a few batches of these bars, giving them out and calling it a day. If I can’t have chestnuts roasting on an open fire (still too warm for that kind of thing), oats and hazelnuts by a space heater will do.

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of the Envelope’s Friday newsletter, ready, willing and able to help new USC football coach Lincoln Riley find a home in L.A., though it seems like $6 million doesn’t go as far as it used to.

A day in the Valley with Paul Thomas Anderson

“Licorice Pizza” is the best American movie of 2021, another San Fernando Valley-set film from Paul Thomas Anderson, who has previously roamed around the smoggy suburban sprawl in “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “Punch-Drunk Love.” Anderson and I did our own Valley ramble not too long ago, driving around Encino and its environs to talk about the loose, laid-back and lovable “Licorice Pizza” and how his own memories — and various other myths — informed the film.

“I remember at some point thinking, ‘You know, I am not going to be like my dad shuffling my kids up and down Ventura Boulevard to Little League practice,’” Anderson says. “And yet here I am, and I’m so happy doing it.”

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim drive through the Tarzana Hills in "Licorice Pizza."
(Melinda Sue Gordon / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Oscars should be going global this year

I called “Licorice Pizza” the best American movie of the year. Is it the best movie, period? Maybe ... though I’m inclined to give that title to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s delicate drama “Drive My Car,” a moving look at grief, loss, love (all four kinds that C.S. Lewis explored) and the capacity of art to get you through the worst life has to offer.

“Drive My Car” is one of many international films that should be strongly considered by film academy members at this season’s Oscars. I highlighted a few of the worthy contenders in a recent column, though, really, I only scratched the surface. Also, if you’re in Southern California, “Drive My Car” is playing at the Nuart. It’s well worth the time and effort. Maybe go to your local book store and pick up a copy of “Uncle Vanya” beforehand. You’re going to want to revisit it after seeing this movie.

Masaki Okada and Hidetoshi Nishijima in "Drive My Car."
(Sideshow / Janus Films)

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Kirsten Dunst letting it all hang out

Jane Campion’s chamber piece western “The Power of the Dog” is now available on Netflix, giving you the opportunity to discover what all the fuss was about at film festivals this fall. My colleague Mark Olsen spoke with one of the film’s stars, Kirsten Dunst, both for a print interview and as the kickoff to the second season of The Envelope podcast, which Mark co-hosts with Yvonne Villarreal.


“The female performances in her films have been such an inspiration for me as an actress,” Dunst said of Campion’s movies. “Kate Winslet in ‘Holy Smoke,’ I mean, the woman was peeing in a field on camera. I love female performances that are just let-it-all-hang-out. That’s the kind of acting, those are the kinds of performances that inspire me. So working with her, I knew we’d get down to some real things. To be part of one of her films was just life-altering. And now I have her as a mentor.”

Kirsten Dunst stars in "The Power of the Dog."
Kirsten Dunst stars in “The Power of the Dog.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)


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