Venice 'Master' hyperbole: The lame shall walk, the blind will see

Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" screened over the weekend at the Venice Film Festival, providing critics with their first chance to see the film -- and go to extreme lengths to fall over themselves praising it.

Look, we've seen "The Master" too, and can (and will) speak to its merits throughout the next few months. But this kind of one-upmanship in hyperbole does no one any good. Critics look silly. And it inevitably inflates audiences' expectations to such a degree that if they don't leave the theater speaking in tongues, they will feel let down.

We offer our top five examples of overstatement to encourage a more measured, reasoned approach as the movie nears its U.S. opening next week.

5. "After one viewing, 'The Master' already feels like a landmark American movie. It makes words like ‘bold’ and ‘extraordinary’ seem utterly inadequate." -- Robbie Collen, The Telegraph

Just wait until that second viewing. Language itself will lose all meaning. You will be able to signal your praise for 'The Master' only by means of ecstatic humming and bird calls.

4. "Fanatically enthused as we all are about 'The Master,' we must now absorb the fact that Harvey Weinstein does in fact own next year's Oscars." -- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

This is Peter Bradshaw, the film critic, right? Not Pete Hammond, the awards columnist? Leave the Oscar talk to the ... um ... experts, OK? And, while you're at it, keep the fact that Steven Spielberg made a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln in your back pocket for future reference.

3. "And so, a masterpiece? We may have to wait and see, but this is an important, intelligent, epic and yet intimate piece of filmmaking from a master at the height of his powers." -- John Bleasdale, Cine-Vue

It's early ... but not too early to call for a moratorium on any and all plays on the word "master" in coverage of Anderson's film. Extra scorn for headline writers employing 'master'ful and 'master'piece.

2. "Review of Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master': There Will Be Boredom " -- Time headline, review by Richard Corliss

Hyperbole, of course, produces equally extreme pushback, particularly from critics more interested in revealing plot points than examining nuance.

1. "If there were ever a movie to cause the lame to walk and the blind to see, 'The Master' may just be it." -- Xan Brooks, The Guardian.

We completely agree, though we remain disappointed that the film has yet to cure the common cold, erase wrinkles and remove tough grease stains while on the go.

Maybe upon second viewing?


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