While theaters will be littered with awards fare until March, I'm looking forward to one film — "Phantom Thread."
In this new romantic drama set in the 1950s, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a meticulous fashion designer who meets his match in a younger woman played by Vicky Krieps.
This title and its plot description may not seem like reason for anticipation. But it's the guy behind the camera that has me so excited to see this, and that's Paul Thomas Anderson.
For the past 20 years, few filmmakers have been as consistently great as Anderson. To date, his career has included masterpiece after masterpiece. "Boogie Nights," "There Will Be Blood," "The Master" and "Inherent Vice" are four of his eight films that critics constantly put on their must-see lists.
His other four films — "Punch-Drunk Love," "Magnolia," "Hard Eight" and this weekend's "Phantom Thread" — could easily replace more dubious choices on those lists.
To many moviegoers, his films upset and confound. But even they will admit his talent is undeniable. To snobs, he's the greatest thing to hit the silver screen since Stanley Kubrick.
If ever there was a magical, movie-making "it," Anderson has "it."
That means he's making films that can't be described with a few phrases. These are movies that feel essential, that feel like they should be seen and discussed.
Think about it this way: If you saw the trailer for Liam Neeson's new action flick "The Commuter" or the next "Transformers," you could outline the entire film. When you see a preview for one of Anderson's movies, you have no idea what the movie is about or what will happen.
Furthermore, when you're actually watching one of Anderson's films, the whos and whats and whys aren't all spelled out. Strange things happen: A man walks an unfathomable distance, destroyed telephone in hand, to prove himself in "Punch-Drunk Love." A crowd of people suddenly appears nude during a rousing performance by pseudo-preacher in "The Master." Frogs fall from the sky in "Magnolia."
The trailers give you no clues any of those things would happen.
But these stylistic, sometimes over-the-top choices never distract audiences from the film. If it's in the movie, it's for a reason. And that reason should be parsed over, maybe three or four times. With each return visit, you'll see new things that only add to the film, to what you think is its meaning.
It doesn't hurt that Anderson is getting some of the best performances out of actors and actresses like Philip Baker Hall, Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Reese Witherspoon, Adam Sandler, Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Katherine Waterston and Josh Brolin.
All that aside, the entire idea of going to a movie is escape. While most audiences want to be distracted by superheroes and the routine fantastical (I get it, I've been there), the mark of a great film is how long I want to discuss it after I've seen it.
If someone brings up one of Anderson's films, I can immediately start imagining scenes and lines. No matter how strange or loopy you might think his movies are, when you talk about Paul Thomas Anderson, I'm back in that theater seat, laughing, crying or biting my fingernails.
No other modern filmmaker can do that. He's in his own league.
No disrespect to the other awards contenders, but they're gonna have to wait. I'm getting a ticket to "Phantom Thread" first chance I get.