This weekend features one of the biggest events of any cinefil’s year: a new film by Paul Thomas Anderson. Licorice pizza, the author-director’s 70-set comedy about puppy-love infatuation, is already gets brilliant reviews from critics, though it will be a few more weeks before most of the country can dive into this degressive, meandering portrait of the San Fernando Valley of its creator’s youth. That the film earns raves, of course, should come as no real surprise to anyone who has followed Anderson’s career since breaking into the eye of the international film lover in the mid-90s. Virtually all of Anderson’s traits are appreciated to some degree. He is the rare filmmaker of any nationality or generation who seems to inspire something relatively close to consensus admiration every time he is on the bat.
Where fans will naturally disagree is on the question of preference in the field of filmography. You can ask 10 different Anderson aficionados and probably get 10 different opinions on what qualifies as his best and worst (although you would actually probably see a general consensus on the worst). All this means that the subsequent ranking is in fact no more than one author’s opinion; was even another critic to contribute to it, the results could be radically different. True, all of Anderson’s films are worthwhile – even his doodle of an hour-long music documentary, Junun, which we have decided to exclude from the hierarchy. Hell, even this critic may disagree with his own ranking on another day. It is the character of judging an artist as consistently rewarding as PT Anderson: he makes the very concept of a “favorite” a meaning in eternal progress, as smooth as the psychology of his characters.