Five years ago, on September 27, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood screened for the first time. And a sure-thing Best Actor Oscar-winner came into… plain view.

 Daniel Plainview, to be precise. Playing the ferocious “oil man,” Daniel Day-Lewis lived up to his reputation. Some thought the film might win Best Picture — it was easily my choice at the time, only recently surpassed by In the City of Sylvia — but it lost the award to another nightmare about evil in America: No Country for Old Men. No matter. People quickly forget about Oscars, and both films are now treated as classics.

What a year, that 2007! I saw close to 30 movies that I would have happily included in my top ten list of favorites. This year? I’ve only seen four or five that seem list-worthy.

One of them opens nationwide this weekend…

That definite top-tenner is Anderson’s new film — The Master. It’s a film about a lost and broken young man who, traumatized by his war experience, crumbling under the influence of alcohol, reaches out in desperation to the one man who will believe in him. That man is Lancaster Dodd, a philosopher and author who is becoming a sort of cult leader, rising to a modest measure of popularity in post-war America.

These two volatile, complicated men develop a relationship that is one of the most compelling I’ve seen since There Will Be Blood.

My review of The Master will be published at Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine on Friday. But first, I am finding it worthwhile to reflect on There Will Be Blood again, as it feels like it belongs alongside The Master. The two films have a lot in common, but they also contrast in fascinating ways.

Here is my original review of There Will Be Blood, which was originally published in an abridged version at Christianity TodayI’m restoring to this site today as a “warm-up” for this weekend, when The Master expands to screens nationwide.

I recommend you watch them both. Viewer discussion advised.

Which Paul Thomas Anderson film is your favorite?

And looking back at 2007, which has settled as your personal favorite? (Feel free to peruse my own long list for ideas.)

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