A few years back, Woody Allen accepted, as they say, a “rare” interview. One of the questions he was asked was if he had to choose one, whether he would give up movies or sporting events today. Allen joked “movies”, siding with the idea that sports today offer more excitement in play-by-play. Movies that lack excitement today can be due to a number of reasons, but one of them has to be method acting, where the cardinal rule is believing in one’s role. I haven’t seen Inherent Vice in its entirety, but watching the trailer over 30 times, I knew that I was witnessing a revival of the unfettered funding given to some filmmakers in the late 60s and 70s. Movies back then truly were more exciting, as there was an atmosphere of “frontier” mindset, which was established in literal terms by early giants like John Ford and his Westerns. But even into the 70s and early 80s, there was a golden sunset era of exploration with major studio funding of directors such as Stanley Kubrick. If P.T Anderson were a photo journalist, he would win a Pulitzer. He is keeping history alive by putting it on life support.
What eventually began as organic creative control turned into formulaic screenplay concepts that became less a work of art and more an exhibition of technique or process. Independent filmmaking became a place where filmmakers could retain their creative control but at the expense of lesser mass appeal. Studios rarely seem to experiment with off-the-wall concepts because the financial risk is so high. But when the idea and storyline are good, the product becomes a breathing reality. Inherent Vice appears to recreate a reality that many people have forgotten or don’t care about. This movie has more things going on in one movie still than an entire B-grade movie put together. If you remember Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) from Rushmore, she said a similar thing about her late husband (shown only as a picture frame in the movie as the character of Owen Wilson). “He had more life in one fingernail than others had in their entire body.”
There is little need for me to watch the entire scene, because this one picture captures it all. But if it is not so obvious to you, this scene is a veiled commentary for racism and/or supremism.
I will now explain the play-by-play commentary that is occuring in this 1/24 second frame, from the narration of Doc himself.
I’m Larry Doc Sportello. Off stage, you may think I’m irreverent and too good for you, but here I am defending the the common minority, the line cook behind me as you, Bigfoot, request to be served additional pancakes, “molto panacako,” which means “many pancakes.” Do you want his formal servility? Sounds like it. I’m looking at you, Bigfoot, as if I am witnessing a Nazi war crime, because I drank raw eggs this morning, just like Rocky Balboa in the first “Rocky”. You’re asking for more pancakes because you think they’re spinach and they make you strong like Popeye, but pancakes don’t grow on trees. Neither does spinach. Someone put that spinach in that can, likely in a factory and here you want him to cook more pancakes for you. Well, I know it’s his job and he surely will make some more for you, but I want you to know I’m a sensitive actor and you might remember me from The Master where I played a character who who was spiritually lost. I know you’re just acting tough, but can you be a little more polite to the line cook who is serving you a good ole fashioned American meal? I know some hippies who moved out to the desert and they’re twisted as a screw but they share pizza with kindness like in the Last Supper. Maybe I’m just looking too much into it, but while you wait for your pancakes, let me help you with some napkins because I’m sure those pancakes are delicious. By the way, do you know where my weed went? I was looking for some but I figured you might be making some collections in the area. And here we are talking about the possibility of working together on a case about a guy who was kidnapped by hippies and put in a mental institution. Well, I’m not sure I do want to work with you. What’s in it for me? I know you’re a dick and you get things done, but I want out. The devil’s in the details. How do I know I’m not going to be set up and planted with some contraband after I’ve done my part? A couple years back, in ’67 my apostles and I were gathered around the radio, singing to some psalms when we first heard LSD was becoming criminalized. My brother in arms freaked and said, “What the f#%* are we going to do now?!” My cousin, who was also there, said, “Well, the church down the street is open.” I thought to myself, what better way to get out of this s*#%-hole war on drugs waged by your precincts than joining the real Christians? But I won’t see you there, breaking the unleavened bread in two. No, you’ll be here at the cafeteria pouring maple syrup over this indentured servant’s plate of whipped eggs and vanilla. Got to hand it to you, you run a lean team and you’re on a tight schedule. Pardon my french, but I was reading this book by Claude Levi-Strauss called L’Origine des manières de table (1968) and I thought you might be interested in a little civility. You missed a spot. Anyways, I’ve already blown this all out of proportion so let’s just sweep this under the rug as long as you do it and not Pepe`. What’s cooking for dinner tonight? Oops, I forgot you didn’t know I was high right now any hoo if you can show me the door I’ll be on my way.
Some more pics here: