This weekend brings one of the biggest events of a cinephile’s year: a new film by Paul Thomas Anderson. Licorice Pizza, the writer-director’s 70-year-old comedy about the puppy love craze, is already earn rave reviews criticism, though it will be a few more weeks before most of the country can immerse themselves in this degressive and meandering portrait of the San Fernando Valley of its creator’s youth. That the film won high praise should, of course, come as no real surprise to anyone following Anderson’s career since he burst into the eye of the international film buff in the mid-1990s. Almost all of the hallmarks of Anderson ‘Anderson are, to one degree or another, cherished. He’s the rare filmmaker of any nationality or generation who seems to inspire something relatively close to consensus admiration every time at bat.
Where the fans will naturally be to disagree is on the question of preference within this filmography. You could poll 10 different Anderson aficionados and probably get 10 different opinions on what is considered best and worst (although, in fact, you would probably see general agreement on the worst). All this to say that the classification which follows is in reality nothing more than the opinion of a writer; if even another review contributed, the results could be drastically different. Truth be told, all of Anderson’s films are worth it, even his doodle of an hour-long musical documentary, Junun, which we have decided to exclude from the hierarchy. Hell, even this reviewer might disagree with his own ranking on another day. It is in nature to evaluate an artist as consistently rewarding as PT Anderson: he makes the very concept of “favorite” an ever-improving opinion, as slippery as the psychologies of his characters.