I didn’t mean to sound uncool or disrespectful when I tapped out last night’s Inherent Vice riff. I said a couple of times that it was probably more my fault than Paul Thomas Anderson‘s that the film didn’t turn me on that much (although some of it definitely made me feel spacey and swoony and half-baked) and…you know, tested my patience and all. But that’s almost par for the course. Starting with Magnolia my initial exposure to Anderson’s films have felt like stretching exercises or mindfucks of one kind or another — never easy, always a climb or a tangle, always in front of the line and beckoning to the folks in the rear…c’mon, guys…don’t hang back. And then with the second or third viewing they seem more engaging, less gnarly…of course! But you always have to come to them — they never come to you. And that’s cool.

Prior to start of last night’s 9 pm Avery Fisher Hall screening of Inherent Vice.

I’m fully down with the notion (as I said last night) that Inherent Vice may kick into place for me during my second or third viewing, or certainly when I watch the Bluray. I started to read the Pynchon novel about a month ago but then I lost the will. But I have it on iBooks so there’s always the flight back to LA (departing today at 4:30 pm) or…you know, within the next few days. I just wish I could have been a little more engaged as it happened. I never felt like I was “in the car.” I constantly felt like I was running alongside or eating the exhaust.

I think it’s a foregone conclusion all around that Inherent Vice was made for the edgies…for those who think strange and rarely concentrate on the obvious. Joe and Jane Popcorn…who knows? Naah, I’m evading. Joe and Jane are either going to avoid this puppy like the plague or show up for the sake of Martin Short‘s seven-minute cameo and come out fuming or confused. Vice isn’t a soother but it sure is an eye-opener of sorts. It’s candy for the kind of people who are on the bandwidth, but how many would that be exactly?

I’m not sure I loved or even liked Joaquin Phoenix‘s Doc Sportello (Phoenix seemed shorter than usual and a tad over-fed), but I know I’ve always liked and felt completely at ease with Elliot Gould‘s amiable Phillip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye…does that make me unhip? I certainly loved Josh Brolin‘s angry-ass, chocolate-banana-sucking conservative cop, a.k.a. “Bigfoot.” I was able to understand somewhere between 15% and 20% of Katherine Waterston, Joanna Newsom and Jena Malone‘s dialogue, largely because they all seem to converse in hippie-chick fry. (Bluray subtitles, here I come!) I wish I had half a clue who or what Owen Wilson was playing or afraid of. Benicio del Toro will always be his sublime self, but I’ll be damned if I understood what he was muttering half the time.

I had a ticket to last night’s after-party at Tavern on the Green (thanks, Warner homies!), but I needed to figure a few things out so I passed. Honestly? I was thinking that if I ran into Anderson at the party (we vaguely know each other, at least enough to say “hey, man”) I would have probably struggled with what to say except that I love the seriously celluloid look of the film…the marks and scratches and the milky lighting and all. Inherent Vice looks and sounds like a print of Cisco Pike shown at the Fox Venice in ’74.

Incidentally: Before Vice began I spoke to director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, the soon-to-be-seen A Most Violent Year). We discussed (a) the dynamically refurbished, Greek Amphitheatre-like TCL Chinese, which is where Year will have its big AFI Fest debut, (b) his film’s Sidney Lumet-ishness and the ground-level, earnest-ambition reality that implies in this context, (c) the expectations of Year‘s violence vs. the reality, and (d) his forthcoming Deepwater Horizon shoot (which starts shooting in March with Mark Wahlberg in the lead), a possible significant addition to the cast (too early to reveal), and the logistics of handing the big explosion.