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Punch-Drunk Love

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenplay: Anderson
Actor: Adam Sandler
Supporting actress: Emily Watson
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Editing: Leslie Jones

It may be a long shot for Oscar, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” has its fans, and they’re as enthusiastic as any in Hollywood. Many of them will vociferously argue that this is Anderson’s most disciplined and most substantial film to date, marking a pared-down refinement of the expansive, visually aggressive style he formally launched with his second film, “Boogie Nights.”

It certainly appears to be –along with Alexander Payne’s “About Schmidt” and Charlie Kaufman’s “Adaptation” — in the exclusive club of comedy-dramas worthy of Oscar consideration this year.

Anderson’s latest San Fernando Valley adventure is a film the directors branch will find impressive, in that he has stuck to his own voice and not allowed himself to be distracted by working for a major like Sony.

These directors will undoubtedly also be swayed by how Anderson managed to coax a performance out of star Adam Sandler that adheres to the verities of the Sandler persona while compelling him to explore a deeply pained and flawed character.

Some have compared the film to those of Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati.

What the acting corps in the Academy will think is less certain. Sandler is thought of as a comic who may have lucked out in choice of role this time, but may not deserve the ultimate honor of a nomination.

And those who have waited for Emily Watson to put away her tendency for theatrics are rewarded this time with a performance that feels fresh, relaxed, beautiful, almost made up on the spot.

But with a box office return that is less than either Sony or Revolution Studios anticipated, there’s the possibility that “Punch-Drunk Love” might be fading fast.

If its fans are loud enough, and if they get their friends to the theater or their closest video/DVD player, they may be able to rescue the movie from Oscar oblivion.

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