cheek by jowl

The Master vs. Resident Evil: A Short Guide on How to Tell Paul Thomas Anderson and Paul W.S. Anderson Apart

Photo: The Weinstein Company, Davis Films/Impact Pictures

Today sees the release of two new films (The Master and Resident Evil: Retribution) directed by men with basically the same name. If it weren’t for those middle initials, we would barely be able to tell the two apart, save for the humongous difference in both quality and subject matter that separates their work. That aside, though, just how similar are the non-brothers Anderson? Let’s take a look.

  Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul W.S. Anderson
Are they married to an actress? Yes, Maya Rudolph. Yes, Milla Jovovich.
Have they directed a romantic interest on screen? Yes, Fiona Apple, in the videos for “Paper Bag” and “Across the Universe.” Yes, Milla Jovovich in so many movies.
Have they directed a sequel? No. Oh yes! Two Resident Evil sequels, Alien vs. Predator, and Soldier, which screenwriter David Webb Peoples considered a “sidequel” that occurred in the same universe as his earlier Blade Runner.
Has either of their films spawned a hit or critically acclaimed song? Yes, the Oscar-nominated “Save Me” from Magnolia, by Aimee Mann. Yes, the Mortal Kombat theme by the Immortals. (“Mortal Kombaaat!”)
Has either directed a film with bizarre or repetitive musical choices? Yes. See Shelley Duvall’s rendition of “He Needs Me” from Robert Altman’s Popeye in Punch-Drunk Love. Yes. That same damn song by Orbital pops up repeatedly in Shopping, his first feature.
Has either disrobed an actor you didn’t want to see naked? Yes. Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights. Yes. Sam Neill in Event Horizon.
Does a car smash through a store window? Yes. In Magnolia, William H. Macy’s character rams his car slowly through a storefront window. Yes. In Shopping, a group of delinquents go around ramming their cars into store windows in order to rob them.
Has either filmed a movie set in the past? Yes, The Master, There Will Be Blood. Yes, The Three Musketeers.
Has either filmed a movie set in a post-apocalyptic world? No. Yes.
Has either filmed a movie set in a spaceship that is also a portal to Hell? No. Yes.
Has either filmed a movie that ends with the reveal of a giant prosthetic penis? Yes. Nah.
A Primer on P.T. Anderson v. Paul W.S. Anderson