Hard Eight – 1996 – dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight is his most straightforward narrative, perhaps due to the normal constraints of a director’s first big picture. Aging gangster and gambler Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) retreats to Vegas to settle down with his spoils and finds that his knowledge of high stakes is useful to others. Budgeting limitations could have weighed the film down, but the young director uses it to his advantage. While fans of his later work will find Hard Eight to be his most conventional movie, it contains moments that foreshadow PTA’s greater canvas of cinematic storytelling.