08/06/2012 09:14 am ET Updated Oct 06, 2012

'The Master' Screening: Paul Thomas Anderson Film Debuts In Santa Monica

Thought you had to go all the way to Venice to see "The Master"? Following a screening of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, Calif. on Friday night, Paul Thomas Anderson debuted his newest film for a lucky assembly of movie buffs.

The surprise screening -- Anderson and his wife Maya Rudolph were both in attendance -- elicited the kind of response you would have hoped for from the crowd, with many tweeting Oscar proclamations.

Beyond the hyperbole of 140 characters, however, were some actual "reviews" of "The Master." Writing for Indiewire's blog Thompson on Hollywood, Beth Hanna noted that the film is "gorgeous," before adding that it's "stylistically and tonally" like Anderson's last film, the 2007 Best Picture nominee "There Will Be Blood."

"The Master" stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic science-fiction author who starts his own religious following the 1950s. (Similarities to the life story of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard are apparently not intentional, but also unavoidable.) Joaquin Phoenix plays a military veteran who gets taken in by Dodd, while Amy Adams is Dodd's tough wife.

In an email to blogger Jeffrey Wells, someone calling themselves "bobfilm" stated that Phoenix is already an odds-on favorite to win the Best Actor trophy at the 85th annual Academy Awards.

"Phoenix WILL win Best Actor unless Daniel Day-Lewis blows us away with [his] Lincoln performance," he wrote. (Day-Lewis stars in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln.") "This is 'Raging Bull' territory for him. Believe it or not, his performance is stranger than that fake doc he made. The only way I can describe him is 'animalistic,'" bobfilm wrote, referring to "I'm Still Here," the controversial faux documentary that followed Phoenix on his path to becoming a rapper.

The Aero Theatre screening was shown in 70mm, a widescreen format that has become an exception in this digital and 3D age. The hope for Anderson fans is that "The Master" will screen around the country on all available 70mm screens. For more about why this is important and what it means for the film, head over to the Anderson fan site Cigarettes & Red Vines.

For more on the first public screening of "The Master," check out Slashfilm.

Paul Thomas Anderson Movies