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Hard Eight

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson
1996 / 101min / 35mm

An auspicious debut that is also somewhat atypical among Anderson’s films due to its relatively small cast and genre trappings, this tight, terse neo-noir introduces the first of the writer-director’s many makeshift families to come: Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), a professional Reno gambler; John (John C. Reilly), a simple, skint “stranger” raising money for his mother’s burial who Sydney decides to mentor; and Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow), the escort who John falls for, hard. With Samuel L. Jackson as an unwelcome reminder of Sydney’s past, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in an unforgettable cameo (“Shaka lacka doo, shaka lacka doobie doo…”)

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