Joaquin Phoenix stars in surely one of the year’s most anticipated films: The Master, which features myriad talent both in front of the camera and behind it. With Oscar season well under way – both the Venice and Toronto film festivals behind us – it’s time to start the months of speculation as to who will take home the big awards. Fun, isn’t it?

One of the biggest – The Academy Award for Best Actor – is hotly contested, but Phoenix’s portrayal of Freddie Quell, an ex WWII Navy vet, lost without war and lacking purpose, is emerging as a favourite. Some are calling his performance animalistic, and his mercurial talents certainly do precede him. “Joaquin Phoenix gives a startlingly intense, almost simian performance as Freddie Quell; his back hunched and shoulders sloping, looking for all the world as if he's only just learned to walk on his hind legs,” writes Guardian journalist, Xan Brooks. In one scene, he tears apart a prison cell in a rage, and smashes his head repeatedly on a metal bed, which the film’s director, Paul Thomas Anderson, thought little of: “You have to be concerned for your actor’s well-being, but you are more concerned that the scene is properly lit and there’s film in the camera.” Anderson was speaking at a press conference promoting the film, writes The Globe and The Mail.

The Master received rapturous applause from some critics when it made its various debuts; the film was on almost every slate, and the reviews have been unanimously positive. ‘The Master’ opens in NYC and LA on Sept. 14 and nationally on Sept. 21.