Spiritual Surf: “Flight” and 5 other titles that are giving addiction a buzz

From Denzel Washington’s contender for an Oscar to the Scientology allegory, The Master, Hollywood’s biggest box office is hooked to addicts

The Master

Joaquin Phoenix plays a sex addict and violent drunk who seeks salvation from a guru who is part-Werner Erhard and part-Ron Hubbard. Director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) screened the film for the world’s most famous Scientologist, Tom Cruise.

Boardwalk Empire

America’s oldest addiction juiced every clan from the Kennedys and the Seagrams to iconic U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, according to HBO’s flagship series.


Transformation through trauma is the apparent storyline of Flight, which is a fictional screenplay that draws on the real-life flight of Alaska Airlines 261 — crashed near L.A. mid-way between Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and San Francisco (all on board died).

In the Denzel Washington vehicle, which made $25-million in U.S. box office opening weekend, the high-functioning alkie and druggie pilot actually saves most of the souls on board with a high-tech twist. His transformation is a Jesus moment where he sacrifices his own needs for the honor of his lover.

Oliver Stone’s Savages

: Why it’s more real than Traffic: Grow-houses and meth-labs are underground businesses that most Americans can imagine starting in a recession akin to The Great Depression (see previous entry about Boardwalk Empire, Prohibition and bootleggers).

Fifty Shades of Grey

The id also rises. A book about fetishes allows the public to project some urges buried in our collective psychic basement.

A scholarly book becomes a classic:  The Anatomy of Addiction

 And Freud? Yes, even Freud. In his case, cocaine.


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4 Responses to “Spiritual Surf: “Flight” and 5 other titles that are giving addiction a buzz”

  1. As someone who knows Werner Erhard, “The Master” character has nothing to do with Werner Erhard, any more than any other teacher. leader, person who steps to the front of a room to converse with people in english, about life. Werner Erhard ust happens to be a popular name so people attach it to things as is suits them.

    • Dear Weller; None of us on the admin team personally know Werner Erhard. Thanks for your reaction. Please tell us about your deeper experience, or share a story — we are happy to include you in our community of columnists. It’s a serious invitation. Brands like Tony Robbins totally rest on Werner Erhard’s shoulders (with a nod to Dr. Milton Erickson, the founder of modern medical hypnosis). Thank you for your sharing.

  2. Your comment comparing the guru in the film “The Master” to Werner Erhard (part) is totally false and misleading. Werner Erhard was a man of honesty and compassion who led large group training such as Est that was not about providing information but offered a safe environment for trainees to experience what worked and didn’t work in their lives. Deeply disturbed people such as Freddie Quell would not have been accepted as a participant in the Est Training.

    The Est Training and now The Landmark Forum have produced exceptional results in people’s lives as attested to by several independent studies. In “The Master”, many techniques are used but nothing works. No one in any of Werner Erhard’s programs were ever questioned repeatedly about the details of their sex life as shown in the film. No methods of bullying and intimidation were ever used by Werner Erhard, only the kind of support that produced results.

    The “Cause” was an unpleasant and deflating experience that had no resemblance whatsoever to the exhilaration that graduates of Werner Erhard’s programs experienced. The characters in the film show no evidence of personal growth, and the subject of how to unlock a human being’s potential to achieve power over his demons is never
    really explored beyond shouting matches, cursing, violence, and gratuitous sex.

    Your comparison of the leader of The Cause to Werner Erhard is noxious and simply has no basis in fact.

    • Paul Kaihla here. I have watched The Master and I agree with you. Paul Thomas Anderson’s essay on our post-war collective unconscious, riffing on the L. Ron Hubbard narrative, belongs in a different dimension than Werner Erhard. Hubbard was a psychopath. Erhard was a brilliant spiritualist — and far more successful than many of the scholastic practitioners he drew on. Now *that’s* a movie!