Monday, August 15, 2005

Boogie Nights

Dirk: When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign - it just blows up because the name is so powerful... It says, "Dirk Diggler."

A star is born with that line. That right there is one of my favorite lines from 'Boogie nights'. I don't know how many of you have seen 'Boogie Nights', but it is a fantastic film that soem people feel is too long. Of course, every time i finish the movie I can't think of a single scene I would delete. It is an amazing film that some say is a story about family; I agree. Paul Anderson was attempting to capture the glory days of pornography and society's transition to the 1980s and the broken down circus that is pornography.

[During a coke binge]
Rollergirl: Amber, are you my mom? I'm gonna ask you, okay? And you say yes, okay? Amber, are you my mom?
Amber Waves: Yes, sweetie.

Many of the relationships in 'Boogie Nights' (BN) are familial. If you look at the cast of characters, you have an old lion father in Jack Horner, a woman desperate to be a mom in Amber Waves, the bubbly little sister in Rollergirl, the golden son with Dirk and the odd collection of crazy relatives that make of a family with Buck, Scotty, the Colonel, Todd etc. jack grooms Dirk, yet their is the issue of acceptance, respect between the two. Jack is quick to cut Dirk down to size when Dirk claims that he blocks his own scenes. Amber becomes a mother figure to the orphans Rollergirl and Dirk because she cannot contact or visit her own son. There is a closeness between the 'actors' which could be in part because they see each other and work when we are at our most vulnerable, naked.

Dirk's family had an interesting dynamic which I wish had been explored more. He is constantly seeking approval or acceptance wherever he goes because of his horrible home life. He constantly wants to look cool and have others see him the way that he wants them to see him. When he tries cocaine for the first time, he asks if he looks cool doing it. He equates his American Dream with a Corvette, which people would see him driving.

Buck Swope: You're not being fair. This isn't fair.
Bank Officer: This financial institution cannot endorse pornography.
Buck Swope: Stop saying pornography. Why are you doing this to me? I am an actor. I am an actor.

Listening to the Director's commentary, one can hear how he did not want to glorify pornography. He wanted to show how truly horrible of a life it was/is. I think it was amazing that this movie came out before the major mainstreaming of porngraphy in American Society. As he stated, in the 1970s pornography was on the big screen, had plots because you could not fast forward to the sex scenes, and they were stars of the screen. Some friends mention that the movie has a happy ending as Dirk goes back to Jack's house and gets back in films. They really do not notice that Todd and Little Bill are dead, the Colonel is in jail, everyone is recovering from cocaine, and Dirk has found shelter back in porn. A career in porn is not a happy ending; Dirk has learned nothing and not grown in his 'hero's journey'. The look on Julianne Moore's face in the mirror is a more appropriate statement for the ending. Jack has just said she is "the foxiest bitch in the whole world". There is no joy in her face but a sadness because she knows the truth.

The truth is that everyone has lost their innocence. There is the obvious change in tone from the scenes of the 1970s to the 1980s, but even their 'work' is portrayed as soemthing they can improve and refine. Dirk is always concerned with things looking 'sexy' and 'right'. Jack wants to make a movie that will keep the pervs in the seats. People are more concerned with having the right look or stereo than anything else. In the final scene, the peaceful house equilibrium has been restored, but everyone is a little dirtier.

I think this is a nice allegory for the transition of American society from the 1970s which still had some of that 1960s activisim, experimentation with drugs, the sexual revolution was in full force, women were entering the workforce in greater numbers to the 1980s which was all about money, me-me-me, an explosion of dangerous drugs, and a sex scene that was overshadowed by HIV/AIDS. I may be reaching, but that is what the 1980s feels like to me at times. Things appear new, improved and better but in most ways were not (maybe the clothes).

Dirk: You're not the boss of me, Jack. You're not the king of Dirk. I'm the boss of me. I'm the king of me. I'm Dirk Diggler. I'm the star. It's my big dick and I say when we roll.

I loved this quote because it is Dirk coked out of his mind and delusional about being a star and a real actor. I loved how this movie showed the sex in a boring way; Jack Horner always looks tired and bored when watching sex scenes being filmed. Pornography is not exciting and fun. Those are two adjectives people use for sex, and yet no one truly looks like they enjoy their sex lives. Jack doesn't crack a smile or show any delight when watching scenes. The term 'porn star' in itself implies that these people are famous and recognizable. Prior to being beaten by the homophobe surfers, Dirk asks the guy if he knows who he is. The guy does not, and it proves just how irrelevant they are compared to true stars of the screen. Another nice touch was how the mystique of filming is removed by the walk from Drik's dressing room to the set. It is a walk through Jack's house. There are few lights, one sound guy with a boom mike, and one camera.

The other piece of the broken down circus is individual angle. Behind the good looks are troubled pasts and insecurity. Under the Italian shirts and make up, addictions eat away at these stars. No one is ever shown engaging in a romantic sexual encounter besides the occasional kiss. I find it a nice irony that the porn stars themselves are never shown as players, macks, or queens who have to fight men off of them. Once again, the final scene shows Amber Waves taring into the mirror all done up but ultimately, looking sad at the life she has to live.

Dirk: You know, I'm gonna be a great big bright, shining star.

The acting in this is top notch and helped the careers of almost everyone associated with the movie (except Becky Barnett which I will touch on later). This movie lost the Screen Actor's Guild award for Best Ensemble cast to "The Full Monty" (other movies nominated "LA Confidential, Titanic, Good Will Hunting, WOW). First the men and women who supported the leads. Every man seemed to dive into his role William H. Macy, Burt Reynolds, Luis Guzman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jon C Reilly, Thomas Jane, Don Cheadle all put in top notch performances. I enjoyed Don Cheadle's performance as their was an element of pathetic in everything buck Swope tries: the stereo sale, the cowboy look, the superfreak look, the loan meeting, etc. Thomas Jane's scene with the drug deal/failed robbery was magnificent. The nervous coke laughter always kills me. He builds the tension with the laughter and the delivery of his lines. You know it is going to go bad, you just do not know when. Jon Reilly will eventually get an Oscar for a later film but it will be a cumulative award because of all of the great jobs he has done in since 1995. His career has exploded because of this role which he approached with the right sense of stupidity and innocence. Reed Rothchild was a sweet idiot, and the wingman attitude he develops and perfects with Dirk carries a 1/3 of the movie when everything is spiralling downward.

There are not many supporting females. Dirk's mother and Jessie are small roles, and even Becky Barnett does not have much. A really horrifying scene of Becky with her husband was cut, and it shook me for a few days after seeing it. Becky Barnett is the hidden hot woman of this movie. She is beautiful and possibly sexier than Heather Graham. Every guy who talks about the movie mentions how "Becky Barnett was fine" under the breath. I do not know why she has not assumed all or some of the hot black woman roles. I think that Hollywood needs more diversity as producers seem to put it in all the wrong places. We do not need to see a little league team that represents the U.N., but we could see non-urban roles for black actors. Now I will get off of my soap box. That might sound bad, but it does seem odd that Gabrielle Union (hot) gets all of the roles that call for a hot black woman. Julianne Moore was fantastic and her coke scenes seemed a little too real to me. I loved the coke rants and the desperation in her face and lines whenever she was trying to be a mom.

Dirk: Aren't you gonna take your skates off?
Rollergirl: I never take my skates off.

I had to give her a paragraph to herself. Heather Graham nails the innocent, hot girl perfectly in this movie. Her eyes are so large and blue that they convey that sense of sadness that her character carries. I loved the scene with the limo sex/fight and her coked out responses and facial expressions. When she snaps, you understand why and how. Right before she snaps and destroys the guy with her rollerskate, her character is not all done up and looking sexy. She is hunched, her make up is messed up and her eyes look so dark. All of the repressed energy and feelings come out at that moment. Heather was so good in this movie that it is amazing to think about how terrible she was in every movie since. She killed Austin powers 2 for me, and I do not care for any of her other films. I take that back, she was funny in Bowfinger (her character is made all the more funny because it's based on Anne Heche). In this movie, she was lightning in a bottle, which leads me to......

Dirk: I...am the F*CKING king of Dirk!

The Director's commentary showed that Mark Wahlberg understood the mood and attitude that Anderson was trying to accomplish witht he film. It shows in each scene. Wahlberg hits all of the right notes and draws you in because he is just a runaway kid with one talent. The innocence, the insecurity, the machismo, the stupidity all come through in a dose that is not syrupy and does not feel forced. I especially loved the friendship between Dirk and Reed; the recording studio scenes are fantastic. He's done a few good things since, but has not reached the level of BN since. Dirk does not make a good decision once it turns to 1980 and yet you still feel bad for him and want to see him turn it around; that is connecting with an audience.

Jack Horner: Do these characters have a name?
Dirk: The guy's name is Brock Landers.
Reed Rothchild: And his partner is Chest Rockwell.
Jack Horner: Those are some great names.

I included this line as it is hysterical and explains blog call signs. I love this movie. Maybe it is because I am similar to the writer/director and viewed 1970s porn as entertaining, funny, and much better than the porn of today. I think it is because it is a great movie, great acting, some nice camera work, a great soundtrack and a good story. I'd like to put more reviews up here and if you think this is long, hopefully I have refined my essay style by the time I review "Godfather 2" so it does not double this entry.

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