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Pinback Sells ICJ on “Boogie Nights”
August 11th, 2008 by Pinback

Boogie Nights. Really. Top ten? Why that one? Sell me on Boogie Nights, I’ve never seen it.

Well, alright. I’ll try, anyway.

Of course, it can be a difficult sell, depending on how the salesman approaches it. If I come up to you (Robb Sherwin) and say, here, watch this, it’s a two and a half hour movie about porn in the 70’s, of course you (Robb Sherwin) would probably get so angry you’d stomp out of the room, stopping only to kick a hole in the wall.

So I’m not going to do that. Particularly since Robb IMed me that his three biggest misgivings about the movie were that 1) it was two and a half hours long, 2) it was about porn, 3) it was set in the 70’s.

I suppose I could tell you instead that it is actually a 70-minute movie about a guy in the future who builds a time machine to go even farther into the future to blow shit up with lasers, and while Burt Reynolds kind of looks like a futuristic laserguy in the movie, you will probably begin to suspect I’ve lied to you once he starts asking Marky Mark about his cock five minutes into it.

So, I guess I can just list some of the things about this movie which make it so fantastic, despite the subject matter and the length. (Of the movie, not of Marky Mark’s fake monster cock.) (Well, not necessarily of that.)

To watch this movie is to watch one of the great film makers of our time burst onto the scene with the unbridled ferocity of a giant, rabid, mutant kitten. How Anderson went from making Hard Eight, an excellent but quiet thriller about a loser finding a father figure in a more mature loser, to this artistic explosion of epic proportion is really amazing. You would never have known he’d have this sort of movie in him. Though I remember watching it for the first time, thinking, I didn’t know anyone had this kind of movie in them. I’d never seen — experienced — anything like it. Two and a half hours of raw, blistering power that just continued to bludgeon you from all sides with its fists of originality and energy.

Stylistically, it is no secret to say that he borrows very liberally from Scorcese and Tarantino, but at the same time manages to outdo them both in terms of audacity and technical bluster. All the tricks of the trade are here, from copious use of music, ridiculous tracking shots (one of which starts, I think, in a bedroom, and ends up underwater in a swimming pool), to all the rest. His followup, Magnolia, is often criticized as being too flamboyant in its stylistic excesses, and it seems reserved next to this.

All of this wizardry is nothing if it’s not in service of an entertaining story. Now, the subject matter may or may not interest you, but the frailty of the human experience which is the focus of the story arc is not exclusive to the porn industry of the 70’s. It is timeless and universal.

Of course, we can say simply it’s a cautionary tale about the excesses of money, drugs, whatever, and we can say “been there, done that”. Which may be a fair argument, but you certainly won’t notice that while you’re watching it. For one thing, it’s not a story about one guy, it’s a story of a bunch of people, all on the same ride, but all affected it by it differently, and watching how their relationships come about and change is fascinating.

This is a whole family of people who all believe they are doing the right thing, who so very genuinely and naively believe that they are headed in the right direction, while we the audience see otherwise.

Then one night, in one of the more memorable, shattering sequences in movie history, everything comes to a head, and it starts to become clear that while they thought they were climbing the ladder to heaven, they were all the while digging themselves into hell. Nice imagery, huh? I thought of that in the shower this morning.

But who cares, right? Even all THAT wouldn’t be any good if the movie just wasn’t a blast to watch, and I’m telling you — I’m telling you, Robb Sherwin — that this movie is a friggin’ blast to watch. It’s a riot. It’s hilarious, sad, exasperating, goofy, all of it. You ask me if it’s a long 2.5 hours? My friend, it is the shortest 2.5 hours in all of moviedom. You ask me if we will be able to throw quotes back and forth, as we’ve begun doing with all the other PTA movies? Boy howdy, can we.

It shares the “dangers of excess” theme with There Will Be Blood (with money, drugs, and fucking in place of oil), but there’s one other thing it shares, which is that where you would expect the movie to end, one last, completely bizarre and off-the-wall scene shows up — a scene of such brutal intensity that you will never, ever forget it, and one of those scenes that changes the way you hear a particular song. Much like you can’t hear “Stuck In The Middle With You” anymore without picturing Mr. Blonde torturing Marvin Nash and cutting his fucking ear off, this scene has a similar effect. It’s just ten minutes of amazing cinema.

The fact that the other 140 minutes are just as good is astonishing. You may complain about the ending not being “final” enough, but as with Blood, I think the movie ends when there’s really nothing more you need to see. Any more frames would be wasted. And you’ll be too exhilarated and exhausted from the ride that you’ll be ready for a nap anyway.

In conclusion, you should see this movie because it is:

1. Exciting.
2. Hilarious.
3. Amazing.
4. Awesome.
5. Great fun.
6. Almost zero scenes showing a closeup of a 12-inch donger.
7. Has a character named Rollergirl, which you appear to think is a good thing.
8. One of the best movies ever.
9. You will like it.
10. Trust me.


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