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From Under A Rock: Boogie Nights

February 10, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Boogie Nights
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From Under A Rock: Boogie Nights  


You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Edge of Tomorrow. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Boogie Nights.

Boogie Nights
Released: October 10th, 1997
Written & Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams (Dirk Diggler)
Julianne Moore as Maggie (Amber Waves)
Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner
Don Cheadle as Buck Swope
John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild
William H. Macy as “Little” Bill Thompson
Heather Graham as Brandy (“Rollergirl”)

Michael Ornelas: Paul Thomas Anderson is an amazing filmmaker with very unique and distinct works from one another. I’ve loved some of his films and I’ve really disliked some of them. I wanted to take a look at this one since I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it, and wanted to see how it held up for me.

Aaron Hubbard: I’ve seen about half of his filmography and have always been impressed, though only There Will Be Blood spoke to me beyond “Well that was well made and interesting.” So I was definitely curious to see how I felt about this one.
Loss of Innocence
Michael: The tragedy in this movie came from humanizing those in the adult film industry. Eddie was a bright-eyed kid who thought the world was his oysters. He then finds the adult film industry to be a gateway to drugs and violence, and he loses himself. I loved the kid at the start of the movie and I grew to really dislike him, and pitied him. Buck is a character who wants to go straight and open a stereo store, but due to his past, he has sullied his image in the eyes of society and can’t make a clean living. Rollergirl seems like a parallel to Eddie in many ways while Maggie’s real life is torn apart by her career choices as she loses a child custody case. There’s so much tragedy in the world of this film, and it’s sad.

Aaron: I don’t think I’ve seen a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that doesn’t end up as some level of tragedy. This one seemed like it might take a different route as first, as Eddie’s “Dirk Diggler” persona allows him to get out of his normal life and have a degree of success for himself. But as often happens, the cheap, easy route to success has unavoidable consequences. It was also interesting to me that Eddie and Buck do find some kind of happy ending, but only through a compromise. Eddie couldn’t make it on his own, and Buck capitalized on a lucky situation that may or may not catch up with him.

Michael: I really loved Buck and wanted him to end up happy. But that’s biased by loving Don Cheadle. That compromise was heartbreaking, but he really tried to play by the system’s rules at first.
Time and Place
Aaron: I don’t think anyone thinks of Boogie Nights as a period piece, but it kind of is. Anderson has consistently chosen films that take place in times that are rarely covered, or if they are, they tackle something going on in the time that is atypical. This film really captures the 1970s and 1980’s with its clothes, the drug culture, and especially how technology changed things. The home video camera radically changes the porn industry, which is a huge turning point for our characters. I think what sticks out about Anderson’s filmography is that he challenges what a period piece can be.

Michael: You know, I never realized that about him but that’s a very distinct feature in his filmography. There’s even a certain graininess to the film’s presentation at times that subtly gives off the vibe. He doesn’t just channel the aesthetic with costuming and set decoration, but his dialogue, plot points…all of it. It comes together and fits like a glove. Seeing the transition from the ‘70s to the ‘80s was actually very clear. I’ve seen pictures of my dad around that time wearing the exact same things, with the exact same hair. It’s ridiculous. My father is ridiculous.

Aaron: It’s fascinating to me. I think his filmography shows that history isn’t just big events. There’s so many people that live through it and have unique experiences worth exploring. I’d like to hope that other directors will take a few cues from him.
Is Porn Bad?
Michael: Despite everything that happens as a result from falling into the “seedy” porn industry, I’m not sure this film takes a stance demonizing or glorifying the porn industry. It certainly doesn’t pull punches in showing its negatives, but Anderson gave an amazing depth to these characters and shows them to be humans just like the rest of us. They have a different view on how liberally sex should be had, but that’s not our place to judge. And if I had a unit as big as Dirk’s, I’d probably be having a lot more of it myself. But if anything, the film shows how working in porn creates adversity for some decent people swimming in a pool of assholes.

Aaron: I think a neutral stance on the subject matter is probably best. To me, porn is just like any other industry; as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult looking to make a profit, it’s just a product. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t shady business practices, lines that shouldn’t be crossed, or the possibility for crime that ruins people’s lives. I think Anderson is showing that people are people regardless of their career choices.

Michael: Yeah, and I really admired that decision. It’s a very mature presentation instead of being on a high horse and demonizing the industry OR being a blind defender and glorifying it. It walks the line perfectly and that seems like the most interesting way to tell the story.

Aaron: Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most consistent directors of the last two decades. I’ve yet to see a film of his that I didn’t at least respect for its craftsmanship. But most fail to resonate with me beyond appreciation, and this is the same. I don’t love Boogie Nights, but I wholeheartedly recommend seeing it.


Michael: I really enjoyed this film, as it’s a slice of life picture about an industry most filmmakers wouldn’t every make a movie about. It’s sexy, but tragic. All the performances are top notch, especially Julianne Moore. P.T.A. is a master of his craft and this is probably the best movie he’s made in my opinion.


Aaron: I feel like you’re way off track there. But it probably the most accessible.

Michael: I liked Magnolia a lot as well, but I didn’t dig There Will Be Blood as much as most, but I’d be willing to rewatch it because it’s been almost a decade since I saw it.

What’s your favorite movie about the adult film industry?

Next week:

Aaron: Last year, you introduced me to Fritz Lang’s science fiction masterpiece Metropolis. Time for me to return the favor.
Michael: After showing you Metropolis, I’m thrilled for this. I didn’t know how well it would hold up on my second viewing and I was just as awestruck. Ready to pop another Lang cherry.

Aaron: This movie is really the standard for all future crime thrillers.

Which movie has held up as a masterpiece the longest?

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The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Boogie Nights is an in-depth look at the adult film industry and the unique types you can find within it. It doesn’t hold back with the demons many within the business face, and our lead character falls into that as well. Mark Wahlberg, Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, and the rest of the cast are fantastic. The movie is tragic but still has its fair share of humor, which I’ve come to expect from the majority of Paul Thomas Anderson pictures. He’s a director who knows his way around the technical aspects of filmmaking, and he’s excellent at weaving multiple characters’ stories together in interesting ways, which is very much on display here. If you haven’t seen it before, we give it a high recommendation.