' ' Cinema Romantico: My Great Movies: Boogie Nights (1,000th Post)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Great Movies: Boogie Nights (1,000th Post)

Yes, difficult to believe, I know, but Cinema Romantico has now been spewing forth on the movies (with the intermittent tangent on Springsteen or Lady Gaga or Nebraska Football) for a whole 1,000 posts. It's kind of amazing, really, and I want to sincerely, from the oceanic depths of my heart, thank every single person who has ever stopped by here to read one, five, ten, twenty-five, fifty, however many posts, even if you thought I was an idiot (which I pretty much am). It means the world that my melodramatic opinions have reached anyone at all. I really do love writing this blog.

I wanted Post 1,000 to be special, obviously, and there are several favorite films I have not written much about that I considered expounding on but I realized that I wanted Post 1,000 to not merely be about a favorite movie but about the romance of going to the movies, which is just as important. After all, this blog is called Cinema Romantico. And so I leaned back, closed my eyes and drifted off......drifted away......drifted back to......

Iowa City. 1997. A "burgeoning" English major at the U of I. Friday night doubling as Halloween. Due to events involving canned Busch Light I never made it out of the apartment which wasn't actually my apartment but my friend's apartment. The next morning I had recovered completely because I was young then and could recover completely with but a single night's sleep and so my friend, his girlfriend, her friend, and I piled into his girlfriend's friend's car and traversed north to the slightly smelly hamlet of Cedar Rapids for a showing of "Boogie Nights" because it was garnering raves and it wasn't out in the I.C. We had lunch, wandered through the Lindale Mall, bought our tickets, took our seats, and, as the previews started, three people sat down right in front of us, specifically one ginormous dude with a bulbous head who sat right in front of my friend's girlfriend's friend who was never shy about voicing her opinions and combined a loud sigh with a "What the fuck?" before moving from the seat to my right to the seat to my left which I actually sort of dug because it made us look like a couple even though we weren't. Sigh. But I digress.

The movie opens with a tracking shot, though at the time I didn't realize it was a tracking shot until the point the tracking shot ended and I thought to myself, "Wait, was that one take?" I was stunned. I'm still stunned. To this day no one shot in any movie has astonished me more. I've seen the Statue Of Liberty. I like this shot more. Yes, it's ambitious and a technical marvel but it's also thematic, establishing these people the camera tracks as one big, (highly) dysfunctional family and then, right at the end, discovering the about-to-be new member of the brood. (This shot is set to The Emotions' "Best Of My Love" which I therefore became obsessed with which caused me to buy the soundtrack 48 hours later and it's also the shot that led my friend Daryl and I to spend an evening once long ago watching "selected tracking shots" which eventually morphed into simply watching "selected scenes from 'Boogie Nights'", always beginning with the beginning.)

We were introduced to "Eddie Adams from Torrance" (Mark Wahlberg, shattering forevermore the image of Marky Mark), a high school dropout, working two jobs, one at a nightclub called Boogie Nights, where he is first introduced to adult film producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) who with the crucial assistance of one Rollergirl (Heather Graham, shattering forevermore the image of Mercedes Lane) gets him to walk out on his belligerent mother and his passive father to enter the world of "exotic pictures" by hopping a bus straight to Jack's opulent 70's pad where a raging party is in progress. It was at this moment the film seemed to elevate into another, mostly unfrequented realm.

Could a movie really do this? Could it really, twenty minutes or so in, just when it's beginning to rev up, kinda put a hold on the narrative and devote so much time to a booze/drug fueled southern California party, merrily skipping from character to character, situation to situation, episodically, and not only not lose interest, but gain interest, gain power, gain resonance, and make every moment, every fame feel so uniquely true and alive ("I have a look! Chocolate love! One hundred percent!"). It was pure, Kilimanajaro-esque cinema, and when Eddie is introduced to Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) at said party, they have this conversation:

Reed: "What do you squat?"
Eddie: "About two."
Reed: "Super, super."
Eddie: "What about you? What do you squat?"
Reed: "Three fifty."
Eddie: "Wow."
Reed: "It's no B.S."
Eddie: "That's a lot."
Reed: "Where do you work out?"
Eddie: "In Torrance, where I live."
Reed: "Cool. Do you ever go to Vince's out here? No, I would have seen you. I'm there every day."
Eddie: "I've always wanted to work out at Vince's."
Reed: "Say, did you ever see that movie 'Star Wars?'"
Eddie: "Four times."
Reed: "People tell me I look like Han Solo."

At this point - this very point - my friend reaches across the empty seat between us, forcefully grabs my arm and says, happily but not quietly, "They're talking about nothing!" My friend, you have to understand, is quite possibly the most sarcastic person I know and, yet, the sound in his voice at that moment was pure joy. One hundred percent.

In a few minutes time when the hapless Little Bill (William H. Macy) happens upon his wife in the driveway committing, uh, misdeeds with a gentleman and then Little Bill walks away only to find himself in a conversation about "the photography of the film" with Ricky Jay while the, uh, misdeeds still go on right there in the background the friend of the girlfriend of my friend to my left laughed so hard and so long I honestly thought she might never stop and just keep going and going until we got back to Iowa City. But I understood, and I understood because later in the film when Melora Walters' Jessie St. Vincent says the line "It's true - you are Brock Landers" I almost laughed as hard and as long as she did.

After the sequence in which Eddie truly becomes Dirk via the filming of his first scene in his first adult picture on the drab set located in Jack's basement where Julianne Moore (shoulda won the Oscar, but don't get me started) as Amber Waves, who speaks in the whole film in some sort of dry, sincere, zoned-out, drug-addled voice that mystically rises above perfection, memorably portrays a casting director - "As you may or may not know, this is an important film for me. If it's not a hit I'm going to get kicked out of my apartment. My landlord's a real jerk." - who essentially says to Dirk, who is there to audition, to quote Marc Bolan of T. Rex, "Bang a gong/Get it on", which is followed by them doing just that for a protracted amount of screen time, the friend of the girlfriend of my friend and I both realized simultaneously the two blonde girls around our age sitting in the row in front of us over to the left had vanished, never to return. (They might have been the first walk-outs but they were not the last.)

For reasons too long and pointless to explain (and that I don't really remember) the word "pantalones" had become some sort of strange, oblique inside joke amongst several of my running mates in The I.C. which is why when there is the moment when the marquee of one of Dirk Diggler's adult features is shown displaying the title "Spanish Pantalones" my friend and I lost it.

I can still remember the sequence when Don Cheadle's earnest Buck Swope enters the donut shop to get some food for his pregnant wife and then the sudden, unexpected robbery and then the guy with the hunting magazine pulls the gun who offs the robber who offs the guy with the hunting magazine who accidentally offs the donut shop clerk which leaves Buck, whose dream of opening his own speaker store had died swiftly several scenes earlier when the bank wouldn't give him a loan, standing, covered in blood, face to face with a sack of cash and the way Paul Thomas Anderson drew that scene out with the camera, zooming in on Buck and then the money and then Buck and then the money and how unbelievably conscientious I was of the beautiful, brilliant editing and how I kept playing that little moment in my mind over and over for days and days afterwards.

And then, of course, The Drug Deal Gone Wrong. Smarmy Todd Parker (Thomas Jane) leading Dirk and Reed on the most awe-inspiringly ignorant, laugh-out-loud comical, indescribably awkward, unforgettably strange robbery attempt in the history of western civilization. If I truly became self-aware at any point during the two-and-a-half hours of just what was happening, this was it. It's not necessarily that I thought to myself "My God, this is a masterpiece", though that's what it was, but that, despite its obvious influences, I was witnessing something completely unlike anything else, something bold and relentless and reckless and trashy and genuine that dared its audience to go right there to the edge with it and those who fled the theater - and there were a few - when all of us in there realized what that last shot was going to be did not go to the edge. And that last shot, I think, was as much Paul Thomas Anderson - who would go on to make frogs rain like cats and dogs and make "There Will Be Blood", which is to say he's ultra-confident and uber-cocky - showing off his cojones to the flabbergasted audience as it was Dirk Diggler.

When it was over the four of us sat there, quietly, and watched all the credits unfold and then staggered out of the theater and to the car in the late-autumn-in-Iowa darkness, and as we made the return trip southbound on I-380 "Sympathy For The Devil" came on the radio which seemed and seems appropriate because dancing to the "woo woos" in "Sympathy For The Devil" is the only possible way I could truly express how "Boogie Nights" made me feel that celestial day in October 1997.

Long live the movies.


Wretched Genius said...

Congratulations on reaching 1,000. Reading your blogs (and mocking you when I feel it's necessary) has become a fun part of my daily routine, and I hope you keep it up for 1,000 more.

Jacob said...

First, congrats on 1,000! Second, noting with forevermore shatter the image of Mercedes Lane.

Castor said...

Wow 1000 posts! Congrats on this major milestone of longevity :)

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you, all. If I reach 2,000 I'll be.....38? Where will I be then? Hopefully producing my "Out of the Past" remake with Sienna Miller. Or dancing for nickels on the corner.

And Jacob, I'm sorry, but Rollergirl trumps Mercedes Lane. It's just how it is.

Univarn said...

Congratulations! Takes a lot of time and dedication to get there, and a great post to celebrate it with.

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you, sir!

Dave said...

Phenomenal post on one of the greatest movies of our generation. You mirrored that same sense of wonder and awe that I experienced when I saw this in a theater back in '97.

I like your blog; your posts are very personal and utterly engaging.

Keep it up!

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you for the gracious words. Glad we feel the same way about this uber-awesome film.

Thomas said...

I really did not expect to like Boogie Nights, but it turned out to be an unexpectedly great film. So much craziness and so much fun packed into 2.5 hours. I may have to grab it from Netflix since it's been a couple of years since I last saw it. Congrats on 1000 posts!