Today! Because I think you have the job, but why don’t I make sure of something –
Boogie Nights (1997)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (x5)
Starring Mark Wahlberg (x2), Burt Reynolds (x2), Julianne Moore (x4), John C. Reilly (x7), Don Cheadle (x4), Heather Graham (x4), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x8), William H. Macy (x3), Ricky Jay (x2), Melora Walters (x3), Nina Hartley, Nicole Ari Parker, Thomas Jane (x4), Alfred Molina (x4), Luis Guzman (x5), Philip Baker Hall (x7), Robert Ridgely (x6), Joanna Gleason (x2), Jack Wallace, Michael Jace (x2), Jack Riley (x5), Robert Downey Sr.
My favorite movie from one of my favorite years, Boogie Nights kicked off my multi-decade love affair with Paul Thomas Anderson films, nearly all of which landed on this list. Sarah, who is not exactly a PTA fan, has proclaimed that his most recent film (as of this writing) Phantom Thread is the “only real movie I’ve ever seen.” Dissect that statement as you will! But it all began with what I would categorize as his most accessible, mainstream film, even if it is a period epic set in the porn industry.
I guess this qualifies as a movie about movies – thus I said last week that Ed Wood was my second favorite film in this mini-genre – but it’s hard to categorize. Videotape sex flicks isn’t exactly what I’d normally include – should this sub-category also include, like, home movie movies, e.g. Super 8, Be Kind Rewind, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? Hell, I guess those are still about the process of filming something, so sure! Tally ’em up!
Boogie Nights was one of the first movies I had on DVD, having seen it in theaters multiple times in that great fall of ’97, my first year in college. I also owned both volumes of the soundtrack on tape, so I could play them to death in the ’87 Firebird I commuted to Keystone in, which would periodically break down in (and near) the parking lot off the entrance. If you went to Keystone from ’97 to ’00, you may have seen it inconveniently blocking the road from time to time.
PTA arguably made better movies (arguably) with There Will Be Blood, The Master, and (if you ask the wife) Phantom Thread, but no others barrel along with a dozen expert performances and a rocking disco soundtrack. Also, incidentally, isn’t it crazy the song “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave isn’t actually on the soundtrack? That’s what the movie is named after, isn’t it? Helluva coincidence if not! KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes,” however, did make the cut on Volume 2. It’s the most popular-music heavy soundtrack PTA would utilize until Inherent Vice, also a period west coast adventure, with somewhat less nudity.
But seriously, as great as the script is and as wonderfully as it’s directed, just look at this assembled cast. Burt Reynolds got nominated for an Oscar – kind of a lifetime achievement thing, but he’s still solid – and Mark Wahlberg subsequently became a big movie star, so they grabbed a lot of attention at the time, but man, you could’ve put Reilly, Macy, Hoffman, Graham (yes, even Heather Graham!), Ridgely, Hall, Molina, Jane, and Guzman up for major awards as well. Julianne Moore deservedly had the movie’s other Oscar nominated performance, and the group was nominated for Best Cast Performance at the Screen Actors Guild awards, if that means anything to you. This was also the first of PTA’s eight Oscar noms, here for Best Screenplay. He is currently 0 for 4 on Screenplay, and 0 for 2 directing and for producing (There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread). This crime cannot continue much longer!
(He is also 0 for 5 at the BAFTAs, 0 for 4 from the WGA, 0 for 1 from the DGA, 0 for 11 from the Chicago Film Critics, and has never been nominated for anything at the Golden Globes. Seriously, what the fuck, critics? Sure, L.A. has given him Best Director twice, the National Board of Review gave him two screenplay awards, and he won five awards from Toronto Film Critics over the years, but come on, other major outlets! This is nonsense!)
1997 was a tough year to elbow into the awards discussion, especially for a second time filmmaker unspooling a porn yarn, so the three Oscar nods were a decent accomplishment. Figure, you had Titanic, L.A. Confidential, As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting, The Full Monty, Wag the Dog, The Apostle, and Jackie Brown soaking up nominations, so Boogie Nights had to settle for whatever it could get. Still, it’s the king of ’97 for me – the ninth and final film from that major transitional year in my life.
This is Anderson’s fifth and final film on the list, becoming the tenth Five-Timer director, with I believe the highest percentage of his eligible films in the countdown (5 of 6, for 83.3%). I recently told the wife that I don’t know if Phantom Thread would’ve made the cut had I put this together a few years down the road, and she was borderline apoplectic. I don’t know, as admirable as that movie is – is it lovable? Is it even likable? Same goes for Inherent Vice. I read that book, too, and am still not totally sure what happens in that story.
Loads of deep advancing folks today too, including new Five-Timers Guzman and Mel Brooks staple Jack Riley, new to the Sixes Robert Ridgely, Seven-Timers John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall, and Eight-Timer Philip Seymour Hoffman! Hell, this is Heather Graham’s fourth movie! Felicity Shagwell herself! I know I’ve mentioned this with a few different movies – Hannah and Her Sisters immediately comes to mind – but Boogie Nights might have the best cast ever assembled. I’ll try not to hand out this accolade too many more times on this list.