Category Archives: 1997 Movie reviews

Hercules-1997

Hercules-1997

Director-Ron Clements, John Musker

Starring-Tate Donovan, James Woods, Danny DeVito

Scott’s Review #1,109

Reviewed February 7, 2021

Grade: B-

Hercules (1997) is a modern-day Walt Disney film that centers on the world of Ancient Greek mythology. The premise is one I find fascinating and the characters of Hercules, Zeus, Hades, and Pegasus are the focus. The names alone hold intrigue and appeal but the film is only an adequate watch.

The product feels “produced” and lacks the authenticity and sincerity that is rich and seamless in beloved Disney classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) or Bambi (1941). Besides the initial story intrigue, the animations are nothing particularly special and it feels too kiddie-like.

It’s like comparing The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band historical album to a latter-day solo effort by Paul McCartney and that’s being generous. It may be fine but can’t hold a candle to the former. And “fine” is not what I wanted from a Disney film. That’s what I felt about Hercules. It’s okay and entertaining but not up to snuff as compared with finer films.

The film is equipped with a fantastic villain though, the best part of Hercules other than the mythological elements. James Woods, who voices the character of Hades, is wonderful and I’m hardly a James Woods fan but for other reasons, like his politics. Anyway, the rivalry and competitive edge of Hercules and Hades is unique and compelling and will hold one’s attention.

It all begins in a perfect Disney way when Hercules (Tate Donovan), a son of gods, is snatched as a baby by Hades and forced to live among mortals as a half-man, half-god. When he grows to be an adolescent, Hercules needs to perform a rite of passage on Earth to prove himself worthy of living with the gods on Mount Olympus. With his sidekick, Philoctetes (Danny DeVito), in tow, Hercules must learn to use his strength to defeat evil creatures.

The strong message is written in Hercules to appeal to a sense of good overthrowing evil. It’s a Disney film, trust me it will. Though predictable the story feels good in a world where far too often the bad guys get away with bad things and the good guys don’t get enough credit.

Appealing and targeted mostly to kids, the film made a ton of money which means a lot of kids saw it. A great reminder is that with any luck truth and honest will win out. So will remaining true to one’s self.

Woods makes Hades a villain with an edge rather than a generic, cookie-cutter type. Hades speaks rapidly, like a used car salesman trying to sell a customer a good deal. We can tell we are trying to be swindled but there is fun in that. Megara (Susan Egan), the intended love-interest for Hercules, is working for Hades, which adds a level of intrigue.

Unfortunately, the romance between Hercules and Meg never gets off the ground or works too well. The main issue is that there is little chemistry or rooting value for the couple. Meg isn’t my favorite Disney character. She is a sarcastic damsel whom Hercules saves from the centaur Nessus. After Hercules and the others leave, Meg is revealed to be Hades’ servant, having sold her soul to him to save a lover who then left her. She’s had a tough life and finally does the right thing but I never felt invested in the character.

The main song from the film is okay but rather forgettable. The title of “Go the Distance” is a song of determination but also generic and unmemorable. The look of the animations has a 1990’s vibe with bright, vibrant colors that look “of the time” instead of feeling classic or alive.

A decent effort, Hercules (1997) hits its mark sometimes and other times misses completely. I was enraptured with the historical and mythological gods and the trimmings that go along with that mystique, but the modern spin doesn’t work and only made me yearn for the classics from the 1940s and 1950s.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Song-“Go the Distance”

L.A. Confidential-1997

L.A. Confidential-1997

Director-Curtis Hanson

Starring-Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger

Scott’s Review #1,102

Reviewed January 19, 2021

Grade: A

An enormous critical and commercial hit of 1997, L.A. Confidential spins a tale of intrigue and mystery during the 1950s with plenty of big-name stars to go around. The film can be classified as a throwback, neo-noir escapade, but it’s quite stylistic and fleshed out. It’s well-made with slick elements and Hollywood looks and feels like the lavish production design and musical score, but it’s the seduction and bevy of secrets that will keep and viewers glued to their seats, trying to guess what happens next.

As if it doesn’t have enough great elements a powerful whodunit is constructed leading viewers to question if the bad guys are good or the good guys bad?

Stalwarts like Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito bring star power, while unknowns at the time, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce are the real reasons to tune in. L.A. Confidential has a seemingly endless tangled web to absorb and unravel, but the film is paced well and never overcomplicates itself. The strong art direction and musical score make it a delight in the eyes and ears.

The film is fraught with a saucerful of secrets just waiting to be brought to the surface.

Based on the James Ellroy 1990 novel of the same name, it’s the third book in his L.A. Quartet series, the others being The Black Dahlia (1987) and The Big Nowhere (1988). All focus on the Los Angeles Police Department, corruption, and scandal. The former was turned into an unsuccessful film in 2006 starring Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson.

I love films set in the City of Angels with the focus on Hollywood darkness lurking beneath the sunny and swanky exterior. Especially effective is the 1950s time-period, post World War II, when everything seemed to be coming up roses. Naturally, murder is the offering of the day.

To summarize, three policemen, each with his motives and obsessions, tackle the corruption surrounding an unsolved murder at a downtown Los Angeles coffee shop in the early 1950s. Detective Lieutenant Exley (Pearce), the son of a murdered detective, is out to avenge his father’s killing. The ex-partner of Officer White (Crowe), implicated in a scandal uncovered by Exley, was one of the victims. Sergeant Vincennes (Spacey) feeds classified information to a tabloid magnate (DeVito). Basinger portrays Lynn Bracken, a glamorous prostitute.

It’s nice watching the film with the knowledge of the big stars Crowe and Pearce would become. Also interesting is to see Spacey when he was a big star, eventually destined to turn into Hollywood mud due to a scandal. That’s the beauty of watching a classic film and adds a realistic element unknown at the time of the first release.

From a romantic angle, it’s fun and juicy wondering who Lynn, a Veronica Lake lookalike, will wind up with. Basinger has chemistry with all of the handsome cops and one wonders who she will screw and screw over. The role is the best of Basinger’s career.

L.A. Confidential (1997) is a film that can be viewed multiple times to notice intricacies missed during the first go-around. It harkens back to the 1940s in style, pizazz, and texture. There is something for everyone and it develops well beyond the film noir genre. It contains great acting, exceptional writing with twisting storylines and events, bloodshed, and thrills. It is an exceptional crime drama almost on par with one of the greats, Chinatown (1974).

The 1990s was an excellent decade for well-made films and L.A. Confidential is near the top of the pile.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Curtis Hanson, Best Supporting Actress-Kim Basinger (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (won), Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

 

Air Force One-1997

Air Force One-1997

Director-Wolfgang Petersen

Starring-Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close

Scott’s Review #1,085

Reviewed November 21, 2020

Grade: B+

If ever a straight-ahead, summer blockbuster, popcorn flick ever existed, Air Force One (1997) is it. Surprisingly, this is not a bad thing. It’s not cerebral, but it’s never dull. The film has hooks and muscle and assembles a thrill ride, edge-of-your-seat action fest. Some would say this is just what the doctor ordered, and they’d be right, provided the mood is for a mind escaping, meat and potatoes affair.

Air Force One is pure Americana. With a patriotic musical score and a clear hero and villain, it’s easy to know who to root for. Suspension of disbelief is mandatory since some scenes are as implausible as Santa Claus really shimmying down a chimney on Christmas Eve, but the film is entertaining and fun. The action is non-stop.

At the tail end of his prime action star years (the 1980’s and 1990’s), Harrison Ford stars as the president of the United States of America, James Marshall. After making a bombastic speech in Moscow vowing never to negotiate with terrorists, a group of them led by the dastardly Ivan (Gary Oldman) hijack Air Force One with the president and his family on board. Marshall, a former soldier, hides in the cabin of the plane and races against time to save his family and those aboard the flight from the terrorists.

The plot is implausible and hokey and reeks of plot points to carry the story along, but surprisingly, the film works. There is no way a president would ever race around performing stunts aboard an airplane, conquering the villains like clockwork. But Ford has the charisma to make us believe it could happen, and his character is a family man, a Vietnam veteran, and a Medal of Honor recipient. Can this guy be any more perfect?

Oldman, always reliable as a villain, is perfectly cast. His character’s motivations are simplistic and nationalistic. Ivan believes that the collapse of the Soviet Union has ruined his country and somehow it’s the fault of the United States. The reasoning is silly, but it’s in keeping with the patriotic nature of Air Force One- us versus them mentality. The United States is good; Russia is bad. It’s what middle America wants, and the target audience of this film is clear. Back to the Cold War.

Wolfgang Petersen, who directs the picture, knows his way around the action genre. After all, he crafted the memorable Das Boot (1981) and Outbreak (1995). The film has a Tom Clancy-Patriot Games meets Die Hard (1988) style. Petersen meshes the score with the quick editing style to layer the film with more action than slowed down conversational scenes. We know how it’s going to end but enjoy the ride.

Looking closely, the film is not just for the guys. Glenn Close is cast as a female Vice President and a strong gender twisting presence. Kathryn Bennett is a bold, careful woman and the implication is that she is more than capable of taking over should anything happen to the president. Her scenes mostly take place in the White House Situation Room and provide a nice calm as she is pressured by Defense Secretary (Dean Stockwell) to declare the president incapable. The scenes between Stockwell and Close are very strong.

Air Force One (1997) is a cliché-riddled and mainstream Hollywood creation to the max. Both the pacing and the pulsating style make the film a guilty pleasure and is quite enjoyable. When the mood strikes to kick back and relax with a fun, action-packed affair, this one is your choice. Just don’t dissect the details too much or expect real-life to mimic art.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Best Film Editing

Lost Highway-1997

Lost Highway-1997

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette

Scott’s Review #868

Reviewed February 17, 2019

Grade: A-

David Lynch, forever known for his odd and mind-boggling productions, releases what might be his most bizarre offering Lost Highway (1997). Dreamlike and downright hallucinogenic the film is impossible to dissect and is open to endless interpretation. Characters morph into younger or different versions of themselves or even into different characters entirely making the film best served as an experience not to be over-analyzed. The most enjoyment comes from the fabulous atmospheric elements.

Lost Highway is set in Los Angeles as we meet saxophonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), a nightclub employee who resides with his glamorous wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) somewhere in the Hollywood hills. The couple begins receiving envelopes containing VHS tapes of footage of their house followed by more invasive tapes of them being filmed while sleeping in their bedroom. Spooked, they enlist the help of a pair of incompetent detectives.

The events begin to grow more complex with the introduction of a menacing mystery man (Robert Blake) and sequences involving a dismembered Renee and Fred’s subsequent incarceration for her murder. Fred suddenly morphs into a young auto mechanic named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), who is released into his parent’s care while being followed by the two detectives. Pete embarks on an affair with Alice Wakefield, a mirror image of Renee, who is the mistress of powerful Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia). Pete and Alice plan to escape together leaving their troubled lives behind.

Any attempt to make more sense of the story than outlined above is fruitless as a torrent of questions could be raised. The obvious ones are why does Fred turn into Pete (looking completely different) and why does Renee turn into Alice (looking similar)? What do random scenes of a burning desert cabin mean? What does the bizarre and hazy lesbian sequence with Marilyn Manson have to do with anything? Discerning the logic and attempting to unravel the mystery will lead to frustration.

The best advice is to escape into the film and allow it to manifest into the viewer’s mind. The terms “dreamlike” and “hallucinating” are often used to describe films but are perfect adjectives to fit Lost Highway. The stories do run parallel, so the challenge is not being able to follow each of them, but rather how they connect. The stories also merge circularly with a rhythmic effect and a satisfying ambiance that lured me immeasurably.

My favorite characters are Alice and Pete and this is in large part because of the actors who portray them. Not appearing until the second half Getty and Arquette infuse passion and energy into the roles. I immediately rooted for them as a couple as their tender and smoldering chemistry is immediately felt. Arquette blazes as a sexy temptress and Getty as the handsome and earnest man submitting to her prowess.

Eagle-eyed viewers may notice comparisons to Russ Meyer’s devilish sexploitation film Supervixens (1975). The most notable is the dual character representations, the auto mechanic occupation, the locales (more than a few Los Angeles roads seem identical), and various sequences featuring a weightlifter, a gas station drive-up, or other eerily similar scenes. Whether or not there is a direct correlation between the films is unknown but fun to observe.

The musical score and soundtrack are high points adding both mystique and aggression with the hard rock songs featured. Marilyn Manson’s “I Put a Spell on You”, Rammstein’s “Heirate Mich”, and The Smashing Pumpkins “Eye” are used in important scenes. The soundtrack release was a huge success on modern rock radio achieving Gold record sales status.

At the time of Lost Highway’s (1997) release, the film was not well regarded by critics and dismissed as not making much sense. In the decades following the film has garnered more acclaim and as with a fine wine has aged well. The beautiful cinematic tone and creative design and images have become more revered over time. For a perplexing and cerebral experience look no further than Lost Highway, a delicious companion piece to the Lynch masterpiece, Mulholland Drive (2001).

The Ice Storm-1997

The Ice Storm-1997

Director-Ang Lee

Starring-Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver

Scott’s Review #850

Reviewed January 1, 2019

Grade: A

The Ice Storm (1997) is a brilliant film directed by Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Brokeback Mountain (2005) fame. The film is based on a 1994 novel of the same name, written by Rick Moody. The brilliance lies in the rich way the characters are written with coldness, repression, and loneliness being central themes. The film is astonishingly genuine and fresh with an authenticity rarely felt so wholly in adult family dramas.

The time period is 1973 and the events take place in New Canaan, Connecticut, a wealthy suburban town. Two dysfunctional families, the Hoods and the Carvers co-exist during the Thanksgiving weekend as each deals with repression and escapism amid alcohol and sexual experimentation. Both the adult’s and the children’s lives are prominently featured in the story. Ben and Elena Hood (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) and Jim and Janey Carver (Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver) head the families.

While Ben and Janey carry on a secret affair, Elena lives an unfulfilled existence, craving more from life but not knowing how to get more and reduced to consulting self-help books for support. Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci) enjoys sexual escapades with multiple boys while Paul Hood (Tobey Maguire), home from boarding school, takes the train into New York City to see a rich classmate Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes).

The most wonderful aspect of the film is that the story is a slice of life, but with clever nuances. Since the families are rich why should the viewer feel sympathy for any of the characters let alone root for them? Ben and Janey lounge in bed after sex, he chatty about nonsense, she was bored and depressed. During a holiday neighborhood gathering a kinky “key party” develops, where participants swap spouses for the night, resulting in titillation and excitement.

The bold and controversial writing is exactly why The Ice Storm scores so many points. The characters are cold and frozen, unlikable and selfish, but might that be the point? All seem unhappy and tired of their dull, small-town existence and craving what little excitement they can muster. Written similarly to American Beauty (1999) the films could be watched in tandem for evenings of Gothic and macabre story-telling.

My favorite character is Elena as she has the most sensibility. She is lonely and ignored by her husband dutifully going about her day with little emotion. She feels temporarily excited when she develops a romantic crush on a neighbor only to quickly realize the most she can ever hope for with this man is a fling. Her character is fleshed out as she yearns for more than she has. The other characters are largely selfish and pampered.

The film’s conclusion, however, is monumental as it changes the perceptions of some characters and softens them. A tragic death brings characters together in a powerful way. Again, the writing in The Ice Storm is the most interesting and compelling appeal. The acting among the entire cast is professional, heartfelt, and brazen, but the written dialogue and interesting situations make this film rise above others of a similar genre.

Lee’s direction is brilliant as the blustery winter atmosphere is central to the story- in more ways than we might originally think. The frozen power lines and slick windy country roads elicit a cozy feeling nestled between harboring family secrets and scandals. The bitter yet beautiful ambiance is a soothing and compelling aspect of the entire film and Lee portrays these elements with precision.

Of the independent drama genre, The Ice Storm (1997) has a low budget and big-name stars. The film could easily be performed as a play, but the cinematic elements and fantastic writing make it a memorable and storied piece of film-making. Ang Lee frequently incorporates astounding character development in his works and The Ice Storm has all the qualities to be considered a masterpiece.

Jackie Brown-1997

Jackie Brown-1997

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Pam Grier, Robert Forster

Top 100 Films-#92

Scott’s Review #356

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is a fantastic film and one of the few to have a solely female lead (Kill Bill Volumes I and II are the others) and successfully re-launched star Pam Grier’s and Robert Forster’s careers after too many years on the sidelines.

The film is heavily influenced by Grier’s earlier films in the 1970’s blaxploitation genre. Jackie Brown is one of the more obscure Tarantino films, but is brilliant nonetheless and filled with slow, plodding, yet tremendous scenes.

Grier plays the title character, Jackie Brown, a flight attendant for a small Mexican airline who smuggles money into the United States from Mexico to supplement her income. When she is caught and threatened by the Feds to aid them in catching a much larger fish, she plots to use both sides to her advantage and walk away with the money.

Jackie develops feelings and a sweet relationship ensues with Max Cherry, a bondsman played by Forster. Mixed in with the plot is Tarantino staple, Samuel L. Jackson, as Ordell Robbie, a crooked drug smuggler, Robert De Niro as Louis, a former cellmate of Ordell’s, and Bridget Fonda as Melanie, a dizzy stoner girl.

As is always the case with Tarantino films, Jackie Brown contains a stellar cast just chomping at the bit to deliver the best performance they can with the help of rich and crackling dialogue written for them. The writing is always fantastic in Tarantino films and the number of plot twists and turns in Jackie Brown is great.

My favorite scene by far is the scene involving the transfer of money that takes place in the local Mall. Rich with flavor and atmosphere it is a marvel. Jackie and Max engage in small talk at the food court before the transfer are to take place- Jackie then goes to a fitting room where the “switch” will occur. Throughout this sequence, the tension is incredibly high and the film turns into a nail-biter.

Tarantino, not one to focus on a romantic storyline, gives Jackie Brown a uniqueness as the film features the respectful and delicious romance between Jackie and Max. This adds layers to the mainly bloody and crime-laden film. To counter this relationship is the volatile relationship between Louis and Melanie, which ends in tragedy.

I love how the film is set in Los Angeles. Sunny, bright, with a stuffy and superficial element to the action, mixing the beach and the hot weather with a crime story, manipulation, and double-crossing works so well.

Giving aging Hollywood stars a deserving comeback, Tarantino weaves a complex, but adventurous and well-paced, crime drama featuring veteran actors who deliver the goods, Jackie Brown is a treasure in a world of other Tarantino treasures and is a must-have for all of the director’s fans and fanatics.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Robert Forster

Titanic-1997

Titanic-1997

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

Top 100 Films-#49

Scott’s Review #327

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Reviewed January 6, 2016

Grade: A

1997’s Titanic is a sweeping, gorgeous epic, directed by James Cameron, that is perfection at every level. This film has it all: romance, disaster, gorgeous art direction, and flawless attention to detail.

The film will make you laugh, cry, and fall in love with the characters, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. The film is based on the real-life sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 after the ship tragically collided with an iceberg. I have witnessed this film be derided for being a “chick flick” or too “sappy”, but I vehemently disagree and feel it is a classic for the ages. Titanic successfully re-invented the Hollywood epic.

Jack Dawkins (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a penniless artist who meets high-class socialite Rose DeWitt (Kate Winslet) aboard the luxurious Titanic, headed from the coast of England to the United States in its maiden voyage. Rose is engaged to cagey Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).

Depressed, Rose contemplates diving overboard to her death, but Jack saves her and convinces her otherwise. They spend time together and he draws her portrait. As their romance blossoms, Cal catches on and plots revenge. In the mix are Rose’s snobbish mother, Ruth, played by Frances Fisher. A main theme of the film is social class and the difference that separate the haves from the have nots.

James Cameron desired perfection from this film and he sure got what he wanted. Every detail of Titanic is flawless and historically accurate, from the dining room silverware to the costumes to the set pieces barely visible in the background. Cameron even had a replica of the original Titanic built for filming purposes- certainly with limitations, but what a vast undertaking this must have been. That, along with the smoldering romance between Jack and Rose, is what makes Titanic one of my favorite films.

Two fantastic scenes are when Jack is taken under the wing of Molly Brown, played by Kathy Bates. Molly is not the snob that many of the other upper class is, and lends Jack a tuxedo so that he will look dapper for Rose. She also tenderly teaches him the appropriate way to use silverware. Tragically, the other scene is more melancholy- a gorgeous classical piece plays in the background as the vast ship is engulfed in water and slowly sinks, causing many deaths.

At well over three hours in length, the conclusion of the film is quite sprawling- and one has the feeling of being aboard the ship. By this time I was invested in the characters, both lead and supporting and the tragedy that ensues is both a marvel and heart-wrenching. Titanic is a film that simply must be viewed on the big screen for full effect, and is a timeless masterpiece that has aged perfectly.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-James Cameron (won), Best Actress-Kate Winslet, Best Supporting Actress-Gloria Stuart, Best Original Dramatic Score (won), Best Original Song-“My Heart Will Go On”, Best Sound Effects Editing (won), Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best Makeup, Best Costume Design (won), Best Film Editing (won), Best Visual Effects (won)

Boogie Nights-1997

Boogie Nights-1997

Director-Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring-Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds

Top 100 Films-#21

Scott’s Review #312

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Reviewed December 31, 2015

Grade: A

Boogie Nights is a fantastic film about the pornography industry (The Golden Age of Porn) of the 1970’s and 1980’s and does a wonderful job of portraying the characters as human beings with feelings and emotions, rather than as nymphomaniacs or perverts.

They bond with one another as a family- a group of misfits striving to survive. This and many other reasons are why Boogie Nights are one of my favorite films of all time.

Written, produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice), he is a champion at exploring the underbelly of society and flawed and desperate characters-Boogie Nights is no different.

In fact, the dysfunctional family is the common theme of the film. Most of his characters are not happy people, but they are survivors and desperately look for a piece of happiness.

Many in his cast of Boogie Nights also appear in Magnolia. Mark Wahlberg (Eddie/Dirk Diggler), Burt Reynolds (Jack Horner), Julianne Moore (Maggie), Don Cheadle (Buck), William H. Macy (Little Bill), John C. Reilly (Reed Rothchild), Heather Graham (Rollergirl), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Scotty), Malora Walters (Jessie), and Alfred Molina (Rahad Jackson), round out the large cast.

The setting of the film in Los Angeles and the time period runs from 1977-1984. Though only seven years take place, much happens to most of the characters during this time and we experience their trials and tribulations.

The unique thing about Boogie Nights is that I care about each and every character, thanks to great writing and fantastic acting. They succeed in obtaining my empathy for them. Boogie Nights is an extremely character-driven film, which is an enormous part of its brilliance.

The cast is an ensemble one, but the main character is Eddie Adams, a high school dropout, who we meet working as a dishwasher at a nightclub. He has an abusive mother who kicks him out of the house, leading him to audition for and move in with Jack Horner.

Jack is a patriarch type, who shares a house with Maggie, the matriarch of the household, and roller girl, a fellow high school dropout always wearing roller skates. Eddie’s talent is his large “manhood”.

We watch Eddie, at first shy and polite, rise to superstardom in the porn industry, becoming rich and living a lavish, drug-fueled, lifestyle, where his ego gets the best of him. He, like many of the characters, hit rough times as the early 1980’s shift to videotape was the death of many 1970’s porn actors careers.

The musical soundtrack is very important to the success of Boogie Nights. Many scenes contain songs that were hits of the time or prior, including “Sister Christian”, “Jessie’s Girl”, “God Only Knows”, “Got to Give it Up”, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”, and countless others- so much so that the soundtrack is almost a character of the film and we look forward to hearing what song might be featured next.

At one point later in the film, circa 1983, as things begin to spiral out of control for many of the characters- the musical score turns ominous with low bass music, a nighttime setting, the lighting becomes darker, and several stories begin to intersect on one late L.A. night on the streets- Jack, filming a scene in a limousine starring Rollergirl and a young college jock they pick up off the streets, Dirk-forced to prostitute himself for $10 to a young man in a pickup truck, and Buck-who innocently stops to buy doughnuts for his very pregnant wife Jessie.

Each of these stories ends in brutal violence and the tone is crucial to the success of the scenes. This lengthy scene reminds me quite a bit of a Quentin Tarantino scene in its macabre tone.

Particular favorite scenes include the heartbreaking scene when Maggie loses custody of her son, the New Year’s Eve party at Jack’s house, and the ill-fated drug sale at Rahad Jackson’s. Each are heartbreaking, powerful, fraught with tension, or otherwise empathetic to the characters, which makes them each quite powerful in different ways.

Induced in the drug sale scene is some black comedy- Rahad’s presumed Chinese houseboy has a fetish for firecrackers, which startle Dirk, Reed, and Todd, as the fear of possible gunshots fills the air. Maggie’s sob scene elicits viewer emotion as we cry with her, and the New Year’s Eve turn of events involving Scotty and Little Bill are tragic.

Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films because it contains brilliant writing, characters who are fleshed out, damaged, and human, a killer soundtrack, and a dark, mysterious industry (porn) that is both misunderstood and categorized. Thanks to director, Anderson, we see the people within this lifestyle as real people, with issues, but also with full hearts and kindness.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Burt Reynolds, Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen