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IN SHORT: A man is not defined by the size of his rooster. Unless, of course, the man is lacking in so many ways that the only thing he can crow about is his . . .
You figure it out.
There is little to glorify about the glory day of the porn biz, before video turned any John Doe with a camera into a "director." But there is much to glorify about Boogie Nights, a deceptively unslick looking reproduction of the years 1977 - 1984 that Cranky will fondly remember when Alzheimer's finally kicks in.
Set in a once upon a time when disco music was something you didn't listen to and coke didn't come in cans; when dumb kids, and we are talking both the lack of high intelligence and economic opportunity, thought with their lizard brains and made shriveled old men rich by doing what comes naturally. In that brief period "art film" was just a shade more than euphemism for pornography and adults really did discuss whether Gerald Damiano was a director, not a pornographer; if there was film "value" in things like Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door.
The first hour of Boogie Nights looks like a college film student made movie -- a soundtrack in search of a coherent story. There is an overmixed soundtrack of radio and disco hits from the late 70s, all commenting on what bits of story are established (in the manner that radio people of the day used current music to comment upon news stories). It is an extremely sneaky start to an extremely well made flick.
Mark Wahlberg puts 'Marky Mark' to rest once and for all as "Dirk Diggler" (ne Eddie Adams, son of an abusive mother and passive father) who exploits his natural endowments long before coming under the wing of adult film maker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). True, Horner makes stag films but he sees the future (like the real life Damiano) in the creation of adult films with stories that will keep audiences in their seats long after they're sticky. Dirk whips it out, makes his fame and fortune, buys in to Horner's dream and comes up with a James Bondish character called "Brock Landers" who generates sequel after sequel and makes all men associated with the flicks rich.
Money begets indulgence. Cocaine turns to crystal meth, and if the much earlier self-destruction of a character named Little Bill (William H. Macy) -- you figure out why he's called "little" -- doesn't presage the complete collapse of everything within the porn dreamworld as the 1970s became the 1980s, then the film sucker punches you into the new decade as you realize how much you've come to understand, if not like, the characters onscreen.
Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) Horner's wife, flourishes as star of his films and mother hen to all the newly hatched porn kidlets until her age and drug use put her out to pasture. The rest of the supporting cast includes illusionist Ricky Jay as Kurt Longjohn, lesser porn star and sycophant; Picket Fences' Don Cheadle as a terrible stereo salesman (and less terrible porn guy); Heather Graham as Rollergirl and Nicole Ari Parker as Becky Barnett, both porn starlets. You get the picture. The world of Boogie Nights is very closed; very much like the nursery rhyme: one falls and they all fall down.
In Hard 8, the first movie by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, we had a story of two people too stupid to know that they are stupid; that had too much faith in their own self worth to allow that kind of thinking. In Boogie Nights we have a whole bunch of folks who think they are grabbing the brass ring, only to have it come apart in their hands as their dreams are destroyed by drugs and video. What I disliked about Hard 8 works in Boogie Nights. The hand held camera shots and wasted scenes of portray the giddiness that infected the "adult film industry" which, seeking legitimacy, formed its own Academy and gave itself its own Awards. As this film sobers up, so does the camera and storytelling style.
Boogie Nights is a great piece of work. Wahlberg is terrific. Reynolds gets better the more he shies away from lead roles. If you don't feel pity for William H. Macy's character, something's wrong. Kudos across the board to a fine ensemble cast.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Boogie Nights, he would have paid . . .
Damn. Two and a half hours long and Cranky ain't bitching about his bad leg. Must've been a real good flick.
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