Boogie Nights (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Boogie Nights was so widely praised by critics, and has become so quickly assimilated into the pantheon of movie greatness, that it is easy to forget the details. In reality, it came out in the fall of 1997, in the slack period between the summer boom and the holiday boom, and it didn't do anything spectacular at the box office. It grossed $26 million dollars, just about adequate for its $15 million budget.

You have to admire the young filmmaker, P.T. Anderson. Nobody will ever fault this guy for a lack of ambition. He is always ready to reach for the biggest, most flamboyant material available, and put it on the screen. Think of Robert Altman's sensibility with Cecil B. DeMille's showmanship.

Altman is quite an effective parallel. You could easily take Anderson's Boogie Nights and Magnolia and compare them to Altman's early triumphs, M*A*S*H and Nashville. The both enjoy telling multiple stories around a common general theme. They both enjoy taking a healthy iconoclastic look at an institution which has not been adequately examined. They both like to build their films around massive ensemble casts of character actors. They both encourage the actors to develop their characters and to bring improvisational techniques to the scenes. (Although Anderson lets them improvise on camera, which is an Altman no-no.)


  • Julianne Moore - breasts
  • Heather Graham - everything
  • Nina Hartley - breasts and buns
  • Summer and Skye- breasts
  • Breasts from two unknowns
In fact, if you can name a great character actor, he's probably in Boogie Nights. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Macy, Philip Baker Hall, Don Cheadle, Burt Reynolds (now a terrific character actor rather than a smarmy leading man) , John Reilly. They are all here, in this sweeping yarn about the changes that affected pornography when the industry switched over from filmed theatrical product to home video. At the end of the film era, just as in the softcore industry, some filmmakers were working on the creation of more complete entertainment packages in their hardcore product - comedy, action, costume drama, mystery. It wasn't material to challenge Citizen Kane, but at least they were challenging themselves and their audiences. Home video quickly knocked the porn theaters aside, and inexpensive, re-usable video tape quickly replaced costly film as the industry standard. When that happened, the "professional" porn industry virtually died, and the market was taken over by specialized amateur quickies which could be made for nothing and moved to the retail shelves almost instantly. Boogie Nights looks at the before and after, but it loves the before much more, to the point where watching the first half of the movie is almost like attending a great party where you know all the guests. The second half, which focuses in on the decline of the characters after their glory days, is less like Altman than Tarantino. The characters find themselves in situations which are often violent, sometimes comically grim, sometimes scary, sometimes just sad.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • Commentary by filmmaker

  • Disc 2 - Supplemental Material

  • Deleted scenes with commentary

  • music video "Try"

One the most interesting aspects of the film is its casual non-judgmental treatment of the characters. One guy walks in on his wife having sex with another guy in front of dozens of spectators, and she berates him for embarrassing her in front of their friends. They all get together to make porn films just as you and I would get together to barbecue some steaks. They are almost universally brain-dead (the Wahlberg, Reilly, Graham, and Cheadle characters are all dumber than a box full of rocks), but handle each other gently and lovingly, and don't berate the other characters for blatant stupidity. Some of this results in great comic moments.

If the film has a weakness, it is that there are too many main characters to develop them all adequately, but those which are developed are quite well-rounded, especially the Julianne Moore character. Moore went above and beyond the call of duty to create her complex, messed-up, but loving mother figure.

What can ya say? Ya gotta see it. By the way, Anderson was only 27 years old when he finished this film. He wrote, directed, and produced.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Maltin 3.5/4, Apollo 86/100

  • Nominated for three Oscars: two for acting and one for the original script


The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.5/10, Apollo voters 88/100
  • With their dollars .... grossed $26 million on a budget of $15 million


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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