Highlighting: Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights Poster

Last night IFC played Boogie Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature, and I had the pleasure of watching the intro sequence for the first time since I saw the movie in the theater, way back in 1997.  Terrific, and immediately reminds one of the famous scene in Goodfellas — but Anderson is never in danger of being called an imitator.

I’ve written about Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies including this one before, but I was reminded of what a great film it is.  I am very careful how I throw around 10/10 ratings and the word “masterpiece”, but I think Boogie Nights must be included in that pantheon.  Mr. Anderson is a director who gets you excited every time he releases a picture, but Boogie Nights remains his greatest success.

I’m pretty happy with what I wrote about this movie 5 years ago in the above-cited post:

A LITTLE MORE serious tone with the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.  What an extraordinary, visionary filmmaker he is.  The first of his that I saw – in its theatrical showing – was his first major release, the masterpiece Boogie Nights (1997).  I won’t say a whole lot about it, except it’s about the burgeoning porn industry in the ’70s disco era.  Mark Whalberg, an actor in a very select class, plays screen character ‘Dirk Diggler’; Burt Reynolds, in a sort of rebirth role for him, plays the porn family patriarch.  As this is the porn industry, and as cocaine is thrown in the mix, you can imagine not everyone is on the path of enlightenment.  This is an outstanding film, and has some sequences in it which to me are right up there with the greatest scenes in film history, e.g. Marilyn Monroe’s dress being blown up by a sidewalk air vent or Luke Sykwalker blowing up the Death Star.  One that stands out is an attempted drug heist while one of the lackeys throws out a punctuating staccato of little firecrackers.

The plot is very strong, and supported by an excellent cast including William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and an early role by Heather Graham as ‘Rollergirl.’

In other news… I wish IFC would go back to showing movies without commercial interruption, but I suppose once you go commercial you never go back.  Luckily I suppose, other channels have popped up to fill the void.

Happy Easter!

The perfect Easter-meets-Halloween movie.  If you haven’t seen it before, there’s no better time than the present.

I just learned that it was directed by Richard Kelly, who also made The Box [“Sci-Fi Do or Die“] but not much else.  There are definite stylistic similarities between the two, which partially explains why The Box was so good.  Image from fanpop.com

Donnie Darko-1

TCM Film Festival

TCM Festival LogoI love TCM — though I don’t take advantage of it as much as I should.  This film festival coming up a month from now looks like a lot of fun.  From the website:


Cinematic Journeys: Travel in the Movies, the theme for the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, will explore how movies can carry viewers beyond their hometowns to distant or imaginary locales, where they can be transformed by great storytelling.

Celluloid Junkie on Mulholland Dr.

I ran across a blog posting on Mulholland Dr. which offers a quick breakdown and summary explanation of this ever-explorable masterpiece.  The post also contains invaluable videos of interviews with Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and David Lynch, and other useful links.  I had previously watched the Inside the Actors Studio interview with Ms. Watts back before NBC destroyed Bravo, and it is excellent.

The author almost over-simplifies the movie, but then speaks to a truth that I and many others have found: Mulholland Dr. is eminently re-watchable.  Though she gives a quick capsule of the story, she also pays due to the film’s rich complexity.

I’ve written about this movie a few times before, and always invite discussion.mulholland_dr630

Times’ take on The Place Beyond the Pines

I don’t plan on getting in the habit of posting links to external reviews — that’s not what my blog is about.  But because there is so much interest in this movie, and because it is, in typical New York Times fashion, consummately written, I am making an exception.  I have disagreed strongly with A.O. Scott in the past (on his lauding of The Grey, for example), so I cannot say whether I would agree with him in his mixed review.

Of note is the setting of Schenectady, N.Y., which makes a connection to another movie I’ve written about, Synecdoche, New York; see my post “Film as Soufflé.”Place-beyond-Pines-NYTimes

Review: Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (2012, Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, and Richard Jenkins) shuffles its opening titles into an Obama speech.  The word “Killing” flashes on screen, briefly cutting off and into candidate Obama’s appeal for the betterment of self and society.  The effect is a bit jarring, and I liked it.  It tells you that this movie has an idea.  That is, it let’s you know that this won’t be an ‘un-movie.’

From there, a mostly gripping crime drama ensues, centered on the heist of a card game among members of the local mob.  One of the nice things about this movie is that the mob is never explicitly defined; it’s more of a casualJungleland-cover-NYTimes mob.  That fits the town’s setting — an anonymous, bereft, bankrupt community hit by the recent American economic crisis.  It turns out the town is New Orleans, but that wasn’t obvious to me at all watching the movie — there are no scenes in the French Quarter or flooded-out wildlands of the Lower Ninth Ward (see this great New York Times article on that).  Nor did I catch any signage or other location indicators, and none of the characters had a dialect which would indicate New Orleans.  No jazz either.  Rather, the setting seemed like any former industrial midwest city — I thought it could be Detroit.  The director does a nice job using drifting debris to give a sense of the wasteland environs.

At times the movie got a little too self-indulged and cutesy for my tastes.  The interspersing of speeches by both President Bush and then-senator Obama throughout the movie wore out its welcome.   The director has stated that he wanted to create an analogy between the American financial crisis and the crisis encountered by the film’s characters — gambling on a corporate, global scale embodied in the microcosm of these small-time hoods and their gambles.  The comparison did not sit entirely well with me; it introduced a tinge of cynical political commentary that I found distracting.

Killing_Them_Softly_posterAlso distracting was James Gandolfini’s drunken-hitman character.  He fit in with the other characters well enough, but the limited storyline involving him felt like filler material to me.  That strikes at another weakness of this movie — it gets a little laggy in the second half.

Nonetheless, Killing Them Softly is a good movie.  The subject matter has been trod many times —  Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels [prior post] and Kubrick’s Killing come to mind as better alternatives, but this movie has its place.  It has a wry humor reminiscent of Fargo, and strong dialog and scene development you could call ‘Tarantino-esque’.  There were good, believable performances by all, and one of principles, actor Scoot McNairy as Frankie, delivered a great, empathic performance — the heart and soul of this picture.  7/10, which would place it just behind Flight on my Best of 2012 list.

Escape from Tomorrow follow-up

First the good news.  There seems to be some hope that the Disney-rogue pic Escape from Tomorrow, which I first posted on in January, will become available to view in some way or another.  Why am I so hopeful?  Well maybe I should have done a look-around earlier, because it turns out the movie has a website which is saying it is “coming soon”:


And now some more good news, which too I could have just as easily found out earlier: they have an IMDb page, and a cool poster.  If I had thought about it at all I would have known that.  Official selection at Sundance is pretty much big time, so of course they have an IMDb page and poster (one-sheet) and the associated trappings that all real films enjoy.


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Disney certainly does not want this movie to be shown, but I’m not sure they’ve got a good case to block it.  As far as the possible copyright violations, I think this film is safe.  I’ve studied a little intellectual property law, and the law does not prohibit the depiction of otherwise protected imagery as long as it is used in a transformative way.  Think Andy Warhol’s soup cans.  Campbell’s Warhol-Campbell_Soup-1-screenprint-1968didn’t offer their permission, Warhol didn’t seek it out, and Campbell’s had no redress because Warhol didn’t use his paintings to sell soup.  Want a more direct example?  Mickey Mouse as a character in South Park: a dark shading of the Disney mystique.

Without an argument based on copyright or trademark violations, Disney could contend for legal remedy because the Escape filmmakers shot their film surreptitiously in the Disney parks.  But that’s a stretch too.  Tourists at Disneyland are constantly taking pictures and video, so how does one draw a line?  Disney is then left with a complaint such as GM might have had when Michael Moore did some filming on GM property.  Which is to say, not much of a complaint that is backed up by law.  Filming on private property might be against the rules of the owner of said property, but once the video is captured the owners of it can do whatever they want with it.

Hope that’s not too much legalese.  Arguments in favor of Escape might well not matter in the end, because right or wrong, Disney’s legal might and Hollywood clout should be able to suppress any normal type of release of the picture.  There is a clip from the film now out on YouTube, which doesn’t terribly pique my interest in the film.  But the scene is telling: an anonymous swimming pool.  The fact that the producers have chosen such an innocuous setting as this for the one released clip indicates they are still frightened.  And that’s the potentially bad news in my post today.

But then there it is in black & white: “coming soon…”   Maybe they’ll release it in 6-second clips on Vine.  And the best news of all?  If not only to we get to watch the movie, but if also turns out to be good.  This thing’s got underground-cult-classic potential written all over it.

The Place Beyond the Pines

I watched Stoker last night at my main local indie/art house, the Landmark Hillcrest.  They showed previews of two movies which may have ‘indie-like’ elements, but due to their overwhelming star power are decidedly not independent.  I suppose that means they will show them both.  I’m not sure I approve of that, since it means denying screen time to smaller movies like John Dies at the End, and at the same time overwhelming the limited venue’s capacity.

The first one is The Place Beyond the Pines, which pairs (for the first time?) Ryan Gosling with Bradley Cooper.  Somehow I’ve already made a connection between these two, maybe because they look like they could be brothers.  Beyond offering promise for a decent movie, the trailer gives me a feeling that Ryan Gosling will further cement his reputation as the singularly best actor of his generation.  The star power of this movie is rounded out by Eva Mendes and Ray Liotta.  If you haven’t heard of it already you will soon hear plenty; this movie will be getting some serious advertising bucks and could make it big.  Click here to watch iTunes trailer, or view below.  Stay tuned for second ‘indie’ trailer.