Boogie Nights ★★★★★

Part One of Preparing (As Much As Humanly Possible) For Inherent Vice

Thinking about your favorite film is really hard. What is my favorite? Why is it my favorite? But what about this film? But what about that film? I've always grappled with my decision, but I always come back to Paul Thomas Anderson's epic Boogie Nights. It's a film of exceptional character, vibrancy, poetry, and tragedy; and yet, It's also one of the funniest films ever made. I remember my first viewing, and you can read my rambling thoughts from that experience in my first review, being the equivalent of a film-nerd's high. I was dazed, amazing, intoxicated, moved, exhilarated, and incredibly delighted for every freaking moment, and It really comes down to one key element:


I mean, starting with that wonderful opening transition from a melancholic tune to the sudden joyful blast of The Emotions' Best of my Love, I knew I was in the hands of a master that wouldn't let me down. He might act like I'm going to fall, but I'd never plummet away from his ferocity of vision. Hell, look at the opening tracking-shot! It's like the grooviest, most stylish, and most dangerously fresh moment that I have seen in cinema, and yet, the film gets better.

I think the moment I knew this wasn't just a frenzied experiment with classic songs was the sequence where we watch all the individuals in the night-club leave. In that prior scene, the audience meets different faces and different personalities, but we don't see their true selves until the party has died. For such a calm moment to come after such a scene pulsing pleasure is utterly brilliant.

However, as wonderful as those peaceful and more serene moments are, It's the 4 main sequences that give the film its urgency and its flourishing exuberance:

1. The Opening Sequence
2. The Pool Sequence
3. The New-Years Party
4. The Long Way Down (One Last Thing)

Now, all of those moments are breathtaking; fast, detailed, and sprinkled with life. Yet, my favorite is the 4th one. Ugh, It's so good. It's so good it gives me chills.

Cold, full-fledged chills.

I don't know why it resonated so much with me, there's just something so fascinating and invigorating about watching characters go through such an ordeal. The audience has watched these characters stumble, fall, grow, and change; However, it's only when they're at their lowest that PTA decides to give them a wake up call.

And what a wake-up call it is. It's almost like Rahad Jackson's house is the very definition of 'long gone'. Drugs are everywhere, weapons are shockingly present, and nerves are fried to a crisp. While many have interpreted the house as the center of Hell, I would actually make the claim that it's the inner-soul of Dirk. He's lost, coked up, and disparate; and this scene is the epitome of his current mental and physical state.

I just cannot describe my love for this scene enough. The glances, the musical choices, the camerawork, the evolution of everything that's going on; It's fucking perfect. In particular, I love how the three songs reflect the tone of the scene at any specific moment. Sister Christian is playing when the characters think they have the situation handled, even though the firecrackers throw them off right away. Jessie's Girl is playing when the states of the characters start to build with uneasiness and tension. And 99 Luftballoons plays when Dirk and Reed realize their situation and how far they've fallen. I truly don't think music has been used better in any film. It's astonishing really.

I also love the reactions that Dirk and Reed give during the visit to Rahad Jackson. After every firecracker, they jump. It's genius. I also love Reed's reaction to the gun that the bodyguard has hidden under his clothes. It's like he sees it, contemplates it, and then eventually realizes that this isn't going to turn out well. And of course, the scene's main emotional power comes from the zoned-out state of Dirk. As Jessie's Girl is blaring, the camera shifts, almost magnetically, over to Dirk and his internal struggle. It's so great that I can't put it into words. If anyone says Wahlberg can't act, they clearly haven't seen Boogie Nights.

Plus, Rahad Jackson himself is brilliantly scary and hilarious. His random antics and quips throughout the scene liven things up in a way that doesn't ease the tension, It amplifies it. I think it was the moment when Rahad asked the characters if they wanted to play baseball when I realized that I loved this film more than any other.

I realize that this write-up was more of a love letter to my favorite sequence of all time rather than the entire film, but I have a feeling that I've written enough about this phenomenal masterwork. I love it way too much, and hopefully you see why it's my favorite film ever.

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