Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Boogie Nights

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 24, 2000

Everybody’s got one thing that they do really well.

Special features

Cast Information5
Commentary Track6
Deleted Scenes7
Music Video4

The movie that inspired my sideburns. Filled with extras (this is the “platinum edition”), that apparently couldn’t even fit on one disk. Two commentaries, ten or so deleted scenes--also with commentary--and a music video.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorPaul Thomas Anderson
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating7
  • Enhanced Widescreen

The “father figure” in this movie is Burt Reynold’s “Jack Horner”, an “adult moviemaker” who dreams of making really good adult movies. He is kind to his cast, his crew, and he loves his work. His part in the film reminds me of the poem from which he gets his name: “Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie. He stuck in his thumb, and pulled out a plumb, and said ‘what a good boy am I!’”

Big Jack Horner sits in the corner of the Hot Traxx nightclub and pulls out a plumb of an adult movie star in Eddie Adams. That’s what the movie is about: a kind-hearted look at the porn industry from boom (the seventies, when porn films achieved a moderately high status) to bust (the eighties, when video tape toppled the porn filmmaker as king). One can only hope, after seeing this movie, that DVD’s higher quality has restored or will restore film to its rightful place in “good” adult films.

The music is what drew me to the film initially. A fine collection of period tunes are woven beneath and above every scene. This is one of Anderson’s trademarks, and you can see it even more in “Magnolia”, where Anderson claims that you cannot understand the movie if you don’t listen to each song and think about its place in the story. Here in “Boogie Nights” the music isn’t quite so tight to the story, but it is still an important part of the film.

Speaking of “Magnolia”, a friend of mine called it a “Boogie Nights reunion”. I didn’t realize how true this was until rewatching “Boogie Nights” on this DVD. Of the nine actors listed on the movie poster, four were also in “Magnolia”: Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and John C. Reilly. Beyond that, there were at least six others who were in both movies: Luiz Guzman, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Jane, Ricky Jay, Alfred Molina, Melora Walters.

At least one of the actresses apparently really is an adult video star. “Little Bill’s” (Macy’s) wife was played by Nina Hartley, who is also listed in the IMDB as playing in “The Backdoor Bradys”, “Deep Inside Juli Ashton”, and “Adventures of the Fart Bitches”.

Interesting trivia: looking through the IMDB while writing this review I came across “The Dirk Diggler Story”, directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson in 1988, starring Robert Ridgley (who played the Colonel in “Boogie Nights”) and Michael Stein (who played Don Cheadle’s stereo customer in “Boogie Nights”) as Dirk Diggler. No information about the movie other than its title and tiny three-member cast and that it was later “remade as Boogie Nights”.

If there’s one thing I dislike about the movie, it is that Anderson subscribes to the “plot-magic” use of firearms. The same thing was a turn-off in “Reservoir Dogs”, an otherwise great movie. There were bullets flying everywhere in “Reservoir Dogs”, and nothing happened to the main characters until the director said, “okay, someone has to die right now”. In “Boogie Nights” the same thing happens; one scene has three bullets fired, two of which were accidents, and they each hit their marks exactly; another scene has more bullets fired, none accidentally, and the two main characters come out of it fine. It’s not so much that this can’t happen in real life (well, the latter example; the former one really wouldn’t ever happen), but that it is so clearly contrived when compared to each other that they pull me out of the movie. The two scenes didn’t fit in the same world. The bullets were magic designed to give the characters manna from heaven, a magic way out, because the writer has written the story into a corner.

There are two ways of choosing scenes in this movie: the standard way of choosing scenes by number, and then you can choose them by what song is on the soundtrack at that point. Another indication, perhaps, of the importance that Anderson places on the musical selections in the soundtrack of his movies.

There are two commentaries over the movie. That’s over seven hours of viewing time! This is yet another example of a DVD that absolutely requires “Last Memo”. I know I’m sounding like a broken record on the topic, but one of the features of DVD is supposed to be that it puts the viewer in control. The manufacturers need to realize that we sometimes might want to watch the movie in more than one sitting—especially the commentaries! Almost makes me want to sell my Laser Pacific stock (Laser Pacific authored the disk, and other than the “Last Memo” problem did a wonderful job).

The first commentary is with Anderson alone. He’s loved other people’s commentaries (he claims to have learned his trade from laserdisc commentaries) and did a good job on his own. He talks about how it was to work with the actors, a bit about how each scene was chosen and how they fit together, and the process leading up to the movie. The second commentary is a bit different than most. It includes comments from Anderson and from Don Cheadle (Buck Swope), Heather Graham (Rollergirl), Luis Guzman (Maurice), William H. Macy (Little Bill), Julianne Moore (Amber Waves), John C. Reilly (Reed Rothchild), Mark Wahlberg (Dirk Diggler), and Melora Walters (Jessie St. Vincent). But they’re not all in the same room together. Anderson is basically interviewing them over the parts of the movie and then the comments were spliced together. While you lose the interaction between everyone, you also gain a more dense commentary.

The deleted scenes are great: they’re good scenes, and they include a commentary by Anderson explaining why he didn’t use them. Very interesting insight into the filmmaking process, especially with regards to why some scenes make the cut and why others don’t. He talks in each scene why he liked the scene, and then why he personally decided it didn’t advance the story or was redundant because of another scene.

And you have to watch the car crash. Talk about stupid director’s tricks!

There is also a collection of three scenes with pieces that were cut that included John C. Reilly’s “Reed Rothchild”, including a huge number of retakes of the scene where Reed and Dirk try to get the demo tape from the recording studio.

I found the music video mostly ininteresting. It is “Try” by Michael Penn, who did the music for “Boogie Nights”. And it was directed by P.T. Anderson during a break from filming “Boogie Nights”, so it also has some of the “Boogie Nights” cast and crew. But otherwise its just a fairly standard music video with no real relation to “Boogie Nights”. It does have an interesting commentary by Anderson which is why I know all that.

The cast information is extensive, and includes a bio for both the actor and for the actor the actor is playing. (Or director in the case of “Jack Horner”.)

All of the extras (except for the commentary, of course) are on a second disk. There isn’t really that much extra info. The movie is longer than some, but not longer than many. I’m not sure why (or if) it was really necessary to break it down onto two disks.

Packaging design: take the package, with the front facing you. The DVD ‘cartridge’ should be back in the package the way it was when shipped: with the two ‘book titles’ showing. Hold the left end of the package with your left hand, and pull the ‘cartridge’ out slowly. Watch ‘boogie nights’ appear in the thumbspace. Man, I could do that for hours while wasted.

Okay, the final recommendation. If you are a huge fan of this movie and you like the director, you want the disks. No question about it. If you merely liked the movie, or you aren’t interested in all the stuff on the extra disk, it may be overkill. If you haven’t seen the movie, you do need to rent it. No question about that.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorPaul Thomas Anderson
ActorsMark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Don Cheadle
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Music Video
More links

If you enjoyed Boogie Nights…

For more about seventies, you might also be interested in Almost Famous, Detroit Rock City, Dick, North Dallas Forty, All the President’s Men, Better for being ridden: the eternal lie of the anointed, Hobby Computer Handbook: From 1979 to 1981, and Hesperia Class of ’82.

For more about William H. Macy, you might also be interested in Pleasantville.