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Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Titanic vs Boogie Nights

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Can it possibly have already been 20 years? That’s what I find myself asking when I look at this set of movies. Sure, ten years easy, maybe even fifteen. But 20? My math must be off. That’s what it is.

With the 1987 bracket now in the books, next up is a decade’s move up to the most memorable movies of 1997. We were slap dab in the middle of the Bill Clinton Presidency, the internet was the new hip thing, the Green Bay Packers returned to the top of the American football world, the Teletubbies premiered on BBC, Princess Diana was killed in an auto accident, the U.S. economy was booming, and the world began to slowly come to an end when The Spice Girls and Hanson became top-selling musical artists. Was this an important year for you? How did our movies here reflect that? Come along as we talk about two of them!

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The first movie from 1997 we’re going to cover is probably also the definitive movie of the year historically, but we’ve had such films go down in flames here at LeBlog before, so let’s go ahead and investigate the resume of Titanic. The movie was a cultural phenomenon, making stars of its leads, spawning a huge hit song, and winning a record-tying eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It is one of those award-winning films with strong reviews that the public also takes to its heart, ending up with three times the worldwide box office gross of the second highest grossing film released that year. If you’re someone who is here to argue against Titanic, you might want to pay attention to how I worded that last sentence, because due to its release date of December 19th, most of its money-making and in fact most of its cultural impact actually happened the following year in 1998. Personally, I’m not going to put much weight on that, but I’m putting it out there just in case you want to.

Hardcore fans of history might also mention that the movie not only misses the opportunity to tell amazing true stories about the sinking of the great ship by focusing on fictional characters, but also that it gets some of its facts wrong. The characters appear to be time travelers who know about things that didn’t exist at the time. For example, the lake Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack mentions going ice fishing in was a man-made lake that had not yet been filled with water at the time of the sinking. Rose’s mention of the work of Sigmund Freud is also jumping the gun a little. The research she mentions was not published until 1920. Jack also talks about the roller coaster on the Santa Monica Pier, which was not built until a few years after the events shown in the movie. Some accounts also disagree with the depiction of Captain Smith’s eventual demise. Is any of this enough to convince a person that the film is overrated? Probably not. But I’m sure there are other factors we’ll hear about in the comments section.

Up against Titanic is a decidedly less traditional film with decidedly less traditional subject matter. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights details a group of fictional characters (Dirk Diggler is based loosely on the real male porn star John Holmes) participating in the porn industry during its growth in the 1970s. Anderson took a short film he had created about the Diggler character and expanded it into a full-length film, initially insisting that in order to be done correctly Boogie Nights would have to be both three hours long and earn the NC-17 rating. The film’s producers balked at these stipulations and demanded that he back off on at least one of these commercially dubious aims. He chose to attempt to acquire an R rating, but eventually also succeeded in a final cut that came in at just two and a half hours.

Anderson’s cinematic language is in fine form here, with an impressive use of a variety of shot compositions and edits, including two impactful multi-minute takes. Despite his obvious skill as a filmmaker, his on-set relationship with 70s charm machine Burt Reynolds was not so great. After seeing a rough cut of the film, Reynolds was unhappy enough that he fired his agent for suggesting that he appear in it. Critics and awards voters were far more enthusiastic about Boogie Nights than Reynolds was, though, lavishing praise on it as a whole and ten different supporting actor awards on him, including a win at the Golden Globes. When it came time for the Oscars though, Reynolds came up short, losing to a much better liked actor from a movie we will be discussing soon. Many on-line commenters have criticized Reynolds’ reaction to his loss, but the only evidence I’ve seen is from the actual broadcast which shows a person losing an award, but clapping anyway. I’m not sure what people expect.

So which of 1997’s best would you like to see move on to the next round? Vote here and comment below if you like!

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Posted on January 18, 2017, in Awards, bracket game, Movies, Nostalgia, Oscars, poll and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. First off, I really, really like this bracket: “”The Game”? “Grosse Point Blank”? “Chasing Amy”? Good action.
    I voted for “Boogie Nights” because it’s more my kind of film (I’ll never forget Alfred Molina’s character with Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” playing in the background). Once the hype died down, I ended up watching “Titanic”, and actually liking it (I think it pulled off what “Pearl Harbor” couldn’t a few years later, which is tell a workable love story around a factual event). There’s only a couple of matchups here in which I’d vote for it though, like “Air Force One” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.
    The only prickly thing I remember Burt Reynolds saying that had anything to do with “Boogie Nights” was on his nomination, that it was about time that he was nominated (a joke made about that was that he must’ve been upset that he wasn’t nominated for “Cop and a 1/2”).

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  2. I have not seen the other movie, so my vote has to go to “Titanic”. Then again, I did love that movie.

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  3. I know it’s not cool to like Titanic. It certainly has its flaws, but it’s a damn fine piece of entertainment. I think in all the hoopla over Oscars, record-breaking box office and Leo-mania, that got lost somewhere. Strip all that away and Titanic was a good movie. It falls down where all James Cameron movies fall down – stiff dialogue, over-reliance on cliches. But, hey, I will admit I still got caught up in the love story enough that I temporarily forgot the boat was going to sink. And when it did, what a spectacle that was!

    Now if someone wants to say Titanic was over-rated in 1997, well, that I can agree with. But today, I actually think the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. Today, I’d say it’s under-rated. To a lesser extent, I’d say the exact same thing about Avatar.

    With that out of the way, I voted for Boogie Nights. The first time I saw it, I was a little underwhelmed. It suffered from the Goodfellas complex in which a movie about a guy who gets sucked into a group that initially seems promising but turns out to be unhealthy pales in comparison to Goodfellas. But that was never really a fair comparison. They are very different movies. Boogie Nights is more about the oddball family that has sex together on camera for money and did drugs on the side, but they aren’t killers. Most of what I appreciate about Boogie Nights on subsequent viewings comes from the supporting performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, and even Heather Graham.

    Is Boogie Nights a great movie? I’m not sure. I think it falls just shy of true greatness. But it’s a very good movie and I expect it will go far in this game. I won’t be surprised if it makes it to the finals. I’m going to start thinking about how I should vote if Boogie Nights meets Jackie Brown in round three…

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    • Ok you know what… **** it. Especially for this bracket game, I’m just going to throw all my movie-buff integrity out the window and come out as a full on, card carrying Titanic fan girl! I love Titanic, I hope it wins and I don’t even care. 😋

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      • There is nothing wrong with going with your heart. That’s in keeping with the spirit of the movie.

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      • Gossip no one in Hollywood will say out loud — Part 2

        https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18505887

        Furthermore…

        Titanic was a huge hit (despite Cameron’s embarrassingly trite melodramatic piece of sh** script) because:

        1) Cameron is great director of action sequences. The entire final act of the actual sinking is superb film making. Audiences love an edge of your seat thrill ride and that’s what Cameron gave them. Every couple years I’ll throw on the DVD just to watch the last hour and a half…not the first hour and a half.

        2) The plot BEFORE the sinking is pure sh** but the audience fell in love with those characters and their relationship. Now, the relationship is completely fubar…Leo and Kate have ZERO sexual/romantic chemistry between one another. BUT, they still really clicked well together; they were both VERY appealing and the perfect kind of faux romantic couple; just like a Harlequin Romance! Which romance loving audiences (let’s be honest; mostly women) really liked.

        3) Leo and Kate were ideal casting.They were/are personable, charismatic talented actors. They were both terrific in their roles despite idiots on here who apparently have an odd Kate Winslet grudge going on because….? She’s “fat”? Which incidentally WAS the ideal look for an upper class girl of 1912…pleasingly full cheeked and healthy. (Meanwhile, I’m sure Kate cares what bitter old queens on a thread think about her look/performance in the role that made her a star…)

        Would you really prefer Fishticks and McBongo in these roles? If they had gotten them, this film wouldn’t have grossed billions.

        —Anonymous

        reply 458 Last Tuesday at 12:12 AM

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  4. Interesting connection between the two films, DiCaprio initially was up for the role of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights but he passed it up to do Titanic, so it’s fun to imagine what the film would have been like with Leo as Dirk. DiCaprio is such a talented actor that I think it would have worked, but I think things worked out best with Mark Wahlberg as Diggler. For that matter most people in ’97 still saw Mark Wahlberg as the former underwear model and lame rapper from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, so it really took a strong critically acclaimed film like Boogie Nights to break down those initial impressions of him. I wonder where Wahlberg’s career might have gone if he hadn’t done Boogie Nights?

    I could’ve flipped a coin on this one as I think both films are great, but I voted for Titanic for the reason Lebeau mentioned: there’s been a bit of a backlash over the years against Titanic, undeserved I think. But I’ll be cool whichever film wins this round, they both are terrific.

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  5. By the way, everyone knows that old Rose died at the end of Titanic, right?

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    • I have to admit, that thought had never crossed my mind. So I Googled it and apparently there is an internet debate over whether the final images were Rose entering the afterlife or a dream. I never took the end so literally. Apparently Cameron intended for the ending to be open for interpretation (according to IMDB anyway).

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      • I should say that I have always interpreted the end of Titanic as Rose dying. I’ll explain why I think so:

        The big modern-day ship that old Rose arrives on is floating over the area where the Titanic still lies deep at the bottom of the ocean all these years later. Late at night, after Rose has shared her amazing story with Bill Paxton and the crew, she steps outside and drops her diamond necklace The Heart of the Ocean into the water, so it will drift down and go back to its rightful home. Then we see Rose lying peacefully in bed, and the camera slowly pans over photographs of Rose throughout the years: she took up horseback riding, learned how to be a pilot, became a mother and wife, she took Jack’s words to heart about “Never letting go” and from that point forward had never let anything stop her from living life to the fullest. Rose lived a full life because Jack made a tremendous impact on her life.

        Then the camera pans down through the murky water and we see the Titanic as it rests on the ocean floor today, but magically it transforms back to it’s former majestic beauty. The porters open the doors for her, she passes numerous recognizable faces from the ship all welcoming her with smiles and applause (an important clue here is that every single person we see welcoming Rose back were among those that died on the ship) and Jack is waiting for her at the clock. Her true love.

        Remember what Jack told Rose back out on that freezing ocean with little hope for rescue? “You’re not going to die here Rose, you’re going to die an old lady in your sleep.” Well, Jack was right. Rose passed away peacefully in her sleep while her ship was over the Titanic, and her soul went to her true love Jack, where they will spend eternity together on the Titanic. I do think Jack’s line to Rose about living a full life and dying an old lady in her sleep was put in by Cameron intentionally, as that seems to be what happened at the end. But that’s just my interpretation.

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        • There’s definitely an argument to be made. The clues are there. It’s a bookend of some sort. Whether or not we are literally witnessing the moment of her passing… I don’t know. I can’t say that’s not the case. I always figured she was looking back, possibly dreaming. At some point, rather right this minute or some other night not that far off, she probably did die in bed.

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  6. Where is Con Air or Face/Off ?

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    • But which two movies do you cut to make room for them?

      Having done the brackets myself, there are a lot of things to balance. Are all the genres represented? The big hits? The best pictures? Etc, etc. We already have Air Force One as a representative of the action genre plus several other movies that are action hybrids like Jackie Brown, L.A. Confidential, The Game, Gross Pointe Blank, the 5th Element, Men in Black. If you remove two of the other choices to put in Con Air (which I don’t think very many people actually like) and Face/Off (popular at the time but hasn’t aged especially well), you risk throwing off the balance. It could really turn out action-heavy or short on prestige pictures depending what gets removed.

      When you’re taking a year with as many good movies as 1997 (or 1987) you end up making some tough cuts. I know there were other movies Daffy wanted to include but ended up cutting for one reason or another. Ultimately, I think this is a good mix of movies that accurately represents the year in film.

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      • Just as a reader I recognize there must be a tremendous lot of pre-planning for these brackets. You know what would be the easiest thing in the world? To just look up the Top 16 biggest box office hits of the year and slap that into a bracket. That would take 5 minutes, not counting the write ups which still take up a good amount of time. But you do that and you’re missing so much of what the year was about cinematically, especially 20 or 30 years down the road. Con Air was goofy good-natured fun but films like L.A. Confidential or Jackie Brown held more substance and have lasted longer in audience’s minds.

        Also, you do that and you wind up with some stuff that brought audiences in for a minute like George of the Jungle and Jurassic Park 2 which were forgotten as soon as they left theaters. You get junk and fluff that just isn’t worth talking about. Better to include The Game, Jackie Brown and Chasing Amy which should generate more conversation.

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        • Precisely. There are a lot of considerations that have to be made. Plus, personal preference is a factor. We need to find something to say about these movies. For the ones that go far, we will write about them several times!

          I talked with Daffy briefly and I recall he considered a “sequels of 97” bracket with Lost World and Tomorrow Never Dies. As Disney fans, Hercules was in the running as well. 1997 was stuffed with good options.

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    • I can understand why both came up short here, as I don’t believe there’s any room for them. I really like “Face/Off” (“Con Air” not so much), but one of those films would have to face/off against “Air Force One”, or remove that film altogether. I’m no fan of “Air Force One”, but it was a big film in 1997, so I understand why it made the bracket.

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      • That’s pretty much the conversation Daffy and I had. I believe he said something to the effect that he didn’t feel he would representing the year properly if he left off Air Force One. I agreed. Like you, I’m not a fan of the movie, but it was the biggest action movie of the year.

        Comparing the three movies in question:

        Rank Title Gross RT Score

        5 Air Force One $172,956,409 78%
        11 Face/Off $112,276,146 92%
        15 Con Air $101,117,573 54%

        Con Air is a distant third by pretty much any measure. Choosing between Air Force One and Face/Off is almost a coin toss. But AFO was the bigger movie of the two, so it makes sense to go that route. If F/O had gained more of a following over the last 20 years, that decision may have played out differently. But I don’t think either movie has remained in the public conscience.

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  7. Hey, where is Star Wars in this bracket? The Special Edition was released in January 1997 and grossed a jaw-dropping $138 Million domestically, making it the 8th biggest film of the whole year (!). I demand a recount, this bracket needs to start over again with Star Wars in the mix!

    I’m sure by now you know I’m joking. About the exclusion in the bracket, not the box office numbers. I would never ever like about box office numbers. That would be sacrilege. It is pretty astounding though to think that the theatrical re-release of Star Wars in ’97 beat out other popular blockbusters like Tomorrow Never Dies and Face/Off, isn’t it? One thing I recognized was for the next several years we saw studios try and try again to re-release films to theaters hoping to catch lightning like Star Wars did. Hey, it’s easy money, right? But even popular classics like E.T. and Grease topped out around $35 million or so. Despite Star Wars being readily available on home video by that point, the release sold so many tickets that 20 years later it once again became one of the Top 10 biggest hits of the year. I do not think we will ever see a theatrical re-release ever reach those lofty heights again.

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    • The Special Editions created a frenzy at theaters. No one anticipated the response they got. I remember sold-out theaters all over town. I was still working as a movie theater manager in 1997, so I could get into movies for free. Star Wars was showing at another theater, so I had to get tickets instead of just walking in. The place was mobbed, but I got my tickets from my fellow manager. Then I saw a mother and son who couldn’t get tickets because they were sold out for the day. I went ahead and handed mine over. I’d already seen the movie. I could come back next week.

      Sorry, I cut into your box office take with that one, George. Okay, not really.

      By now, reaction to the Special Editions isn’t so glowing. They heralded the prequels both in tone and in the sense that they were the means of funding them. Plus, Han shot first. Never forget. For those reasons, obviously, the Special Editions had to be excluded from the brackets.

      Oh, also I should mention I have posters from the rereleases:

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      • Yes, this is where it becomes most obvious that I was joking about the inclusion of Star Wars: the Special Edition in the bracket, because the majority of those new additions were crap. Han no longer shooting first should have been considered a war crime against humanity, trying to soften Han by having him shoot defensively. How offensive.

        There’s one addition that especially irks me. The inclusion of the Jabba scene, where mister Hutt and his motley crew are waiting for Han and Chewie in good ol’ docking bay 94. It was a scene filmed in ’76 but never completed, and from a marketing standpoint I know it was a very smart move including it. Die hard fans knew of the existence of it (the scene even played out in the original ’76 novelization) and having an entire brand new scene with Jabba and Han to sell to the public was brilliant. I’m sure the release made tens of millions extras just because movie-goers anticipated seeing this for the first time.

        But, when we saw Jabba for the first time in ’83’s Return of the Jedi, he came off as an intergalactic Godfather. A top-level gangster. Jabba in ROTJ was several levels more important than he was probably first conceived as when filming the original film. So Han lost a shipment of drugs – er, excuse me, SPICE – and owes Jabba. Would a Capone or Motti really bother visiting a smuggler to threaten him about paying back for a missed shipment? Also, the scene as originally filmed had Harrison Ford walking around the costumed actor, but now that Jabba was a slug ILM had to CGI Han walking over Jabba’s tail to make the scene work. Except, why would Jabba allow some smuggler to step onto his tail in front of his men? That makes no sense. Even forgiving the crappy CGI for its time, you have to bend over backwards to like this scene, and I don’t.

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        • The last time Daffy and I talked Star Wars, I was griping about the “Han shot first” change and he made more or less the same argument that the Jabba scene was even more offensive. They were both changes for the worse.

          In my basement, I have widescreen VHS copies of the original – non SE – trilogy. Have they ever been released in a digital format? I have lost track with the flood of Star Wars releases.

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        • As you mentioned earlier Lebeau, back in ’97 Star Wars hitting the big screen again for the first time in a generation was a huge deal. I was caught up in the excitement too at the time and saw each of the three films a few times each. My favorite memory was gathering up a few friends on the weekend that Jedi released. Doing a bit of research I had found one theatre in downtown Chicago that was still showing Star Wars, a few blocks away was another theatre showing Empire, and further down Michigan Ave. was another showing Jedi. So with just a little bit of walking in between films on a nice spring afternoon me and my buddies were able to have a day-long Star Wars marathon. That was a tremendous amount of fun, still a fond memory.

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        • That sounds like a really cool day even if it was the Special Editions. Back then, it was just exciting to see Star Wars again after 14 years off the big screen. This is also when we got a flood of toys, games and other merch. It felt like a good time to be a fan.

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    • Ha, I can vouch for “The Empire Strikes Back”, and I’m glad that I saw it in a theater; the theater was packed for an afternoon viewing, and I was pretty pleased about the opportunity.

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      • Of the Special Editions, Empire got messed with the least probably because it was the best movie to begin with. I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed watching all three of the Special Editions in theaters. I can watch them today, but the only way I would ever buy another Star Wars movie would be if they released the unaltered originals.

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        • At the time, I really wasn’t aware that it had been tinkered with, but upon a later viewing, I did notice the differences. But like you said, it wasn’t as altered as the other two films, and I’ve always believed it was the best of the trilogy.

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  8. Down goes the ship! Again! Yaaaaay! I love BOOGIE NIGHTS, and TITANIC is only worthwhile in the second half. Meanwhile, my favorite in this whole challenge is L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.

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