Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Titanic vs Boogie Nights
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!
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!