Happy Anniversary: The Cult of Boogie Nights

by Ethan Alter September 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Happy Anniversary: The Cult of <i>Boogie Nights</i>

It's been 15 years since Paul Thomas Anderson became a critical darling with the premiere of his sprawling '70s porn epic Boogie Nights. As widely liked as the movie was then, one couldn't have anticipated the quantum leap Anderson's already impressive skills would take over the next decade-and-a-half, as he crafted films as diverse and challenging as Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and his masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. Put alongside those titles, Boogie Nights stands out as his most conventional movie; it's a straightforward rise-and-fall-and-rise-again Hollywood narrative that just happens to take place in the adult film industry rather than bright lights of the studio world. Seen today, the film is still a lot of fun -- before it goes to some truly dark places in the second half -- packed with great performances (it's still a crime that Burt Reynolds didn't win that Best Supporting Actor statue he was nominated for) and lots of razzle-dazzle filmmaking, but it's also a reminder of how much richer and complex Anderson's pictures have gotten since.

Flight: On a Wing and a Prayer

by Ethan Alter November 2, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Flight:</i> On a Wing and a Prayer

According to the trailers, Robert Zemeckis's latest film (and his first live-action effort since Cast Away over a decade ago) Flight is about a daring pilot (Denzel Washington) who manages to land a free-falling plane with a minimal loss of life. Once he's on the ground, though, reports emerge that he may have been drunk as a skunk while flying, which means he might have caused the crash. So what's the truth? Is he a hero or a villain? The ads pose this question in the context of a thriller, playing up the notion that Washington is struggling to clear his name. The actual film, however, is something quite different and discussing it any substantial detail is going to involve discussing some key story points that aren't part of the trailers. So for those who prefer to remain at the boarding gate while I go on a ride with Flight, here's your Spoiler Warning.

Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis Are High on Flight

by Ethan Alter October 29, 2012 6:00 am
Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis Are High on <I>Flight</i>

With its potent combination of an award-winning director and star (Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington), a celebrated supporting cast (among them, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood and Melissa Leo), dark, emotional subject matter (alcoholism) and expertly executed spectacle (most notably a terrifying plane crash), the new drama Flight is sure to be one of the fall's leading Oscar contenders. The film, which was penned by actor/screenwriter John Gatins, casts Washington as commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker, who manages to land his free-falling plane with a minimal loss of life. He's celebrated as a hero for his actions... until it emerges that he's got serious personal problems that may or may not have contributed to the crash. Following the film's premiere at the recently concluded New York Film Festival, the cast and crew of Flight answered questions from the press, including how the project first began and whether it cured (or contributed to) their fear of flying.

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