Author Topic: SERIOUS COOL....or how I learned to stop worrying and love the movies.  (Read 30639 times)


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A smirnoff/ verbALs joint

What is SERIOUS COOL? Well apart from being a great name for a jazz swing combo, it’s our attempt to examine the differences in approach of the two sometimes opposing forms in film.

SERIOUS- All thematic and deeply meaningful; perhaps experimental in its delivery of a message.

COOL- A comedy, an action-packed movie; eschewing the highbrow and, maybe, as a result, getting at the truth of a subject or theme.

These are, intentionally, broad definitions. With each subject explored we will offer one film each; one SERIOUS/ one COOL, and examine how it sheds some light on the themes involved. Our reviews will focus more on the subject than on the actors or directorial touches or even how good the film is (or isn’t).
The subjects to be discussed are shown below. This list will be updated with live links to the individual subject threads and the films watched. The first film will be the SERIOUS (verbALs) offering, the second the COOL (smirnoff) one.
In order to clear up which film is doing the best job of communicating its message, we will follow the reviews with a discussion, to add some rebuttal of the other guy’s argument. Hopefully, this won’t dissolve into, “Your film sucks and so do you”, but we’ll see. We will both watch each film, but go to bat for our own choices.

The current list is;


PORN- Boogie Nights vs. Orgazmo- Poll here

RELIGION- Viridiana vs. The Prophecy- Poll here

INVENTION/ INVENTORS- The Dam Busters vs. Middle Men

THE MEDIA - Wag The Dog vs. Mad City
With thanks to Noke for the great suggestion.

BITING OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW- Deep Water vs. To Live & Die In L.A.
A different format; verbALs dictates COOL/ smirnoff dictates SERIOUS

BAD COPS- Serpico vs. Black Rain

SIBLING RIVALRY- Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? vs. Stuck On You

CONSPIRACIES- Foreign Correspondent vs. Strange Days

A VOCATION- Winter Light vs. Big Night

REBELLIONS- Persepolis vs. Ip Man

TEACHING- Blackboard Jungle vs. Stand and Deliver

SALESMEN- Cedar Rapids vs. Bulletproof Salesman







« Last Edit: February 21, 2012, 02:40:12 PM by verbALs »
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Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights approaches it's subject in a straightforward star is born, Hollywood "let's make a film" manner. Burt Reynolds Svengali producer recruits Mark Wahlberg's 'talented' young star; a guy chasing the American Dream, the cars, the girls. Thrown out of home and into the welcoming arms of the porn film community; hanging out by the pool or down at Luiz Guzman's hot club. As far as film industry related movies BN starts off far less seedy than that other dissection of LA culture Mulholland Drive. It's a glamourous business much more so than the down at heel jobs the actors Wahlberg and Don Cheadle normally do. The moments that Guzman and Cheadle are together on screen remind me, with their cop duo turn in Traffic, they have a double act you could take on the road.

Luiz brings it. Don looks intimidated.

Reynolds talks about the value of good story to keep the audience in their seats and William H Macy has technical discussions of lighting. The casual sex done with all the application of a set of calisthenics continues in the background to remind that we aren't in Hollywood normal. All the while Wahlberg's star quality shines through, the centre of attention, he clearly has IT. The lustre is burnished in the Saturday Night Fever sequence where the cast get down in a group dance number, John C Reilly grooves. Anderson is covering every base, awards cermonies, popping flashlights, Dirk Diggler is a star. Or are the 70s the real star? The 80s turn out to be a real bitch.

Various admirers of Dirk Diggler's talent

As the 80s begin their whole world disintegrates. PS Hoffmann gets over amorous with the freshly coked up Dirk and Reynolds rejects the inevitability of VHS replacing his beloved film and his ideals of quality porn film production evaporate. Dirk chokes on his own fame and is ejected from his film family. None of this is porn's fault but the usual result of any excess of money in film or music. What actually hurts these people by association is when they attempt to return to the real world. A bank refuses a loan to a "pornographer" and a mother is denied custody of her child because of what she does for a living. The conflict is that we have lived with these characters for the length of the film and empathy has set in. We can't help but feel sorry for their troubles. Anderson shows his artistry with this emotional switch. Since when do porn stars and exploiters get any sympathy? Good film-makers make these unlikely things happen.

What is PT Anderson saying about the porn industry? It's still the movies, it's just talent is measured in inches.

Best Line: (Burt Reynolds)"We're going to make film history, right here on videotape."
{Alternate best rude line: (Phillip Baker Hall)"I like simple pleasures, like butter in my ass, lollipops in my mouth. That's just me. That's just something that I enjoy."

Best scene: Dirk Diggler back on track rehearses his lines and psychs himself up to go "act". He reveals his "talent" in all its glory for the first time and gives it a similar pep talk.

Best Screenshot:

Success IS...a John Travolta dance routine!


Comic book movies have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to opening credits but I think sometimes they forget it. What am I talking about? The orginal material! It all starts back in the 60’s; live action shows based on comic books started popping up. Batman, Dick Tracy... the classics. We’re definitely familiar with the Batman opening credits, a live-action show but paying homage to its comic book roots by incorporating the illustrations and style right there into intro. Throw in a catchy tune and call it a day.

Now that’s how you kick off a show!

Not every comic book series or movie has embraced this approach however, opting instead for something original but often completely forgettable. X-men, Spiderman, Batman (any of them)... I defy you to recall what even one of those opening credit sequences was like. I sure can’t. Probably some dated CGI monstrosity. What a complete bore!

Some films have seen the light though. Panels fly about the screen, we catch glimpes of our favourite characters looking just how they do when we hold the comics in our hands. Pop in the credits here and there, lay down a good track, and you’ve won your way into the hearts of your audience. Even if the movie is a little rough around the edges this early treat can flavour the entire experience.

Case in point: Tank Girl. (see also Flash Gordon, 1980)

Now we come to Orgazmo (no pun intented). This movie is not based on a comic book (you heard me). Does that mean it should forgo such sweet fruit? Heck no! If you don’t have a comic to build your movie around, make one up! And that’s just what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done. Not only that, they’ve created their own theme to go with it, featuring the lovable satire you’ll find in all their musical numbers. Let’s listen!

It’s just an efficient use of time. Get the credits out of the way, set up the tone, establish our hero, and be fun to watch. Filmmakers take note!

The story is typical fish out of water stuff. Joe Young, a Mormon missionary, finds himself lured into the world of porn because the money is good. He justifies his actions by twisting the Lord's words so what he’s doing seems okay (that and they have a “stunt cock” fill in for him during penetration scenes). It’s a not so subtle jab at the flexible morals often exhibited by society’s most upright citizens.

By unusual circumstance Joe finds himself up for the role of Orgazmo, a popular superhero in pornographic films and savior of many a damsels in distress. Flanked by his trusty sidekick Choda Boy they are committed to fighting the evil Jizz Master Zero (Ron Jeremy). When not in costume Choda Boy is actually Ben Chapleski, MIT graduate with two PHD’s to his credit, reminding Joe, and us, that porn stars are people too.

The film is largely a parody of the industry. It points out the absurdity of trying to blend artistry with pronography. In one scene we see the director meticulously framing a shot, coordinating with his crew, “gimme a nice slow zoom, starting with a medium close-up of the cock, and then widening out to an establising shot”, “Genius!”. In another scene we see an porn star halt mid-thrust to ask “what’s my line?”, as if it mattered.

The film takes a twist as fiction becomes reality. Ben (Choda Boy) has developed a real live orgazmo-ray and together with Joe they end up using it to fight crime. Oh how art immitates life!

The film works best when it surprises you with new levels of absurdity. A character who deliberately wafts his farts at you, the idea that Orgazmo would be screening at the same theatre as E.T. and Citizen Kane, or a dog with a dildo on its head.

Is Orgazmo shooting blanks or does it rise to the occasion? Personally I think it suffers from genre confusion. In any case, it's very crude and that might just be enough.

Discussing the merits of Boogie Nights vs Orgazmo on the subject of Porn.

{verbALs is team blue/ smirnoff is team maroon}

Well the only way to open this discussion is to unleash the genius that is the opening credits to the 80s Spiderman cartoon series;

..and I confess that having seen 'noff's brilliant clips I have to add that 70s dance routine;

I love a film which breaks into a synchronised cast dance. there's a Freddie Prinze high school movie does the same thing, it makes the movie!

Also if we were playing Top Trumps (do you have this game?) I would be playing my strongest card, which is the cast of Boogie Nights; basically the pantheon of 90s/00s character actors- Guzman, PS Hoffman, John C Reilly, THOMAS JANE! ALFRED MOLINA! and on and on. In fact since this is basically our trial run, do you just want to concede defeat early on this one?

A strong cast perhaps but what's underneath that glossy mask? A scarred and hideous villain with deeply flawed morals or a boogie knight who grooves to a righteous tune?
Orgazmo may be cockamamie affair but I believe it's heart is true

Hey come on, that's not fair I don't even understand that.

In the words of Jean Cretien (philosopher, master orater, cool dude): "No, a proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."[/i]
We shall see if your "Boogie Nights" is as well-endowed as your claim. If it is not then prepare to be disproofed!

OK I'll cover up the fact I am now deeply confused (and Cretien is just a made up name) by changing the subject. What makes a film SERIOUS? Boogie Nights probably has two more gunfights in it than Orgazmo. It might not be an outright comedy but it has a sense of humour about it. Is it the director who adds the gravitas, the actors (all of whom have appeared in comedic roles and in cool films)? I don't doubt BN is a serious film I just have a problem putting my finger on exactly why. This might be an issue we run into again in the future of SERIOUS COOL, so, any thoughts on the matter? {& calling for it to be disqualified on this basis is not an acceptable answer  8)}.
What I will say is that BN has a similar approach to the subject as , I think, many SERIOUS films will have. It is a character piece which happens to be about the Porn Industry. It sheds light on the subject of Porn but obliquely by looking at the effects on the people in the business. The sequence where Don Cheadle's character can't get a loan because he is a pornographer is an example. In fact, isn't it easier for a comedy to take that oblique approach. The focus in a comedy is.......comedy (profound statement I know) and the environment of the film will always take a backseat to the jokes. As a result it can make some deep points about that subject without it feeling like the film-maker is slamming you in the face with that point. Care to comment?

I think that's a great observation and to weigh in on your question about where the gravitas comes from it would have to be Anderson wouldn't it? He's the captain of this ship afterall. And he seems to have a sailor's sensibilities about never heading directly into the wind (as you alluded to). You get where you're going fastest by zigzagging towards a general destination not pointing right at it.

-A woman is gunned down (off camera) in her bed, but overtop of it we hear lively music and see people ringing in the new year.
-A woman OD's on coke but the scene is played for laughs with sarcastic lines like "oh, do you think so doctor?"

I guess I'd say what makes this movie SERIOUS and not a pleasure cruise is that when the time is right Anderson does point us right into the gale (i.e. "slam it in your face"). Not only does he not do anything to diffuse the violence (like keeping it just out of frame), he enhances it with the most ominous music I think he could find. All you can do is wince and try and absorb the blow. Anderson definitely has total tonal control and he knows how to use it.

I think you do get the sense he's buttering you up for a penetrating third act, but just because you know it's coming doesn't make it any less painful. Especially if it's your first time. It hurts, but in a good way. John Mellencamp knows what I'm talkin' about.

(sorry this reply has gone right to the dumps  ;D)

You know what surprised me though? The happy ending. With the film's Goodfellas-esque style and arc (from the way music was used, to the macro-shots of flashbulbs going off (or was that Casino), to the tracking shots that wound through bustling parties, right down to Diggler crawling back to the big boss-man after burning out) I was expecting a "schnook" scene to wrap things up. Anderson chooses instead to give Diggler a hero's exit, back on top doing what he loves. And why shouldn't he! Diggler's a lover not a fighter. That said, I still came away from the film feeling depressed. How about you?

I guess credit does have to the actors too though. There's nothing funny about Julianne Moore in this film for instance. Every scene with her is more tragic than the last. And like you said in your review, the film does get you to care about the characters. They're all deeply human. The performances are a big part of that for sure. I guess it's a bit of both ultimately, no?

I've got a question about Diggler's parents from early in the film. What's with them? I didn't understand why the mom was SO crazy, or the Dad so sullen. The whole blow up scene that leads to Dirk running away just seemed so over the top to me. The rest of the film was quite easy to connect the dots of cause and reaction, but that moment seemed to have no basis.

You know I can't really deny that Boogie Nights is cool. It's very slick. When Macy shoots himself in the head and then the "80's" title-card appears I couldn't help but think "damn, what a cool cut". Anderson's film oozes with style. I guess it just has different priorities is all.

One bit that made me chuckle was Buck trying to sell the guy on that stereo system and throwing out all manner of techno-jargon. The "TK421 modification"? As in "Tk421. Tk421 why aren't you at your post?" from Star Wars?  ;D Star Wars comes up again when John C. Reilly tells Diggler people say he looks like Han Solo. They're both so good in this movie, heh.

So how do you feel about Orgazmo? Does it effectively use it's humour the way BN does to get at the heart of something bigger than fart jokes? And does it's refusal to get serious at any point stop it from making a mark (and is that a failure or just what sets these two films apart)?

Your feeling of a depressed ending to BN is interesting because having suffered the fall of Dirk Diggler he looks like he is on the up again. It may be that the supporting characters had taken on such life that Dirk just doesn't seem that interesting by the film's end. The concept of a grown man pep talking his penis into action, in itself, is a depressing and hollow experience, even if the comedic side to it is played beautifully.

Orgazmo for me, can't live up to the level of scrutiny we are trying to put on it, and I write that having really enjoyed the film, and I was able to put my brain in a jar for the duration. The ironic thing about it is that within the film you have all of Porn, Religion and Invention explored. I started to suspect that you are a being on a higher intellectual level and had found a film to combine all three of our starter subjects into one great big ball of meaning. However, that is the problem with expecting Orgazmo to shed any light on any deeper meaning. It bounces around from subject to subject in a schizophrenic manner, as if it was afraid to settle anywhere too long, as if it would highlight how little it had to say about anything. Even though it covers a lot of ground it is really a superhero movie with jokes. Orgazmo uses a porn weapon to fight crime (oh yes and the Choda Boy dildo rocket launcher), and the villains are porn industry connected, so it is all contextual (sorry that word seems so out of place) but it could have easily have left the porn business behind at any point. How a film (any film) tackles religion is going to be a sensitive area, so these guys don't die for want of knowing if they have offended anyone, they really go all out to do it. That's fine, but were there Mormons with placards outside cinemas (if this ever played) or are Mormons just so easy to make fun of that it is considered fair game? {I think I have just succeeded in making a pompous point about a Parker/ Stone joint. Yay me}.

You've got Orgazmo pretty well pegged I'd say. I'm surprised that you ended up enjoying it though. Was it the jokes or the absurdity that did it for you? Or both? I don't know why but it just wasn't winning me over. I found the whole thing very droll and give it, at best, an Ace Ventura laugh:

Now what do you make of this: Boogie Nights gets rated R, while Orgazmo gets NC17. Both came out in 1997.

Is that absurd or is that absurd? I mean Orgazmo really isn't particularly showy. You see a couple guys exposed butts breifly but that's it. Meanwhile Boogie Nights has butts, breasts, bush, and bolonga... and none of it is brief. By my measure Orgazmo is no cruder than many PG13 comedies I've seen. Then again, I guess it was nearly 15 years ago it came out... nobody had seen 2 girls 1 cup or anything like that yet so this may have been really shocking.

As to your question about the Mormon thing I think this quote from a Trey Parker interview about Orgazmo sort of gives you his feelings on the matter:

I grew up in Colorado, so we had a lot of Mormons that we went to school with. Actually, my first girlfriend was Mormon. Every Mormon I've ever met is a great person, and to me this was a great character. I didn't go out of my way to make him give up his religion, like Joe's been stupid all this time. He remains a Mormon, he wins, he destroys evil, and stays a Mormon. The Mormons win.

You should check out the rest of the interview here. Makes me appreciate where Parker was coming from with this movie. Pretty candid. The guy doesn't seem to have a pretentious bone in his body. And I guess that's kind of what makes the film cool. A take it or leave it attitude.

But like you say, it's kind of beyond Orgazmo to really get below the surface. I think a good cool movie could do it, but this isn't that movie.

I put a fair bit of the onus on Parker's lack of comedic acting chops for the reason I didn't enjoy this more. There's dialogue that really should've killed but just fell flat for me, like this:

Joe Young: They want me to do a sequel.
Lisa: A sequel, to "Death of a Salesman"? Doesn't he die at the end of the first?
Joe Young: Yes, but he has a twin brother, and he wants revenge.
Lisa: Revenge? But, doesn't he kill himself?
Joe Young: No, no, that's what you were led to believe. He was killed by the C.I.A for selling smack... to Nazis...
Lisa: Wow!

It reads funnier that how it plays, and that's a bad sign. :-\ How did you feel about him and the other actors?

I didn't realise that was Parker in the leading role, until afterwards, and I can't say that I thought he was any better or worse than anyone else in the film. I guess we can try not to penalise a COOL film for its acting if it is being compared to a SERIOUS film. However if we are trying to get at how different movie forms deliver their message it is difficult not to consider the ability of the messengers ie the actors. Orgazmo was good, dumb fun and I might have the same reaction to you if I rewatched it, but I'll bear in mind your reaction that it can't stand that scrutiny.

It brings to mind another issue that has been talked about generally on the forum. The experience of watching a film multiple times has a completely different quality than watching any film for the first time. Once you understand the pacing, the tone and the themes being explored it is like watching a different film, the second time. However, I would say that, generally, people won't watch a film a second time if it did not engage them the first time. A film can be so intriguing that you might give it a second chance even if it scored poorly first time (like Martin's Second Chance films, a good idea). Usually, however, if you weren't entertained initially it is much less likely you will return to that movie. A COOL film has the advantage here, because it is meant to be immediately entertaining. It is like the spoonful of sugar to help the bitter medicine of a theme go down. A film with the intention of being more complex or stylised can set itself up to be misinterpreted. I feel this might be one of the core themes that SERIOUS COOL returns to with other subjects (we shall see, Mr Bond).

So would you say SERIOUS COOL is a spectrum of approaches or just one aspect of an inherently amorphous dichotomy?

I had an amorphous dichotomy on my hand once, but there are creams you can use to ease the pain. I think it is necessarily a wide spectrum of approaches, and the interesting thread between each film used, will be if common values can be found.

I think your point about the relative rating of BN and Orgazmo may be the most salient issue to come out of comparing them. A number of times a man's buttocks appeared in front to cover the 'action' in the background in the Parker/Stone film, whereas BN is much more straightforward in what it shows, as you say (balonga is a new one on me, so thanks for that). It is simple hypocrisy to rate Orgazmo higher, unless it is the religious content that is causing offence. Perhaps this is one of those times where a bigger film company gets better treatment than a smaller one, that the lower rating ensures better attendances, so the lower rating is pressed for simply for business reasons.

Seems like it eh.

I wonder too if another aspect of it is just a serious film getting a pass whereas something like Orgazmo would appeal to a younger audience and therefor must be stopped (There may be something to that as the first time I saw Orgazmo I was probably only 13 or 14, precisely because it appealed to me and my buddies at the time). Not sure how we got hold of a copy at that age but I know we all laughed heartily, even if we didn't get meaning behind some of the jokes. But heck, I don't think it did us any harm. Even at that age it was so silly we didn't take it seriously. Something like Boogie Nights though... shit, it's still with me right now. Like I'm still rattled by it. It's something that could, nay, is meant to be taken seriously. Scar you, etc. Might be a case there for not seeing it at too young an age.

Either way the NC17 seems pretty unnecessary. Both could safely be rated R imo.

My conclusion would be that the fascinating human drama of Boogie Nights draws you into the world of the porn industry. It delivers it's messages; the values of a different kind of film business, the way in which that business changed through the decades, the prejudices (fair and otherwise) these ordinary people encountered, effectively. It may be a SERIOUS approach but it is not preachy or pompous. It uses humour and action sure-footedly so it has mainstream values. It is PT Anderson's auteur vision that raises it above the mainstream pack.

Orgazmo may not be able to compete on that level, and it is thematically weak (and theme is what we are exploring here); bouncing around an awful lot. However, your point about how easy it was to consume (? that seems like appropriate word) shows that it caters to its target audience very effectively. In its own way, it succeeds as effectively as its weightier cousin, and it is easy to forgive it for not offering any deeper meaning. 

A fair and just ruling. I believe this court is now adjourned. Drinks on me.

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« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 02:13:39 PM by verbALs »
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy


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Yay for lolcats incorporated into reviews. I can't say I found a lot to like in Orgazmo. It just seems to be straining so hard and confusing racy with funny.


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I can't say I found a lot to like in Orgazmo. It just seems to be straining so hard and confusing racy with funny.

One of those rare occasions when I agree with Bondo.  A few good laughs, but most of the gags are too predictable.

Boogie Nights, on the other hand, is fantastic.  I feel PTA has yet to match it.


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while kind of poor overall, it has one of my favorite site gags....showing the Hollywood letters on the hill, then giving the viewer a "Hollywood" subtitle. Brilliant.


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while kind of poor overall, it has one of my favorite site gags....showing the Hollywood letters on the hill, then giving the viewer a "Hollywood" subtitle. Brilliant.

Good memory, jrod! Indeed, one of the films cleverer moments. :)

Boogie Nights, on the other hand, is fantastic.  I feel PTA has yet to match it.

Agreed. This revisit really made a fan out of me to the point it that on the right day it could probably crack my top 100.  :o Magnolia also improved on second viewing for me.

Bill Thompson

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I really dig Boogie Nights, but as I have voiced in the past, it really irks me that a movie that good still has the same terrible Hollywood blowjob scenes that are found in every non Brown Bunny film pretty much.


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You mean how, despite the camera angles, it's obvious how fake it is? That thought actually crossed my mind during the movie now that you mention it.


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I demand more realistic blowjobs in my mainstream Hollywood productions!

Sam the Cinema Snob

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You can get the real deal on the indie scene. The Brown Bunny FTW!