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Boogie Nights (2 Discs) (Widescreen)

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Following his low-key debut Hard Eight (1996), Paul Thomas Anderson staked his claim to auteur status with his ambitious ****** and family epic Boogie Nights. Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the story of young ****** star Dirk Diggler and his adult movie "family" upends convention, as Anderson non-judgmentally captures the spirited possibilities of '70s hedonism before it passed into a nakedly acquisitive, coke-fueled Reagan-era hell. Along with the period music, costumes, and décor, Anderson's bravura technique harks back to 1970s Hollywood, itself: there's a widescreen, Robert Altman-esque tapestry of characters; split-screen montage in the vein of Brian De Palma; audaciously assured Martin Scorsese-style long takes; and a final shot that pays homage to Raging Bull (1980). The sterling ensemble cast further brings Anderson's collection of dreamers to complex life, lending humane substance to the dazzling surface. In his best role in years, Burt Reynolds' nuanced turn as director Jack Horner earned him numerous critics' prizes and a long-desired Oscar nomination. Julianne Moore received equal approbation as maternal ****** queen Amber Waves, while Mark Wahlberg's head-turning performance as Dirk proved that he was more than the sum of his body parts. Despite doubts over the film's latter half, Boogie Nights' accolades and prizes -- coupled with its decent box office returns and considerable longevity on video -- burnished Anderson's reputation as a new directorial star. Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide