Dimed Out Blog

Paul Thomas Anderson Week – Hard Eight (Sydney) & Boogie Nights

This week see’s, director/modern day auteur Paul Thomas Anderson celebrate his 50th birthday. To mark the occasion this weeks DIMED OUT podcast episode will be counting down his Top 5 films.

But, before we get there, we’re going to be spending the week taking a brief look at all eight of PTA’s feature length films.

As we go from his debut Hard Eight aka Sydney, all to the way to his most recent offering Phantom Thread, we’d love to know your take on each film. Love them? Hate them? Or do you find yourself somewhere in-between? Furthermore, we’d love to know YOUR top 5 Paul Thomas Anderson films and why you have them in that order.

HARD EIGHT / SYDNEY (1996)

Originally titled Sydney (after Phillip Baker Hall’s mercurial character) but changed by studio committee to Hard Eight, this is Paul Thomas Anderson’s first foray into feature length filmmaking.

As far as debuts go, it’s a really solid effort. By keeping the cast down to a core group of four, PTA allows for a more intimate and streamlined narrative. It’s a lean setup that benefits greatly from a sense of mystery and the kind of ambiguous, emotional pull that Anderson would develop further in his career.

Samuel L Jackson is reliable as ever and Gwyneth Paltrow reminds us that she is capable of some genuinely sound acting. John C Reily also makes a sizeable dent as likeable loser John, the first wayward son in Anderson’s filmography. But, Hard Eight is undoubtedly Phillip Baker Hall’s film. He owns every scene and keeps you invested throughout. His level of restraint and his knack for giving off questionable vibes is something else.

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s first multi character ensemble and ode to the 70’s porn industry, Boogie Nights is the perfect example of how to obliterate ‘difficult second album syndrome’.

His sophomore effort is rife with dazzling period detail, stunning tonal switches and shows growth from Paul Thomas Anderson, as a director. Boogie Nights is also bolstered by some great performances across the board. Mark Wahlberg is an obvious mention, but shoutout to Don Cheadle as Buck, Alfred Molina breaking the volume dial on his small but unforgettable role and of course, William H Macy.

Often compared to Goodfellas because of the obvious influences, but I would argue that Boogie Nights is just as good, if not, possibly, maybe…better than Scorsese’s iconic gangster flick. Just putting it out there.

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