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Suburban Seventies.

By Adrienne Martini

APRIL 27, 1998:  Ah, the 1970s. Kotter had been welcomed back, Bonnie Franklin was taking it one day at a time, and Charley had his angels. TV land was full of polyester and sex, but suburban reality proved that the free will and heavy hallucinogens of the '60s were much harder to integrate into real life than the gurus had imagined. Now, the children of this era of man-made fibers are all grown up and ready to cinematically nit-pick and celebrate their youth.

The Ice Storm (1997, R) proves just how difficult it was to change old sex role expectations and still have a functional, loving family. Director Ang Lee, of Sense and Sensibility fame, creates a world of alienation writ cold across a background of key parties and winter storms. Christina Ricci steals the film as the pre-teen struggling to come of age as her family quietly implodes around her. Her father, played by Kevin Kline, is sleeping with the next door neighbor, the luscious Sigourney Weaver. The affair is passionless, less about lust and more about taking advantage of the sexual revolution's arrival in the New England 'burbs. In fact, this film appears passionless as well, a dry re-telling of a family's dilemmas, but the eponymous ice storm finally arrives and you are left dazed by its cold, intense brilliance.

There is nothing cold about Boogie Nights (1997, R). All of the fire that has been artfully squelched in The Ice Storm ignites during this gargantuan but always engaging epic about the tribulations of a cadre of porn stars, lead by Burt Reynolds' Jack Horner. Horner discovers a young busboy with a mighty MacGuffin and makes him, and his anatomy, famous. Mark Wahlberg is magnetic as Dirk Diggler as he oozes both vulnerability and cockiness. Nominally, this is a movie about a boy from Tarzana, but writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has also crafted a film that contains a multitude of other engaging characters, like Julianne Moore's warm Amber Waves, who stumble and/or roll through the world looking for a place to call home.

The graduating class of 1976 in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (1993, R) already know where their home is—the Texas suburbs. This ensemble piece highlights all of the pop culture icons that emerged from the nation's televisions and radios, instead of focusing on the interpersonal problems of the Farrah-hair decade. Linklater captures these characters on their last day of school as they haze the incoming freshman class, ironic given that Linklater also launched some of his cast into stardom, from Matthew McConaughey to Ben Affleck to Milla Jovovich, which gives some '90s actors another reason to remember the '70s.


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