I was relieved to discover that the “Boogie Night” New Year’s Eve event at Tbsp. in the W Hotel has little more than disco and a ‘70s motif to do with the 1997 movie Boogie Nights.
That film contains a disturbing New Year’s Eve scene that anyone who has seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s pièce de résistance porn-comedy-cocaine-tragedy will doubtless vividly recall. Something has always bothered me about that scene. But it’s not what you might think.
The action plays out in one long take, an homage to Martin Scorsese’s notorious Copacabana nightclub entrance in Goodfellas. Although rather than a happy couple laughing to Henny Youngman’s one-liners, Paul Thomas Anderson’s iteration ends with William H. Macy’s character murdering his wife and her lover, and then turning the gun on himself. It signifies the beginning of the 1980s, and an horrible new era in Boogie Nights’ hellishly heartrending plot.
The scene is acted, shot, and rendered masterfully. Though one thing about it never ceases to niggle away at me. In that segment, the camera follows Macy as he attends a New Year’s Eve party, which Burt Reynolds’ porn-director character hosts. Macy walks from his car to the house, mills about from room to room and mingles with other guests, gets a champagne coupe, and inquires as to his wife’s whereabouts. He eventually finds her in a bedroom having sex with another man, and calmly proceeds to go back to his car, placing his champagne coupe on its roof, retrieving a pistol, returning to the house, opening fire on the lusty couple, shoving the weapon in his own mouth, and pulling the trigger.
What bothers me about this is not so much the murder-suicide, but the fact that he leaves his champagne on the roof of his car. It’s just a little detail. But it’s the kind of thing that obsesses someone as OCD as me. Did the actor intentionally leave it there, thinking that his character might have been so engrossed in murderous rage that he would scarcely remember to take the champagne? Did Macy, in the heat of filming the scene, plumb forget that he was initially carrying a glass? Is it a deep-inside film-nerd joke — as in, “take the gun, leave the champagne?”
At any rate, it is one of the most shocking pieces of 1990s cinema, up there with Quentin Tarantino’s infamous ear-cutting exploits in Reservoir Dogs, and approaching Scorsese’s Goodfellas descent into the mob inferno’s ninth circle. It snatches our attention.
But back to the W Hotel’s Boogie Night party. This isn’t that. Their New Year’s Eve celebration, ringing in what will surely prove a more pleasing epoch than the 1980s, is called Boogie Night because a DJ named Pat Boogie will be spinning dance platters until the midnight countdown and beyond. A five-course tasting menu, oysters, and champagne at the witching hour accompany the price of admission.
I enjoy hanging out at the W Hotel. Its vibe is more Wong Kar-wai than Paul Thomas Anderson, more hypermodern than retro chic. Local company Les Entreprises QMD completely revamped its interiors in 2015. Hotel lobbies and their adjacent restaurants and bars have enjoyed a resurgence in all-around hipness in recent years. Woody Allen’s 2019 film, A Rainy Day in New York, features the Carlyle Hotel’s iconic Bemelmans murals as exemplary of a more romantic age. The New York Times declared in its Where To Eat newsletter, “The Hotel Lobby Restaurant is Back.” There is also the Hennessy Sound Box happening at the W, and it’s actually worth doing.
Another unlikely film has come to accompany the holiday season in all its depravity, and that film is Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. It’s become a seasonal classic simply because it takes place at Christmastime (although, for my money, I’d rather watch The Apartment.) Still, I think a lot of people miss the story’s moral.
Most of this picture’s vocal proponents point to its depictions of libidinous women, its empowerment of the fairer sex, and its candid characterization of feminine desire. Throughout the film, the real-life and on-screen married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are tempted at every turn with opportunities for infidelity. Cruise surreptitiously attends a ritualistic orgy; an intoxicated Kidman flirts with an Hungarian impresario and, later while stoned, recounts a sexual fantasy that she indulged in with a stranger on a family holiday.
The upshot of the film, though, is that they don’t fuck around. They could. But they don’t. An alternate subtitle could have been, Eyes Wide Shut or: How I Learned to Keep it in My Pants. This philosophy might have saved William H. Macy’s wife from untimely death, and Macy from self-induced demise.
In the summertime, I was walking through Square Victoria when I came upon an empty champagne flute resting on a bench. I thought it must have been some boozy W Hotel guest who had snuck it outside in the park for a clandestine tipple under a starry Montreal sky. But it also at the time made me think of Boogie Nights, and I hoped to goodness that it wasn’t forgotten in a fit of jealous rage — or any rage, for that matter. The Times declared 2022 the “year of rage,” and no doubt, a pandemic, war, and all the other challenges we faced together have made us more than a little upset.
But New Year’s is a time for rebirth, a moment to reflect on what just happened, and an opportunity to make concerted efforts to incrementally improve ourselves and the world. New Year’s Eve is the only night of the year when we can collectively start anew, all at once. Let’s take a page from Kubrick’s playbook rather than Paul Thomas Anderson’s, and boogie sensibly into 2023, whilst shedding some of that misplaced indignation, with eyes wide open.
I believe, more than Boogie Nights, the theme for this New Year’s should be, “Love the one you’re with.” And if you can’t, at least remember to bring your glass inside.◼︎