Song of the Day #4,862: ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ – Three Dog Night

A year after his debut, Paul Thomas Anderson made a major splash with 1997’s Boogie Nights, garnering critical accolades and year-end awards. His trajectory reminds me a lot of that of Wes Anderson, who followed the modest, low-budget Bottle Rocket with Rushmore, one of his most celebrated films.

Boogie Nights is a blast of creative energy so brazen it’s hard to believe Anderson was in his mid-20s when he made it. The sheer number of cinematic techniques on display here is dizzying, and it’s all stitched together with such confidence and bravado.

Chronicling the pornographic movie scene in Los Angeles as the freewheeling 70s give way to the sobering 80s, the film takes most of its cues from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, but with more than a dash of Robert Altman.

Anderson’s affection for his characters is evident. The porn world is merely the backdrop for a story about a bunch of broken people who form a surrogate family. The ensemble cast (which includes Hard Eight alums John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, plus Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, and William H. Macy) is stellar from top to bottom.

Wahlberg and Reynolds, who both later expressed misgivings about the film, turn in career best work here. Reynolds landed his lone Oscar nomination for his work as director Jack Horner. He won the Golden Globe and a host of critics awards. Moore was Oscar nominated as well, as was Anderson for his original screenplay.

The movie holds up splendidly. It’s hard to find a flaw. The switch from the adrenaline rush of the 70s to the hard crash of the 80s is tough, and deflates the movie’s buoyancy, but that’s also when some of the most bravura filmmaking kicks in. It takes some cues from Tarantino in its final third, but never feels derivative.

Anderson’s filmography is interesting in that through his first few films he wears his cinematic influences very much on his sleeve, but finds his own voice in the writing. Over time he would develop his own filmmaking style as well.

Boogie Nights might be derivative of Scorsese, but it feels like its own thing, and it joins Goodfellas as one of the very best films of the 90s.

[Verse 1]
Want some whiskey in your water?
Sugar in your tea?
What’s all these crazy questions you’re askin’ me?
This is the craziest party that could ever be
Don’t turn on the lights cause I don’t wanna see

[Chorus]
Mama told me not to come, Oh Lord
Mama told me not to come
“That ain’t the way to have fun, no” (Uh-uh!)

[Verse 2]
Open up your window, let some air into this room
I think I’m almost chokin’ from the smell of stale perfume
And that cigarette you’re smokin’ ’bout scare me half to death
Open up the window, sucker, let me catch my breath

[Chorus]
Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come, She say, uh
“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”
“That ain’t the way to have fun, son” she said
[Bridge]

[Verse 3]
The radio is blastin’, someone’s knockin’ on the door
I’m lookin’ at my girlfriend, she’s passed out on the floor
I seen so many things I ain’t never seen before
I don’t know what it is, I don’t wanna see no more

[Chorus]
Mama told me not to come, Oh, Lord
Mama told me not to come
She said, “That ain’t the way to have fun, son”
“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”

[Refrain]
Mama told me, mama told me
Mama told me, told me, told me
Mama told me, told me, ooh, yeah, yeah
Mama told me not to go
Mama told me, mama told me
Ain’t that the truth

“That ain’t the way to have fun, no”
“That ain’t the way to have fun, son”

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,862: ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ – Three Dog Night

  1. Reb Butler says:

    Great movie. Also, fwiw, a Randy Newman song. He didn’t make quite the hit out of it that 3 Dog Night did, but songwriter’s royalties aren’t bad! That song was ALL over the radio in 1970…

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I saw this movie once in the theater when it came out and enjoyed it. I recall the big deal that was made at the time about showing male nudity.

    Anyway, I probably owe this film another viewing.

  3. Peg says:

    I’m remembering that we didn’t like this movie or that one of us didn’t as much as the other 😉 I guess another viewing is in order.

  4. Amy says:

    This movie blew my socks off, especially the uncut scene where one character takes his life. I haven’t seen it since it came out, but a few of those indelible images have stayed with me for decades. Why did Reynolds and Walters have misgivings? So odd after all the acclaim the film rightly received.

    • Amy says:

      Wahlberg 😜

    • Clay says:

      In Wahlberg’s case, it was tied to religious beliefs. He’s discussed it as a film he regretted making due to its subject matter. He’s walked the comments back a bit in other interviews.

      Reynolds and Anderson butted heads on the set — the veteran movie star and the hot-shot young director — and I think that soured him on the film. I bet he could have won the Oscar if he’d been more supportive.

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