Actors and directors are, predictably, vain creatures. So often, they enjoy nothing more than to celebrate themselves and what they do. This week’s ‘Entourage’ is just the latest movie about the business of making movies. For today’s Roundtable, here are some of our other favorites.
Like all of us on this site, I grew up LOVING movies. Throughout middle and high school, I used to make low-budget movies with my friends, and nothing influenced us more than the shoot first, ask questions later style of slapdash filmmaking depicted in ‘Ed Wood‘. The scene where Wood and his cohorts are shooting on the streets without a permit happened to us in a Connecticut shopping mall. The moment in which they steal an octopus prop for a night shoot inspired the very ill-advised theft of a ‘Crimson Tide’ theater display, which was cut short when a good Samaritan jumped on the hood of our getaway car. (To this day, there’s a string of 1995 film releases that I’ve never seen after the sub-heist got my moviegoing rights revoked.) The pure love of movies on display in Tim Burton’s best film is irresistible, especially for anyone who has ever been in in love with the romance of movies in general, and filmmaking specifically.
Perhaps it’s their egos, but the people in Hollywood have made a lot of movies about their own industry. Instead of picking one of those titles, I decided to go with my favorite movie that deals with that other industry in Hollywood. That’s right, the world of adult films. No recent movie in memory tackled that seedy world in a more stylish manner than Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights‘, starring Mark Wahlberg as the extremely… ahem… equipped Dirk Diggler, a fictionalized version of the famous porn star John Holmes. The movie, which is much more engaging and emotional than a film about the porn industry has any right to be, is peppered with wonderful supporting performances, not the least of which include Burt Reynolds in one of his best roles ever as an aging porn director and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a young boom mic operator who has a crush on Dirk. If you’ve never seen ‘Boogie Nights’ because of its premise, you’re missing out on one of the best films of the 1990s.
“Are we going to do Stonehenge tomorrow?” Now I realize that in these Roundtables I’m nearly always going on about something to do with the ’80s, but 1984’s ‘This Is Spinal Tap‘ easily fits the bill as a favorite movie about making movies (as well as a number of genre and category specific favorites). The narrative structure, which is of course faux documentary, is really more effective at being episodic with the band members and surrounding individuals, capturing the hilariously sardonic portrait of musical acts spanning some 30 plus years. (Really, I think it’s still applicable for bands that became big in the ’80s and ’90s.) It’s the kind of movie that if stumbled upon, it’s extremely difficult not to just watch it from whatever point.
With combusting drummers, malfunctioning stage props, explicit album art, and inwardly focused, out-of-touch, endlessly BSing bands and band members, the movie is so art-imitating-life that it’s nearly unbelievable, yet viewers always get a sense that the hook of making a documentary where the subjects happen to be imploding feels right on the edge of farce.
M. Enois Duarte
When it comes to movies about movies, I have two long-time favorites that are often ignored, unknown or simply forgotten. Of course, I still love many of the mainstream productions and the classics, but I really admire the way ‘Living in Oblivion‘ and ‘Hollywood Shuffle‘ probe into the challenges of making movies and the Hollywood system.
The first film by Tom DiCillo is a celebration of independent filmmaking, the absolute insanity and chaos of capturing that one perfect, emotional scene. It’s an awesome comedy about the madness that takes place behind the scenes of a micro-budget production.
The second film is a more disconcerting look at movies from Robert Townsend, but it’s every bit as hilarious. Using comedy as a means to expose a real problem in Hollywood at the time, Townsend tackles the issue of African American actors often hired for stereotypical roles. Interestingly, he uses a sketch comedy formula to touch on the various ways in which this tends to happen, while at the same time making audiences laugh at the absurdity of it all.
These are two great films about filmmaking I hope more viewers will watch and give them the love they deserve.
I can’t think of many movies that have instantly mesmerized me quite like ‘The Artist‘. Although it portrays a real time in history through a style that’s fitting to the time in which it’s set, the film feels like a fantasy. For me, there’s magic behind it. Jean Dujardin’s silent performance delivers the perfect emotion needed to make viewers connect with his despair during the Hollywood change from silent films to talkies. Through a completely different style of acting, co-star Berenice Bejo perfectly complements Dujardin, making it a very well-rounded film in terms of performance. Every other technical aspect of ‘The Artist’ functions harmoniously to make it a flawless film – from the music and story to the black & white photography and the single line of dialogue.
After the box office disappointment of their ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ movie, the British filmmaking team known as “Hammer & Tongs” (Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith) regrouped with a smaller-scale, much more personal project. ‘Son of Rambow‘ is a coming-of-age story about a sheltered young boy from an overprotective religious family whose mind is blown wide open when a bad influence from school exposes him to a pirated video copy of ‘First Blood’, which changes his life. He becomes completely obsessed with the movie and desperately needs to see more. Because this story takes place before Sylvester Stallone actually filmed a sequel, the boy decides to make his own, starring himself as the son of the hero whose name he can’t even spell, using a clunky video camera and a whole lot of ingenuity. ‘Son of Rambow’ is a touching, heartfelt and consistently hilarious movie about the joy and passion that film can inspire in us.
What are your favorite movies about movies? Tell us in the Comments.