5 Awesome Movies About Making Movies
If this year’s Oscars taught us anything, it’s that Hollywood really loves talking about Hollywood.
The Artist, a film steeped in movie history, walked away with the big prize on a night that was filled with nostalgic montages about the “good old days.” It’s almost endearing how fascinated the writers, directors and actors who create the entertainment we so eagerly consume enjoy telling stories about what goes on behind the curtain of their creative processes. Over the years, there have been dozens of movies about making movies, and most of them are surprisingly good.
You would think the topic would lead to navel-gazing, but I could fill two or three top five lists with ease. I’m not saying the five I chose for this list are the very best the genre has to offer, but they are among the most awesome (and creative) films about Hollywood’s love affair with movies out there.
“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” As uttered by Gloria Swanson, that line is both deeply sad and incredibly chilling. Playing faded silent film star, Norma Desmond, Swanson delivered one of the most iconic performances ever to grace the big screen.
Writer and director, Billy Wilder added authenticity to the film by grounding it in the realities of the Hollywood system. Desmond, once one of the industry’s big stars, is tossed aside and becomes a recluse dreaming of making her triumphant return to film. Sunset Boulevard takes on an eerie resonance when looked at through a modern lens.
Today, Desmond’s tragedy would be on display long before that final frame in the form of a mass-marketed, tone-deaf reality program built around her hunger for relevancy and fame.
Many Twilight fans no doubt wish Robert Pattinson was really a sparkly, lovelorn vampire, but I doubt any of Nosferatu’s fans had a similar longing. However, that idea is the premise behind Shadow of the Vampire, a (hopefully) fictional look at the production of Nosferatu wherein the actor playing the titular vampire– a word that couldn’t be used in the film because it was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula— goes a little bit too method.
William Defoe is brilliantly terrifying as the very real vampire the director hires to play Nosferatu in order to attain maximum authenticity. There’s a touch of satire beneath the horror in Shadow of the Vampire as evidenced by the director’s agreement to offer up the leading lady to the vampire once the film is completed. Many directors are famed for their eccentricities, but none of the would actually go so far as to use one of their actors as a bargaining chip to ensure their film would become a masterpiece…right?
Ed Wood was a terrible director, but the man did have passion. Johnny Depp played the famed cult film director with wide-eyed innocence and enthusiasm in what is easily one of his greatest performances.
There’s something charming about bad movies, and Wood was the king of schlock, even if he was too naive to know it. This movie holds the distinction of being the only one on this list that can move me to tears with every single viewing thanks to the friendship between Wood and his reluctant muse and idol, Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). The connection between the depressed, aging horror icon and the young director who idolized him gives the movie its soul.
Only director Tim Burton could pull so much magic and pathos out of the tale of Hollywood’s most awesomely bad director.
Contrary to what this list may have led you to believe, not all movies about movies are serious, some of them, like Tropic Thunder, are downright silly in the best way possible.
I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan, but he satirizes Hollywood’s blockbuster tendencies so flawlessly it’s impossible not to love the film. There are certainly some problematic elements in Tropic Thunder, but the tale of a group of pampered actors stumbling into a very real war is one of the rare movies that remains funny no matter how many times you see it and it deserves special kudos for making Tom Cruise relevant again.
At times, CQ is too indie for its own good, but its portrait of a man obsessed with the make believe world of film is compelling even though the lead character boarders on insufferable.
Set in France, the film mixes reality with fantasy to give the proceedings an unsettlingly off-kilter vibe. While main character Paul Ballard is hardly the kind of fellow you would want to hang out with, Jeremy Davies is remarkable in the role. Many filmmakers speak about the way their work consumes them, but CQ and Davies made me finally understand what they were talking about.
Like I said above there are literally dozens of films I didn’t have time to mention here, so now I’m going to turn it over to you. Which movies about movies do you think are awesome? Has The Artist already earned a spot on your list? Tell me all about it in the comments.
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