Movies about Movies
By Betty Jo Tucker
Watching Comic Book: The Movie, Chump Change and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! -- all in one week -- reminded me how much "movies about movies" fascinate me. Why wouldn't they? After all, I'm a practicing movie addict whose favorite film of all time is Singin' in the Rain, a wonderful musical about silent movies changing to "the talkies." Behind-the-scenes shenanigans, studio politics, self-absorbed stars, frustrated directors and ambitious screenwriters make terrific fodder for cinematic treatment, and I usually enjoy seeing these situations and characters depicted on screen.
Adaptation. Trying to turn a bestseller about orchids into a successful film becomes a nightmare for screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, played by Nicolas Cage. In his review, Jeffrey Chen describes the final act of this film as "a deliciously absurd collision of cornball movie elements."
American Splendor. Even an appearance by the real Harvey Pekar himself doesn't lessen the impact of a brilliant performance by actor Paul Giametti, who plays the grumpy comic book hero in this unusual biopic.
America's Sweethearts. Everything about Hollywood gets lampooned in this amusing romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack as a famous movie couple who can't get along in real life.
Ararat. One of the most creative film-within-a-film presentations I've ever seen. Through making a movie about the Armenian massacre in Turkey (circa 1915), the film personnel involved gain a better understanding of the tragedy and their own attitudes about it.
Chump Change. Pursuing showbiz fame has never been filmed more hilariously than in this clever mockumentary written by, directed and starring Stephen Burrows.
Comic Book: The Movie. The Force is with Mark Hamill as he portrays a comic book historian trying to sabotage the updating of his favorite superhero in a movie being made by greedy studio bigwigs.
Full Frontal. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh explores the lovelorn status of several people who work in and around the movie industry. However, reviewer Jeffrey Chen calls this flick "a clunker."
Hollywood Ending. When a has-been director is finally hired to direct a new movie, he suffers psychological blindness and tries to hide it from the powers that be. Woody Allen wrote, directed and starred, as usual. According to reviewer Diana Saenger, it's not one of Allen's most amusing comedies. She refers to the movie as "a cliché attack."
Interview with an Assassin. Although this is a fake documentary about the man who claims he shot JFK, everything about it seemed almost too real to me.
The Kid Stays in the Picture. With surprising candor, producer Robert Evans uses this revealing documentary to describe his ups and downs as a filmmaker.
Lost in La Mancha. This remarkable chronicle of the catastrophes that sunk Terry Gilliam's ambitious Don Quizote production held me spellbound from beginning to end.
Made-Up. In Tony Shalhoub's impressive directorial debut film, some very confused and funny camera crew members attempt to understand what's going on with the people they're filming.
The Majestic. Jim Carrey's laid-back performance as a studio yes-man and writer of B-movies who becomes a man of integrity is a joy to watch in this sentimental, nostalgic drama.
Shadow of the Vampire. Willem Dafoe goes triumphantly over the top as a real vampire hired to play an actor portraying a vampire in the classic silent horror movie, Nosferatu.
S1MONE. The illusions of Hollywood receive good-natured spoofing in this provocative film about a director (Al Pacino) who finds the perfect actress. The only problem? She's an image coming from an electrical socket, and her creator must keep that a secret. "A cinematic delight," says reviewer Diana Saenger.
Singin' in the Rain. "Irresistible!" declared UKCritic Ian Waldron-Mantgani after finally viewing this highly acclaimed musical at its 50th Anniversary Tribute in Telluride.
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! While poking fun at the cult of movie stardom, this entertaining romantic comedy also celebrates the importance of true love and the value of friendship.
In my opinion, most of these "movies about movies" deserve more than one viewing. As megastar Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) put it so eloquently in Singin' in the Rain, "If we bring a little joy into yer humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain't been in vain fer nuthin'."
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