Movies About Movies
I love movies. I love movies so much that I even love movies that are about movies. There are three kinds of movies about movies. There are documentaries that show how movies get made, the behind the scenes info and whatnot. Then there are the fictional movies that tell stories about real or fake movies that never happened. Then there are the movies that tell a story about movies based on the actual events around the movies. This article is a list of some of my favorite movies of the last two categories. Most of these movies are love letters to film, although some show the seedier side of the industry and some present a ghoulish what if. I have chosen six of my favorite fictional movies about movies. Let me know in the comment section about yours!
This movie was written and directed by Preston Sturges. In a completely unrelated aside, Mr. Sturges' mother once had an affair with notorious occultist Aleister Crowley. Anyway, back to the movie. It was released in 1942 and stars Joel McCrea and the incredibly sexy Veronica Lake. McCrea plays Sullivan, a director whose bread and butter is making dumb comedies. But he wants to be taken seriously as an artist, and thus has decided to make a film about the plight of the common man. Remember the Great Depression was still happening when this movie came out. To make his great film, he decides to go out amongst the common man disguised as one of them. While out masquerading as a hobo he meets up with a failed actress who becomes his travelling companion. Once he feels his mission is complete, he dresses up once again and goes out to give money to the homeless.He is knocked unconscious by a thief, and wakes up with no memory of who he is. The thief is killed and mistaken for Sullivan. Sullivan gets arrested and ends up in a work camp. He is made to work in unbearable conditions, but the one mitigating factor is the movies they are allowed to watch once a week. Consisting of cartoon shorts and silly comedies like the ones Sullivan is trying to get away from making, these are the only release he has from the awfulness of his daily existence. Of course, this is his epiphany once he regains his memory and makes it back to Hollywood. He realizes that comedies do more to help the human condition than any drama ever could. It is my firm belief that the Motion Picture Academy should watch this movie every year before voting on the Oscars. And while it does hold a message it is also a very funny movie. And if I didn't mention it already, Veronica Lake was HOT!
Ed Wood is about the movie director Ed Wood. The movie is directed by Tim Burton (back when he was still good) and stars Johnny Depp (see my remark about Tim Burton). Martin Landau also has an amazing performance as actor Bela Lugosi of Dracula fame. Wood is struggling to gain entrance to the film industry. After befriending Bela Lugosi, he uses this friendship to get a job directing his first film. The movie follows the "rise" of Wood's career, culminating with his "masterpiece" Plan 9 From Outer Space, long hailed as the worst movie of all time. Wood is admirable in the movie. A mostly out transvestite working to make movies no one wants to make, and finding a way to get them done no matter the obstacles, Wood's determination and zeal far outstrip his actual talent. This movie is full of great actors having to act badly to recreate the terrible acting on Wood's movies. The movie does a good job of showing what a remarkable character Ed Wood was. It does not quite get across the quirkiness and goofy charm of Mr. Wood's very terribly made movies. Still, it is a lot of fun to watch, and is based on true events. Yes, Ed Wood did somehow manage to convince a church to fund his movie about aliens creating zombies in order to take over the earth. That happened.
Released in 1976, Silent Movie is one of Mel Brooks' lesser known movies. It is, as the name implies, a silent movie. Mel stars as a film director who is down on his luck and comes up with a great idea to make the first silent movie in decades. In order for the studio to sign off, he has to enlist a bunch of big (at that time) stars. He sets off with his friends played by Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman to accomplish this. They visit all the big names of the time, including Burt Reynolds, James Caan, and Anne Bancroft. Marcel Marceau has a cameo with one of the funniest gags of all time. Being a silent movie, this movie is loaded to the rafters with slapstick physical humor. There is an evil corporation attempting to stop Mel from completing his movie, because they want to buy the studio he is working for and are afraid that if he is successful it will thwart their attempt. This is such a fun and funny movie, for me it is right up there with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I can see where someone with a shorter attention span might have a hard time with it, since you have to read all the dialogue. But it is worth the effort, for one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.
Boogie Nights is about making a different kind of movies. This movie is about a high school dropout played by Marky Mark Wahlberg who is recruited into making porno movies by porn director Burt Reynolds. Heather Graham is the girl used to entice him, her character goes by the name Roller Girl. Marky Mark is incredibly successful due to being anatomically ummm.... gifted. He soon pitches and stars in a series of action/porn movies. This being a rise and fall type movie, things take a dark turn. A co-worker kills his wife and himself while she is having sex with another man at a party. Marky Mark cannot perform due to his drug addiction, and after a failed attempt at a music career turns to prostitution. Roller Girl and Burt Reynolds try making a reality porn, but when the guy recognizes Roller Girl from high school and insults her, they end up beating him. There are drug deals and robberies gone awry. But fret not faithful reader. There is redemption at the end of the road for most of our characters. And if you are a fan of pop music from the late seventies and early eighties you will have been dancing in your boogie shoes the whole time.
Shadow of the Vampire
This is one of my favorite vampire movies ever. Released in 2000 and starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, it is about the making of one of the first vampire movies, Nosferatu. Malkovich is director F.W. Murnau and Dafoe is Max Schreck who is playing the vampire Count Orlock. Schreck never appears to the rest of the cast and crew out of make up or character. While shooting a scene at an old castle Murnau lets slip a statement about finding Schreck there. As the movie progresses it is revealed that Schreck is actually a vampire, who has agreed to lend Nosferatu an air of authenticity in exchange for the lead actress. Murnau has a plan to destroy the vampire during the shooting of the climactic scene. Schreck finds out and sabotages the plan. He is able to drain the life's blood of the leading lady. However the crew manages to open the shutters on the set, letting in sunlight which kills the monster. Describing the plot makes it come across as a bit hokey, but it is so well written and acted that it is not only pulled off, but is actually quite engaging. If you haven't seen thisone,do yourself a favor and watch it. Finish reading this first of course, only one entry left anyway.
Before Robert Downey Jr. made his comeback as an Iron Man, he starred in this movie about comedy film maker Charlie Chaplin. This movie is nothing more or less than a love letter to Charlie Chaplin and a belated apology for his treatment when he was forced to leave this country after being accused of having Communist sympathies. The movie is packed with star power, including Anthony Hopkins and Dan Akroyd, with Chaplin's daughter playing his mother. It covers his personal life, and while not necessarily shying away from his controversies, definitely presents them from his point of view. Since the movie is being told from Chaplin to his biographer this is only understandable, and the point of the movie was to celebrate Chaplin's film legacy, not to muck up old dirt from a century ago. However, if you are interested in a movie involving the biggest Chaplin scandal (also involving William Randolph Hearst the newspaper mogul), that is not even mentioned in Chaplin, then watch The Cat's Meow. It is also an engaging movie, but not included in the list since it does not deal with Chaplin's film work at all. And once you have watched these two movies, go back and watch some of Chaplin's movies.