Lots of comments about the first list of ten best movies about movies…so much so that I wanted to get the next part of my list out there for discussion. I also want to bring attention to Michelle Williams and her terrific performance as Marilyn Monroe…so here you go, I am splitting this list into two parts.
Here are the next five movies that celebrate movies and movie making.
10 – Tropic Thunder. 2008. Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. Director / Actor Ben Stiller stuck a white hot poker into the eyes of action movies with this hilarious and action-packed comedy.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a method Actor who get so into character that he dies his skin in order to play a black action hero. His pomposity is evident in everything he says and does, such as how we can act in a movie without reading the script:
Kirk Lazarus: “I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”
Ben Stiller as fading action star Tugg Speedman just wants respect from the acting community, and is fearful of being over-the-hill, as he shares in an emotional interview with Tyra Banks:
Tyra Banks: “You have no real family, you’re on the wrong side of 40, you’re childless and alone. Somebody close to you said: “One more flop, and it’s over.”
Tugg Speedman: [pause] “Somebody said they were close to me?”
And of course, everything about Hollywood is open to parody, such as when Lazarus explains why Tugg’s portrayal of a mentally handicapped character won’t win him an Oscar:
Kirk Lazarus: “Everybody knows you never go full retard.”
Tugg Speedman: “What do you mean?”
Kirk Lazarus: “Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, ‘Rain Man,’ look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho’. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, ‘Forrest Gump.’ Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded. Peter Sellers, “Being There.” Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, “I Am Sam.” Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed… ”
Hilarious, over-the-top and spot-on – and of course Tom Cruise is hysterical as crazy studio head Les Grossman, who loves to scream obscenities and dance, dance, dance! One of his many hilarious lines to an Agent: “Now I want you to take a step back… and literally fuck your own face!”
9 – Alex In Wonderland. 1970. So here’s a movie about movies that you’ve never heard of, but you should! Here is what Amazon says about it:
Alex (Donald Sutherland) is the hottest commodity in Hollywood, a first-time director who’s completed an unreleased but buzzed-about movie. Opportunity doesn’t knock, it hammers. Alex and his wife (Ellen Burstyn) can buy a big home (which one?). He can lunch with a big producer (the producer pitches him). He can dream big (and in outlandish reveries, he does). The only thing Alex can’t do is decide what he’ll film next.
After the smash late sixties hit “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”, Director Paul Mazursky made this far-out exploration of movie making, using Donald Sutherland as the hotshot Director who doesn’t know how to follow up a movie hit, and Alex’s quandary is both a Felliniesque homage and a time capsule of Hollywood’s take on the values of the ’60s.
Hollywood loves to question itself and what it stands for, and to look at the creative process, and this little-seen picture starring Donald Sutherland is a worthy addition to this list…something you haven’t heard of before.
8 – Get Shorty. 1995. Look at this cast: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, James Gandolfini, Dennis Farina and Danny DeVito – tackling Elmore Leonard’s novel that sees mobster Chili Palmer head to Hollywood to collect a mob debt. Instead, he falls in love with the idea of making movies. Great character actor Delroy Lindo also stars as Bo Catlett, a low-life drug dealer who also wants to make movies. Here is his conversation with Chili – as Bo decides to shoot him after they exchange money for Rene Russo’s freedom:
Bo Catlett (holding a gun on Chili): You broke into my house, and I have a witness to it.
Chili Palmer: What?
Bo Catlett: Only this time it ain’t no John Wayne and Dean Martin shooting bad guys in “El Dorado.”
Chili Palmer: That was “Rio Bravo.” Robert Mitchum played the drunk in “El Dorado.” Dean Martin played the drunk in “Rio Bravo.” Basically, it was the same part. Now John Wayne, he did the same in both. He played John Wayne.
Bo Catlett: Man, I can’t wait for you to be dead.
Delroy also got to offer up this insult to Gene Hackman, who plays B-movie king Harry Zimm.
Bo Catlett: “You think we watch any of your movies, Harry? I’ve seen better film on teeth.”
A really sharp comedy with action, great one-liners, and a lot of fun – at the expense of the fake world of Hollywood.
7 – Swimming With Sharks. 1994. Ever wonder what it’s like to actually work in the movie business? Look no further than this scathing black comedy about a young, naive Hollywood studio assistant who finally turns the tables on his incredibly abusive producer boss. Kevin Spacey is the epitome of evil, Producer Buddy Ackerman. He is mean, and he loves the fact that he is mean.
Here he is talking to someone on the phone who won’t give in to him: “Say this one time with me: “Would you like that in a pump or a loafer?”… Good. Now memorize it, because starting tomorrow, the only job that you’re going to be able to get is selling SHOES!”
Frank Whaley stars as Guy, the new Assistant who has no idea of the abuse that lies ahead. Here is his first day on the job:
Buddy: What I am concerned with is detail. I asked you go get me a packet of Sweet-N-Low. You bring me back Equal. That isn’t what I asked for. That isn’t what I wanted. That isn’t what I needed and that shit isn’t going to work around here.
Guy: I, I just thought…
Buddy: You thought. Do me a fucking favor. Shut up, listen, and learn. Look, I know that this is your first day and you don’t really know how things work around here, so I will tell you. You have no brain. No judgement calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You are here for me. You are here to protect my interests and to serve my needs. So, while it may look like a little thing to you, when I ask for a packet of Sweet-N-Low, that’s what I want. And it’s your responsibility to see that I get what I want.
This is also a terrific revenge movie, so check and out and see how Guy turns the tables on his abusive boss!
6 – My Week With Marilyn. 2011. Michelle Williams won the Golden Globe for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in this terrific insider’s look at the process of movie making, and how hard it is to handle Talent. This is based on the true story of Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier, who wrote a memoir about the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of movie “The Prince and the Showgirl.”
Williams is spot-on perfect as Marilyn, capturing a wide range of emotions and moods – one moment she is everybody’s best friend, the next she is an emotional wreck. Kenneth Branaugh is also terrific as Olivier, one of Hollywood’s all-time great Actors.
This movie shows how tough it was for him to harness the energy – a fragility- of Monroe, at that time the world’s biggest female star. There is a ton of insight into the process of making movies…Marilyn was trying to act using the method approach, while Olivier and his acting troupe just ACTED.
There is a classic story that I will paraphrase about the making of the 70’s thriller “Marathon Man”. Dustin Hoffman stayed up all night to capture the mood of his character, who was tired, dirty and exhausted physically. Olivier walked in, went over to him and said slyly, “my dear boy, why don’t you just try ACTING?”
This is a gem of a movie, so check it out!
The next five on the list coming soon, let me know what you think!