Movies, movies, movies! The celebration of dreams come to life – fantasy worlds become reality, human conditions are explored, and we can laugh, and cry, and kiss ten dollars goodbye…there is nothing better than seeing a movie in a big theater with a packed audience. The perfect experience. “Hugo” is Director Martin Scorsese’s way of showing us the magic of film and the need to keep that dream alive forever!
“Hugo” isn’t on this list….and sorry to say, neither is “Singing In The Rain.” Yes, it is a PERFECT celebration of movie artistry…but I ran out of space! Argue if you want, but the eclectic mix of these final five films speaks, to me, to the breadth and width of the art of movie making.
You got that “Barton Fink” feeling? Ever wanted to shoot a single take of a scene and yell into the megaphone “Cut! Print! Perfect! Let’s move on!” Itching for a riot on Hollywood Boulevard? Ever wanted to see how the porn industry went from shooting on film to videotape? Well, it’s all here!
Time to celebrate the magic!
5 – Ed Wood. In 1994, Director Tim Burton decided to celebrate the life of the worst movie Director of All-Time. Johnny Depp IS Ed Wood, the notoriously “cross-dressing filmmaker” whose legacy includes the directing the “worst film of all time” as voted on by movie lovers and critics – the infamous “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”
Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray and a collection of outcasts and wannabes star, telling the story of how Ed Wood sets out to make movies – classics such as “Glen and Glenda” and “Bride Of The Monster”, and of course, “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”
“Ed Wood” includes the story of how the Director met legendary horror film star Bela Legosi, now a washed up heroin addict. Legosi stars in Wood’s film, in order to earn money for more drugs. Portrayed by Martin Landau, it is a performance full of heart, sadness, and especially anger – such as when someone accidently refers to Legosi as arch rival Boris Karloff’s sidekick:
Bela Lugosi: Karloff? Sidekick? FUCK YOU! Karloff did not deserve to smell my shit! That limey cocksucker can rot in Hell for all I care!
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: What happened?
Bela Lugosi: How dare that asshole bring up Karloff? You think it takes talent to do Frankenstein? It’s all makeup and grunting.
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Bela, I agree with you 100%. Now, “Dracula,” that’s a role that requires talent.
Bela Lugosi: Of course. Dracula requires presence. It’s all in the eyes, and the voice, and the hands…
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: [interrupting] That’s right. That’s right. You seem a little agitated. You wanna to go outside and get some air?
Bela Lugosi: Bullshit! I’m ready now! Roll the camera!
A terrific love letter to low-budget movie making, and proof that you don’t need anything but a vision, such as when an Editor offers to lend Wood some stock movie footage. Wood makes up a plot for a movie on the spot as he watches the footage…
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Why, if I had half a chance, I could make an entire movie using this stock footage. The story opens on these mysterious explosions. Nobody knows what’s causing them, but it’s upsetting all the buffalo. So, the military are called in to solve the mystery.
Editor on Studio Lot: You forgot the octopus.
Edward D. Wood, Jr.: No, no, I’m saving that for my big underwater climax.
Should we all have the chance to remember the octopus.
4 – The Day Of The Locust. 1975. Here’s is how Amazon describes the book: “Novel by Nathanael West about the savagery lurking beneath the Hollywood dream. Published in 1939, it is one of the most striking examples of the “Hollywood novel” in American fiction. Tod Hackett, a set designer, becomes involved in the lives of several individuals who have been warped by their proximity to the artificial world of Hollywood. Hackett’s completion of his painting “The Burning of Los Angeles” coincides with the explosion of the other characters’ unfulfilled dreams in a conflagration of riot and murder.”
Well, as you can tell, this isn’t a comedy. This is a bleak, bleak look at the sordid underbelly of the american dream. Donald Sutherland and Karen Black head a large cast, including Burgess Meredith as a dancing door-to-door salesman. Watch his performance here, then “Rocky” the next year and see what a great character actor he was. Watch this movie about the broken dreams of Hollywood and the odds are you will stay home and forget your celluloid dreams.
That said, it is bleak and brilliant.
3 – Barton Fink. 1991. OK, we know that the Coen Brothers are brilliant. “Fargo”, “No Country For Old Men” and “The Big Lebowski” are just the tip of their creative iceberg…but this is the one that looked into the mind of a Writer – and tried to bring to life the cinematic visualization of writer’s block. Yes, this is a movie about writer’s block. And it is brilliant.
Here’s the IMDB writeup of the plot. In 1941, New York intellectual playwright Barton Fink comes to Hollywood to write a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. Staying in the eerie Hotel Earle, Barton develops severe writer’s block. His neighbor, jovial insurance salesman Charlie Meadows, tries to help, but Barton continues to struggle as a bizarre sequence of events distracts him even further from his task.
I tell Alex that she brings that “Barton Fink” feeling to every show she makes. Watch this and you’ll understand. We all need that “Barton Fink” feeling.
John Turturro plays Barton Fink, an intellectual turned wrestling picture writer. Except he can’t do it. And that frustrates movie Producer Ben Geisler, played by Tony Shaloub, who offers him some cutting advice:
Geisler: Look, you confused? You need guidance? Talk to another writer.
Geisler: Jesus, throw a rock in here, you’ll hit one… And do me a favor, Fink – throw it hard.
This is a brilliant movie…watch it twice: first, just let it unfold, don’t try to figure out who John Goodman even is, just watch it. Then watch again, but this time imagine that John Goodman is portraying Fink’s writers block come to life. “Inception” indeed!
2 – The Big Picture. 1989. Before “Waiting For Guffman”, Christopher Guest directed this comedy about the pitfalls of Hollywood. Kevin Bacon plays a would-be filmmaker whose student movie wins a prestigious national award – and an invitation to Hollywood. Before he knows it, he is being wined and dined by agents, producers, and studio executives, who treat him like the new Orson Welles–until he starts making his first studio movie.
This movie skewers everything about the business of making movies, and the fact that you can’t trust anyone – or anything they say, as an Agent shows as he tries to sign Bacon:
Agent: “I don’t know you. I don’t know your work. But I think you are a genius. And I am never wrong about that.”
A funny movie that captures life in Hollywood when you are young, talented, and ready to be corrupted. Teri Hatcher is terrific in a co-starring role.
1 – Boogie Nights. 1997. One of the best movies ever made, pure and simple. Paul Thomas Anderson directed this epic look at the rise of a adult film superstar, and his journey through the changing world of porn. Yes, this is moviemaking, and Anderson uses porn to tell a much larger story of the world of art and commerce.
Inspired by the tragic story of John C. Holmes – aka “Johnny Wadd”, Mark Wahlberg does an amazing job as Eddie Adams, who is “discovered” and overnight become porn superstar Dirk Diggler. The terrific cast includes John C. Reilly, Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore, who plays porn star Amber Waves…here she meets Wahlberg AKA Dirk Diggler, and sees what all the fuss is about…
Amber Waves: Let me just check on something.
[takes off Dirk’s pants]
Amber Waves: That is a giant cock.
Like I said, it’s a fictionalized story of Johnny Wadd. This movie explores everyone’s dream of becoming a star – and it is, of course, a cautionary tale as well. After achieving porn super stardom, Dirk Diggler and his sidekick Reed Rothchild (Reilly), decide to become rock stars. After singing some of the worst songs ever put on film, they return to the studio to find out that the record producer won’t release the master tapes…
Dirk: Look, man, all we need is the tapes, all right?
Record Producer: No, you don’t get the tapes until you’ve paid.
Dirk: In our situation, that doesn’t make any fucking sense.
Reed Rothchild: Look, we can not pay for the tapes, unless we take the tapes to the record company, and get paid.
Dirk: Hello? Exactly.
Record Producer: That’s not an MP, that’s a YP, your problem. Come up with the money, or forget it.
Reed Rothchild: Okay, now you’re talking above my head. I don’t know all of this industry jargon, YP, MP. All I know is that I can’t get a record contract, we cannot get a record contract unless we take those tapes to the record company. And granted, the tapes themselves are a uh um oh, you own them, all right, but the magic that is on those tapes. That fucking heart and soul that we put onto those tapes, that is ours and you don’t own that. Now I need to take that magic and get it over the record company. And they’re waiting for us, we were supposed to be there a half hour ago. We look like assholes, man.
Dirk: Let me explain to him in simple arithmetic. One, two three! Because you don’t fuckin’ get it, Burt! You give us the tapes. We get the record contract. We come back and give you your fuckin’ money. Have you heard the tapes? Have you even heard them? We’re guaranteed a record deal. Our stuff is that good!
Record Producer: Now I get it. Now I understand. You want it to happen… but it’s not going to happen. Because it’s a Catch-22.
Dirk: What the fuck does that mean? What is a Catch-22, Burt?
Record Producer: Catch-22, gentleman. Think about it.
Dirk: You know what I’m thinking about, man? I’m thinking about kicking some fuckin’ ass!
There is so much that is great about this movie – I assume you have all seen it and just enjoy reading some of this amazing dialogue…I can watch this movie any day of the week…a masterpiece.
There you have it! Let me know what you think!