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Yet Another 10 Movies About Movies

XIII

This is our third installment in the popular “movies about movies” series of lists. Here we look at ten films that were omitted from the previous two lists for one reason or another. Be sure, as always, to add your own favorites to the comments – but before complaining about films that are missing, check out the first two lists.

10

Silent Movie
1976

Plot: Mel Funn, a great film director, is now recovering from a drinking problem and down on his luck. He sets out to Big Picture Studios to pitch a new script to the Chief, aided by his ever-present sidekicks Dom Bell and Marty Eggs.

His big idea: the first silent motion picture in forty years. At first the Chief, who is in danger of losing the studio, rejects the idea but Funn convinces him that he could save the studio if he got Hollywood’s biggest stars to be in the film.

Personal Opinion: When one speaks of Mel Brooks the talk immediately goes to either “Blazing Saddles”, “Young Frankenstein” or “The Producers.” but how often do you hear mention of “Silent Movie?” After watching this film again just yesterday I can say that this film is also a masterpiece and ranks on the same lines of the previous films. What Brooks does is fill every single scene with great ideas. Shots that have absolutely nothing to do with the story are thrown in to get a laugh. Brooks hits the bullseye most of the time. I don’t think I went more then a minute without laughing.

9

The Moguls
2005

Plot: When Andy discovers that his ex-wife has married an extremely wealthy man who is now his son’s “cool” stepfather, he becomes motivated to make a change in his life. With the help of his friends a small town group of lovable losers, they hit upon an idea to make their dreams come true. The grand plan that will lead to a life of riches and fame is to make the world’s first full-length feature amateur adult film. Every man’s fantasy turns into a hilarious misadventure when they find that they’re way in over their heads.

Personal Opinion: For those of you in search of a movie that will make you laugh, here is your pick. I saw this screening at the Newport Film Festival and thought it was amazing. Some movies are out there to entertain and this does just that… fantastically. It is a story that laughs at the ups and downs of the human experience while portraying the sometimes very harsh reality of middle-class struggle. It gives us a story we recognize to a certain extent but garnishes it with a great variety of endearing characters.

8

Living in Oblivion
1995

Plot: “Living In Oblivion” is divided into three parts, all of which concern the making of a low-budget movie featuring the same director, crew and substantially the same cast.

Personal Opinion: Superbly acted by the entire cast, especially Buscemi, Keener, Martens, and Mulrony, the movie is full of twists and turns that keep you longing for more. Tom DiCillo’s wit and humor are outrageous in the best sense. If you’ve got the stomach for good, solid funny times this one will do it for you. I’ve seen it more than 3 times and its humor holds through each viewing.

7

The November Men
1994

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Plot: The director of an independent film about a guerrilla coup hopes for verisimilitude, so he hires real mercenaries and freedom fighters to play themselves and films their exploits. Soon, the line between his script and their agenda is blurred.

Personal Opinion: “The November Men” is a clever film about a possible plot to assassinate George Bush. I say “possible plot” because the viewer is never sure whether the characters actually plan to go through with an assassination or just make a movie about an assassination. There is a lot to like about this movie. The plot is interesting and the acting is for the most part above average. If you like independent films (i.e. don’t mind budget constraint scenery and camera work) you’ll enjoy this movie.

6

La Nuit Américaine
Day for Night – 1973

Plot: La Nuit americaine chronicles the production of Je Vous Présente Paméla (Meet Pamela), a cliched melodrama starring aging screen icon, Alexandre, former diva Séverine, young heart-throb Alphonse and a British actress, Julie Baker who is recovering from both a nervous breakdown and the controversy leading to her marriage with her much older doctor. In between are several small vignettes chronicling the stories of the crew-members while director tangles with the practical problems one deals with when making a movie. Behind the camera, the actors and crew go through several romances, affairs, break-ups, and sorrows.

Personal Opinion: A pleasing, well-told soap opera, Truffaut’s Day for Night follows the lives of the people involved in the making of a film. It’s a solid endeavor, every creative aspect of the movie is fabulous and it does effectively demonstrate the hardships involved in trying to create a fiction while the lives of actual people are swirling all around, threatening to derail everything. And, while the lives of the characters are depicted in a pointed, observant, and watery-eyed honesty, the movie never quite reaches beyond the basics of its story to achieve an element of sublimity other than making movies is hard work. Still, the rapid pace and solid character beats make it great fun to watch and the tone of the film is infectiously deadpan.

5

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
1994

Plot: It’s nearing the 10th Anniversary of the film ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and one of the stars, Heather Langenkamp, gets several phone calls by a fan that sounds very similar to the film’s villain, Freddy Krueger. When Heather’s husband is killed in a car accident and is found with slash marks on his chest she starts to panic, especially when she discovers that Wes Craven is writing another ‘Nightmare’ film. Soon she realizes that Freddy has now entered the real world, and the only way to defeat him is to become Nancy Thompson once again.

Personal Opinion: New Nightmare is incredibly clever and was just all in all a great idea. I really enjoyed this sequel, it’s a definite keeper and a watch for the Nightmare on Elm Street fans. Freddy is back and he’s meaner than ever; it just shows that Wes hasn’t lost his touch with the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ series. If you love horror films in general, I highly recommend “New Nightmare”.

4

[Rec]
2007

Plot: REC follows a television reporter, Ángela Vidal, and her cameraman, Pablo, who cover the night shift in one of Barcelona’s local fire stations for the fictional documentary television series While You Sleep. The firehouse receives a call from an apartment building about a woman who is trapped. When they arrive, the police break down the door, with Ángela and Pablo recording their actions. The woman becomes extraordinarily aggressive and bites one of the policemen. What follows is a night that none of them will ever forget.

Personal Opinion: This is the kind of movie that you go to the cinema and watch, and then haunts you for weeks. Not that it will make you afraid of the dark or it will make you question your vision of life but this is the kind of movie that is all about the experience, the feeling, the atmosphere. This is the kind of movie you wish you hadn’t seen because then you’d be able to experience it again for the first time. It doesn’t have amazing dialogues, it doesn’t have a compelling story, but still is one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in my life.

3

Cloverfield
2008

Plot: A group of friends throw a party for Rob, who is leaving New York to go and work in Japan. As the party progresses, however, violent shakes and explosions herald the arrival of an unknown creature, which begins its rampage by throwing the head of the Statue of Liberty down into a street. Told from the viewfinder of their video camera, Cloverfield shows how Rob and his friends venture deep into the streets of New York, determined to rescue Rob’s true love from her destroyed apartment building in midtown.

Personal Opinion: Cloverfield is a fun movie. Plain and simple. It’s sit back, relax and go. It’s a roller coaster ride. JJ Abrams wanted to make an American monster movie, and he has done just that. Cloverfield is not a Godzilla rip-off, it’s the reinvention of the monster film. This is the story about characters trapped in a monster film. They aren’t the characters that would be in the big Hollywood blockbuster version, or even an D-level take by The Asylum or Troma. These characters are the people running away from Godzilla. They have no urge to defeat the monster, they just want to get away and reconnect with their loved ones. This is a human story which just happens to take place during this gigantic moment of fear.

2

Paranormal Activity
2007

Plot: Micah, a day trader and Katie, a student who claims that since her youth a ghostly entity has haunted her, are a young couple “engaged to be engaged”. When strange phenomena occurs such as lights flickering and faucets turning on and off on their own, Katie believes the ghost has followed her to their two-story tract house in suburban San Diego, California. Micah buys a video camera in the hopes of capturing paranormal activity on film, a project that will ultimately last three weeks. Each night he leaves the video camera on a tripod in their bedroom to record whatever might be occurring while he and Katie sleep.

Personal Opinion: After receiving much criticism due to a comment i made on my previous (and very first) “Another 10 Movies About Movies” list mentioning the “need” of blood, gore and shock effects in today’s horror movies (“unfortunately if [Blair Witch Project] was released today it would not get as much attention as it did back in 1999 because nowadays a horror movie needs a bunch of blood and shock effects to be valid which is truly sad.”) i decided to add this modern version of a psychological horror film. I must admit, I was surprised that almost none of the usual cliches were present in this movie, nonetheless it was NOT AS SHOCKING as it was advertised to be, therefore i would have to say that I’m glad to see a comeback of Psych. horror and i hope it catches on.

1

Synecdoche New York
2008

I want to apologize up front for the long plot description but this movie is extremely complex and difficult to explain (but definitely a must see).

Plot: Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. Armed with a MacArthur grant and determined to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can put his whole self, he gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in Manhattan’s theater district. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a small mockup of the city outside. As the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden’s own life veers wildly off the tracks. The shadow of his ex-wife Adele sneers at him from every corner, somewhere in Berlin his daughter Olive is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele’s friend, Maria. He’s helplessly driving his marriage to actress Claire into the ground. Sammy Barnathan, the actor Caden has hired to play himself within the play, is a bit too perfect for the part and is making it difficult for Caden to revive his relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel. Meanwhile his therapist, Madeline Gravis, is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. As the years rapidly pass, Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece. Populating the cast and crew with doppelgangers, he steadily blurs the line between the world of the play and that of his own deteriorating reality. As he pushes the limits of his relationships, both personally and professionally, a change in creative direction arrives in Millicent Weems, a celebrated theater actress who may offer Caden the break he needs.

Personal Opinion: You might wonder why this movie is placed at #1 as it is not actually a movie about a movie but rather a movie about a play. Since movies are just advanced versions of plays i found it appropriate to add this extraordinary film to the list. What makes this movie so special is that the main character has such determination to finish his insane vision that his life basically burrs together with the play he is creating. I also think it is worth mentioning that his play is about himself making a play, which creates a never ending chain of actors playing someone creating a play about themselves. It is truly difficult to fully explain this movie and should be added to anybodies “movies to watch” list. One more warning, the beginning of this movie can be very confusing due to it’s sometimes dreamlike scenarios and the actors strange way of aging but as the movie progresses everything becomes more clear.