Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top Ten Movies About Movies of All Time

From the Folks Over at Pop Matters. One question. Does this list crack you up or what? Isn't it good when film is able to take a serious look at itself?

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I Think the list left a few good ones off, however.

"The Player"

"Bowfinger"

"Get Shorty"

"Sunset Boulevard"

"Hugo"

"Hollywood Shuffle"

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"Top Ten Movies About Movies of All Time

By Bill Gibron

We love them. Obsess over them. Rant when they don’t work and get even angrier when they insult our intelligence or expectations. From the moment turn of the century audiences cringed at the sight of a locomotive coming straight at them, the movies have meant more to us than, perhaps, any other medium (settle down, TV—and you too, music). We adopt their dialogue, follow their mandates on fashion and fame. We enjoy the looks into lifestyles we could never envision for ourselves while eagerly tweaking emotions (anger, fear, laughter, sorrow) that we normally try to avoid. So it makes sense that, eventually artists involved in the craft would want to explore the meaning of movies. Take them apart. Reference and homage them. Perhaps, even go so far as add commentary on their creation. This movies about the movies become a Bible of sorts, a window into a world that, without filter, comes to mean so much to us.

Let’s clarify the category before we go any further, however. Yes, most of the movies will feature movies in them. Yes, we have also included movies that comment on the movies themselves without going into specific examples. It’s a mess, we know. After all, a film like Hitchcock actually tackles some of the issues that came from the making of Psycho. But when viewed within its core intention, it’s really an exploration of the Master of Suspense’s relationship with his wife Alma. On the other hand, Tropic Thunder may center on the making of a big dumb military drama, but it’s really more a comedy of ill-mannered movie stars in over their heads. We’ve tried to parse through the complicated differences and have come up with a list of 10 that we can be proud of. Sure, there are a few MIA entries (Silent Movie, CQ) that should, perhaps, be included. Overall, however, this list offers up one particular point of view.

!0 "Gods and Monsters"

Back in 1998, few in film were willing to back a movie which made most of its points off the latent homosexuality of Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale. But Bill Condon bravely stood his ground, giving us a peek at how important gay talent was in the glory days of early cinema. Sir Ian McKellen, long before Lord of the Rings and X-Men, gave a stellar performance as the British auteur who came up from humble beginnings only to struggle with his personal life his whole career. Intercutting reenactments from Bride, we learn how life really does imitates art, and visa versa.

9 "Purple Rose of Cairo"

In one of his rare early films in which he did not appear, American treasure Woody Allen deconstructed film and our fascination with same by telling the tale of a meek housewife (then muse Mia Farrow) who uses cinema as an escape. Once there, she learns that the line between fantasy and reality can be as blurry as an out of focus process shot. Eventually, a rugged actor (Jeff Daniels) literally walks off the screen to make all her dreary dreams come true. What happens next is an inventive free for all that questions the very make-up of movies, as well as our desire to lose ourselves in them.

8 "Forgotten Silver"

One of the best mockumentaries of all time, this collaboration between Peter Jackson (yes, THAT Peter Jackson) and Costa Botes purports to tell the story of New Zealand film legend Colin McKenzie and the many accidental innovations he added to the art form. Mixing interview footage with “clips” from said forgotten “films,” we get a wonderful, weird glimpse into how artists view their medium, as well as how we re-imagine the past to fit the future. While some may see it as a minor moment in Jackson’s career, it explains his love of movies more than any big budget Middle Earth epic.

7 "Shadow of the Vampire"

This movie has one of the most original premises of all time: specifically, that when F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) made Nosferatu in 1921, he used an actual vampire (Willem Dafoe) to bring a sense of real horror to his fright film. Yes, in this fictionalized account of the filming, the director determines that the only way to add authenticity to his craft is to bring a real neckbiter to the ball. While flawed a bit in execution, this fascination film makes the case for what is fact and what it truly fiction. From the audiences perspective, Max Schreck seemed to be a monster. Maybe, he really was.

6 "Ed Wood"

Tim Burton has always championed the outsider, and who was more of an outcast in his time than the kooky cross-dressing director of the film’s title? Part whimsical revisionism (Wood, as essayed by Johnny Depp, is portrayed as a bumbling dreamer when he was, in actually, a troubled alcoholic), part celebrity portrait (Martin Landau’s riveting turns as a dying, drug-addled Bela Lugosi), this amazing monochrome love letter illustrates the cut rate filmmaking that became Wood’s signature. It also highlighted the hopes dashed, and the chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out spirit of ‘50s era Hollywood.

5 "Be Kind, Rewind"

We know, we know, this will be a very controversial choice indeed. Many will wonder why a film about video store slackers recreating movies for their devastated inventory would warrant placement here, let alone such a high ranking. Well, the answer is quite simple - this is the greatest statement about the collective cultural consciousness that resulted from the invention of the VCR ever made (may be the only one, for that matter). In fact, the entire approach to the film—fans “remembering” the movies and making them from memory—indicates the impact of home video clearer than any critical deconstruction or scholarly overview. So there.

4 "Singing in the Rain"

The best movie musical of all time and a telling indictment of the moment cinema adopted sound. On the surface, we have the simple story of a leading man (the amazing Gene Kelly) who must learn the ropes of an entirely new technology while his usual co-star (the equally magnificent Jean Hagen) has “voice issues” of her own. Enter the country gal (Debbie Reynolds) who can sing and dance with the best of them, and watch as The Artist cribs most of this movie for its post-millennial Oscar win. Almost cruel in how it treats the conversion to talkies, it’s the songs that carry us through the carnage.

3 "Baadasssss!"

light up there with the documentary How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It) , this look at Melvin Van Peebles and the start of the blaxploitation movement is a monumental achievement for both father and son. Yes, Mario saddled up to play his influential dad, describing in definitive biopic style how the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song both redefined and almost destroyed his career. Highlighting the horrors faced by black filmmakers in the volatile 1960s,we get the standard making-of material, along with more probing, personal angles which explain why Van Peebles as his movie are so important.

2 "Barton Fink"

Leave it to the Coens to create the kind of motion picture mindfuck that leaves you questioning reality while illustrating the dangers of “selling out, Hollywood style”. Our hero (John Tuturro) is a faux East Coast intellectual who heads over the bright lights of Tinseltown to make some quick cash. What he discovers is a den of thieves. Some (like mogul Jack Lipnick - Michael Lerner) just want to steal his talent. Others, like gruff ‘insurance salesman’ Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) may actually want his soul. A harrowing portrait of what happens when you stop being true to yourself, this is a masterpiece of cinematic shadows and fog.

1 "Day for Night"

Perhaps the most telling movie about a movie, and about the movies in general, ever made. As one of the architects of the French New Waves, Francois Truffaut was always looking for ways to twist the art form into both a commentary and critique on what we expect a motion picture to be. Going even more ‘meta,’ he uses a film set and the behinds the scenes intricacies of same to blur the lines between art and artifice. While his previous films simply played with the foundations of the medium, Day for Night actually lifts the veil off the process, and in doing so, illustrates is magic, maniacal facets. Sheer genius.

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Editorial Reviews of All or Nothing

New York Times--". . . a cartographer of autodegradation . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu — the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."

Florida Book Review--". . . Allen examines the flaming abyss compulsive gambling burns in its victims’ guts, self-esteem and bank accounts, the desperate, myopic immediacy it incites, the self-destructive need it feeds on, the families and relationships it destroys. For with gamblers, it really is all or nothing. Usually nothing. Take it from a reviewer who’s been there. Allen is right on the money here."

Foreword Magazine--"Not shame, not assault, not even murder is enough reason to stop. Allen’s second novel, All or Nothing, is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable. P’s inner dialogues illuminate the grubby tragedy of addiction, and his actions speak for the train wreck that is gambling."

Library Journal--"Told without preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups."—Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH

LEXIS-NEXIS--"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P." Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer. November 4, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly--"Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction . . . The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing."

Kirkus Review--"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

World Series of Poker

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Bio


Preston L. Allen is the recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). His works have appeared in numerous publications including The Seattle Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Asili, Drum Voices, and Gulfstream Magazine; and he has been anthologized in Here We Are: An Anthology of South Florida Writers, Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction, Miami Noir, and the forthcoming Las Vegas Noir. His fourth novel, All Or Nothing, chronicles the life of a small-time gambler who finally hits it big. Preston Allen teaches English and Creative Writing in Miami, Florida.