Favorite Films about Movies
Films about movies fascinate me. Why wouldn't they? After all, I'm a practicing movie addict. As I mentioned in an earlier ReelTalk article, “behind-the-scenes shenanigans, studio politics, self-absorbed stars, frustrated directors, ambitious screenwriters, and avid film fans make terrific fodder for cinematic treatment.” I really enjoy seeing these situations and characters depicted on screen.
Below are five of my favorites in alphabetical order.
CINEMA PARADISO (1988). No other film hit home for me quite like this extraordinary Italian drama about how much movies meant to a young boy – and also to the people of a small village where their major entertainment was provided by Cinema Paradiso, the local movie theater. The two main characters are a precocious 10-year old boy and an elderly projectionist who form a close bond. The projectionist even teaches the youngster how to operate the projection equipment. And they both watch the mesmerized audiences react to each film being shown. Those scenes brought back such great memories to me! My cousins and I spent most of our weekends at local theaters while growing up and we all LOVED whatever was playing, just like the Sicilian villagers in this wonderful motion picture. And that same feeling is still with me.
HAIL CAESAR! (2016).The Coen Brothers show us what lengths a Hollywood studio would go to back in the 1950s in order to manage their stars and the publicity about them. This film follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the fixer for Capitol Pictures -- a company with numerous movies in production. Mannix must help DeeAnn Moran (Scarlet Johansson), an actress who hates wearing a mermaid tail in her water extravaganza scenes , but more importantly needs assistance regarding a child out of wedlock. He must also find out who kidnapped the studio’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), right off the set of Capitol’s most expensive Roman epic. Plus, there’s the strange business with song-and-dance man Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) and all those suspicious “communist” writers. No wonder Mannix gets tempted when offered a much easier job. This one is overly ambitious and not the Coen Brothers at their best, but I found it fun to watch.
HUGO (2011). I particularly enjoyed this film’s section about one of cinema’s early pioneers, Georges Méliès. Because director Martin Scorsese is committed to the cause of film preservation, his concentration on the career of Méliès (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) seems quite appropriate, for most of the movies completed by this creative Frenchman were destroyed. Hugo reveals how devastating this loss can be for everyone who loves motion pictures. It also dramatizes the importance of Scorsese’s Film Foundation, a non-profit group which has been instrumental in helping to preserve hundreds of movies.
THE ARTIST (2012). This charming black-and-white and almost silent motion picture boasts an unpretentious plot about an iconic actor of the silent era who refuses to adapt to “the talkies.” It also focuses on the man’s relationship with a spirited young woman whose star rises as his falls -- kind of like Singin’ in the Rain meets A Star Is Born. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, French actors, fit their parts perfectly here. The involving story, cinematic artistry and compelling performances that I look for in high-quality filmmaking are much in evidence here – as are humor, pathos, drama plus a clever canine who captured my heart.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952). In this wonderful musical about silent movies changing to the talkies, there’s not one dull moment. It contains some of the best tap dancing routines ever filmed. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds wow me every time I watch their stellar performances in what I consider the most entertaining film ever made. Based on the crisis Hollywood faced back in the 1920s when "talkies" came on the scene, the clever story by Adolph Green and Betty Comden zips along from beginning to end -- with joyful musical numbers (from songwriters Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown) enhancing the plot instead of detracting from it. Co-directed with pizzazz by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, this one is pure Hollywood magic.
Fortunately, all of the movies above are available on DVD.