With Ben Affleck’s ARGO hitting theaters soon, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at some of the best movies about making movies. To be honest, I don’t think we have a whole lot of gems in this list, so if I were to write it in a few weeks, I’m guessing ARGO would be near the top. The key to making a movie about a movie is to avoid making it come off as self-absorbed. That’s a tough task for Hollywood, but here are a few films that made it work.
10. THE PLAYER – The Tim Robbins starring, Robert Altman directed film about a blackmailed executive dealing with a disgruntled screenwriter is admittedly not one of my favorites. I feel the whole film is a giant inside joke that only Hollywood executives get. However, it makes the list because it fits exactly with the title of the list.
9. THE LAST SHOT – This is what ARGO would be if it were a comedy. I was pleasantly surprised by this little gem that featured an aspiring film director (Matthew Broderick) excited to make a movie for a producer (Alec Baldwin) that turned out to be an FBI agent setting up the mob. It’s humorous, without too many inside jokes.
8. 8 ½ – I could have put NINE on here as well, but I decided to give credit to Fellini’s masterpiece. Personally, this isn’t one I could watch over and over, but upon initial viewing, the film commands respect. It’s also one that every film buff should watch, just to experience one of the most influential directors of all time at the height of their career.
7. SUPER 8 – So maybe I’m counting this on a technicality, but to be fair, the kids are making a movie and that’s kind of a running theme throughout. The kids and their obsession with making the movie is the highlight of the film for me, but once the movie-making aspect is sacrificed for the alien on the loose, I actually started to lose interest.
6. HUGO – This film is the tale of two halves and ironically, the half about making movies is the one I don’t enjoy. Little Hugo discovers that the mean old toy shop owner was actually a famous director before talkies came along and that’s when we get into the details of making movies.
5. GET SHORTY – During Travolta’s string of great movies in the early 90’s, GET SHORTY was one that many of his fans consider their favorite. This is another one where Hollywood pokes fun at itself, but the jokes are broad enough for everyone to follow along.
4. ADAPTATION – This is more about writing movies, but the conversations Charlie and Donald Kaufman (both Nicolas Cage) have with each other are priceless. In typical Spike Jonze fashion, the plot weaves in and out of the movie within the movie and gets confusing, but Cage’s performance makes this worthwhile.
3. BOOGIE NIGHTS – I didn’t say what kind of movies, I just said movies. The porn theme turned a lot of people off, but this is actually a great directorial and writing effort from Paul Thomas Anderson. I love his long shots and slow, meticulous storytelling. It was also nice he was able to set up some great characters that audiences would otherwise not care about.
2. TROPIC THUNDER – I know I probably rank this one higher than most people, but I can’t help it. To me, this is one of the funniest movies in the last ten years and every time I see it, I still laugh uncontrollably. The fake trailers in the beginning were genius and it’s fun to guess who each star is supposed to be representing in real life.
1. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN – It’s tough to argue with this one. This is actually the movie that made me like musicals. It’s another film about silent stars dealing with the invention of the talkie, but it has some great performances and memorable songs. One of the all time classics.
Honorable mention: KISS KISS BANG BANG, THE ARTIST, ED WOOD, BOWFINGER, BE KIND REWIND, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION