Lists

10 Movies About Making Movies

Ed Wood [1994]
By far my favorite Tim Burton movie, “Ed Wood” is the insane true story of the “worst director” of all time Edward Wood Jr. and his quest to produce his low budget movies “Glen or Glenda”, “Bride of the monster” and “Plan 9 from outer space”. Johnny Depp is terrific as Wood and he’s surrounded by an impeccable cast as well (Martin Landau is brilliant in his Oscar winning performance as Bela Lugosi). I find myself revisiting this movie every now and then and for a good reason: it’s still as irresistible as ever. 

Saving Mr. Banks [2013]
Imagine stepping into a time machine, traveling back to 1961 and getting to eavesdrop on Pamela Travers and Walt Disney during the production of “Mary Poppins”. That’s exactly what we do here and I couldn’t have asked for a better result. The physical recreation of the period, especially as it relates to movie making at Walt Disney studios, is impeccable. In addition,the cast is irresistible, from Tom Hanks to Emma Thompson. “Saving Mr. Banks” manages to pay tribute to a classic movie, a great writer and a man who had faith in his own idea even when things didn’t look so well. Those qualities are rooted in truth and give the movie its irresistible charm. 

Hitchcock [2012] 
Director Sacha Gervasi has crafted a delightful movie about the making of “Psycho”, Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless classic. The time is 1960, the place is Hollywood, and the master is preparing his next feature film, also his biggest risk at the time. What makes the movie stick, besides Gervasi’s attention to detail, is the way Anthony Hopkins (as Hitch) and Helen Mirren (as his wife and writer Alma Reville) handle the material. Hopkins’ performance isn’t nearly as good as Mirren’s, but it leaves its mark, just like the movie. If you’re a true film buff, there’s no way you want to miss this one.

Dolemite is my name [2019]
Probably the movie that inspired this list, “Dolemite is my Name” is one of Netflix’s finest releases. It gives Eddie Murphy the role of a lifetime, playing Rudy Ray Moore, the underground comedian who rose to fame in the 1970’s and inspired a generation of artists. This is Murphy’s territory, and he lets it bleed, giving a comeback performance that impressed even the naysayers. The result is pretty damn irresistible. What’s more, it gave me a lot to think about, long after those credits started rolling. That’s as much as I could ask of any biopic.

Shadow of the Vampire [2000]
“Shadow Of The vampire” is a must see for anyone who’s familiar with the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu”. Of course it’s just a work of fiction, but it brilliantly recaptures the feeling and mood of the original work, that you won’t be able to take your eyes off of it. John Malkovich is terrific as German filmmaker F.W Murnau, who has to deal with a very difficult lead actor (Willem Dafoe in a chilling performance) who seems to be taking his role much too seriously. The local villagers become anxious about the actor, especially when a photographer becomes dazed and ill. All this will eventually lead Murnau’s  people to suspect Max Schreck of being a real vampire. How can you miss out on something like that?

Day For Night [1973]
Francois Truffaut was already at the top of his career when he made “Day For Night” in 1973, about a filmmaker who struggles to complete his next movie while coping with a series of unfortunate events. Not Truffaut’s finest movie, but as someone who’s been interested in the entire process of filmmaking, I felt right at home here. It gives Truffaut the chance to experiment with his actors while keeping his audience entertained at every turn. That’s no easy feat. 

King Kong [2005]
I needed any excuse to talk about this version of King Kong. While the original is a classic and one of the most influential “monster” movies all time, I thought this remake did it justice in every way possible, while adding a lot of new elements along the way. Peter Jackson directed this gargantuan movie about a film crew traveling to the infamous Skull Island to shoot their new movie.The rest, as they say, is history. With a great ensemble cast, terrific special effects, and a pulse-pounding third act, “King Kong” truly delivered in every way possible. It’s that rare instance of a remake that entertained me from start to finish.

The Disaster Artist [2017]
In 1994,Tim Burton took on Ed Wood, one of the worst directors of all time, and turned his story into one of the best movies of the 90’s. Fast forward 9 years and “The Room”, one of the worst films of all time, opens in one theater in LA to disastrous reviews. You don’t need to see this cult turd to appreciate what James Franco has accomplished in “The Disaster Artist”, a masterful film about the making of one of the weirdest phenomena in cinema history. Much like Burton, Franco handles the whole thing as a passion project, so much in fact that he stayed in character while directing the film. And it shows, as he fully embodies the character of Tommy Wiseau, an “ambitious” actor and filmmaker who comes to LA with his new friend Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco here), to make a movie called “The Room”. And so begins a journey filled with hope and…well…awkward moments. From a hilarious opening sequence that shows Wiseau’s lack of talent to unforgettable moments on set (oh, Hi mark!), “The Disaster Artist” is a constant pleasure. What matters is that the movie pays tribute to an unusual person who had faith in his own ideas even when no one else did. Those qualities are rooted in truth and give the movie its foundation. It doesn’t matter that the end result was catastrophic, the movie has since gained a cult following and is screened every year around the world. Franco and co wanted to honor this “accomplishment”. Needless to say, they’ve succeeded with flying colors. 

The Artist [2011]
Oscar winner for Best Picture in 2012, “The Artist” is still as memorable as it was at the time of its release.  From the first frame to the last, the movie is pure magic. The story is relatively simple and takes plot elements from so many classics such as “Sunset Blvd.”, “A Star Is Born” and even “Singing In The Rain”. French actor Jean Dujardin is simply terrific as George Valentin, the charming star of countless silent-movie epics. His character is a cross between Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks, and his smile is, in a way, evocative of those men. When we first meet him, it’s 1927, and he is on top of the world; a famous screen lover and an action-adventure hero. After the premiere of one of his movies, he meets an aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and gives her a break. But then talkies arrive, and his star status starts declining just as hers begins to rise.  In director Michel Hazanavicius’s hands, “The Artist” becomes art. Best of all, he recreates an era everyone thought was dead and buried. He builds it in the Chaplin manner. In the Buster Keaton manner. And in the Harold Lloyd manner, creating a complete, ravishing Hollywood world and reveling in the sheer transporting joy of it. “The Artist” was and still is the stuff that dreams are made of. 

Sunset Blvd [1950]
The opening scene in “Sunset Blvd.” became one of the most iconic sequences in cinema history. We meet Joe Gillis, an unemployed screenwriter, in a very unusual way. He’s floating dead in a swimming pool, recounting his doomed personal and professional involvement with megalomaniac silent movie star Norma Desmond (a wonderful Gloria Swanson). “Sunset Blvd.”, from director Billy Wilder, is a bitter and tragic tale that exposes Hollywood at its worst. It’s a very cynical view of Hollywood that still rings true today. Swanson is sensational as the fading movie star that truly believes that “stars never age”. I can’t think of a better way to end this list.

 

More movies: State and Main [200]), Be Kind Rewind [2008], Argo [2012], Barton Fink [1991], Boogie Nights [1997], Hail, Caesar! [2016], Tropic Thunder [2008], The Bad & The Beautiful [1952], Cinema Paradiso [1988], Singin’ in the Rain [1952]. 

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