Thursday, November 3, 2011

F These Movies About Movies

Movies about making movies aren't just about Hollywood wanking off. Sometimes they're about Hollywood congratulating its own ability to make fun of itself, which is another form of wanking off. Let us F.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) - It sounds douchey to call anything "my favorite Keaton movie," but Sherlock Jr. is my favorite Buster Keaton movie. Because I like FILMS! I've seen over 70 of them. Buster Keaton (just calling him Keaton makes me sound like a douche) was way ahead of his time, and the fact that he was making a movie that was self-reflexive about a technology still in its infancy is proof of that. Even without all that meta nonsense, though, Sherlock Jr. is really, really, really funny. Ultimately, that's all that matters.

2. The Big Picture (1989) - Christopher Guest's first movie as director is still his best. I know lots of people will consider that blasphemy, because Waiting for Guffman, but the sooner you accept the truth the sooner you will live outside of the Matrix. Abe and the Babe? Neil Sussman? Plus, I can't tell you how many pretentious student movies I've seen that look exactly like the pretentious student movies in The Big Picture.

3. Living in Oblivion (1995) - Tom DiCillo's modest classic, based on his own experiences making his debut movie Johnny Suede, had the foresight to make fun of the '90s indie movie scene despite being made right in the middle of it. Catherine Keener and James LeGros are both excellent, and it has one of the best last scenes of the decade. See it if you haven't.

4. Sunset Blvd. (1950) - The best Billy Wilder movies are timeless, and even though Sunset Blvd. takes place in a Hollywood that no longer exists, the dialogue sounds as though it could have been written last week. It's amazing just how cynical the screenplay is, not just about the movie industry (considering it hadn't been around that long, relatively speaking), but about the world. A dark movie. An awesome movie.

5. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) - Part of Woody Allen's greatest creative period (from Annie Hall to Crimes and Misdemeanors, minus some dramas) is a sweet, sad, beautiful movie about loneliness and fantasy, and about how those of us that really love movies tend to spend much of our lives up on the screen. Purple Rose takes that very literally. Later remade to greater effect as Last Action Hero.

6. Singin' in the Rain (1952) - Yes, it's the best movie musical ever made, but what's amazing about Singin' in the Rain is that if you took out all of the songs (which are great) and all of the dance numbers (which are incredible), you would still have a great, great romantic comedy about Hollywood's transformation from silent film to the sound era.

7. Matinee (1993) - Anyone who reads or listens to F This Movie! with any regularity knows that this is one of my very favorite movies from one of my very favorite directors, so I don't need to say that much about it. If The Purple Rose of Cairo is about how movies help us escape and Inglourious Basterds is about how movies shape our worldview (for better and worse), Matinee is about how movies -- particularly horror movies -- can provide catharsis. We're prepared for the worst. We've seen the coming attractions.

8. State and Main (2000) - David Mamet's take on the corruption of art and storytelling by the Hollywood machine isn't nearly as savage as you would expect from him; actually, the movie is kind of sweet, thanks to a very sweet and understated romance between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon. Mostly, though, the movie is really funny and quotable. And I think you know...what I mean.

9. Hollywood Boulevard (1976) - Sure, this makes two Joe Dante movies on the list, but I MAKES THE RULES. Dante co-directed this with Allan Arkush as a bet with Roger Corman to prove they could make the fastest, cheapest movie in New World history. The result is a movie that makes fun of '70s-era Corman movies while still being very much a '70s-era Corman movie. It's funny, inventive, and stars Dick Miller, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov. Score.

10. Inglourious Basterds (2009) - You might think this was Quentin Tarantino's war movie, but you would be wrong. WWII is only the framework within which Tarantino composes his very best love letter to the power of cinema and our relationship with the fantasy of movie violence. Spoiler: it's different from real life. Plus, Aldo Raine! Obliiiiige him.


  1. You have just seen over 70 films? I find that hard to believe.

  2. I know, right? Probably about 75. And I know what you're thinking: Where did I find the time?