5 Best Films about Hollywood.

2800338627_c5df023aac5. A Star Is Born

The 1954 ver­sion, obvi­ous­ly. Direct­ed by George Cukor, script­ed by Dorothy Park­er and star­ring Judy Gar­land as the inno­cent ingénue dis­cov­ered by Hol­ly­wood heart-throb James Mason. Her “Born In A Trunk” med­ley makes this a gen­uine Hol­ly­wood classic. 

And make sure it’s the restored 176 minute ver­sion from 1983. They stitched it togeth­er by insert­ing pub­lic­i­ty stills in place of some of the lost footage. But it all works sur­pris­ing­ly well, and looks at times like a care­ful­ly planned art-house film.


4. The Player

Sup­pos­ed­ly an indict­ment of Hol­ly­wood, Robert Alt­man’s clever thriller is in fact a clos­et cel­e­bra­tion of the sys­tem it sly­ly pre­tends to sat­i­rize. The sub plot cen­tres around a hor­ri­bly believ­able car­i­ca­ture of a Euro­pean writer, whose sin­cer­i­ty is flagged by his refusal to allow his opus to be sul­lied by any­thing as vul­gar as stars.

But he quick­ly sees the light. And his movie ends as Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts enjoy a glo­ri­ous­ly clichéd, Hol­ly­wood kiss.

The film’s amoral­i­ty and tri­umphant cyn­i­cism are punc­tu­at­ed by the pitch per­fect cameos from every­one who was any­one at the time it was made, in 1992.


wallpaper043. Mul­hol­land Dr.

As David Thom­son point­ed out in his per­cep­tive review, the “Dr” of the title stands a much for Dreams as it does for Dri­ve, where the film is set in the Hol­ly­wood hills. 

A direc­tor, an actress and a star­let move from dream to night­mare and back again in a series over­lap­ping and inter­weav­ing sce­nar­ios. The idea of Hol­ly­wood being presided over by an actu­al cow­boy is all too appeal­ing, but only David Lynch would have imag­ined him tak­ing his respon­si­bil­i­ties com­plete­ly seriously. 


Visu­al­ly arrest­ing and haunt­ing­ly evoca­tive, it is, giv­en its trou­bled his­to­ry (it was orig­i­nal­ly begun as a TV series) a sur­pris­ing­ly engag­ing film, that deliv­ers an unex­pect­ed emo­tion­al punch.


2. Sun­set Boulevard

William Hold­en is the embit­tered writer, Glo­ria Swan­son the fad­ed god­dess from a bygone age, and Eric Von Stro­heim (who direct­ed the majes­tic Greed in 1924) her but­ler in Bil­ly Wilder’s razor-sharp satire of the indus­try they were all work­ing in.

It’s hard to know what’s more con­temp­tu­ous; Wilder’s cast­ing of Swan­son and Stro­heim as painful par­o­dies of their for­mer selves, or the lat­ter’s agree­ment to both act in the film.


rg363b1. The Bad And The Beautiful

An actress (Lana Turn­er if you don’t mind), a writer and a direc­tor are for­ev­er embit­tered after an arche­typ­al­ly ambi­tious Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­er launch­es their respec­tive careers as only he could; as a means of fur­ther­ing his own. 

Played with irre­sistible charm by Kirk Dou­glas, his Jonathon Shields projects the per­fect mix of mag­net­ism and ruth­less­ness. And of the many, many details that the film gets absolute­ly spot on, my favourite is the coat of arms he insists on hang­ing por­ten­tous­ly on the gates to his mansion. 

They read: non sans droit. “Not with­out right”. Which was the mot­to orig­i­nal­ly penned by one William Shake­speare on his coat of arms.

That this is nev­er referred to in its dia­logue is a tes­ta­ment to the film’s infec­tious­ly con­fi­dent swag­ger. And direc­tor Vin­cente Min­nel­li some­how strikes the per­fect bal­ance between sophis­ti­cat­ed cyn­i­cism and exu­ber­ant, heady melodrama.

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