Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.

March 18, 2016

WATCH ME IF YOU CAN | So Meta: Movies about Movies

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Movies that walk you through how a movie is made give off a metatheatrical vibe.  The Academy also happens to favor these kinds of film when choosing best picture.  Here  are some films that are reflective of show business.

ARGO.  The film that Ben Affleck directed and starred in hit it big at the 2013 Academy Awards, taking home the little golden man for Best Picture.  CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck) launches a mission, pretending to be a Hollywood producer scouting a location in Tehran, when his end goal all along was to rescue six Americans held hostage in 1980.  However, they must go through the process of actually making a film, complete with a screenplay, a cast and promotion events in order to exaggerate the project’s legitimacy.  The cast includes John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston.  The film was based on a section of a memoir written by Tony Mendez entitled The Master of Disguise.  You can definitely feel the pressures that the hostages feel on the screen, and the source material lends itself very well to the silver screen.

THE AVIATOR.  Even though many thought Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) was only known for his advances in aviation, he was also a filmmaker in the 1920s (Hell’s Angels, anyone?).  The OCD Hughes suffers from is on the extreme side of the mental illness, and we see it overtake his work on aviation and in cinema as well.  This film is especially meta because Scorsese makes this film revolve around movies due to his emphasis on production value.   He filters each decade with the same techniques that corresponding films of those time periods would have had.  For example, the 1920s had the technicolor boom, when all greens looked turquoise and cameras picked up bold primary colors the most.  The aesthetics are absolutely amazing, and he maintains this technique throughout the film.

SINGIN IN THE RAIN.  This movie-musical shows the difficult transitions many faced in Hollywood at the birth of the talkie film, and how adapting to it wasn’t so easy.  Film stars Lina and Don ( and Gene Kelly) are silent film stars in the 1920’s. Come The Jazz Singer, the world’s first talkie puts actors in a whirlwind of re-learning their craft, or abandoning the industry altogether.  The music is catchy, the friction between the two transitioning film styles is hilarious, and I honestly could watch this film everyday and never grow bored.  The cast included Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds working alongside Gene Kelly.  Singin’ in the Rain is lauded as the best movie-musical ever, along with one of the best movies ever.  Gene Kelly directed, starred and choreographed the film.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.  This film gives audiences an inside look on the difficulty many directors faced when working with Monroe, along with the crazy schedule of producing a movie overall.  It is based off the diary of Colin (Eddie Redmayne), who lands a gig as Sir Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) personal assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). We see the emotional side of Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), as she struggles to become an actress and abandon the label of solely being a celebrity.  My Week with Marilyn is poignant and emotional, and Williams’s performance makes it so easy to sympathize with Monroe and want to come to her aid.  I find the casting of this film particularly interesting, since Olivier and Branagh are both serious stage actors and have both portrayed Hamlet on film.

BE KIND, REWIND.  This film illustrates the amateur level of filmmaking.  Once Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized and erases all the footage on the VHS rental store going out of business, he and his co-workers (Yasiin Bey and Melonie Diaz) decide that their best option is to recreate the movies and put them on the cleared videotapes.  As they compete with rising DVD outlets, their movie-making team grows, along with their popularity as a movie distributor.  Anyone who enjoys a good spoof would love the efforts the team makes to recreate classics like Ghostbusters and The Lion King, just to name two of the gags made especially for the film buffs.  Mia Farrow even appears in this film, making it most delicious for anyone who loves Rosemary’s Baby.

Marina Caitlin Watts is a senior studying Communication. In addition to writing for The Sun, she has also been published on various film websites along with The Daily Beast. She loves Frank Sinatra and hates decaf coffee. If you need her, she is waiting for Godot. Watch Me If You Can appears on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at mwatts@cornellsun.com.

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