The 89th Academy Awards kicks off this Sunday. For us film fanatics, the #Oscars is basically Super Bowl Sunday, so it’s pretty exciting stuff. With that in mind, it’s time to turn our attention to Hollywood’s greatest love — itself. Almost as long as there have been movies, there have been movies about movies, ranging from wholesome homages to scathing satire. So before Hollywood's big night, let’s look at five of the best self-reflexive movies about Hollywood, from ingenuous tributes to more scornful efforts.
5. La La Land (2016)
It makes sense to start with La La Land, the movie that is nominated for a record-tying 14 awards at this weekend’s show. #LaLaLand is the story of the relationship between aspiring jazz club owner Seb and wannabe actress Mia (Emma Stone). The film is a breathtakingly beautiful homage to a classical Hollywood that perhaps no longer exists, while also remaining contemporary and original. As such, it invites comparison to Singin’ in the Rain, both musicals that pay nostalgic tribute to the Hollywood dream factory, with Ryan Gosling's character even swinging from a lamp post at one point! Although the opening scene is a tad saccharine, the movie is a bittersweet tale of the triumph of ambition and career over love.
4. Maps To The Stars (2014)
Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, referred to Maps to the Stars as an “exquisitely horrible” depiction of contemporary Hollywood. It is extremely difficult to think of a satire more biting than David Cronenberg’s modern masterpiece. The ensemble piece is populated with a range of kooky and deranged characters, from incestuous pyromaniacs to drug-addicted child stars.
The scene-stealer of the film is Julianne Moore's Havana Segrand, an aging actress desperate to step out of the shadow of her famous late mother, who was also an actress. The film is a case study in Freudian neuroticism and is well worth a watch for any fan of #Cronenberg’s specific brand of body horror and humor. You can check out the trailer below.
3. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Named by BBC Culture as the best movie of the 21st century and by far the scariest film on this list, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is a poisonous ode to Hollywood. The first half of the movie focuses on Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring actress fresh off the plane to LA who meets and falls in love with Rita, an amnesiac woman who recently survived a car accident.
In the second half, the film basically folds in on itself and the audience is never really sure who is who and what is going on. Suffice it to say that Mulholland Drive is a frightening and tragic story of the hollowness of Hollywood and the people it chews up and spits out. You can look at Betty's audition scene below:
2. Singin' In The Rain (1952)
This is the film to which subsequent movie musicals will forever be compared. The story is relatively simple: Gene Kelly's famous silent movie actor Don Lockwood must reinvent himself for the onslaught of the sound era in film, with the help of love interest Kathy Selden, played by the effervescent Debbie Reynolds.
Singin’ in the Rain dramatizes the change from silent pictures to talkies, thereby celebrating Hollywood history. This toe-tapping musical is filled with spectacular dance numbers like "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Good Morning." But perhaps more significantly than that, Singin’ in the Rain provides a poignant insight into an industry in flux by looking at Hollywood’s attempts to move into the talkie era. The difficult transition from silent movies to films with sound is hilariously evident in the scene below:
1. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
No. 1 goes to Billy Wilder’s acerbic story of the delusions of a washed-up movie star, a film that has practically ingrained itself into popular culture with its sharp dialogue and the sureness of Wilder’s direction. Gloria Swanson, herself an actress whose heyday was well behind her, plays Norma Desmond — a deliciously disturbed Miss Havisham-type figure — with camp aplomb.
Sunset Boulevard is essentially a film noir, opening with the dead body of a writer who then proceeds to provide the voiceover for this dramatic tale — American Beauty, eat your heart out! The film also includes cameos from Buster Keaton, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and Cecil B. DeMille. Still a classic. Check out its most famous scene below:
What's your favourite movie about Hollywood?