Quick: name a question that you ask someone you’ve just met. Survey says...”So, what do you do?” Our work lives take up a large chunk of your waking hours, and it’s natural that people want to talk about what they do. It’s therefore no surprise that filmmakers often can’t resist the urge to make films about filmmaking. When you combine incredibly creative people with a form of artistic endeavour that no doubt features just as many combative personalities behind the camera as in front of it, it’s natural that those filmmakers might want to combine their personal lives with their professional ones. Thus we enter the strangely recursive rabbit hole of films about films.
Obviously that’s only a general genre when we’re talking about Super 8, JJ Abrams’ and Steven Spielberg’s homage to the backyard filmmaking endeavours of their youths, but it’s still somewhat applicable, and what’s more, gives us a nice framework to use to discuss the rest of this venerable category of film. There have been dozens of films about the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood, of course, although they rarely seem to strike a chord with general audiences; there’s something insider baseball-y about them, and many viewers are content to suspend their disbelief when attending a movie; we don’t always want to see the man behind the curtain who makes their appearance possible. As such, many of the more Hollywood-oriented films have been less than successful, with even critical darlings like Boogie Nights and Adaptation not exactly lighting up the box office.
But that doesn’t mean that Super 8 is going to follow in those footsteps; the movie is presumably much more about aliens than it is about filmmaking, and I’m prepared to predict that it’ll do pretty well at the box office as a result. (The names above the title don’t hurt, of course.) Still, its release seemed to lend itself to a discussion of the films-about-filmmaking genre, and as such, that’s what we’ll be tackling this week. Expect stories about the best “fake movies” ever made, a Scenester entry on 8 ½, a feature on the recurring motif of the obsessive director, Barton Fink and how it plays with audience expectations, as well as an examination of the rhetorical strategies behind the ever-popular usage of fake movie trailers in films like Grindhouse, Tropic Thunder, and The Last American Hero. And, of course, we’ll have a full review of Super 8 later this week.
But what about you? What’s your favorite film about filmmaking? If we don’t have a concept for it yet, someone needs to make one and flesh it out!