Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The top 10 "Hollywood" movies (at least according to me)

Reader Sandra, you got your wish.

Wondering as a Friday question or just as a separate post, if you can make a list of movies that portrays Hollywood best as per you.

Some lists do exist on net, but by outsiders and journos. Which movie do you think portrays Hollywood screw-ups/odd-balls/wackos best ;)

There are lots of movies. Hollywood loves itself. And there are everybody’s obligatory favorites like SINGING IN THE RAIN, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, and A STAR IS BORN (all eight versions except the Barbra Streisand one). And I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of comments from people annoyed that I didn’t include this movie or that. So to save you the trouble – I didn’t care for ADAPTATION. I hated HAIL CAESAR and BARTON FINK. I adore Preston Sturges films but SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS is my least favorite. S.O.B.’s big moment was getting to see Julie Andrews’ breasts, so big whoop. Ultimately, what I decided to do is just select my top ten (in no apparent order except for number one).

SUNSET BOULEVARD – The ultimate Hollywood Babylon film. Billy Wilder’s haunting 1950 tale of a screenwriter moving into an old mansion owned by a deranged former silent film star, Norma Desmond, is still the gold standard. “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille” is one of the great lines in all of cinema. Gloria Swanson plays Faye Dunaway (although she doesn’t know it).

THE BIG PICTURE – This forgotten film from 1989 is a comic gem. It was co-written and directed by Christopher Guest and stars Kevin Bacon, Michael McKean, and even the great Emily Longstreth. Part satire/part nightmare. And standout supporting performances by J.T. Walsh and Martin Short. Find and watch this movie immediately.

THE PLAYER – Robert Altman’s dark tale of modern Hollywood starring Tim Robbins is enough to send you packing for a return trip to Des Moines.

THE STUNT MAN – Peter O’Toole’s finest role when he wasn’t playing a guy named Larry. Richard Rush crafted a visually striking film that blurs the line between what’s real and surreal. This is another rarely seen film that’s worth seeking out.

GET SHORTY – Elmore Leonard’s perfect blend of crime and comedy populated with rich characters. How could you not love someone named Chili Palmer? One of Travolta’s best comeback vehicles.

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS – Kevin Spacey played the biggest Hollywood asshole ever. Modeled after probably fifty guys who modeled their behavior after producer Joel Silver.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL – Hollywood noir at its best. Curtis Hanson’s masterpiece. Russell Crowe’s best movie. And I don’t think he hit anyone on the set.

BOWFINGER – Steve Martin’s nutty take on Tinsel Town. Eddie Murphy is a riot in this film. I think Martin also modeled his character on Joel Silver.  (So did Trump apparently.)   

THE ARTIST – The modern day silent movie that won Best Picture in 2011. To hold an audience’s interest with that one gimmick was pretty impressive.

MULLHOLLAND DRIVE – is pretty cool and erotic. David Lynch so don’t expect a lot of big production numbers.

Those are mine.  What are yours?  


normadesmond said...

i highly approve of your #1.

dgwphotography said...

I love that you included The Stuntman. Peter O'Toole was certainly a treat, but I still think he was even better in My Favorite Year.

Fred Vogel said...

Excellent choices. I still get a kick out of watching the opening scene in The Player.

Roger Owen Green said...


Justin Russo said...

Aside from your list:

I have to do it: The BAD and the Beautiful (not the BOLD). Gloria Grahame at her finest before the lip surgery and sleeping with her stepson did her in. Lana Turner is pretty damn great, too.

"In A Lonely Place"--Another Graham smash but Bogart may be at his best here. This movie is easily one of the best to come out of Hollywood in any genre.

The 1937 "A Star is Born" for sure; and "What Price Hollywood?"--Frederic March is one of the most talented actors on screen. Constance Bennett is sadly forgotten.

"The Day of the Locusts--the book is better but the tale is superb.

"The Star"--Bette Davis's post-Margo role that takes a stab at Crawford. She's sublime in it.

"Mulholland Drive"

Steve Bailey said...

It's probably too "inside" for the mallrat crowd, but I thought Albert Brooks' THE MUSE was hilarious, esp. the cameos from Hollywood biggies such as Martin Scorsese.

Steve Bailey said...

It's probably too "inside" for the mallrat crowd, but I thought Albert Brooks' THE MUSE was hilarious, esp. the cameos from Hollywood biggies such as Martin Scorsese.

blinky said...

1 Young Frankenstein
2 King Kong 1939
3 Cloverfield
4 District 9
5 Lord of the Rings Trilogy
6 The Mysterians (First movie I saw in a theater.)
7 It, The Terror from Beyond Space (Alien origin)
8 Plan 9 From Outer Space
9 Ed Wood
10 A Place in the Sun

Sung said...

Great picks here, Ken. I'd add Living in Oblivion to the list -- it's a small movie made back in 1995, starring Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener and many others about the making of an independent movie. Very funny, especially some killer lines from a young Peter Dinklage.

Starts With Story said...

I was thinking of My Favorite Year too. Also Laughter On The 23rd Floor.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about Sunset Boulevard, the obvious #1 choice, is that the big shots in Hollywood hated it when it debuted.

Unknown said...

Sunset Boulevard has a couple of moments that I wonder how Billy Wilder got them past the Breen Office.

Both of them are at the beer bust (OK, probably more than beer) in Jack Webb's bungalow:

- Yvette Vickers's screen debut, during a time when that lady was actually trying to pass herself off as "jail bait".

- Webb's introduction of Bill Holden:
"You all know Joe Gillis - screenwriter, diamond smuggler, and former Black Dahlia suspect!"

Honeycutt Powell said...

I love STATE AND MAIN with William H. Macy heading an all-star cast about filming a movie on location in Vermont. Laughs all the way through!

K said...

Moon over Pardor
Dreyfuss is spitting out movie/acting shots all over the movie.
When Raul Julia tells him to assume the role ( I am paraphrasing) and Dreyfuss comment about what a good director he was finding the motivation for the actors was so accurate.

Brad Apling said...

The Third Man
Gigot (a dramatic side to Jackie Gleason little seen in his Honeymooners character)

Buttermilk Sky said...

(I think blinky missed the point of this post.)

To all the usual nominees (I love SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and BARTON FINK) I would add a movie you may never have seen, SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT. James Cagney plays a bandleader-turned-movie-star and does some terrific dancing, and there are sharp digs at everything from the studio system to racism. TCM shows it from time to time.

Bill O said...

Big Picture, for all its virtues, has an incredibly tasteless but funny scene that seems to reference Vic Morrow's death. Tasteless part comes from having his daughter edited into it as a spectator to the movie-within-a-movie.

Dixon Steele said...

You hated BARTON FINK???!!!

DBenson said...

Sunset Boulevard: The only movie where Jack Webb is the upbeat comedy relief.

Anonymous said...

#1: "Dr. Strangelove". "Hail Ceasar" was OK. The production numbers are worth the whole movie.

DBenson said...

Why did so many professional comedy people keep coming back to the idea of comedy being nothing more than incompetence?

In SHOW PEOPLE, MAKE ME A STAR, METRON OF THE MOVIES, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE COPS, and however many others, characters who aspire to Dramatic Stardom are so bad they becomes successful comedians. In Chaplin's CIRCUS, and in Lewis's THE STOOGE, THE ERRAND BOY and THE PATSY, the character isn't even trying to perform.

THE PRODUCERS: A strange and special case, since the schemers are not only trying to deliver a bad show, but one that audiences will actively hate. Note that after the jawdropping opening number, which the onscreen audience DOES hate, Brooks shows very little of what makes that audience laugh (all we know is that Dick Shawn's stoned Hitler is wandering off script). Most movies insist on showing us the so-bad-it's-funny stuff (which is rarely that funny to the film viewer).

Brian O. said...

ED WOOD is a giddy film that loves the bottom of the barrel section of Hollywood and its "family." Mike Starr does a fun turn as a producer (who could also play Joel Silver).

VP81955 said...

To Justin Russo:

Anyone who saw the 1937 "Topper" (or its underrated sequel, "Topper Takes a Trip") will never forget Constance Bennett, aka Marion Kerby. Connie made for one sexy ghost.

VP81955 said...

To Donald Benson:

So glad you brought up "Show People," a silent gem that slipped my mind. One of two masterpieces King Vidor directed in 1928 (the other is the slice-of-life comedy/drama "The Crowd"), it and "The Patsy" prove Marion Davies was a splendidly talented comedic actress, in no way a Susan Alexander Kane, something Orson Welles publicly apologized for during the last few decades of his life. (Charles Foster Kane was a composite of several magnates around during Welles' youth, none of whom other than William Randolph Hearst had anything to do with the newspaper industry.) And Davies was beloved in Hollywood for her generosity; she founded a children's medical clinic at UCLA, which for many years bore her name.)

Anonymous said...

OK. I missed the point too. Dr. Strangelove is not the #1 "Hollywood" movie. Don't have a favorite movie, but "Episodes" does it for me on TV.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone mention Boogie Nights?

Anonymous said...

The Bad and the Beautiful, The Player, Living in Oblivion, Hollywood Shuffle, State and Main, For Your Consideration. Janice B.

D. McEwan said...

Finally, someone besides myself who doesn't worship at the alter of Sullivan's Travels, a movie I consider the epitome of the "Over-Rated Movie." Give me The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story or Unfaithfully Yours. (But I quite enjoyed Hail Caesar.

Liked your list, though I've not seen Swimming With Sharks or Get Shorty (My policy of avoiding John Travolta in movies as much as humanly possible kicked in on that last one.) Of course, I must include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in any such list, and frankly What's The Matter With Helen is also a fave Hollywood movie of mine.

" blinky said...
1 Young Frankenstein
2 King Kong 1939
3 Cloverfield
4 District 9
5 Lord of the Rings Trilogy
6 The Mysterians (First movie I saw in a theater.)
7 It, The Terror from Beyond Space (Alien origin)
8 Plan 9 From Outer Space
9 Ed Wood
10 A Place in the Sun"

Ah, Blinky, only Ed Wood on your list qualifies as a Hollywood movie, though it is a damn good one.

Speaking of: folks, My Favorite Year, while a wonderful movie, is not a Hollywood movie. It's set in New York (Which ain't Hollywood) and it's about TV not movies. Same objections to Laughter on the 23rd Floor, not Hollywood, not about the movies (And frankly, it's a botched adaptation of a play that was better than the movie. Also it's not even a theatrical movie; it's a TV movie.)

Tallulah Morehead said...

That bastard Billy Wilder stole my life for Sunset Boulevard , and then didn't even offer me the role! I will never speak to him again. I'll shag him, but there will be NO conversation!

Francis Dollarhyde said...

Singin' in the Rain anyone? Also would the Tony Scott/Quentim Tarantino collaboration True Romance count, at least for the bits featuring Saul Rubinek's coke-snorting studio exec (who I believe was based on Don Simpson)?

Tudor Queen said...

I've seen and loved most of the movies on your list, and I wanted to give you special thanks for including "The Stunt Man," which, as you note, is not often mentioned (and who knows who has actually seen it?). It's well done on every level and, yes, one of the great Peter O'Toole's best performances. Barbara Hershey actually gets away with the line, "I am the movies."

If only Dominic Frontiere's wonderful score was more easily available!

JonCow said...

"Boy Meets Girl" 1938 Sam & Bella Spewack adapting their own stage play. Sharp satire about Hollywood and with James Cagney & p[at O'Brien playing a screenwriting team (a thinly disguised Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur).

Anonymous said...

joel silver.. well i work for the guy he modeled himself after in the biz.

ODJennings said...

If LA Confidential fits the category, then Chinatown deserves to be on the list as well, and Galaxy Quest is worthy of consideration because of Alan Rickman's performance as the tortured Spock-like character if for no other reason.

scottmc said...

I must second Justin Russo's recommendation of 'In a Lonely Place'. 'Place' and 'Sunset
Blvd' are both 1950 movies about less than successful screenwriters. Both also have characters who admit that they advised Selznick not to make 'Gone With the Wind'. The great line in
'In a Lonely Place' is when Bogart says 'I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me'.

Unknown said...

Not sure if they rate Top Ten, but a couple recent "films about Hollywood" entries worth a look are David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" and Nic Winding Refn's "Neon Demon"...

Phil In Phoenix said...

"The Big Picture" is one of my favorite films!

So is "S.O.B.", Blake Edwards comedy about salvaging a box office bomb. An incredible cast, including Julie Andrew's 'boobies'.

DBenson said...

"The Patsy" is definitely a vehicle for Davies's comedy chops. The high point has Davies trying to get a hungover playboy to chase her so the hero can come to her rescue. He has photos of various current movie queens around the flat, so on that thread of motivation she does deadly parodies of each one, from the ethereal virgins to the terrifying vamps. It's a riot for anybody who's seen any of the stars she savages.

She's also good in "Show People", but there she's propping up the old chestnut about lousy acting being great comedy. No genuinely bad (or even mediocre) actress could pull the faces Davies does while impersonating a bad actress.

Johnny Walker said...

Great list of movies! (And I loved Barton Fink and especially Adaptation.) Still need to see The Big Picture, though.

And surprised to hear it wasn't just me who struggled with Sullivan's Travels. There's a great story in there, but it never made its way convincingly to the surface, IMO.

It did give us Oh Brother Where Art Thou? though.

Sandra said...

Again, Thanks a lot Ken for the list.

I have seen some in your list - The player, Get shorty, The big picture, Swimming with the sharks.

Hated The player, rest were good. Will try to watch the rest.

-3- said...

Wow. Big holes in my brain are a large part of why i'm retired.

When Bowfinger came out, i dragged a bunch of people to see it, including my actor son. But i had completely forgotten it existed until reading your mention of it.

Thank you for that. I know what my Sunday night movie is going to be now.