A Star is Born (1937)
A Star is Born. What a title. It promises greatness, wish fulfillment and a kind of immortality. What could sustain such a fire? What could possibly bring forth such legendary light? Even a star has humble beginnings and we meet our speck of star dust in a provincial home on a snowy day in Smalltown, USA. It is classic Americana movie making that marries depression era silents to the slow emerging prosperity of WWII America still harboring a romantic vision of manifest destiny.
There is an embittered aunt, a struggling pop, a bright but unformed kid brother, but most importantly and impressively a wise grandmother played with brilliance by May Robson. If you ever need inspiration watch her speech to Janet Gaynor's young and determined Esther, as she encourages her to follow her dreams of being an actress in Hollywood. It practically sings with the spirit of the wild west, not to mention female empowerment.Continue Reading
Chili Palmer (Travolta) is a Miami shylock who finds himself looking for a new career path in life. While chasing down a collection, Chili encounters a B-movie producer named Harry Zim (Hackman) and his scream-queen star, Karen Flores (Russo). Harry has backed himself into a corner, owning money to a local hoodlum (Lindo), who tries to get a piece of the best script Harry has ever owned. In steps Chili, who loves Tinseltown and decides to become a producer. Chili and Karen approach her ex-husband, mega-movie star, Martin Weir (DeVito), to star in the film.
After a successful career as a cinematographer (Raising Arizona, Misery), Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) took his place in the director’s chair. After two successful Addam’s Family films, he brought Elmore Leonard’s bestseller to the big screen.Continue Reading
Set in Depression-era Hollywood, Inserts follows the lives of a has-been film director and his entourage of “degenerates” that helps him lead a career directing pornography. The movie might bring to mind a stage play as it is set in a single day, in one room, and follows the actions of the cast in real time. What made the story interesting was realizing that the glamorous and privileged approach to blockbuster films in the late '20s was also used with smut. The performances and heavy dialogue also allow you to mentally compare the fickle and sleazy attitudes in the filmmaking industry of yesteryear with those of today.
Richard Dreyfuss plays The Boy Wonder, a young director known for his achievements in silent film who discovered that he couldn't direct talkies. He's hit rock bottom, just like the rest of America during the Depression, and refuses to leave his Hollywood Hills home. He's dealing with a looming anxiety about not only being a failure but what will happen to his home when the city wants to build a freeway through the land. When a fellow called Big Mac (Bob Hoskins) offered him a contract to direct porn, he took it, not knowing that having such a brutish producer might be the end of him for good. Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) is his star in the picture, and a real handful. Sparing no time, she dives into a frenzy of antics and gossip before settling into her heroin fix. Her co-star is the young and naive Rex the Wonder Dog (Stephen Davies), who laps up praise from others so quickly that you'd think he was a bit dense. The three try to pick up from where they last left off filming and are disturbed by a knock on the door. Harlene's daily gossip comprised of telling the director that the then unknown Clark Gable thought he was a genius and wanted him to direct again. She gave him his address, and now he's come to talk. The Boy Wonder wants nothing to do with that world and sends Rex to shoo him away. They pick up again and grow close to finishing when Mac makes an entrance with his fiance Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper), who is mesmerized by their activities. Mac's presence causes tension because he's paying for the picture and providing Harlene's drugs. Once the actors are paid and high, The Boy Wonder finds it nearly impossible to continue working. As Mac bullies everyone and makes them uncomfortable, Harlene exits the room to shoot up and the others talk of developments in both the film world and America's future.Continue Reading
The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down
Are you one of those people who drives past a club and sees all the scantily clad ladies and roguish gents lined up outside a club and wonder, “Is that really their idea of a good time?” I've never understood the thrill of clubbing and, upon seldom experience, always walked away with anxiety over the smell of sweaty bodies and hard liquor. Clubs are often featured in films as this oasis of sexy young 20-somethings and pulsating music to which anyone with pizazz and the right clothing can go and have a great time. This movie not only takes you into the cliched world of nightlife in Los Angeles, but it also sheds a light on the absurdity and downright funny aspects of partying. By mocking those who thrive on heavy drinking, narcotics and noisy music, it presents the party-hardy lifestyle as something to experience, if only for the opportunity to marvel at mankind in one of its most praised, and yet semi-barbaric, rituals.
The movie supports an extremely large cast and focuses on no one in particular. It begins with several groups of friends and roommates choosing where to hang out in Hollywood. The goal for most of the men is to get laid, while the women, the narrator claims, act as if they are hanging out with their girlfriends but are really after the same thing. It then differentiates between clubs, house parties, and after parties when the dreaded last call has been shouted. Mixed into the action is a series of energetic doctors who are “researching” clubbers in their natural habitat. The club sequence is short, and of course we never see the inside of them.Continue Reading