Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, February 25, 2011

Academy Awards, You Lie: Seven Movies that Expose the Real Hollywood

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM

The central myth propagated by the annual Academy Awards telecast is that Hollywood is one big happy family of mutually supportive artists in thrall to the sacred muse of inspiration. (We'll pause for a minute while you stop laughing ...) You know better, and here are seven harsh beauties to blot out all those Oscar night air kisses. Don't expect a happy ending.

Barton Fink (1991)
A progressive, intellectual New York playwright (inspired by Odets and played by John Turturro) cashes in with a screenwriting gig in L.A. circa 1941. The Coen brothers take enormous and perhaps undue pleasure in mapping Barton's Hollywood highway of hell. John Goodman repeats, "Here's to the life of the mind." Indeed.

The Player (1992)
Acerbic outsiders Robert Altman and Michael Tolkin (adapting his viciously funny novel) enlist a slew of stars to ridicule the paranoia, resentment and gutlessness that account for the current state of American movies. Tim Robbins plays a fair-haired exec with a Machiavellian gift for navigating studio politics as well as a knack, perhaps, for getting away with murder.

The Big Knife (1955)
Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) adapts Clifford Odets' bitterly savage play about a movie star (Jack Palance) torn between the spoils of success and the last shreds of his conscience. With Rod Steiger as a ruthless studio honcho and Shelley Winters as an aspiring actress cast mostly in bedroom scenes, if you get my drift. We couldn't find a trailer for this one, but the opening sequence tells you a lot about the film itself.

In a Lonely Place (1950)
Humphrey Bogart delivers a blow for the scribes as a brooding, unlikable screenwriter with a short fuse. Gloria Grahame (then married to director Nicholas Ray) shines as the neighbor who supplies an alibi, and much more, when Bogie is suspected of murder.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Kirk Douglas anchors Vincent Minnelli's melodramatic potboiler about a desperate producer scheming to enlist the services of a director (Barry Sullivan), writer (Dick Powell) and star (Lana Turner) he screwed on the way up. Yep, just one big happy family.

Contempt (1963)
Everything is for sale--or is it?--in Jean-Luc Godard's brilliantly stylized and composed parable of art and commerce. A crass American producer (our old pal Jack Palance) hires Michel Piccoli to pen a mainstream-accessible screenplay of The Odyssey for director Fritz Lang (playing himself). The luscious Brigitte Bardot, as Piccoli's seemingly passive wife, is the fulcrum upon which the plot turns.

The Big Picture (1989)
Hotshot film-school grad Kevin Bacon is primed to make his Hollywood debut with the "help" of studio functionary J.T. Walsh. A wave of compromises and betrayals inevitably follows, with director Christopher Guest (Best In Show) displaying somewhat less cynicism than his black-hearted cohorts on this list.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Michael Fox


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"