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Here Are 10 Great Hollywood Satires

Here Are 10 Great Hollywood Satires

Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of May’s Indie Film Month.

With the On Demand release of “Trust Me” — which follows Clark Gregg as a down on his luck child talent agent Howard Holloway — we’ve compiled a list of some of the most memorable films that satirize the Hollywood film industry. From straight up comedies, to action thrillers to classic musicals, this list isn’t afraid to make fun of its own.

Argo” dir. Ben
Affleck (2012)
People will be
wondering how Ben Affleck was snubbed of a Best Director Oscar nomination for
years. But what matters is that while
offering up a suspenseful, espionage drama, “Argo” also simultaneously takes a
few funny stabs at the film industry. Affleck stars as tony Mendez, a CIA
operative who’s tasked with rescuing six Americans in Tehran during the Iranian hostage
crisis of 1980. He and the captives adopt the under cover personas of Canadian
Hollywood producers scouting the location for a science fiction film.  John Goodman plays John Chambers, a make up
artist who had previously crafted disguises for the CIA, with Alan Arkin
rounding out the cast as producer Lester Siegel. The duo’s task of creating a believable film production company provides the comic relief in an otherwise nail-biting drama. (Casey Cipriani)

“Bamboozled” dir. Spike Lee (2000)
Spike Lee’s cunning satire of American racism is a nod to “Network.” Pierre Delacroix, a black Harvard-educated TV network executive, is at his wit’s end with his racist boss, who dismisses show ideas that portray black people in a positive light as “Cosby clones.” At a boiling point, Delacroix must either create a hit black-centric show or be fired. He shoots for the latter, creating a satirical minstrel show filled to the brim with blackface, racist slurs and stereotypes. Of course, he intends to get fired, but what happens is to quite the contrary: the show is a hugely successful hit. It even wins an Emmy award and starts a nationwide blackface trend. The meta-layers of comedic satire draw some serious attention to the way African Americans fare in Hollywood. (Emily Buder)

“Barton Fink” dir. The Coen Brothers (1991)
Set in the 1940s, with all the definite style of the Coen Brothers, and tastefully mixing a little slapstick into the satire, “Barton Fink” stars John Turturro as the wide-eyed and impotent Fink, a writer who sets off “to change the world” via Hollywood. Writers, boozers, and monstrous men are here as components of the movie-making industry, but taken to literal and even horrific extremes that makes this film both funny and actually fearsome. And of course, as Fink sees himself as the understander of the Common Man and The Life of the Mind, he renders John Goodman unforgettable in one of his most infamous sequences (“I’ll show YOU the life of the mind!”). (Taylor Lindsay)

“Ed Wood” dir. Tim Burton (1994)
Tim Burton’s biopic about the infamous low-budget director Ed Wood is, at once both a satire of Hollywood and a love letter to cinema. Burton paints an intimate, psychological portrait of Wood that explores the director’s not-so-secret passion for cross-dressing and agora sweaters, as well as his strange personal and professional relationship with horror film icon Bela Lugosi. Burton satirizes Hollywood’s uncouth tradition of discarding stars through a morphine addicted Lugosi, expertly played by Martin Landau. Although Lugosi’s overly dramatic style of performance makes for a good laugh, the lonely life he leads — constantly in a drugged stupor, surrounded by memorabilia from his heyday in Hollywood — openly critiques Hollywood’s exploitative nature. Burton even extends the critique to include Wood, who starts off by befriending Lugosi and ultimately leverages their friendship for his own professional gain. At the same time, however, Burton seems to be celebrating the filmmaking process via Wood’s persistence — his refusal to give up on filmmaking, despite his projects being panned by critics. (Shipra Gupta)

“For Your
Consideration” dir. Christopher Guest (2006)

Leave it to
Christopher Guest to satirize his own industry. Here Guest takes his signature
dry humor and over-the-top characters and applies them to Hollywood’s
production pitfalls and awards season mayhem. Catherin O’Hara stars as Marilyn
Hack, an aging actress who earns sudden praise for a recent film. Her
transformation from hard working and humble to demanding diva with a freak show
face is all too recognizable in an industry that creates personas and
encourages greed. Harry Shearer plays Victor Allen Miller, an acting veteran
who is more well known for playing a hot dog mascot than he is for his film
career. When the two are cast in a Jewish-centric drama called “Home for
Purim,” the behind the scenes decision making of Hollywood insiders is
hilariously revealed. As their awards buzz increases, so does the
insanity. (Casey Cipriani)

“Mulholland Drive” dir. David Lynch (2001)
If you like your Hollywood satires on the creepy and cryptic side, take a ride to “Muholland Drive,” David Lynch’s surreal interpretation of the Hollywood universe. The twisty neo-noir takes place in the blurry land between dreams and Hollywood nightmares — where an aspiring blonde actress crosses paths with a voluptuous brunette. There’s a film director too and somehow they all mesh together like pieces in a warped puzzle. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s mesmerizing to watch — don’t forget to keep a lookout for references to other films, such as Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” (Paula Bernstein)

“The Player” dir. Robert Altman (1992)
Based on Michael Tolkin’s novel of the same name, “The Player” centers on a Hollywood executive who, after receiving a series of anonymous death threats, kills an aspiring writer who he believes to be the source of the threats. Tim Robbins stars as the executive and Vincent D’Onofrio makes an appearance as the writer who gets murdered. The Coens follow in Altman’s footsteps by using murder as a plot device in “Barton Fink,” but the circumstances surrounding the murder in the Coen film are much murkier. (Shipra Gupta)

“Singin’ in the
Rain” dir. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen (1952)

Everyone knows
the title song to this musical comedy classic. The film is on dozens of
favorites lineups and is consistently placed on a number of AFI’s best lists.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is a for a number of reasons, one of them being the spot
on portrayal of the old Hollywood studio system and the mad dash to transform
from the silent era to the sound era. Gene Kelly co-directed and stars as Don
Lockwood, a silent film star with a killer dance ability. Debbie Reynolds plays
Kathy Selden, a chorus girl with dreams of stardom.  With the 1927 release of “The Jazz Singer,”
studios scramble to turn their silent film actors into eloquent speakers and
singers and their films into “talkies.” Don and Kathy team up to teach actors
and actresses how to speak properly and earn their own accolades along the way.
“Singin’ in the Rain” not only contains some of the best singing and dancing of
the era, but it’s also a fun film to watch, especially on a rainy day. (Casey Cipriani)

“State and Main” dir. David Mamet (2000)
The beauty of David Mamet’s 2000 comedy starring William H. Macy and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is that everyone is in on the joke. As a producer/writer combo who take over a small town with calamitous results, Macy is at his sleaziest and Hoffman his most pathetic. The former craves money while the latter craves art, but neither is spared the satirical sword cutting through each scene like a windmill slices through air. Hoffman’s sad-sack screenwriter sobs over the many, many alterations demanded of his perfect script, yet he’s still susceptible to the allures of Hollywood — including his self-righteous leading lady played with an extra octave in her voice by Sarah Jessica Parker. He’s just in denial about it instead of proud, like Macy’s problem-solving producer. Light and breezy with an apt charm, “State and Main” is nonetheless brutal in its condemnation of Tinseltown politics overriding Smallville’s basic needs. Oh, and Alec Baldwin’s depiction of an actor always caught in precarious situations of his own doing is not to be missed. (Ben Travers)

“Sullivan’s Travels” dir. Preston Sturges (1941)
With “Sullivan’s Travels,” Preston Sturges set the narrative precedent for satires about Hollywood. The film centers on John L. Sullivan (played by Joel McCrea), a successful comedy director, who wants to make meaningful films. After the studio rejects his pitch to direct a more serious, socially relevant film, Sullivan leaves Hollywood behind, dressed up as a hobo, embarking on a journey to learn what life is like for the average man. At the conclusion of his travels, however, Sullivan learns that comedy can actually make a positive social impact on the masses. Sullivan’s preoccupation with creating a socially-relevant film re-emerges in the Coen Brothers own satire on Hollywood, “Barton Fink.” Fink can be described as an ideological descendent of Sullivan — although a much more jaded one at that. (Shipra Gupta)

Indiewire has partnered with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand to kick off May’s Indie Film Month. Enjoy exceptionally creative and uniquely entertaining new Indie releases (“Joe,” “The Double,” “Grand Piano,” and more) along with classic, Throwback Thursday indie titles (“500 Days of Summer,” “Pulp Fiction,” and more) – all month long on Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand. Go HERE daily for movie reviews, interviews, and exclusive footage of the suggested TWC movie of the day and catch the best Indie titles on TWC Movies On Demand.

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