Love letters to Hollywood
Hollywood's films have glamorised the art and culture of Tinseltown since the dawn of filmmaking. From silent comedies to dramas, films have repeatedly paid their dues to Hollywood and film-making itself. The newest example is La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash - already considered to be nailed on for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Here are five films devoted to Hollywood and the art of film-making.
Show People (1928)
One of the first films to show devotion for Hollywood, Show People is a curio worth seeking out. It is a film created in an uncertain era – after pioneering “talkie” The Jazz Singer but before the popularity of silent films had completely faded – yet it is a light and funny work showing no signs the silent form was straining. Marion Davies features as a starlet attempting to move from low budget slapstick comedies to more serious fare. The film satirises this reverence towards dramatic films over comedies with great adoration towards light-hearted films, all the while building up Hollywood as a fun and glamorous place.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
This classic musical is the most beloved film about Old Hollywood and is likely to break through to even the most cynical viewer. Set in the era during which Show People was made, Singin’ in the Rain chronicles the difficulties of fictional silent film star Don Lockwood attempting to move into “talkies”. Full of gentle satire but ultimately joy, the musical features several of the most iconic dance numbers of all time and includes the eponymous dance and song 'Make ‘Em Laugh'.
The Last Tycoon (1976)
Elia Kazan’s opus stars Robert de Niro in an understated performance that was overshadowed by Taxi Driver from the same year. The film’s protagonist, Monroe Stahr, is a studio head attempting to develop the dozens of films his studio produces every year and resist defeat by the new guard of studio executives. Whilst the outcome for the character himself is somewhat melancholy, the film shows great nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood. It may have bombed on release, but The Last Tycoon is a rewarding and engaging watch.
Whilst a different type of ode, Argo is an entertaining homage to filmmaking. In Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film set in Iran in 1980, a group of US embassy officials pretend to be location scouts for a science fiction film in an attempt to escape from local authorities who are searching for them. Affleck crafts a tense and exciting film with a comic edge showcasing beautiful cinematography and editing. A modern classic.
Hail Caesar! (2016)
The Coen Brothers have crafted a modern pastiche drenched with love for the old studio system featuring George Clooney in a career-best comic performance. Expert production design and committed performances from the entire cast anchor this story of “studio fixer” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) trying to find Clooney’s kidnapped movie star. It is an absurd film oozing reverence for its 1950s Hollywood setting. This absurdity is charming and it is refreshing to see a breezy comedy which features many of the world’s most famous actors just having fun and committing to their delightful roles.
La La Land is on general release from 12 January 2016