Three movies I love, which speak to anyone who wants to make a difference through the entertainment media:

Ed Wood -- Tim Burton's masterpiece. Profiles a strangely chipper lost soul of a man (Wood, played by Johnny Depp) who putters around film soundstages as a gofer but desperately wants to direct movies himself. When given the chance, he finds he's utterly unequipped to do so, flaunting his neuroses as he fails painfully and absolutely. Sometimes your best just isn't good enough, no matter how much you want it. Soul-crushingly sad and depressing for anyone at the bottom who dreams of one day making it big.

Barton Fink -- The Coen Brothers' surreal tale of a celebrated playwright's failed attempt to illuminate the plight of the common man, and break into Hollywood at the same time. While Barton's aloofness is unfortunate, his intentions are good; regardless, his minor sins are repaid with interest as his livelihood, family and everything he aspires to are crushed before him simply for trying to make great art.

Sullivan's Travels -- Surely part of the inspiration for Barton Fink. A minor film director aspires to create socially meaningful film about the plight of the common man (his dream project: an adaptation of "O Brother Where Art Thou," a made-up book spoofing The Grapes of Wrath and decades later the name of a Coen Brothers film.) His producers tell him he doesn't know the first thing about the common man, so he sets off on a journey of discovery, riding the rails dressed as a bum and accompanied by the plucky Veronica Lake. After many trials, Sullivan realizes that making stupid crap for the lowest common denominator to laugh at has value after all, and gives up on his high ideals of "art" and "social impact."

Any more to add?


Michael Abbott said...

Sullivan's Travels - oh, how I love that film. Preston Sturges is the great under-appreciated genius of the American cinema, in my view. I have yet to encounter a single student in my Intro to Film course who has ever heard of him. Sad, because I think he has a very contemporary sensibility - especially if you like the Coen Bros. films.

I'll toss another Sturges film into the ring: Palm Beach Story - totally inspired lunacy mixed with a dash of anarchy and social class critique. My favorite comedy of that era.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I just watched Barton Fink the other day. I really enjoyed it, as I have every Coen Brothers film. The ending reminded me of Being John Malkovich, which fits in with the films on your list if puppety can be classed as entertainment media. And while we're on Spike Jonze, Adaptation portrays similar themes. Seems there's a whole 'writer's block' sub genre out there.

dw said...

The Great Dictator, 1940 about the fascistic power of the broadcast voice, as seen in Slavoj Zizek's Pervert's Guide to Cinema.