A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Living in Oblivion

January 4, 2011

Living in Oblivion

For my birthday Amanda told me I could choose any movie from our collection. Well, of the two hundred and forty we haven’t reviewed yet. That’s a tough choice. How do I select a movie from all those that works as a birthday present for myself? I toyed briefly with the notion of going out and buying the 39 Steps since it’s my thirty-ninth birthday, but ultimately I was too lazy to go out (too bad, since I’m unlikely to have another 39th birthday during the project) so instead I settled on doing a movie about movies. It just seemed right for the project.

I’m in love with this movie because I’m in love with movies. John Godfrey Saxe is said to have declared that in order to respect laws and sausages you must never see them being made – this movie is proof that the complete opposite is true of most artistic endeavours. That’s why I love listening to commentary tracks and watching making-of documentaries and seeing outtakes. There’s an unbelievable magic that has to happen for a cooperative effort like a film to happen at all, much less be any good. This movie is the best expression of that impossible convergence of ability, perseverance and blind luck that is necessary for a good movie.

Steve Buscemi plays director Nick, who is having problems on the set of his little independent movie. At first it’s little things like the boom mike falling into frame or noise from off-set interfering with the dialog. But as with any small group of people forced together and doing long hours on a project there are tensions. As the movie progresses everything slowly falls apart. It’s not just that Nick can’t get that perfect shot he has planned – the whole production is in danger.

There is so much that is clever and fun about this movie. It jumps from black and white to color and back to distinguish the moments caught by the camera from the “real world” of the people trying to make the movie. There’s a fantastic bit where Nick has a complete meltdown because an annoying beeping noise is ruining the sixth or seventh take of a very emotional scene he’s trying to capture – and after he has shouted at every member of the cast and crew and torn the set apart in frustration he wakes up to discover the noise was his alarm clock. Waking him up so he’ll be in on time for another day of shooting. I’ve had that exact dream, albeit with different stresses causing the outburst, so it’s fun to see it so well captured on film.

Absolutely everything about this movie is charming and wonderful. It was made on an absolute shoestring – funded in large part by the actors themselves. (During a Q&A session featured on the DVD writer/director Tom DiCillio admits that in many cases he gave roles to friends who put in a few thousand dollars to keep the project going. It’s like Ed Wood – but with a good movie being the result.) Everybody’s performances are great but the highlights are Katherine Keener as Nichole, the star of the movie, Rica Martins as her co-star in the first scene and later as Nick’s addled mother, and of course Buscemi himself proving that he’s not just a quirky character actor but can actually headline a movie. There’s a great nightmare of a self-absorbed big name actor called Chad Palmero which was apparently written for Brad Pitt to play but is played instead by James LeGros. Many of the biggest laughs in the movie come from his astonishingly bad instincts about what makes for good blocking in his scene and I can totally see Brad Pitt in the part. Then there’s Peter Dinklage, fast becoming one of my favorite actors by the way, who plays a little person actor completely fed up with being cast in roles meant for little people. (There must be a bit of self-insert here since Peter has since made a career for himself playing roles that were NOT written for little people.)

Every time I watch this it is filled with laugh-out-loud moments, and every time it increases my respect for all the hard-working people who somehow put aside their personal differences long enough to make movies happen. If it were not for all those wonderful, crazy artists I wouldn’t have hundreds of movies filling every shelf and flat surface in my apartment. Thank you Tom Dicillio – you made this a very happy birthday for me.

January 4, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This was Peter Dinklage’s first film role, per IMDb.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | January 5, 2011 | Reply

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