Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Editor
With this weekend’s release of the Coen brothers’ HAIL, CAESAR! – a 1950s satire that follows a group of Hollywood something-or-others who are tasked with finding one of their own after he’s been kidnapped – we’ve compiled a list of some of the most memorable features that satirize Hollywood film industry.
From flatout comedies, sci-fi action to musicals, these films are not shy to make fun of their own industry.
ED WOOD (1994)
Tim Burton’s biopic about the eccentric low-budget film director Ed Wood is yet another perfect marriage between Johnny Depp and the once great Burton. The film is simultaneously a satire of Hollywood and film about a man and his passion for him.
Burton created an intimate study that on the surface seems fun and freewheeling, but is a stark portrait about a man who has a penchant for cross-dressing and his deep friendship with horror icon, turned morphine addict Bela Lugosi, played in an Oscar-winning turn by Martin Landau.
Landau and Depp’s over-the-top performances make for a bowl of belly laughs, but throughout the film there’s a deep sadness for time lost and how the many failures in life and loneliness can be heartbreaking. Wood even goes as far into nearly exploiting his friendship with Lugosi into professional gain.
ED WOOD is probably Burton’s best film that celebrates the successes and brutal failures in the life of a legendary filmmaker with zero talent.
– James Cole Clay
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (2006)
Awards buzz has become something of a pastime for the film industry, whether for better or worse. The Internet has given studios a weapon with which to scatter gain publicity for their projects, and generate a campaign through the media. Writer/director Christopher Guest took this concept and ran with it in FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION.
The film centers around an independent feature called Home for Purim, a movie that features an American Jewish family, in the South, during the 1940s, that has a dying mother, a lesbian daughter and her girlfriend, and a soldier son (all of which can be considered as “Oscar bait”).
Out of nowhere, an Internet rumor surfaces about Marilyn Hack (Catherine O’Hara) possibly being award-worthy for portraying the mother; soon after other co-stars get the same buzz. The only problem is that the movie hasn’t even been completed yet.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION keeps its satire as a cynical pairing to the actual heart of its characters, giving it a warm balance. The buzzworthy actors are grounded as the commotion around them acts as the comedy, from media to Hollywood agents. The industry concept of awards is the joke, and one that’s ever-so-present today.
– Jared McMillan
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)
There’s a reason that one of the greatest musicals of all time has managed to stay fresh after 60+ years. Sure, it’s more known for the song-and-dance numbers, but the fact is that the story reflects a) how slow Hollywood is to anticipate change, and b) once it hits, the studios will meddle with the product to keep up with the times (see: every movie that gets converted to 3D).
Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the incomparable Jean Hagen) are two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. However, technology has allowed sound to catch up with picture; the release of THE JAZZ SINGER puts every studio on notice. Suddenly, the new Lockwood & Lamont picture needs to have their voices, only Lockwood can’t really act and Lamont has one of the worst voices imaginable.
The satire lies within the lengths people are willing to go in keeping their star bright in Hollywood. They dub Lamont’s voice with Lockwood’s new gal Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), using tricks to keep the money-making pair together. Even in one of the first scenes, Lockwood talks to a reporter about his polished life, but is intercut with the actual events of Don and his musical partner Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) doing whatever they could to make it.
Hollywood will always be about its image. Everyone is trying to get to the top or stay on top. Studios will implement new thoughts or ideas to the chagrin of everyone involved, but it will only be successful if there is heart in the product. And that’s where SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN maintains its brilliance.
– Jared McMillan
GALAXY QUEST (1999)
GALAXY QUEST is about otherworldly visitors who picked up Earth’s TV signal through space and thought the show “Galaxy Quest” was a documentary and not a work of fiction. Desperate for help to resolve an intergalactic issue, the aliens travel to a sci-fi convention to recruit the entire cast of the show, which includes the likes of Sigourney Weaver, the late-and-great Alan Rickman and Tim Allen.
The film satirizes bad sci-fi tropes and fan culture in general. And the problem with releasing films like this is it takes awhile for them to gain traction. In the case of this film, when it released in 1999, many people most likely wanted to see an actual sci-fi action film and not something clever as the film is.
Luckily there are services like Netflix and other streaming services that help a film find an audience. GALAXY QUEST is undoubtedly a cult favorite and a film that seamlessly captures the ridiculousness of sci-fi and the obsessive fans that follow.
– Preston Barta
HAIL, CAESAR! opens tomorrow.