Top 10 films about making films

I recently watched a film in which the plot revolved around, or at least touched on, the process of making a film. Which got me thinking about other films where this happens. Here are ten of my relatively recent favourites.

Their Finest (2016)

A rather sweet WWII-set flick which tells the story of the relationship between two screenwriters (Sam Claflin and Gemma Arterton) writing a screenplay for the Ministry of Information to boost troops’ morale. Also includes Bill Nighy doing Bill Nighy, which is always a good thing.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

In an attempt to make a war film more authentic a hapless director (Steve Coogan) drops his actors into the Vietnamese jungle. Trouble is, they end up in the middle of a real drug war. It takes some of the filmmakers (including Nick Nolte and Danny McBride) a while to realise what’s actually going on.

The Aviator (2004)

As part of the thread of this film, billionaire and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trying to make the film Hell’s Angels which, whilst it went on to be one of the highest grossing films of the silent era, it still lost money due to the inflated budget.

Get Shorty (1995)

Mobster (John Travolta) is sent to Hollywood to collect a debt from film producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). But upon pitching his life as a movie idea he finds being a gangster and a producer are not that different.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

For a film about the making of Mary Poppins and the relationship between its author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), it’s incredibly sweet-natured. Particularly the scenes where they’re coming up with the songs.

Son of Rambow (2007)

School bad boy Lee Carter (Will Poulter) and Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) become friends, in sort of an odd couple way when they bond over a film they’re making for a competition. Their friendship gets tested when more kids join in and Lee feels cut out.

King Kong (2005)

Ambitious director Carl Denham (Jack Black) manages to persuade playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) to head to Skull Island to film his new flick. However it all goes awry when Kong kicks off, swipes Ann and heads off into the jungle.

Super 8 (2011)

A bunch of kids (including Elle Fanning) are making a zombie movie, when all of a sudden they witness a train crash. Turns out it was no accident, and a series of events and disappearances follow. It’s up to the kids and Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) to discover the truth.

Cloverfield (2008)

A bunch of rich and attractive New York kids (including Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller) are having a party when a huge monster starts smashing up the city. They film their experience on a camera as they try and flee the city with their lives.

While We’re Young (2014)

Middle-aged filmmaker Josh Schrebnick (Ben Stiller) is stuck in a rut. Until a young, hip guy called Jamie (Adam Driver) turns up. He breathes new life into Josh’s film but then enjoys more success in weeks than Josh did in years. So, inevitably, sparks start to fly.

That’s paranoia baby!

SHUTTER ISLANDThat creeping sense of dread. Tick, tock, goes the clock. Your time is up. Is someone approaching? Did I leave the oven on? And what about those damn test results?

We’ve all got paranoid at one time or another. Difference is we’re often alone with our thoughts, or boring friends and family with our self-destructive ramblings. Whereas on film we’re witness to a character’s descent into madness, every step of the way.

Which of these mad, raving loonies are you most like in your darkest moments?

Teddy Daniels Shutter Island
This film gets better with every viewing. As Scorsese turns the screws and builds the tension on this claustrophobic island amidst a storm, we watch Leo’s mind unravel.

Howard Hughes The Aviator
DiCaprio again, this time as recluse nutcase Howard Hughes. Afraid of germs and physical contact, this has to be up there as one of the most OCD characters of all time.

Jack Torrance The Shining
Paranoia or just plain madness? Nicholson and Kubrick made quite the team for this one. It received mixed reviews on release but is now regarded as a horror classic.

Douglas Quaid Total Recall
‘If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?’ Great line. As a director, Paul Verhoeven often gets a rough ride from critics, but he’s made some great films. This is probably my favourite.

Edward ‘Brill’ Lyle Enemy of the State
A twitchy, nervous and angry Gene Hackman. What’s not to love? Convinced everyone’s out to get him and it’s Will Smith’s fault, he elevated this movie to something quite compelling.

Jeffrey Goines Twelve Monkeys
Brad Pitt as we’d never seen him before. Unhinged and demented. Fairly unknown at the time yet his performance got him a Best Supporting Actor Academy nomination.

12 monkeys Brad Pitt Bruce Willis

Cate Blanchett – modern day screen goddess

blanchett galadrielA few days after seeing the latest in the Middle Earth saga, The Hobbit, I realised a particular scene involving Blanchett had burrowed its way firmly into my subconscious.

Taking place in Rivendell, it focused on a tender moment between Gandalf and Galadriel, as they discussed the rise of a potential necromancer.

As it had been quite a few years since the LOTR trilogy I’d half forgotten how ethereal and captivating Blanchett had made Galadriel. Few actresses could have portrayed the elven queen the way she did.

This got me thinking of other characters she’s played that have had a similar impact on my subconscious, albeit for various different reasons. Galadriel aside, here’s my list:

Katharine Hepburn – The Aviator (2004)

Playing such an iconic individual was never going to be easy. Blanchett, though, made it look effortless, with a captivating and compelling performance. She clearly revelled in the part too, adding layers to Hepburn that delighted and surprised in every scene. So much so, that the results deservedly won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

life aquatic cate blanchettJane Winslett-RichardsonThe Life Aquatic (2004)

Securing a part originally written for Kate Winslet, hence the character’s name, she played a reporter who draws both the affections of Owen Wilson’s Ned and Bill Murray’s Zissou.
Her character’s relationship with Ned was wonderfully sweet and affecting and gave the film a lot of heart.

Irina SpalkoIndiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Granted her character is a one-size-fits-all, clichéd Russian baddie, but this type of adventure action movie is a guilty pleasure, so surely that’s the point? That said, in a role that could’ve been one-dimensional, Blanchett gave Spalko depth and intensity. Her climactic ‘I vant to know’ scene cemented a place on this list.

marissa weigler cate blanchett hannaMarissa WeiglerHanna (2011)

Directed by Joe Wright, this dark, intelligent, fairy tale-esque action film played like a Brothers Grimm version of a Bourne film. Or a thinking person’s Kick-Ass. Here, Blanchett played an immoral and ruthless CIA agent, bent on chasing down Saoirse Ronan’s teen assassin Hanna. Another over-the-top villain? Possibly, but still a great performance.

Daisy FullerThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

To say this film divided people is an understatement. From two reviews I read earlier – both well-respected critics – one gave it one star and one gave it five. Love or hate the story, it’s difficult to fault Blanchett’s beautifully nuanced performance, as the love interest to Brad Pitt’s increasingly youthful Benjamin Button.