/Answers: The Best Movies About Making Movies

Jacob Hall: Ed Wood

“Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better!”

I imagine that everyone who has ever stepped behind a camera will feel a connection to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. More than just a (often quite accurate!) biopic of the “worst director of all time,” this film is a tribute to outsider artists and those with powerful, unique visions who simply lack the technical skill to actually realize them. As someone who dabbled with directing before realizing that he was no good at it and should never be allowed to call the shots on a film set ever, watching Johnny Depp’s Edward D. Wood Jr. struggle to realize his personal (and baffling) visions hits home. Some people have a story. A great story. They just don’t have the talent to realize it on screen. And there’s something powerful and lovely about that. The greatest artists have the ability to bring their dreams to life. But others, the Ed Woods of the world, can only stumble forward, powered by optimism and an unbreakable will. Unshakeable and woefully untalented, Wood is one of cinema’s greatest heroes. Its greatest dreamer.

Beyond that, Ed Wood really does capture the “let’s put on a show!” spirit of low-budget cinema, a world that attracts a delightful combination of eccentric weirdos, spirited young artists, and blue collar technicians just hoping to collect a paycheck. Making a movie is really just a long process of a makeshift family somehow getting away with something. No film has ever captured that better.

Matt Donato: Boogie Nights

Movies about making movies – what average cinema attendee doesn’t love a peek behind the proverbial curtain? Movies like Tropic Thunder or The Disaster Artist hilariously explore the mindset of “creative types” and how their wildest ideas are recreated on large – or small – scale stages. But to me, there’s no better flick about the creation of art than Paul Thomas Anderson’s infamous Boogie Nights, a porno empire period spectacle about ’70s freedoms, ’80s downfalls and the absolute insanity of filmmaking, explicit or not.

Lash Mark Wahlberg with Hollywood digs all you like these days, but the braggadocious Bostonian flashed audiences more than a glimpse of his acting prowess as starstruck leading hunk Dirk Diggler. A rags-to-filthy-riches story about such an isolated world of ridiculousness – the almost lawless porn industry – that parallels every meteoric high and crushing low felt by the most out-of-control celebrities. Heather Graham as a roller-skatin’ hottie, John C. Reilly as a magic man, Burt Reynolds as the worshipped kingpin, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nina Hartley – all so distinctly characterized, caught up by fame/fortune/whatever their vice. Maybe even love.

Searching deeper, Boogie Nights takes all the preconceptions about “show business” and plays these subplots to a soundtrack of cussing and moaning. Burt’s Horner faced with a changing industry and his desire to promote a legacy of quality (no, really, he’s in it for the characters). Diggler overwhelmed by temptations, distractions from performance, schemes; battles that intensify when you’re only encouraged and rarely told “No.” We’re reminded, over and over, that Horner’s crew are mere humans despite their surreal lifestyles – everything looks great on camera, but what goes on behind the scenes if infinitely more interesting. And I mean, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson pulling the strings. Jazzy chaos and madness forever reign.

Plus, what’s there not to love about a movie featuring character names like Amber Waves and Reed Rothchild? The late Mr. Hoffman emotionally breaking down in incredible fashion. Macy ever the pushover gone too far. Drug robberies turned deadly, the sexiest kind of cinematic trash and yes, THAT Diggler moment. How good Boogie Nights is shouldn’t be a dirty little secret – dare I say PTA’s best?

Catch me in the right mood and I just might dare.

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