Sunday, July 7, 2013

HOLLYWOOD RIPS ITSELF A NEW ONE


If you think that the ultra-right wing of the GOP has it in for Hollywood, you should see what the elites on the left are parsing out. Some of the most stinging takedowns of Tinseltown’s culture are coming from within the very confines of the 90210 zip code. In fact, two of this summer’s best movies are blistering dark comedies savaging the town that were made by Hollywood insiders.
Filmmaker Sofia Coppola is the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and her movies have always been tinged with the bitterness of a child who stood too close to the malarkey of the fame game. In LOST IN TRANSLATION and SOMEWHERE she told knowing stories about big movie star types who tired of the celebrity carousel and wanted off the dizzying ride. Now she’s turned her focus from the insiders to the outsiders that desperately want to hop on. In her black comedy THE BLING RING she tells the true story of a group of privileged LA teens so aching to live the glam lifestyles of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, they literally started stealing from their idols to achieve it.
Emily Watson in THE BLING RING.
‘The Bling Ring’, as they were dubbed, was a core group of five teens (played with the right mix of innocence and snarkiness here by young actors Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emily Watson, Taissa Farmiga and Claire Julien) that coveted the designer duds and partying ways of their TMZ favorites. Between 2008-2009, these materialistic brats brazenly broke into the Hollywood hills homes of Lindsay and Paris, as well as Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox and Audrina Patridge, and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of their clothes, jewelry, money and other baubles of fame.
Sofia Coppola wrote and directed THE BLING RING.
Watching such disaffected youth casually commit these crimes, nonchalantly climbing over locked gates, then rummaging through the celeb’s closets, couldn’t help but remind me of the antics of the Manson girls back in the late 60’s. Those hippie outsiders used to “creepy crawl” through Bel Air homes too and steal whatever they deemed worth taking. Chilling too is the same devil-may-care expressions on the ‘Bling Ring’ girls, not far from the smirking faces of Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten sitting on trial for the Tate/LaBianca murders. The girls in THE BLING RING may not be murderers like Manson’s minions, but they too are ‘takers’ with utterly sociopathic inclinations.

Then there’s THIS IS THE END, one of the most hilarious movies to come down the pike in a while. Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg are Hollywood insiders, and best buds, and here they’ve worked together to create a viciously funny putdown of young Hollywood actors mistaking fame for greatness. It takes place at a Hollywood party hosted by James Franco (as himself) filled with narcissistic celebs (all playing themselves) snorting, drinking and engaging in all kinds of lurid acts. Then, their world comes to an end. Literally. The earth explodes and starts swallowing up the sinners (most of Franco’s guests) and saving the good for God. Those remaining behind must fend off the devil that is now ruling the hell on earth, and figure out just why they weren’t deemed ‘Rapture’ worthy.
James Franco's party takes a turn for the worse in THIS IS THE END.
The young Hollywood crew left behind, including Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson, come to the realization that they may be marquee names, but that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily earned a VIP pass to the afterlife. Rogan and Goldberg recognize that there are too many false idols in town, and the true worth of someone lies beyond their ability to ‘open a movie’. It’s bold to take the piss out of your very existence, but Rogan and Goldberg clearly do here. Their movie be over-the-top dirty and even offensive to some, but its message of righteousness is as pure as the driven snow.
Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, the creators of THIS IS THE END.
Both THIS IS THE END and THE BLING RING are modern morality plays, joining the esteemed ranks of other films ripping Hollywood like SUNSET BOULEVARD, S.O.B., BARTON FINK, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, BOWFINGER, and a number of Woody Allen movies, just to name a few. And both new films cut similarly, and deeply, as only films by those who’ve lived it could. Coppola, Rogan, Goldberg and crew may all have lived exceptionally coddled lives, but at least they know that doesn’t make them quite as special as Us magazine would tell us they are. In a town known for its navel gazing and selfishness, it’s an utter marvel to see such ‘anti-vanity’ projects coming from within.

Now if we could just get Hollywood to stop making so many movies about robots.

2 comments:

  1. I watched This Is the End for the first time last night and was overall very pleased. I do think there were a few wasted opportunities (how with that many Jewish actors there wasn't a "chosen people" joke, I'll never know), but for the most part it's a real gem.

    I've never been terribly religious, but I was RAISED in the Catholic church, whose combination of fear and mysticism was enough to scare the pants off of any little kid (see what I did there?). My initial thought when watching TITE was to balk at the overtly religious story, but I soon realized that it was just a fantastic framing device. For anyone who even grew up in the same district as RELIGION, you realize just how frightening the idea of Revelations is. It's a thing that you never completely shake, so using it as the primary driver for this narrative about how we should all take ourselves less seriously and be nicer to one another is genius. Especially coming from someone like Rogen, who by his own admission has never really been able to reconcile his orthodox past with his opulent present.

    A very good film.

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  2. Very well said, Brett. And thanks for following and commenting. Indeed, too much of religion impacts people negatively. It is awful the amount of war, discrimination and oppression strewn through history in the name of one God or another. Of course, such drama does tend to lend itself towards a crackling yarn here and there, even in the case of a black comedy such as THIS IS THE END with its overt religious themes. I applaud anyone who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but at the end, it would be nice if religion had more positive proof points to laud, rather than such harrowing ones to decry.

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