Academic Writing

Thursday, December 14, 2006

For Your Consideration - 12/14/06

Definitely "Consider" this one

For Your Consideration opens with Bette Davis declaring her love for Henry Fonda in a classic Hollywood scene from Jezebel. This richly glamorous and emotional scene starkly juxtaposes the film which ensues. Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy collaborate once again to spoof Hollywood in this latest vehicle. Guest and Levy abandoned their traditional "mockumentary" platform for a more traditional narrative. In this film, Catherine O’Hara plays Marilyn Hack, an aging actress who can’t even remember the roles which made her famous. In her newest movie, Home for Purim, she is the dying mother to Shmuel (Brian Chubb being played by Christopher Moynihan) and Rachel (Callie Webb played by Parker Posey). Before Purim is even completed, a set onlooker posts a blurb on his personal blog about how he thinks that Home for Purim could be an Oscar contender and its leading actors could be up for nods as well. As the coverage over the potential nominations grows, so do the egos. Their self-inflation leads them to ridiculous plastic surgeries and absurd senses of their self worth and self-promotion. Of course, when the nominations don’t all go according to plan, their egos are quickly deflated and the actors are relegated to menial acting tasks such as teaching, doing commercials and performing in lame one-woman shows – as if one’s worth as an actor is only defined by the awards for which they are nominated and the media attention they can garner.

In one scene, the "suits from the office" coming down to suggest to the producer (Jennifer Coolidge) and writers (Bob Balaban and Michael McKean) that they change the movie’s name from Home for Purim to Home for Thanksgiving to make it more appealing to a mass audience. This is a blatant reference to Hollywood pandering to audiences who will make them the most money. The suits insist that this change is to "tone down the Jewishness" and thereby appeal to a greater audience. Of course, what makes no difference to them is the loss of cultural importance and religious significance the holiday holds to the characters and to the film itself. This is a clear dig to Hollywood’s constant insistence on investing money in movies which appeal to mass audiences and earning the most money for the studios, regardless of what cultural importance might be lost in the process.

Furthermore, relying heavily on insider jokes, this film is the latest in the growing list of self referential programming being produced by Hollywood. Preceded by the Emmy winning Entourage, 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Consideration relies heavily on this growing tradition. The audience is expected to deduce which characters are which: the publicists, directors, etc are introduced without having their roles explicitly explained. With all of the Hollywood-centric programming out there, the "insider" club is a lot less exclusive and a lot more accessible. That is something which also detracts from the glamour of Hollywood. The more accessible it is, the less exciting and alluring it becomes. Additionally, the 24/7 paparazzi attacks have also detracted from Hollywood glitz and taught America that movie stars are human and make the same mistakes other people do. Through this, Hollywood "starlets" have lost the glamour that they were once so known for. Film actresses are no longer idealized as they once were, and furthermore, movies no longer have lines that with which people say along while tears are brimming in their eyes; it is almost as though smart and interesting dialogue is inconsequential. The writing process is about as far removed from that of the "olden days" as possible. Movies are all about the image, and appeasing the mass audiences who watch them. The scene from Jezebel showed audiences how powerful a movie can be without compromising those ideals.

Furthermore, another aspect of the movie industry which it mocks is the fact that it doesn’t even matter how the final outcome of the movie looks. A film’s worth is only dependant on how the press focuses on it, and subsequently, the media will center its attention on saying what they think the audiences want to hear. That exact thing happened this season with Dreamgirls. This movie is the most buzzed about film of the season, and much of the buzz began well before editing of the film was even complete. However, that buzz created such a frenzy about the movie all of the media outlets insisted on singing its praises without ever having seen the film. That media indulgence is depicted in this movie by Fred Willard and Jane Lynch. They play a pair of perfectly annoying Entertainment Tonight-esq anchors who cater to the interests of the audience who support the program. When interviewing the cast of Home for Purim, they care little about asking about the actual film; rather they focus on silly gossipy questions and other nonsense.

In their typical style the collaborators who brought us A Mighty Wind and Best in Show, bring audiences another spoof on another American tradition, this time attacking the very medium which has brought them their fame and fortune. Yet, by kicking this gift horse in the mouth they somehow manage to do it in a non-ungrateful manner, and hopefully it will even strengthen the industry from whence it comes.

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