Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Decade in Review (#2).

Films about filmmaking get a bad rap. Maybe it's because the people making these movies are often beginners. They don't have a lot of life experience, so they figure they'll do a film about filmmaking. Unfortunately, they don't really have any filmmaking experience, either.

David Mamet has filmmaking experience to spare. He'd been working in Hollywood nearly twenty years by the time he wrote and directed his film about filmmaking, State and Main (2000). And, if the characters and situations in State and Main are any indication, Mamet's days in the business have been interesting, to say the least.

The plot is simple enough. A big Hollywood production company comes to a small town to make a movie. Also, since its Mamet, you can count on a con or two. Though the motivation for the biggest con is a lot more good-natured than in most of Mamet's work.

But the real joy of State and Main is the dialog. Mamet's dialog is always excellent, and he outdoes himself here. Line for line, this may be his best screenplay. And that screenplay is served by one of Mamet's best casts, an ensemble led by William H. Macy (as the experienced director), Philip Seymour Hoffman (as the first-time screenwriter), and Alec Baldwin (as the horn-dog superstar actor).

I am tempted to start quoting my favorite lines from the movie, but, if you've already seen State and Main, you undoubtedly already have favorites of your own. If you haven't seen it... well, I wouldn't want to spoil any of it.

Honorable Mention: The Way of the Gun

Another movie about filmmaking from 2000. But The Way of the Gun is a lot more metaphorical. In fact, I didn't realize the filmmaking subtext until I listened to the DVD commentary track from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (who also wrote The Usual Suspects). Gun is also pretty quotable, and its plot is twisty as hell. Mamet would be proud.

Tomorrow: "Call it, friend-o."

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