Saturday, December 19, 2015
AN ALAN SMITHEE FILM: BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN (1997)
Directed By: Arthur Hiller (As Alan Smithee)
Written By: Joe Esztherhas
Cinematography By: Reynaldo Villalobos
Editor: L. James Langlois
Cast: Eric Idle, Ryan O’Neal, Richard Jeni, Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, Chuck D, Coolio, Sandra Bernhard, Harvey Weinstein, Leslie Stefanson, MC Lyte, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jim Piddock, Suli McCullough, Naomi Campbell, Robert Evans, Robert Shapiro, Shane Black, Billy Bob Thornton, Dominick Dunne, Joe Eszterhas, Larry King, Peter Bart
The humor of the film is based on a director who makes a big budget film And wants his name taken off the film. The offer is to be credited as Alan Smithee. The problem is that is the directors actual name. Since he can't get another name to credit it by instead. He kidnaps the film as then the Hollywood community searches for him and he film. As he is made plenty of deals and offers for the film back. A documentary crew films the search and interviews the participants.
Eric Idle is a strange choice in the role of Alan Smithee. He does on but really brings nothing to the role. Except that he seems particularly idiotic and seems to be mugging for the role. More than anything else. That feels out of touch with the film. Then again as the film is all Over the place. Maybe it does fit
What started off as what seemed more like a comedic spec by noted and celebrated screenwriter Joe Esztherhas that was more meant to be a good read. Then got actually put into production that seemed to predict it's own problems and ultimate demise.
As it seems like the roles were written for certain actors. Who decided not to actually do his film and were replaced by others who were stars but not of the same stature. So that the roles that the original actors who has the roles written for them specifically as it would be funnier seeing them play the roles. Only here it plays not strongly and actually awkwardly. It could have worked out unfortunately it doesn't.
For instance the film within a film that has been stolen originally was supposed to have Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwartzenegger play themselves. Over s decade before THE EXPENDABLES, For this epic film instead you have Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan. Not as powerful a statement. As one of the jokes of the film would be these guys would never really star in a film together at that time and they wouldn't. Because we would never see them together except in once scene and not necessarily an action scene. And they would all be appearing in This film a mockumentary. So you would have three of the biggest box office champions and actions stars In a dialogue based comedy playing themselves.
The action film they are supposed to star in looks horrible and just strange especially with the casting changes. Though it looks likens film that could have been made around that time, but with the replacement casting. Makes the film not seem as much of a priority. Making the film seem even more like a strange time capsule. So while the rules of Hollywood might change slightly. In certain ways they also stay the same.
Ryan O'Neal gives the best performance of the film. As he plays it like he is trying to earn a comeback. Which would have been great if in a better film. Though he is believable as a hateful studio exec. It seems more lien stunt casting that actually works. Though one wonders as Arthur Hiller directed O'Neal in the hit LOVE STORY. If this wasn't just a reunion and both were hoping would jump start their careers and bring back the old magic. After all Mickey Rourke was up for the role, Though he is also not known for comedic roles.
Chuck D and Coolio as a hip and powerful black directing team comes off as odd. As the roles were originally written for The Hughes Brothers (MENACE II SOCIETY)
Joe Eszterhas is a noted screenwriter of trashy films (SHOWGIRLS, BASIC INSTINCT, SLIVER, FLASHDANCE, JAGGED EDGE) intentional comedy is obviously not in his forte. Though as at the time he didn't seem that he could do any wrong. As well as he was a rock star amongst screenwriters for how much he actually got paid. This stab at trying something a bit different seemed worthy. As it probably played better on the page than in execution. He might also be the reason why writers or screenwriters have been given little respect or seen more as disposable as he might be studios answer to what happens if a screenwriter gets too much power and success.
As comedy is not in his wheelhouse might explain why this film is so hard to take. It has jokes and premises that when shown or told. Feel like all the humor has been sucked out of the film and most of it's scenes. Here he is stir got trying to write his version of satire. Though it's not strong and feels like there is no reason for it.
Another problem is that the film is vulgar. Which I have no problem with usually, but here it's obscene and crass for no reason.
The film is very misogynistic as almost every female role is in some way sexual and or the characters are only tolerated for their beauty. Now while I am sure that is true in Hollywood and other places. The film could have made an effort for some more powerful important female roles.
One of the problems of the film is that it's not very funny. It plays way too broad and while there are instances of humor. It feels like it is trying too hard and like most of the jokes are offbeat from the rhythm they should have.
Another problem is that this was a film and script that was way too inside Hollywood for anyone who doesn't follow or know the film business to understand, or even really care about. It plays to the people inside the industry but little anywhere else. Movie insiders might love it and people who work in the entertainment business can have fun guessing who what role is based on. As the cast plays disguised versions of real life industry professionals at the time or at least amalgams of them.
The comedy isn't physical or even witty. Since it is mostly filmed like a mockumentary (but breaks and in some scenes filmed as a regular movie) we never get real character scenes or behavior. It's more the actors talking to the camera in character giving comments and monologues. Which can work, but is usually not that great for films. That aren't true documentaries. After awhile it feels monotonous and you just want it to end. Especially if they don't really offer anything new or move the film Along really.
Again the casting is strange. Like some of it was done last minute and gotten whoever they could find with a name at the time. Though it is amusing to see producer and studio head Harvey Weinsten in his acting debut in a supporting role. His only role to date that I know of and it requires real acting as he isn't playing himself or a version of himself.
Eric Idle himself said in various interviews meant to promote the film that "this is rather dreadful". Michael York and Mick Jagger were considered to play the role
The film is very of It's time and was lame when it came out. I should know I actually watched it once it was released... On video.
The film is a mean-spirited poison soaked love letter to Hollywood.
Originally the whole joke of the film was that it was supposed to be title An Alan Smithee film. Based in the alias or name that if a director wanted their name taken off a film for whatever reason and didn't want to be credited. That was the pseudonym provided for quite a few decades. Now it has changed usually making up your own. Though it today's media soaked and gossip soaked news. Even if you did enough people would know who really directed it. That was the joke, but directed Arthur Hiller and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas got along until it became town to edit the film and Hiller wanted to wash his hands of the film and the edit so he asked to be credited as Alan Smithee. So that is why it is credited that way. Even though when production first started he made an announcement that he would be proudly putting his name as director in the film. So now the films title officially is credited as BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN... An Alan Smithee film. Though as he didn't really direct anything after this film. Was it a promotional stunt or was he really disappointed in the final product. Probably a bit of both .
After Arthur Hiller had his credit changed to Alan Smithee, the Director's Guild of America unregistered the name Alan Smithee. This is the last film to ever bear that pseudonym. He supposedly removed his name from the credits after the film's production company, Cinergi Pictures, preferred the cut made by producer/writer Joe Ezterhas over Arthur Hiller 's cut.
Arthur Hiller a director of a few comedy classics is also not up the challenge when it comes to this film. He tries to add some old school director polish. He ends up doing the best he can with the material. He usually makes films that are comedic but more contained and clean cut. Maybe a bit racy but innocently. This material is way too strong and classless. It would even make director and Hollywood film historian Peter Bogdanovich blush If he made it. As he would have been one of the first people i would have thought of to direct it. Making a string in joke Hollywood film seems up his alley.
During post-production, Joe Ezterhas announced through the media that Cinergi Pictures didn't have the money to pay for a soundtrack. He said he would finance the soundtrack himself, and asked artists to submit tracks for it. He received 9,200 CDs and cassettes, mostly from unknown, unsigned artists. He listened to a few tracks from each album, and compiled the soundtrack.