An Alan Smithee Film : Burn Hollywood Burn

Wednesday, 01 February, Year 9 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

I ended up watching Burn Hollywood Burni through its inclusion in a "worst films ever made" list of dubious provenance.ii This only goes to show what a fabulous counter-predictor "public opinion" aka fecal matter actually is -- the film is nothing short of fabulous.iii

The documentary style works exceptionally well for the purpose, because it allows luxurious indirect characterisation, a celebration of the comedic as well as enjoyment potential of diversity the likes of which are rarely seen plus ample space to fill every nook and cranny with visual gags. In fact, it would be correct to say that the documentary style is only adequate for this purpose and none other -- whether you allow nature itself to provide the tropical abundance of indirect characterisation, bedazzling variety and avalanche of visual gags as in a "real" documentary or you construct them deliberately as in "news" programming or this exceptional comedy is entirely irrelevant.

The script is the worst part of the film. It's the 90s, so people still seriously think blacks may in principle be as good as whites, ridiculous as the notion may appear in light of human history. Even more comedically golden, the selfsame people imagine that the manner through which blacks may end up actually being as good as whites is through writing "liar" and "scumbag" on the profile of the white men in power but "cool" and "dude" on the profile of a coupla monkeys lost on the set. That'll make it true! Fight the oppressionarchy!!1

Twenty years later, the experience of an inept monkey posturing as a "constitutional law scholar" on the dubious credentials of breaking the law on occasion having taken the country through the worst presidential term in its recorded history has thrown enough cold water on the idiocy to sink the Titanic. It hopefully put the nonsense to bed permanently, but in any case makes it ring hollow right now. Really, da Cussack-American brothers brothers cavalryiv charge sets things right ? Nigga... puhleeze.

The cast is also not up to the task. Ex-Monty Python brainz Idle barely makes the cut. Barely. Richard Jeni is a shockingly unconvincing Rod Steigerv. Ryan O'Neal manages to be even more wooden than Alec Baldwin would have been in the role. Stiff, unexamined, inept privilege is just about all the US has produced in its brief but irrelevant cultural history, how the fuck is it that the USian has yet to be born who can play it for the camera ? A mystery for the ages, I guess, although in the plain statement above suddenly also very self-explanatory. The waitress trying to play Madonna sucks at playing Madonna. On it goes.

The film is great. A better audience, cast, and team of writers would have benefitted it greatly ; but even the spherical chickens involved do not manage to ruin it.

And oh my gawds the Variety insider gags just keep on coming and coming!

  1. 1997, by Arthur Hitler (as Alan Smithee), with Eric Idle, Naomi Campbell, Slyvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan plus a bunch of utterly irrelevant bus boys and waitresses not worthy of being given names. I don't mean of having their names given here ; I mean of having been given a name in the first place. "Hey, boy, get here!" is entirely enough appelation for all the possible needs of one Artis Leon Ivey Jr and his ilk. []
  2. The opinion is widespread, imdb for instance lists it as 3.5 based on 3`015 user ratings. That's not 3.5 out of 5, it's 3.5 out of 10. []
  3. In fairness, it was also the first film in many years where I actually had to slow it down so I could follow. I had to take a ten minute break after the first five minutes so my brain could switch gears. It was a party for the senses, finally my 64 bit bus getting to talk to a world that's wider than 64 bits rather than narrower! []
  4. Geddit ? []
  5. Have you seen Bogart's last film ? []
Category: Trilematograf
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4 Responses

  1. Free quote

    Even the insincerity is fake...
    Author: Merwyn Grote ( from St. Louis, Missouri
    24 May 2004

    I am willing to bet that when the principle players in the making of AN ALAN SMITHEE FILM: BURN, H0LLYW00D, BURN got together and read the script they probably found it hilarious. But they were probably drunk, stoned or deep into jet lag at the time. But somewhere between that first reading and the film's release, someone surely must have sobered up and noticed just how badly this film fails to deliver.

    The film is bad not just because it is bad, but because it coulda/shoulda been pretty good. Joe Eszterhas's script is sophisticated and savage and full of inside jokes. The direction by Arthur Hiller/Alan Smithee cleverly juggles ideas and viewpoints. And most of the cast give credible performances, even the nonprofessionals who contribute cameos. Obviously, everyone thought they were making a pretty good movie. In the end, the film is smart and pointed and even insightful, but it is never, never, never, never even remotely funny.

    It is hard to pinpoint just why the film ends up being so depressingly blah, but a good guess would be that it is a matter of attitude. ALAN SMITHEE is just so insultingly smug. Everybody involved is basically making fun of themselves, but not in jovial, lighthearted way. The self-deprecation is condescending: "See," they all seem to be saying, "I called myself a bastard before you had a chance. Nyah, nyah, nyah!!! I beat you to the punch." I mean what is the point of self mockery if it is intended to belittle someone else? Even the most mean-spirited of satires require a degree of innocence; a posture that allows the audience to find the humor and the hypocrisy for themselves, rather than to have it force fed to them. For instance, the film's structure, basically a series of talking head interviews, demands that the interview blurbs seem spontaneous, not preprocessed and rehearsed. Hiller skillful stages these little snatches of interviews as though they are being given on the fly, in different places and at different times, but they still seem canned. Even the characters' insincerity should seem sincerely insincere, not like tossed-off one-liners at a Friars Club roast. Even though everyone involved is obviously in on the joke, they shouldn't appear to be.

    And a major inexplicable problem is the whole black thing the film seems to be doing. This is a satire about a British director and bunch of Beverly Hills/movie studio suits, so why does the film feature rap music, African-American themed title credits and references to black directors? Is black cinema supposed to be the new New Wave or avant-garde? Is it supposed to be like references to beatniks in the fifties and hippies in the sixties, a clumsy attempt to make the squares seem hip and to make the story seem relevant (when ultimately it will only make the film seem quickly dated)? The film can't fake sincerity, why do the filmmakers think they can fake soul?

    In the end, ALAN SMITHEE seems to be little more than a home movie, a gag reel to be played at the office Christmas party. If that were the case, I suspect that all involved would still find the material funny. But, what happens at the Christmas party should stay at the Christmas party, otherwise it can just be too embarrassing.

    That's your 2/10 right there, coming loud and clear from flyover country/Trump's America over AoL. MAGA!

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 5 February 2017


  3. Hiller's decision to use the Alan Smithee credit was "very transparently not a stupid, stupid gimmick to raise interest in a terrible film". A witless Hollywood satire whose hammy, obvious jokes are neither funny nor insightful of the movie business.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 7 April 2017


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