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The Big Picture
Who has had a wilder ride along the path to Hollywood stardom than Kevin Bacon? The pop culture icon, who is six degrees of separation from every actor and actress in Hollywood (and only 3 degrees of separation from yours truly), has appeared in Friday the 13th, Diner, Animal House, Footloose, Apollo 13, JFK and A Few Good Men. Not bad work if you can get it.
Before The Big Picture, Bacon was a teen idol struggling to find more substantial and challenging roles. He wanted to show the world that he was more than a pretty face who could dance. This Hollywood satire gave him the opportunity he had been seeking.
Bacon stars as Nick Chapman, an award winning film student from Ohio. After succeeding at the National Film Institute, he is eager to start making movies and money. While his friend and cinematographer, Emmett Sumner (Michael McKean), wants to take a less fulfilling job that will pay the bills and get him into the union, Nick wants to maintain his integrity by refusing to compromise his vision. That is a great challenge in Hollywood.
Nick is besieged with offers from agents and studios who have never seen his film, but claim that he is the next filmmaking genius. He decides to work with studio executive Allen Habel (J.T. Walsh), but soon learns that Allen is more interested in producing a formulaic romp than allowing him to express his vision.
Will our hero maintain his integrity or will he be drawn into the alluring and intoxicating world of Hollywood?
Not only does Michael McKean play an integral role, but he teamed up with Christopher Guest and Michael Varhol to write a damning, biting and intelligent script about the heartless and absurd Hollywood game. They demonstrate to the audience a corporate approach studios are regularly taking to filmmaking. Instead of making an interesting story that takes some chances or advances the art, studios are driven by a desire to create a profitable marketing vehicle.
This film, made in 1989, brilliantly describes why the 90's independent filmmaking revolution started. Frustrated with studio executives concerned with the bottomline, stock options and golden parachutes, artists such as Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarrantino and others decided to buck the system to make a series of films that are only rivaled by their 70's counterparts like Scorcese, Allen, Coppola and Spielberg.
The writers establish a wonderful contrast between Emmett and Nick. Emmett, a little older and with family, tries to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground and views his profession as a fun way to make a living. However, Nick is drawn into the Hollywood scene of fancy parties, beautiful women, big money and even bigger egos. It is a faster ride, but one with a harder fall.
Some of the film's best scenes involve how other studio executives want to change Nick's film and the other movies pitched to him or made by other directors. These wonderful asides provide the biggest laughs. Guest, who also directed, leaves no stone unturned.
There have been many films about Hollywood, but this is one of the best. Check it out this weekend.
Directed by Christopher Guest
Written by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Michael Varhol
Kevin Bacon . Nick Chapman
Emily Longstreth ... Susan Rawlings
J.T. Walsh Allen Habel
Jennifer Jason Leigh .. Lydia Johnson
Michael McKean .. Emmett Sumner
Teri Hatcher . Gretchen
Many Fabulous Cameos!!!!!
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