Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In which my Age Matters: The Player

The Player is a hard one for me. I wasn't insanely interested in the film as it played and I have a feeling I missed 90% of the references and cameos. While I could say, "hey, that guy was maybe probably in a movie I've never seen" a lot, I couldn't name a lot of names or connect people with memories of having seen that film or that personal/public life hijink. And that maybe probably aspect got old after half an hour. The only way I can effectively describe this is to be a little hyperbolic. The faux film within the film offered the most recognizable cameos for me. Imagine watching the whole film and only recognizing Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Bruce Willis. That was basically my experience. Again, that's hyperbolic because I do recognize Tim Robbins, John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Cher, and a few others but given the slew of once famous people in the film, recognizing only a hand full is an absurdly small amount.

For more perspective, I've only ever seen two of Tim Robbins' films made before this one came out in 1992--Top Gun and Bull Durham--and I can absolutely guarantee you that I saw neither of those films before 1992. Any of those actors I know for things that came out LONG after this film. Why? Because I was 12 when this film came out in April of 1992 and early 1990s movies weren't one of my focuses when I decided to watch "old" movies.

For most movies, that wouldn't be a problem. We've obviously watched more movies made before I was born during this project than movies I would legally be able to watch in theater. But, the whole point of this movie is that it's a satiric insider's look at Hollywood and to watch the film effectively you have to get the cameos and one-liners that compose the film's insider quality. If you don't get those, the film is really long and drawn out.

But I also don't want to dismiss it altogether. It is an interesting and somewhat truthful look at how Hollywood works even now, so in that way it's entirely relevant almost 20 years later. It's also an really wonderful look at how reality and story can become seamlessly intertwined. But these two aspects also depend heavily on the cameo/one-liner aspect of the film for the actual satire. It's not as amusing or satiric a film if all of these famous people didn't play along and offer a send up of themselves. The trouble there is that the film then only truly lives for a certain group of people who either saw the film in 1992 or are really acquainted with those actors. Otherwise, most of the audience is actually more familiar with Vincent D'Onofrio (because of Law & Order) than Tim Robbins or any other actor in the film and that really lessens the impact and scathing commentary.

But, why did we have to watch this before we die? I'm betting the author of 1001 saw this film in 1992 and knows all of the inside jokes. But, the book also ponders, "how the cream of Hollywood's stars--from Jack Lemmon  to Julia Roberts--ever agreed to be part of this supreme exercise in subversive mischief." First, I can't place where Jack Lemon is in the film. But, second, because Hollywood loves absolutely NOTHING more than a movie about Hollywood.

Further, I'd argue that the book has a hard on for Altman: six of his films are on the list. M*A*SH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, and Short Cuts round of the six. What? No Dr. T and the Women?

Oh! I also, of course, recognize Lyle Lovett. Which just made me think of this video (which is actually more connected to this post than you'd think because Lovett and Envagelista were both in Pret-a-Porter, another Altman film).

Brainmate? I know you'd seen this one before and are probably more familiar with most of these actors than I am; did it hold up for you?


  1. I didn't catch Lemmon either! I think the editors mistook Buck Henry for him. Oops. It's interesting that just a few years (I was 14 in April of 1992) can make references zing or fall flat. It did hold up for me, and was actually better than I remember it being when I did watch it when it originally came out, probably because I have a bit of a better background in noir now than I did then, so the ominous postcard subplot worked better for me this time around.

    I can see how irrelevant cameos could make the movie fail and fail fast, though. Part of the pleasure for me was seeing whether the role was going to *be* a cameo or an actual character. For example: Whoopi making the Oscar speech.

    Just curious: did J watch it? Thought he might get morbid satisfaction from the movie's argument that Hollywood does nothing but shit on writers.

  2. Lemmon is listed on imdb, too--but I didn't see him! Probably a super quick shot of him.

    But, yeah, it's not like you're that much older than me. We share a lot of cultural touchpoints but this one was lost on me. Did you watch a ton of movies growing up, though? I didn't; so that may be an issue, too.

    The postcard thing worked for me but I think that almost became a subplot to the cameos and one-liners. But, that may be because I wasn't getting what was intended out of the cameos/one-liners.

    J did watch it with me. He didn't like it but I'm not sure I know why exactly so I won't venture a guess here. I know he was bored, though; he was playing solitaire on his phone for a good bit of it.