|And Alan Smithee |
Film Burn Hollywood Burn
(1997; Hollywood Pictures)
Now, some setup may be needed here. Alan Smithee is an industry standard pseudonym created in the late 60’s by a director of a movie called The Death of a Gunfighter (the first “official” major studio film to hold this credit). The film’s director, Don Siegel, did not want his name attached to the doomed project so he used this pseudonym, something that was unheard of and even actually forbidden. However, there are now 76 directorial credits listed on IMDB under the name Alan Smithee.
The idea was to make a mockumentary about the making of a movie so bad that all involved sought to disown it. The film-within-the-film, called Trio, supposedly starred Whoopie Goldberg, Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan, who all play themselves and their respective characters in this movie. The plot centers on a director who’s real name is actually Alan Smithee (Eric Idle), so this obviously complicates him hiding his name from this project. Aaaaand... That’s it. That’s the joke. So, throughout the film we got a lot of talking head segments about the film, with actors playing themselves and other famous people of the era in various cameos.
This film is the epitome of empty. There is absolutlely nothing here. It’s soulless. There is no heart, brain or spirit to the material in this movie. The screenplay by Joe Eszterhas (Oh, ho boy! You’ll be seeing THAT name again. TRUST ME!) is so weak that nobody is convincing and none of the dialogue feels in any way natural, despite the fact that it is obviously meant to mimic the “reality behind the scenes” in a comical way. Still, this movie has nothing redeeming. There isn’t one laugh or one single moment where you might have seen the possibility of a good film here.
A final note on the acting in this film. Everyone is terrible. Stallone, Goldberg and Chan have all been bad before (quite regularly actually. In fact Stallone appears again in the upcoming number 31 slot), but this just might be the most unconvincing performance by any of them. That’s really, really sad considering this is meant to be a documentary, and they are supposed to just play themselves. Now, I will say, the direction (by Arthur Hiller) probably had a lot to do with that, and, as if this film was cursed from the very start, and ultimately Hiller actually refused to have his name credited to THIS film. Thus, An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn is most often credited to the titular Alan Smithee himself. It is kind of a strange self-fulfilling prophecy is it not?