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An Alan Smithee Film

I want to commend to everyone the hiliarious front-page article in today's (Oct. 22) Wall Street Journal, entitled "A Tinseltown Satire Of a Film Gone Awry Becomes Self-Parody."

The story is about the movie An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn written and produced by Joe Eszterhas.

As the Journal explains, the movie was intended as "an insiders' autopsy" of how egos, feuds and incompetence turn a promising movie project into an unreleasable nightmare. "But somewhere along the way," the Journal says, "Smithee became a movie about itself." There were firings, threats, resignations, unauthorized re-edits, disastrous previews, screaming fights. It probably won't be released.

And if it is, its official director will be "Alan Smithee." This is fanstastic! "Alan Smithee" is the pseudonym that the Director's Guild of America specifies must be used in the credits when the actual director of a picture quits and doesn't want his name associated with the movie. Eszterhas's movie is about a director who really is named Alan Smithee, which makes for a problem when he wants his name removed from a picture-gone wrong. Now, here's the great part. The director of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn, Arthur Hiller (of Love Story fame), is so furious at how he was treated (primarily by Eszterhas) and so embarrassed by how the movie turned out, that he wants his name removed. Thus, An Alan Smithee Film is turning out to be a real Alan Smithee Film.

Who, in the wildest excesses of irony and self-referentiality, could have come up with such a scenario? It proves that our List does not just a wallow in nostalgia (as some disgruntled subscribers have claimed), but lives right on the cutting edge of Hollywood reality. Or fantasy. Or self-parody. Or something.

I thought that Scream went about as far as a movie could possibly go in terms of meta-meta-filmmaking. Wrong! That's the thing about recursion-there's always another layer, sometimes unintentional.

Anyway, read the article. And ponder with me why people keep giving money and green lights to the utterly untalented and spectacularly obnoxious Joe Eszterhas.



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copyright ©2005 Barbara Bernstein