In 2022, Hollywood played itself to excess — but to what end?
Why is Hollywood so obsessed about itself?
It’s a fitting question given 2022, which saw several projects that turned their attention inward. They ranged in brightness (Ethan Hawke’s six-part documentary The Last Movie Stars) to polarizing (Babylon) to self-mythologizingThe Fabelmans) to downright solipsistic.Blonde).
It’s not like Hollywood’s need for self-interrogation is new. It is so common that one could argue that it borders on narcissism. Movies have existed for almost as long as movies have existed. About Movies (see: many iterations of A Star Is Born, 1932’s What Price Hollywood Sunset Boulevard, The Bad and the Beautiful and The Player? You can find out more.
Margot Robbie in Babylon; Paul Newman in The Last Movie Stars; Ana de Armas and Blonde
Credit: Scott Garfield/Paramount; HBO MAX; Netflix
In 2022, however, navel-gazing reached new heights of meta pastiche. Maybe creators had more time during the COVID lockdown to think about themselves and myth-making, as well as the cost of fame. Hollywood has always been about legends more than reality, the reel more than the real. It’s the home of those who live by it. Desire’s Streetcar Blanche DuBois believes that magic is more important than realism.
Although entertainment industry stories are a familiar presence, their exact forms continue to be surprising. One of pop culture’s most beloved figures. Elvis PresleyHowever, he was the subject of a biopic in 2022. Elvis He was not interested in his time as a movie star and he only gave a brief montage to his 31 feature films (a small blip in the almost three-hour runtime). Presley’s own razzle dazzle musical performance was far better than any studio ever asked him to do.
Austin Butler in “Elvis”
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
What about the 2022 projects? These were projects that had more than a passing interest in Hollywood and moviemaking. Although they each focus on different aspects of Hollywood history they are all obsessed with deconstructing their subjects and exposing the “truth” behind Hollywood mythology, only to create a new legend.
Some were purposeful, and those projects were the most successful. Double profile The Last Movie Stars This is the story of Golden Age icons Paul Newman Joanne Woodward and their legendary marriage. They spoke in their own words, as well as the words of their friends, collaborators, and confidantes. Director Hawke and the Newman families were able to offer audiences a rare view of their lives by having access to transcripts previously lost.
American actor Paul Newman (1925-2008) and his wife, American actress Joanne Woodward (circa 1965).
Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, circa 1965
Credit: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Hawke wasn’t content with a documentary that featured talking heads and slow zooms into black and white photographs. Hawke recruited contemporary actors to play Newman, Woodward, and their contemporaries. He read their transcripts, which inscribes a mythology onto his project without even trying. Hawke also had long Zoom conversations with his friends, colleagues, and delved into the acting process, fame, as well as what makes an artist. These questions are answered by Hawke through Newman’s and Woodwards’ lives. He uses this story as a guide to help him understand what it means to live a richly artistic life.
It’s a subject similar to the one that lies at the heart of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans This movie isn’t about Hollywood. It is Spielberg’s most personal film and explores Sammy Fabelman’s adolescence (Hailed as Spielberg’s best movie).Gabriel LaBelle(), a young director’s stand-in. We see how film influences his life and how it becomes a valuable lens to help us understand his family.
Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
Spielberg has always had a fairy-tale touch about him. The Fabelmans He casts that spell over his family, as shown in the film’s fictional name. This idea invokes the idea of a fairy tale, a form storytelling that uses myth and the fantastical to communicate a deeper truth or lesson. The Fabelmans The film treads a delicate line by treating adults with a rich humanity and striking clarity. It tells a story about how films grab us and shake us up to become our modern-day heroes.
Spielberg (working together as a screenwriter). Tony Kushner) reveals the crucibles of love, resentment and frustrated creativity that gave rise to his artistic self while mythologizing it at same time.
Babylon It is not like Blonde, Visually compelling and beautifully composed, with stunning sequences that serve to remind us that movies are a visual medium. It’s a sad portrait of Hollywood in a time of transition and a chilling nod towards the precipice on which we stand at the moment, economic models in doubt.
Ana de Armas portrays Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde”
Ana de Armas portrays Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde”
Blonde It is far more cruelly and ill-intentioned than its approach, selling audiences a story about the abuse. Marilyn Monroe (Ana de ArmasShe was made to suffer by her being exploited further. It wants us all to understand that Marilyn Monroe is a myth, and Norma Jeane Baker a human being. But in the end, it dehumanizes both women, trading on gossip and hearsay throughout, without ever reaching the intelligent commentary it believes it has.
In contrast, Babylon It’s a cacophony with themes and stories, but it’s more concerned in pouring Kenneth Anger’s. Hollywood Babylon You can tell stories by putting them in a cocktail shaker, and then seeing what emerges. Some of the stories that emerge are amazing — the contributions of women silent directors; the dangerous and grueling work of the early sound era. But its parts are more important than the whole.
Babylon We are bombarded with narratives, visual gags and bodily fluids. Justin Hurwitz’s stirring, speakeasy-worthy score is the final act. It pays tribute to cinema via its final sequence. Singin’ in Rain You will find a whole bunch of other film footage in this dizzying montage. The relationship between movies, the audience, and their films is revered.
Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robertbie) is lifted high during a large-scale Hollywood production of ‘Babylon.
| Credit: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
But Babylon It isn’t sure if it wants the dream factory to be criticized or celebrated. Is Hollywood held in reverence or contempt by the director? Director Damien Chazelle He has claimed that he wants to indict the system while championing art form, but I don’t know if the movie even knows what it wants. Like the silents, Babylon’s Images are more powerful than any words it can say.
No matter how the celebration or critique takes place, there is still one big question: Why are storytellers still so obsessed with Hollywood in 2022 when there are more screens than ever?
Perhaps the answer lies in the current industry upheaval. As the streaming bubble bursts and historic studios are plagued with destructive CEOs who prioritize “content” and the bottom-line over art, and we’re left wondering what will remain standing when the smoke clears.
These projects, whether they are revelatory or pugnant in nature, all share one thing in common: the central figures of the stories didn’t do it to make a buck. They might have done it for the fame, which is undoubtedly a more sinister motive. They did it because they had no choice. They were gripped by something and tore until they gave in to the power of cinema as an institution, industry, or art form.
In a time when Hollywood and cinema are not cohesion, maybe all filmmakers can do in this moment is to hold up a glass and watch the reflection and hope for something else.
Babylon And The Fabelmans They are currently in theaters Blonde Available for streaming on Netflix Elvis And The Last Movie Stars Both are available on HBO Max.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.