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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 87 Minutes
• Director’s Commentary Track
• "Top Secret" Commentary Track
"It’s American Movie, but not as good and, well, it’s fake."
Jerry Feifer, Adele Baughn, Tom Paul Wilson
Tom Paulson was a baseball star with plans to go pro until a knee injury took him out of the game and landed him in Hollywood. He lived the good life with a development deal at Universal until he decided to strike out on his own and make his own independent movie (Mirage) his own independent way. This is the story of the making of that movie.
I started writing this review based off of a knee-jerk reaction to the movie. Initially I hated it. It actually pissed me off and it wasn’t until I started putting my thoughts down and having to make sense of it all that I realized that I completely missed the point. Kinda funny how that happens ain’t it? They Shoot Movies is sort of like a Behind the Scenes Featurette that got released as a movie. We’re behind the scenes of "Mirage," Tom Paulson’s independent flick. The basic story revolves around Tom’s trying to get the last of the financing needed to finish up post on his movie. He spends the entire movie doing everything he can think of to get it. He makes investment deals which fall through (because of him), he asks his family, he asks his friends, he sells prized possessions, he basically drives himself crazy trying to get this money together. When we start Tom is just an ambitious filmmaker, eager to make his film his way, outside of the interference of the Big Studio Machine.
"Yeah so technically I’m NOT a lesbian, but geezus, if you’d met the guy you’d have said the same thing, whether it was his birthday or not. I still get all creeped out."
However, as the film progresses, Tom is sort of transformed from Ambitious Filmmaker into a character who is so obsessed with himself that he successfully alienates any and everyone in his life who tries to help him. He’s supposed to be a sympathetic "victim" of the World of Filmmaking but he’s nothing more than a personification of total narcissism. And we watch this process with basic interest as everything falls apart. Well, at least I did. There’s a scene in which Tom and his editor get into an argument and his editor ends up walking out on him. Tom is portrayed as such an asshole that I end up rooting against him the rest of the way. Well, to be completely honest, I’m not really caring the rest of the way. This film is actually extremely forgettable except for the ending, but in the interest of writing this review I paid attention to what unfolded and I gotta say I was hoping for this guy to fail.
Bill was the only guy who could mix impersonations of Jay Leno and Michael Keaton.
Now, I’m not one for spoiling films for the hell of it so I won’t (and for the record, I don’t think my saying that it’s fake is a spoiler, it painfully obvious no matter how many tricks they try to pull), but the ending does sort of come out of left field and it’s the ending that initially had me so pissed off because at first it didn’t make sense. However, after a little retrospective I’ve seen where I misinterpreted it and I can appreciate what it was trying to say. Does that mean it’s a good film? No. The acting is bad enough to keep it from reaching that height and while I would criticize the writing, I’m not totally convinced the whole thing wasn’t ad libbed in an effort to help this "reality" shade they keep trying to pull over our eyes, but it’s a film that wants to say something (notice I said "wants" – if its message was clear I’m confident I would have gotten it the first time around). The message isn’t necessarily life-changing or important in a worldly way, but it’s interesting enough and gives it a higher score than it would have gotten if I hadn’t stopped to think about what I was writing.
I’d say it’s worth a rental, especially if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, but don’t expect it to be an inspiration, just a few hours of material that you can relate to…sort of.
The artwork that adorns the front of this amaray case tries to be snazzy, but it falls flat. It’s a floating head montage with some familiar film elements (countdown slate, Hollywood sign, etc.) but it doesn’t really do anything. It doesn’t sell what the film is and it hides the main character’s face behind a crappy overlay. I understand that when you’re dealing with an independent movie you can’t expect some million-dollar Hollywood marketing, but come on people, show a little creativity.
"Dude I’m not kidding. If you don’t believe me I’ll show you. This is what it looks like now. Don’t be so quick to delete those e-mails, my friend."
Feature-wise there’s a couple of commentary tracks – one regular and one "Top Secret." Neither of them are particularly interesting but the Top Secret one does offer up some useful information on film distribution.