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Movies About Bad Movies

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In honor of “Argo,” the soon-to-be-released film about a military operation posing as a movie crew during the Iranian hostage crisis, we at The Jimbo List offer a selection of movies about bad movies. Really. See for yourself.


Truly one of the most ambitious comedies of recent years, “Tropic Thunder” stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black as actors in a Hollywood war flick who end up in an actual combat situation. It manages to skewer every part of the film industry, from egotistical actors to opportunistic directors and lunatic explosives consultants.


This Steve Martin-Eddie Murphy comedy is more entertaining than it has any right to be. The plot – about a low-rent director trying to make a film called “Chubby Rain” on a shoestring – is full of the usual gags about movies. Yet it kind of works. Martin conveys a real sense of passion for his utterly horrid production, and that’s the heart of the story.


Embedded in the story of the wonderful “Singin’ in the Rain,” you have the trials and tribulations of silent film folks learning how to make talking pictures. Jean Hagen is a riot trying to tame her New York accent, while dealing with newfangled microphones. Let’s just say it’s a long road from “The Dueling Cavalier” to “The Dancing Cavalier.”


“Be Kind Rewind” has a beautifully odd premise. Clerks at a video store decide to shoot their own versions of every movie in the place – because they accidentally erased all the tapes. Jack Black (shown here as Robocop), Mos Def and Danny Glover do the honors.


I have a real soft spot for this comedy starring one of my favorites, Peter Sellers. He’s a criminal known as the Fox, who tries to smuggle stolen gold into Europe by pretending to be a movie director helming a new flick called “The Gold of Cairo.” Sellers is at his insane best. Also quite funny is Victor Mature, playing a vain Hollywood actor.


Sadly, I can’t fully recommend “For Your Consideration,” which I consider the only dud in the Christopher Guest roster of semi-improvised films. This one is about a trio of actors who believe they’re on the verge of critical acclaim for their current production, “Home For Purim.” I normally love Guest and his stable of regulars (Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey), but this one fell flat.


Yes friends, it’s a good, old-fashioned romantic comedy about two people (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who decide to make a pornographic film. Certainly, this won’t be everyone’s idea of a good plot for a movie. But if you connect with Rogen’s brand of humor, which means filthy dialogue but full of heart, you’ll like it.

ED WOOD (1994)

We end with an ode to arguably the worst film in cinema history. Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” starring Johnny Depp and Martin Landau, is a comic gem. It takes a loving look at the career of Ed Wood, who directed the insanely awful “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” Burton finds the creative joy that can accompany even bad art, and Landau’s portrayal of an aging Bela Lugosi is amazing.

So, are there any masterpieces I’m leaving out? Add them to The List!

Live from New York – SNL’s Best Hosts

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Hard to believe, but this weekend marks the start of the 37th season of “Saturday Night Live.” It’s seen good casts and bad casts, times of national relevance and times when it seemed out of sync. Through it all, the key ingredient that elevated an episode to brilliance was the host. Here’s a look at the best ones.


I’m not sure SNL would have survived beyond the first few years without Steve Martin as a frequent host, great as that early cast was. Martin’s popularity was phenomenal, and his appearances on the show were electric. He was one of the Wild and Crazy guys, Theodoric of York and, of course, King Tut.


NBC would do well to pay this guy whatever it takes to keep him hosting an episode every season. He’s that good. Here’s a recording and film star who’s willing to dress like a cup of soup and an omelette and then just nail a sketch. That’s when he’s not doing a spot-on Robin Gibb impersonation, filling in as the musical guest and starring in digital shorts such asĀ  “D**K in a Box.”


Walken is sublime when he hosts. In some sketches, such as “The Continental,” all you have to do is point the camera directly at him and let him work. My goodness – “Cowbell,” “The Census Taker,” “The Walken Family Reunion” – just amazing.


Bergen set the perfect tone for the 1970s version of SNL. She was comfortable in her own skin, yet more than willing to be controversial. Most viewers remember her as the intrepid host of “Consumer Probe” opposite Dan Aykroyd’s Irwin Mainway, and for the endearing way she dissolved into laughter during a sketch with Gilda Radner.


He actually could have been a cast member of the show, judging by the way he consistently commits to his characters in sketches. On SNL he’s gone from “Mr. Short Term Memory,” to parodies of stand-up comedians and nerds to doing a hilariously dumb version of himself in a “Jeopardy” sketch.


Speaking of stand-up comics, the much maligned Dane Cook has given SNL a couple of jolts of needed energy in recent years. Cook’s absolute exuberance, plus his ability to turn the opening monologue into a comedy gem, earn him a spot on the List.


Kind of an unsung hero of the show. Goodman was the perfect team player when he hosted, as well as when he appeared in cameo bits on other episodes. My favorite Goodman SNL sketches? His impersonations of Linda Tripp (during the 1990s Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal), of course, and his obnoxious businessman from the “Bill Brasky” sketches.


Buck Henry was this absurd, intense, subversive force packaged in the body of a little guy with glasses. He didn’t have to do funny voices when he hosted SNL; he just delivered cutting, intelligent lines amid the craziness of skits such as John Belushi’s “Samurai” epics. For a while, it was customary for Henry to host the last show of the season. As for the last person on this List, it’s…


He’s the King of All Hosts. Baldwin has headlined the show more than anyone else (this weekend’s opener is his 16th appearance as host), and he clearly loves it. His work in the “Canteen Boy” and “Schweddy Balls” sketches is classic, but I think I laughed just as hard at Baldwin’s crazy impression of Charles Nelson Reilly. Bravo, sir.

Enjoy the new season, everyone.