"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jun 082016

photo for Hail Caesar! “Hail Caesar!” continues Joel and Ethan Coen’s deconstruction/reconstruction of Hollywood genres (following their takes on Westerns, spies , and music bios), here making a movie about moviemakers making movies, set in the dying days of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s a comedy/satire filled with so many cinema memes you’ll need a guidebook to keep track (see below). Ostensibly, the film follows a single day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), head of production and “fixer” for Hollywood studio Capitol Pictures. When Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the world’s biggest star, is kidnapped by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters during production of the studio’s latest swords-and-sandals epic, Eddie has to recover his leading man while simultaneously appeasing cowboy star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich in a breakout performance), disgruntled director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), swimming sensation DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) and song-and-dance superstar Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), all the while manipulating a pair of rival sibling gossip columnists, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton). There’s plenty of references to 1950s Hollywood, in particular post-WWII MGM: Josh Brolin’s character, Eddie Mannix, is based on real-life studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix. Tatum is a stand-in for MGM star Gene Kelly, Johansson definitely is a clone of swimmer and MGM star Esther Williams, and Swinton is a perfect Hedda Hopper, a nasty Hollywood “journalist” who ruled the gossip columns for decades. The Coen’s musical and dance production numbers (a tap dance sequence with Tatum, an aquatic spectacle with Johansson) are a marvel to behold, rivalling the best that Hollywood put out during those golden years. It’s all a lot of fun and oh, so self-reflexive. A couple of sites have taken it upon themselves to annotate the characters in “Hail Caesar!” Check out an annotated “Hail Caesar!” trailer here, a post at Slate, and more comparisons at Den of Geek!. Vitals: Director: Joel and Ethan Coen. Stars: George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Frances McDormand. 2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 106 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $30.080 million, Universal. Extras: “Directing Hollywood” behind-the-scenes featurette with the Coen Brothers and the all-star cast; “The Stars Align” featurette with the A-list talent — George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, and Frances McDormand — join the Coens to talk about the project, the secrets of the unique and zany characters they play and how the Hollywood of “Hail, Caesar!” differs from the Hollywood they know; “An Era of Glamour” with the film’s production designer, costume designer and other key design professionals; “Magic of a Bygone Era”: The film features two classic-in-the-making musical numbers: an aquatic spectacle featuring Scarlett Johansson and a rousing tap dance from Channing Tatum. The cast and crew explain the process of bringing these scenes to life, from costumes to choreography and everything in between. 3 stars

 Posted by on June 8, 2016  Add comments

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