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The Big Picture DVD

Your April 2007 UMC Results Are In!

Tagline: Hollywood Reel to Real

Preshow Entertainment: Comedy Clips. Women in Rock

MARTIN's appearance is too SHORT, but KEVIN brings home the BACON in this month's GUEST director CHRISTOPHER's
"The Big Picture."

The Preshow Entertainment was comedy and music clips from USA Network's NIGHT FLIGHT, a mish mash of a show that ran late night on weekends in the '80s. It's interesting (I was going to say "funny") to see how stand-up has mutated since then. It's almost a different animal now. Anyway, among the "Comedy Cuts" comedians; Billiam Coronel, Dennis Blair, Adrianne Tolsch, Mary Wong (three guys!), Nancy Parker and Wayne Federman. Federman was the only one who made me laugh, doing the guitar breaks from Zep's WHOLE LOTTA LOVE on his uke.

Then came Women in Rock, which included such pearls as Annabella (the singer from Bow Wow Wow) going solo with her Fairlight-heavy criminal rendition of FEVER. A perfect '80s example of sucking all the mood out of a song only to replace it with synthesized sound. The American Girls, a band which at one time had Daryl Hannah on board, did their eponymous song AMERICAN GIRL. And my favorite, Suzanne Vega's LEFT OF CENTER, featuring Joe Jackson on piano (but not in the video).

And now, our feature presentation...

There's a saying around Hollywood - Don't make movies about Hollywood. It's too inside. Yet they've been making movies about Hollywood since they've been making movies in Hollywood. So I say, it's a stupid saying. Movies about Hollywood are not so "inside" that people can't understand them. Sure, a joke or reference may go over some people, but for the most part, they're all stories with a Hollywood backdrop. Hell, even Regan's mom (Ellen Burstyn) was an actress on a movie set in THE EXORCIST.

THE BIG PICTURE is a comedy that nibbles the hand of the movie industry the same way L.A. STORY did to L.A. - with love.

Kevin Bacon stars as recent film grad Nick Chapman, whose short student film wins an AFI-like award (the clips of all the nominees are spot on hysterical). Suddenly, everyone in town wants to meet him. His meet-and-greet with studio head Allen Habel (the late J.T. Walsh) is exaggerated yet real (let's just say it's not the first office I've seen with a Southwest motif). Habel's I-know-it-all-but-I'm-really-clueless suit rings true, believe me. When Nick tells him he's from Ohio, Habel, without missing a beat, responds, "Oh, my first wife's from Illinois," as if it's the same place. But the line that wins my award for "Line That Is Funny, But Was Probably Really Said, So That's What Makes It Funnier" comes out of the mouth of agent Neil Sussman (an uncredited performance from Martin Short), who tells Nick: "I don't know you, I don't know your work, but I think you are a very talented young man."

Now, please don't get me wrong. TBP is much more than one-liners. It's an hilarious manual of what happens when you're a Hollywood flavor of the month. We watch Nick's star rise - when he takes a phone call in the car, he pulls over and has his best friend exits the car so he can have privacy. And when the studio head is replaced, we watch his fall - the indignities he must take on his film, like when he is laughed at after telling the execs it will be in black and white ("...they don't even make black and white projectors anymore. All the projectors are in color").

Soon, his film's vision turns even more sour when the studio's notes ask if the characters can be at the beach instead of a cabin, and in their twenties instead of forties. And later, in an effort to revive his dead project, it's Nick himself who pitches that stewardesses show up at the beach house...and they're ghosts!

Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. Maybe some of the jokes are a little inside. But they still play. And for those of you who have taken meetings in this town, you know just how close to the bone some of these jabs get. Right down to the exec inviting Nick to his party by handing his address to his assistant, only to have his assistant hand it to Nick.

Kevin Bacon nails Nick - a young Tinseltown newbie who is thrust into the spotlight, part innocent, part opportunistic. Exactly how he should be played. I believed every choice he made, every eyebrow he lifted. He wasn't propelling the story, the story was moving him. Often, he didn't have to say anything, as the characters around him dug his grave. And some of these moments, especially the ones in Habel's office, are priceless.

Helping Nick on his journey are Michael McKean as his best friend Emmet, Teri Hatcher as a desperate starlet, and the always wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh as the kooky and lovable (I swear she's doing a Crispin Glover impersonation) Lydia. Then there is Emily Longstreth who plays Nick's wounded girlfriend Susan, which anchors the movie. She was pretty great in TBP, then she fell off the map. That always made me sad. Emily, if you're out there, we want you back.

THE BIG PICTURE is an amusing romp through the woods of Holly. I think it may play better now then when it was released in 1989, as audiences now are a touch more savvy to how Hollywood works. I wholehearted recommend TBP.

This was Nigel Tufnel's (a/k/a Christopher Guest) feature debut as a director. He would go on to make WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, BEST IN SHOW, A MIGHTY WIND and FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. All fine comedies, yet I constantly feel attracted to THE BIG PICTURE. Perhaps it's because it wasn't an "improv" movie like the others. Or maybe it's because Nick is so many people that come to Hollywood. Myself included.

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