It’s hard enough to make one movie, on that we can agree. But it always adds a little extra fun when, within that film, a whole other movie is shown, at least in part. These aren’t instances of characters watching real films (a la The Passion of Joan of Arc in Vivre sa vie or Touch of Evil in Get Shorty), or even a film following the production of a fictional film (like Contempt or Day for Night), necessarily – basically, the criteria is that the film must be shown. And away we go:
7.) Nation’s Pride in Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth, 2009)
Leave it to Tarantino to at once send up and contribute a genuine-feeling article into the annals of Nazi propaganda. Leave it, furthermore, for him to hire Eli Roth for the job to direct it.
6.) The Shook-Up Shopping Cart and Mant! in Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993)
All love to Mant!, but, perhaps due to my own viewing habits, Dante’s take on the colorful, widescreen Disney films of the 1960s proved a lot more humorous for me. In it, a pesky little anthropomorphic shopping cart causes all manner of problems for a nice young white couple, before ultimately coming to their rescue. Dante’s inclusion of it goes to show that, as much as those kind of movies are mocked now as representations of a naive society, they weren’t even all that widely-enjoyed then.
5.) Les fiancés du pont Macdonald in Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda, 1962)
As fine a showcase for the inclusiveness and cooperative spirit of those early years of the French New Wave as they come. Les fiancés du pont Macdonald stars Jean-Luc Godard, having a bit of fun with his penchant for wearing dark sunglasses, as a character who, once he puts on his shades, sees only the worst possible outcomes while on a date (with then-wife Anna Karina). Once he takes them off, the world indeed seems a marvelous place. The short also points to Cleo’s own penchant for fearing the worst, as she awaits the results of a crucial medical test.
4.) Habeas Corpus in The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
Purported to be Altman’s anti-Hollywood screed, I’ve always found The Player to be as much in love with the movies and the insanity that makes them as it is perhaps uncertain about the motives that drive them. So it is with Habeas Corpus, which goes from being a depressing legal drama to, ultimately, a film in which Bruce Willis pulls Julia Roberts out of the gas chamber. After all, what’s more satisfying than a big finish?
3.) The Shrinking Lover in Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
I try to avoid repeating films on these lists (Talk to Her was recently featured on our “Great Movie Nurses” list), but to ignore the sadness and beauty of The Shrinking Lover is impossible. Almodóvar uses it to emphasize Benigno’s (Javier Cámara) loneliness, desperation, and false illusions, emotions to which I’m sure most frequent moviegoers can relate. Never mind its more direct implications towards the plot of Talk to Her.
2.) Kiss of Life in Broken City (Allen Hughes, 2013)
I’m not going to make any excuses for the film as a whole – even though I like it more than most, Broken City is arguably the least of the films on this list. But the inclusion of this movie in Broken City takes a pretty standard cop thriller into vaguely surreal directions, projecting all of Billy Taggart’s (Mark Wahlberg) insecurities, doubts, and jealousy onto the big screen for all to see.
1.) Coming Up Daisy in Burn After Reading (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2008)
There is, for me, almost nothing in the known world funnier than a fake movie that cuts to the heart of just how generic most movies are. Seinfeld did this extraordinarily well, with such films as Chunnel, Prognosis Negative, and Rochelle, Rochelle. The only film I’ve seen that comes anywhere close is the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, in which Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) goes twice on a date to see the new romantic comedy starring Dermot Mulroney and Claire Danes, Coming Up Daisy. “Would you come down from there!?”