I love going to the movies. There’s this ritual of buying the ticket, get some popcorn, maybe, and then walk into a somewhat dimly lit room, with red seats facing the silver screen. There’s a ceremonial that ritualises the act of watching a film. So more often than not, when I’m watching a movie, I’m aware that I am watching a movie; everything happens in an out-of-real-life compartment of my brain which lets me know, deep down, that I’m safe whatever happens up there.
Great films will make you forget all that entirely. Some will not make you move one bit (we’ve all been there). And then some, most probably belonging in the former category, will have some sort of tongue-in-cheek humour that lets you know that the filmmakers, and the characters are aware they are in a film.
Let’s take a look at a few.
The most recent and definitely one of the most iconoclastic entries in this list, this comic book film juggernaut is fun for many reasons. It’s raunchy, extremely original, Ryan Reynolds gives a standout performance, and there’s the whole fourth-wall breaking thing going on.
We’ve seen enough superhero movies/TV series to know what to expect when we see a Marvel-stamped film shows up. Iron Man definitely had a sense of its own ridiculousness, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance helping a lot in that area, and Guardians of the Galaxy took the joke one step further. And now the market has matured and instead of getting the movie made ten years ago, when Ryan Reynolds first tried to, this film has arrived at a moment when it’s a breath of fresh air in the market.
Trying to make a movie about flowers is not an easy task. Sure there was a cactus in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but that was more like a beautiful symbol, not the entire theme of the movie. So what happens when you make Charlie Kaufman, the scribe responsible for Being John Malkovich, one of the most innovative films of the 90’s, and The Orchid Thief one of the most acclaimed non-fiction books about orchids, meet?
Well, it’s both the story of the titular orchid thief, and of Charlie Kaufman trying to adapt the book into a screenplay, and trying to understand the author of the book, as well as discovering about orchids.
This film has so many layers that it’s nearly impossible to do it justice by only describing it.
Nostalgia is strong with this one. After making several spy spoofs, French director Michel Hazanavicius decided to pay homage to Hollywood’s silent era with this best picture winner, and critically-acclaimed film.
The story of a successful silent movie star whose career is threatened, and eventually doomed, by sound films, paralleled with the ascending trajectory of a perky newcomer, the tongue-in-cheek tone was always more or less in the film, never more so than in the scene with the glass, when his putting a glass on a table actually makes sound…
This film is a beautiful homage to a long gone era, with today’s technology (sound, and also shot in colour), made with great skill and even greater love, this is an absolute must-see.
The film in itself is not really tongue-in-cheek, although a lot of the film references the franchise’s heavy heritage. High-tech gadgets? “We don’t really go in for that anymore” says the youthful Q. “You know the rules of the game, you’ve been playing it long enough.”
Released for the 50th anniversary of the saga, this film rounded up the reboot initiated with Casino Royale, finding the right balance between the new direction of the saga (serious, with a fragile lead) and the history of the character (vodka-martini drinking, misogynistic MI6 spy).
It’s never more clear than when 007 and M flee London in the historic Aston Martin, and the iconic James Bond theme plays. You could feel the entire production winking at you, saying “we’re in on it”, much to the giggles of the audience.
Anything by Quentin Tarantino
“I’m never not aware that I’m making a movie” the iconic director recently said.
His filmography has always been populated with movie references from the most legendary films as well the most obscure B movies, and the cult following his filmography has enjoyed has spurred many theories in the imagination of the good people of the Internet.
The most persistent one has been that all his films take place in a parallel universe, wherein the characters are all related. The filmmaker has recently confirmed this. Most of his movies are set in a parallel universe (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds…) and then there’s the movies that these people go and see (Kill Bill, From Dusk Till Dawn). Given the stylised, violent history in the parallel universe, no wonder the “movie movie” universe is even more grandiose and flamboyant.
Tarantino’s filmography is so drenched in film history that there was little to no doubt that this was the case. He pushed meta further than any other filmmaker.
Any meta film you were craving to see here but didn’t? Let me know!