2 Best Movies to Watch by Lyle Lovett

Staff & contributors

Like so many pictures about the pictures, The Player is a biting satire of the biz. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a Hollywood executive who gives dinner speeches about movies being art but works at a studio where endings are unceremoniously tweaked for maximum audience approval ratings — and therefore maximum profits. The greedy corporate Tinseltown of The Player feels very close to the franchise-pumping Tinseltown of today, but there’s enough wit and irony here to keep it from feeling too depressing.

Legendary New Hollywood director Robert Altman packages his critique in familiar clothing: that of a film noir. After receiving threatening postcards from a disgruntled writer he never called back, Griffin takes matters into his own hands and soon finds himself living out the plot of a taut thriller. The Player gets even more deliciously meta than this: nearly every scene contains a winking reference to the movies, and it’d probably be easier to count which stars of past and present don’t show up for a cameo here. What’s more, Altman gives The Player the kind of “happy ending” that Griffin’s studio is always demanding from writers — only here, it’s spun into a bitter commentary on the whole industry. Simply masterful.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Adam Simon, Alan Rudolph, Alexandra Powers, Althea Gibson, Andie MacDowell, Angela Hall, Anjelica Huston, Annie Ross, Bert Remsen, Brad Davis, Brian Brophy, Brian Tochi, Brion James, Bruce Willis, Buck Henry, Burt Reynolds, Cathy Lee Crosby, Charles Champlin, Cher, Cynthia Stevenson, David Alan Grier, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Franz, Derek Raser, Dina Merrill, Elliott Gould, Felicia Farr, Frank Barhydt, Fred Ward, Gary Busey, Gina Gershon, Greta Scacchi, Harry Belafonte, Jack Jason, Jack Kney, Jack Lemmon, Jack Riley, James Coburn, Jayne Meadows, Jeff Celentano, Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Piven, Jill St. John, Joan Tewkesbury, Joel Grey, John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Karen Black, Katarzyna Figura, Kathy Ireland, Kevin Scannell, Leah Ayres, Leeza Gibbons, Lily Tomlin, Louise Fletcher, Lyle Lovett, Malcolm McDowell, Marina Zenovich, Marlee Matlin, Martin Mull, Michael Bowen, Michael Tolkin, Mike Kaplan, Mimi Rogers, Natalie Strong, Ned Bellamy, Nick Nolte, Pamela Bowen, Patricia Resnick, Patrick Swayze, Paul Dooley, Paul Hewitt, Peter Falk, Peter Gallagher, Peter Koch, Randall Batinkoff, Ray Walston, Rene Auberjonois, Richard Anderson, Richard E. Grant, Ritchie Montgomery, Robert Carradine, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger, Sally Kellerman, Sally Kirkland, Scott Glenn, Scott Shaw, Shari Belafonte, Stephen Tolkin, Steve Allen, Steve James, Susan Emshwiller, Susan Sarandon, Sydney Pollack, Ted Hartley, Teri Garr, Tim Robbins, Vincent D'Onofrio, Whoopi Goldberg

Director: Robert Altman

If you’ve never seen Walk Hard before but still get déjà vu from just its first 10 minutes, that's the point. This riotous pastiche parodies every musician biopic ever made — and even many that came after it. Its ability to predict the future is thanks to its sharp observation of all the clichés that are typically wheeled out when a musical artist’s life story gets the big screen treatment. Walk Hard skewers everything from the tropes of preternatural musical abilities and galvanizing childhood trauma to the formulaic three-act structure that follows the musician’s rise, inevitable fall, and triumphant rise again.

Absolutely no chances are left unseized to lampoon the genre: the film is told in an incredibly long flashback, for example, and features multiple groan-including moments in which characters say the movie’s title out loud, all but winking at the camera. The danger with a parody is that the joke can get old quickly, but Walk Hard is blessedly full of laughs that would stand up even outside of the spoof framework, displaying incredible devotion to even the most throwaway of jokes (as when The Temptations make a cameo for one five-second gag). Not just a brilliant satire, then, but a terrific comedy of its own.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Herschman, Amber Hay, Angela Little, Cheryl Ladd, Cheryl Tiegs, Chris Parnell, Clement Blake, Conner Rayburn, Craig Robinson, David Doty, David Krumholtz, E.J. Callahan, Ed Helms, Eddie Vedder, Frankie Muniz, Gerry Bednob, Gerry Black, Ghostface Killah, Gregg Lee, Harold Ramis, Ian Roberts, Jack Black, Jack Kehler, Jack McBrayer, Jack White, Jackson Browne, Jacques Slade, Jane Lynch, Jason Schwartzman, Jenna Fischer, Jewel, John C. Reilly, John Ennis, John Maynard, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Kristen Wiig, Lyle Lovett, Margo Martindale, Martin Starr, Matt Besser, Molly C. Quinn, Morgan Fairchild, Nat Faxon, Neil Ironfield, Odette Annable, Patrick Duffy, Patrick Faucette, Patrick J. Adams, Paul Bates, Paul Feig, Paul Rudd, Philip Rosenthal, Rae Sunshine Lee, Rance Howard, Raymond J. Barry, Ron Tyson, Serria Tawan, Simon Helberg, Skyler Gisondo, Stacey Scowley, Steve Bannos, Terrence Beasor, Tim Bagley, Tim Meadows, Tyler Nilson, Willow Geer

Director: Jake Kasdan

Rating: R