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LIVING IN OBLIVION, 1995
Movie Review

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LIVING IN OBLIVION MOVIE POSTER
LIVING IN OBLIVION, 1995
Movie Reviews

Directed by Tom DiCillo
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Durmot Mulroney
Review by Matthew Toffolo



SYNOPSIS:

Film about filmmaking. It takes place during one day on set of non-budget movie. Ultimate tribute to all independent filmmakers.

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REVIEW:

Anyone who's made a film or has worked on a film set in any capacity can relate to this Living in Oblivion and laugh at it because it's a film that they're laughing at themselves. And there's nothing more funny than seeing something that is a version of yourself where you realize how silly the whole thing is.

I'm usually not a fan of masterabatory films. Movies that are about the making of the film and/or are about the industry that is the film business. They usually seem to be a little too self-involved where they think this is actually an exciting and important thing they are talking about. Does anyone really care except for the people in the business?

These films only work when there is an underlying universal thematic occuring.

As of this writing, the TV show Entourage is really popular. A show about the rise and fall and seemingly rise again of a young movie star and his crew of friends who are latching onto his career success. It's a good show because in its essence, this is a show about friendship. How four guys learn to cope with all of the changes in their lives and stay friends. There is a lot of unconditional love on Entourage as these guys love each other no matter what they do. Love like that is genuine and tragic at the same time because there are many situations in the series where you wished certain characters made different choices for the sake of their own well being. But Vincent the movie star is almost like a Captain of a ship where he will live with his crew and die with his crew. He only wants success if his friends are with him. Ari Gold, his agent, is like the right hand man/first officer of the Captain Vincent Chase who knows the right course for him but is constantly overruled buy the Captain's shipmates. A show that only works because of this conflict and storyline. And many times I forget that we're actually in Hollywood and the setting is the movie business. But only in Hollywood and in the sports world can you have an entourage/hanger ons. Imagine a doctor or a lawyer having a set of Entourage who hangs around him when he's working.

So Living in Oblivion works because this is a film about insecurity and unsureness of what is the right thing. The more you plan, the more things screw up. And it's the mistakes that occur which makes the scene they are working on a success. No wonder many filmmakers go a bit insane during the making of a movie because that scenario contradicts everything you are taught growing up and is something that just doesn't work in the real world. But for some reason, it works when making a film. In the 100 year history of this medium, many of the great moments in cinema were actually happy accidents. And making a great film is also a happy accident too.

John Malkovich once said in an interview that making a good film is just plain luck. He's worked with a lot of brilliant talents and minds, worked on a lot of amazing scripts, and worked on films with an unlimited budget, but most of those films didn't turn out that well. He said that he's really worked on only two great films: Dangerous Liaisons and Being John Malkovich. Films that had nightmarish post-productions because the footage shot just didn't work and they had to re-write the film in the editing room. Not exactly a great formula for success, but those films worked and they will stand the test of time for centuries to come.

Living in Oblivion is an autobiographical tale of director Tom DiCillo's first film Johnny Suede, which should of been a great movie but everything went wrong in the making process. I knew the original cinematographer of that film (who is played in the movie version by Durmot Mulroney) as I worked on a film with him. He had to leave Johnny Suede because he got sick in the 2nd week of production. A sickness that was debatable by DiCillo who had to replace his key crew member in the middle of production. A nightmare scenario. If you know this cinematographer and then saw Living in Oblivion, you would think Mulroney's performance is a dead on take of him. A DOP we all know who loves to shoot handheld.

Brad Pitt was the lead in Johnny Suede and there is a blatant ribbing of him in Living in Oblivion where his creative choices are non-productive but because he's the only star on a low-budget film, people should listen to him! And his charm is easy pickings for the rest of the crew members who decide to listen to him more than the actual director.

But it all starts at the craft table for most film sets. If the food is good then the production is good. If the milk goes bad and everyone drinks it, this is big trouble for the production. And it's the minor crew members who really know what is happening. The driving hears it all and really if the director just went to talk to him/her, then a lot of on-set conflicts could be diminished.

Living in Oblivion really is a film about ego. The job on a film set is for everyone to work in unison to make the best film possible. If 25 crew members are all making the same film, then the chances for success go up considerably. But if you have 25 crew members who are working on 25 different films with 25 different agendas, then the chances of success are almost nil. The same is true for any team situation.

This is a film filmmakers of all positions and skills should watch. Just so they understand when to go to with the flow and scrap their initial ideas and to understand how to deal with people's own agendas. When you are making a low budget film especially, the chances of something going wrong is very high and it's the great filmmakers who can learn how to deal with those conflicts.

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