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Sunset Boulevard


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๐ŸŽ™️ EPISODE 378: 11.02.21

Well, I've done it. My 500th movie review is of the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard and wouldn't you know it, you're reading it right now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. When I started this project/podcast, it only existed on Bandcamp and was loosely organized on myameri.ca. But then I spent god knows how many hours building this very website and re-upping the episodes as a new podcast. And what do I have to show for it? NADA! LoL. Not unlike Ms. Norma Desmond herself, only minus all of that copious fame and notoriety and millions of dollars and riches in real estate and worldly possessions. Also I haven't murdered anyone. Whoops, SPOILERS! But it still tracks. It's about respect. (Ed. Note: Maybe I should've reviewed Ladybugs, honestly, in retrospect).

I wanted to pick a good one for the Big 500th Movie Review. And I think this — perhaps the ultimate "Movie About Movies (and What They Mean)" — was the perfect choice. Because, A) I had never seen it, and B) I have seen it referenced countless times by some of my favorites, most notably David Lynch who has constantly named it one of his favorites and biggest influences, going as far as to steal the name Gordon Cole (his character in Twin Peaks) from a secondary character in this film.

This film is a true classic. I think it would be hard to argue otherwise. There are so many classic one-liners, most notably the final line of the movie, which you can watch above. But it's not just that. The entire ending is perfect. It's the perfect culmination, unveiling a truly layered thematic masterpiece that touches on the essence of American Life. It seems to be more trenchant today then 70 years ago when it was made, somehow unconsciously predicting a world where the thirst for attention, fame, and above all entertainment, would stretch beyond the limits of Hollywood. We're all writing our own movies all the time; the only question is how good (or big) do you want them to be?


The filming begins with an amazing, booming, orchestral score (by Franz Waxman) and some of the best design work you'll see with opening credits. Do all movies have bad soundtracks and bad typography nowadays? Of course not. But they had a much higher batting average in those times, and you'll be hard pressed to come across anything better than this...


The story is fairly straightforward honestly, a tale as old as time: a young man (Joe), a writer, drives into a semi-dilapidated mansion's garage owned by a forgotten silent pictures movie star (Norma Desmond) as he avoids collection henchmen and is instantly mistaken for a chimpanzee coffin salesman for her recently deceased pet ape. After they clear up that confusion (about his not being a coffin salesman; the dead chimp is real...


), the old starlet, realizing he's a screenwriter, offers up a script of her own for him to punch up. Joe being down on his luck, sees an opportunity to make a buck. But his plan to bilk her for some exorbitant copyediting fees devolves into a kind of indentured servant / reverse Pretty Woman scenario, where Norma is more or less his sugar mama...


It's a great setup, and probably way ahead of its time. Most older actresses were simply forgotten about. To make a movie about one, literally with one? That's cray. Gloria Swanson, born in 1899, made her bones in the silent movie business. Life imitates art, of course. What makes this so great is that is also the subject matter; a meta film before meta as a concept existed (in line with its most widely used interpretation re media).

Where this film exceeds your expectations — it's pretty clear you are watching something GREAT from the very first second — is in its many details, and quirky moments. Like the chimp and the organ that plays itself 1...



(I could spend all day pulling clips and doing "ANALYSIS" on this all-time classic but I got shit today my friends.)

In the end, we always keep coming back to Norma, the heart of this story. She represents an obsession with the self that goes beyond pure narcissism. It rings so true today. And now? you don't even have to be a fading silent movie star / murderer. You just have to own a cellphone.

This is the rarest of "Movies about the Movies" which manages to be both inside baseball and touch on greater, universal themes, without shortchanging either element. I loved it.



FOOTNOTES:

1. Also in that clip? Potentially the impetus / origin of the title of Twin Peaks: The Return ? Seems possible.[BACK]

CHRONOLOGICALLY
EPISODE 377 - (YOU ARE HERE) - EPISODE 379 ⫸

๐š‚๐šž๐š™๐š™๐š˜๐š›๐š ๐š–๐šŽ ๐šŠ๐š—๐š ๐š๐š‘๐š’๐šœ ๐š ๐šŽ๐š‹๐šœ๐š’๐š๐šŽ/๐š™๐š˜๐š๐šŒ๐šŠ๐šœ๐š ๐š˜๐š— ๐™ฟ๐šŠ๐š๐š›๐šŽ๐š˜๐š— ๐š๐š˜๐š› ๐šŠ๐šœ ๐š•๐š˜๐š  ๐šŠ๐šœ $๐Ÿท ๐šŠ ๐š–๐š˜๐š—๐š๐š‘!

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