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Oscar interest focuses on new crop of Hollywood 'have-beens'




Julianne Moore stars in David Cronenberg’s
Julianne Moore stars in David Cronenberg’s "Maps to the Stars."

Oscar season is approaching — not when they give out the awards, but when the high profile Oscar-bait movies trickle into theaters. This year, quite of few of those movies have something strange in common: a famous actor or actress is playing a has-been version of him or herself:

Of all these films, "Birdman" is generating the most buzz, perhaps because it cuts closest to home. Keaton’s career did flounder after "Batman Returns," and "Birdman" satirizes Hollywood’s cash cow of superhero movies.

All the movies recall "Sunset Boulevard," the original Hollywood meta-narrative in which Gloria Swanson, an aging star, played an aging star wallowing in nostalgia. "Hollywood wasn’t really accustomed to lifting its veil back then,” says Rafer Guzman, host of WNYC’s Movie Date podcast and film critic for The Takeaway. “Personas were very tightly controlled. It was unusual I think to see someone break the fourth wall in such a self-referential, unflattering way.”

What’s striking about today’s films is how willing the stars are to lampoon themselves. Pacino, apparently, fought to make "The Humbling."

This trend seems to have flown in under the radar, perhaps because these films are largely independent, and four of the five of the directors are foreign. But Guzman says these art house films make commercial sense, because they’re aimed an aging marketplace. “Let’s call it the greying audience,” he says. “They’re out there and they are still seeing movies pretty faithfully" — unlike their kids.

Eric Molinsky is a producer for Studio 360 and host of the podcast Imaginary Worlds.



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