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A movie playing a movie disguised as another movie

Banes at 12:00AM, Nov. 23, 2023

There's a specific type of movie “trick” where we'll see something that seems as though it's really happening. I mean, it seems like it's “really happening” within the movie.

For instance, it'll be some kind of elaborate action sequence, or horror sequence, or whatever, but the
way it's shot indicates that it's part of the REAL story of the movie. For example, we're seeing long shots, zooming in to closeups, multiple camera angles, and stunts playing out in real time -

And then it's revealed that it's just a movie or TV show being filmed.

I was just rewatching part of Tropic Thunder, and the main movie begins with this kind of sequence. It's an extended version of this…this…

See, I'm not even sure what to call it. It's not a movie-within-a-movie; that's something different. It's not taking place in a specific person's pov. Unreliable narration? Maybe…sort of. Would we call it “conceptual reality”, maybe?

Does it even matter what we call it? Maybe not.

1. In Tropic Thunder, we are first treated to some hysterical previews of upcoming movies starring the actors who we're going to be following once the actual movie starts. This might be the funniest part of the movie (Les Grossman aside). Then we get a long, elaborate action set piece, complete with special effects, and slow motion! It seems to be really happening (in the movie I mean. Sheesh, this is hard to put into proper words). Within this dramatic war movie, there is enough subtle humor in the Ben Stiller style. Like the slow motion that goes on too long, and Stiller's character's character (?), with both hands blown off, saying when they get home, he's finally going to teach his friend to juggle.

2. In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, we see a scene that's a parody of Good Will Hunting, being shot with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. There are camera changes in real time (which I guess I could buy into, with multiple cameras, though I don't think it really makes sense), plus a real time shooting and elaborate stunt. Then we see another scene being shot for a SCREAM sequel, that has changing cameras, lighting effects, and music.

3. In Austin Powers: Goldmember, we start out with a bigger-budget action sequence that looks very different from how Austin Powers action looks. I actually was thrown off when I first saw this one. It just looked wrong. Turns out it was an Austin Powers movie starring Tom Cruise.

4. In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, we see a long shot starting outside in an old-West town, moving into a tavern - it's a fully realized world, completely different than the TV show that's actually being filmed. Granted, the exterior sets of this old west town is really there; we see it in other scenes. And the whole thing builds up this reality for the purpose of seeing a flubbed line (and maybe a triumph of acting prowess as well).

Anyway, this is a weird little topic, but it's strange enough, and rare enough, that it seemed worth mentioning.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is actually the only one I can think of that's not done for comedic effect.

I'm still trying to figure out what to call this thing…


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bravo1102 at 1:30AM, Nov. 24, 2023

@Ozoneocean: the ending born of desperation because they just didn't want to do the battle scene. It was wet, the directors were feuding, money was tight having hired all the extras to build a medieval army. Hey, what if the cops saw it and stepped in? And comedy brilliance was born. There's a ton of extras in the anniversary edition DVD. Even comes with the shooting script.

Ozoneocean at 7:02PM, Nov. 23, 2023

What about The Holy Grail- the ultimate version of this maybe, when the whole move is at the end revealed to be a low budget thing being made in a state forest. XD

PaulEberhardt at 9:11AM, Nov. 23, 2023

A mock reality in a mock reality... in a reality some of us aren't actually quite sure isn't a mock one as well... This is (almost) always a cool stunt to pull off, and it's interesting to see you note that it seems to be done usually for comedic effect - but you're right! It is. It does seem to have a ring of ancient Hindu philosophy, or Plato's cave, or the kind of stuff more modern philosophers like to mention to get us out of our comfort zone of believing what we see, and they're all serious, aren't they? I think the laughs come from the way the realization that it's just an in-movie movie unsettles us, even if it shouldn't really. Directors like Tarantino seem to enjoy this in a more subtle way in their self-referencing (hints that Kill Bill may be interpreted as a movie from the universe his other movies share and suchlike), partly because they love f#*ing with us, and partly as a typical postmodernist reminder that we should never take anything at face value in any story.

marcorossi at 8:52AM, Nov. 23, 2023

I propose the name: "fake fourth wall"

bravo1102 at 7:04AM, Nov. 23, 2023

Essaybee: same here. I once shared a house with some friends who would do silly things and I started making comments. As I was usually wearing a suit due to working in a menswear store I was tagged the narrator and would always making comments to that imaginary audience where appropriate. 🤣

EssayBee at 6:40AM, Nov. 23, 2023

bravo1102--One of my favorite 4th-wall-breaking scenes is from Airplane, so much so that my best friend and I used to use it as a form of sympathetic reaction. If one of us was relating something serious that went somewhat bad, the other of us would look to the side at an imaginary camera and say, "What a pisser." Kind of killed the seriousness of the situation, but we weren't exactly serious sorts.

memo333 at 6:22AM, Nov. 23, 2023

Pan's Labyrinth is gore movie disguised as a kids fantasy movie XD

bravo1102 at 3:09AM, Nov. 23, 2023

I've heard it called "self-aware" media and more recently "meta". The movie within a movie goes back to the beginning of movies. Probably the best self-aware movies are those about the film and entertainment industry like Star is Born to Singing in the Rain and Bob Hope, Bugs Bunny to Mel Brooks. Checking the VHS tape to see what's going on in Spaceballs? The whole dropping of the movie framework during the chase in Blazing Saddles? All those asides to the camera by Hope, Bugs and Mel Brooks? There was a unit on this is film class. I've always loved it having grown up with Bugs Bunny confiding to the camera: "I'm going to hate myself in the morning but I'll do it."

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