CFF Review: Bryan Connolly’s Charming Indie Comedy ‘Make Popular Movies’ Punches Up at Hollywood
One of the most exciting things about independent movies is being able to bring to life a concept that big studios wouldn’t fund, such as Bryan Connolly’s scathingly accurate satire of the Hollywood film industry Make Popular Movies. After opening with an absurdist skit involving a disruptive gorilla in a theater, which turns out to be a shoot for a commercial, viewers are dropped into a Los Angeles bar alongside hotshot director Lou Bagetti (John Gholson of Maybe Shower, absolutely stealing the show with his comedic chops) as he discusses his upcoming epic with an associate over the phone. The side-splitting altercation he gets into simultaneously with the bartender, though, is when it really sets the stage perfectly for the type of experience the audience is in for: constant chaotic hilarity that almost never lets up.
The dialogue is razor sharp and delivered at a rapid-fire pace that really enhances the humor since there’s not much time to regain composure between most of the jokes. The first half of the film focuses on a small group of struggling actors (primarily Angela, portrayed excellently by Franny Harold of Night on Sixth) as they go through the casting process on Lou’s latest big budget project. The structure of the film has a sketch comedy feel to it (i.e. SNL, Loiter Squad, etc.) with each scene serving as it’s own individual skit. It differs from the aforementioned shows in that when combined across the full seventy-one minute runtime, these skits form an actual narrative with recurring characters.
There’s riffs on essentially every aspect of the production/post-production process, from how difficult some individuals can be to work with on a daily basis to how laughably unprepared others are at times. The interpersonal dynamics are basically spot on in every way. For example there’s a scene where Lou eats an entire pizza while sitting at the casting table with his producer Sylvia (Katie Graham of Zero Charisma, who clearly loathes him) and assistant Anna (Alex Walker putting in a stellar debut performance) who call him out on his gluttony while the pizza delivery man stands awkwardly in disbelief at the situation unfolding in front of him.
The butt of the joke isn’t entirely the industry itself though, as there’s plenty of jabs taken at audiences and critics alike. It does so in terms of what people actually show up for at the box office, how little attention many often pay to the films they subsequently criticize heavily, and how a few massive studios have built flagship franchises based on our questionable collective taste. As is to be expected with any sort of comedy that relies on this structure, not all of the skits land as well as the rest and there’s a few that go on a tad long. That being said the sheer amount of great moments Make Popular Movies contains is so abundant that it’s quite easy to overlook these modest shortcomings. Every line is oozing with a clearly deep passion for the medium and it’s a very technically sound film too, from the editing to the composition.
There’s no details yet on when you’ll be able to check out this comedic look at the birth of a big budget masterpiece for yourself, but this article will be updated with distribution information as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below to get a feel for the fun time that lies ahead.