To Craft or Not to Make — 6 Movies Exploring the Creative Process – NBCNEWS

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The creative process can often be seen as a long and sometimes arduous journey, full of moments of vulnerability and self-discovery. While the process is completely subjective, the results will speak for themselves in the end. Some of the greatest works of art are created through self-sacrifice, strength and an essential demonstration of passion.

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However, capturing that process on the big screen is no easy task. By its very nature, it appeals most to those of similar creative disposition and works best primarily as a dramatized or even humorous display. Usually it’s a niche only entered by the most sincere and considerate of artists.


‘Barton Fink’ (1991)

Starring John Turturroa frequent employee of the Coen brothers, Barton Finko follows its titular character, a famous New York playwright who moves to California to write for the film and discovers the terrifying reality of Hollywood. Despite winning the famous Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival, Barton Finko is often overlooked when claiming the mantle of the most esteemed photographs from the esteemed directors.

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Sure, that’s a shame. Thematically, the film is a rich study of bottomless terror, mixing comedy and drama with that of an outright suspense thriller. It’s a glimpse into the disturbing reality of writer’s block. In the film, Barton makes the honest claim that he doesn’t like writing, and finds it a strenuous process. Writing the experience of Coens Miller’s Crossingreleased the previous year, formed the heart of the story.

‘Birdman of (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ (2014)

2014 Academy Award Winner, bird mantook home the Big Three for writer and director Alejandro G. Inarritu, including Best Picture, Directorial Achievement, and Original Screenplay. The continuous shooting style would also sweep for the best performance in cinematography. Michael Keaton plays Riggan, a washed-up former superhero actor trying to revive his fading career by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway production.

The film embraces elements of magical realism to tell a story that explores the value of a meaningful life. Riggan argues that real artists ask themselves existential questions, and he hopes his ambitious production will breathe new life into his stagnant career that he ultimately deems meaningless. Essentially, Riggan wishes his life meant more than the superhero Birdman he once played.

‘American Splendor’ (2003)

American actor Paul Giamatti has established itself as one of Hollywood’s finest with an eclectic, finely tuned body of work. Early in his breakthrough years, Giamatti took on the role of Harvey Pekarthe writer behind the famous underground comic, American splendor. The film (which shares its name with Pekar’s comic) blends illustrated art with traditional storytelling to capture the essence of Pekar’s art and continue the story in a documentary-style.

Trapped in a hopeless job, Harvey is a perpetually insecure man with little regard for anything but the daily grind of his monotonous routine. This presumptuous reality quickly becomes the catalyst of his stories, as his inherent awkwardness and social observations are at the heart of his comic.

‘Adaptation’ (2002)

In the spirit of Barton Fink, but on a larger scale, Amendment is based on screenwriter Charlie Kaufmanstruggles to adapt “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orleans. Directed by Spike Jonzethe film features some stunning performances of Chris Cooper and Meryl Streeptogether with Nicholas Cage, an actor who has become widely known for performances that consistently follow the line between good and bad. Cage plays dual roles as a fictional Kauffman and his twin brother, Donald.

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After struggling with writer’s block, Kaufman wrote a screenplay about his struggles with adaptation, dramatized elements of the story, and created a fictional twin brother, Donald Kaufman. The result is a film that thematically explores the role of a screenwriter and their struggle to create original work of integrity in a culture governed by the rigid business demands of success.

‘Black Swan’ (2010)

One-sided dedication is at the heart of Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan. Much of the story lends itself to a mind-boggling mystery, such as a ballerina (Natalie Portman) struggles to keep her sanity after winning the lead role in a production of Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovskySwan Lake.

The film beautifully captures the brutal physical and emotional demands ballerinas must endure in their short-lived careers. In pursuit of her craft, Aronofsky dictates a story that escalates toward Nina’s collapse. Portman herself showed dedication, drawing on her own experience of studying ballet, which she idealized as a young girl. A year before production began, she trained several hours a day with a professional dancer from the New York City Ballet, whom she reportedly paid for herself.

‘Ratatouille’ (2007)

On top of Pixarbest, Ratatouille follows Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat that can cook; who forms an unexpected alliance with Linguini (Lou Romano), a young kitchen worker at a famous Parisian restaurant. A co-production with Disney, Ratatouille is equally aimed at adults and children. Fittingly, it showcases all the qualities of a great meal, tantalizing the taste buds and nourishing the soul with its touching and equally humbling story.

Remy’s natural devotion to cooking gives him a strong sense of his own identity. It faces Linguini, who is clearly more insecure in his position when the two first meet. Both are driven to succeed, but for arguably opposite reasons. Despite the film’s unusual combination and the story’s heartfelt improbability, there’s a real case study for pursuing one’s passion despite seemingly insurmountable adversity.

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