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MARCH 2, 1998: 

BURN, HOLLYWOOD, BURN: AN ALAN SMITHEE FILM A catastrophe of almost unendurable proportions, "Burn, Hollywood, Burn: An Alan Smithee Film" is simply not to be seen. Megasuccessful script machine Joe Eszterhas wrote this parody of the doings behind a failed $200 million Hollywood action movie as some kind of commentary on the backstabbing of the cloistered community of L.A.-based studio filmmakers, yet his true, gratifying raspberry was last year's gentle, worthy "Telling Lies in America," a small film of some craft. Here's the groaner of a set-up: The credit "Alan Smithee" is given by the Director's Guild when a director decides his work has turned out so badly he doesn't want anyone but his accountant to know he made the thing. Eric Idle plays a crackpot filmmaker whose real name is Alan Smithee, so it's, ha ha ha ha, impossible for him to take his name off a movie. When his action film "Trio," starring Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan, is muddled by producer Ryan O'Neal and studio head Richard Jeni, he steals the negative and threatens to burn it. This pseudo-doc is a horror show from the get-go, badly shot, acted and edited. And whose fault is it? Well, Alan Smithee. Motion Picture Academy President and long-time hack director Arthur Hiller directed. Eszterhas took it away from him, recut it, layered in more of the wallpapered soundtrack. Hiller took his name off. Voila, "An Alan Smithee Film" became "An Alan Smithee Film." Smithee should be embarrassed. While Robert Evans plays himself-almost as well as Dustin Hoffman does in "Wag the Dog"-the only scene of lasting beauty comes near the end. Eszterhas and Hiller sit at a table beneath their respective heads of big hair and Hiller says, "The last thing in the world a director needs is you standing up for them." But let's leave the amen to Richard Jeni, who, appearing on a Las Vegas talk show, had the best line: Think "The Player," just not funny.


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