It is inevitable -- any form of art will, at some point, turn inwards. Instead of focusing on other forms of life, the form will attempt to reveal itself -- whether exploratory and serious or sarcastic and mocking. In Hollywood, the camera has spun inwards countless times. Sometimes it's earnest, but most often it's a great serving of satire and irony.
There are a ton of great examples of this, from Boogie Nights to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Strange Brew to The Big Lebowski. If I had 50 slots, I could make this comprehensive, but I only have seven. So you're getting the best mock-filled flicks of this century -- films ranging from the year 2000 all the way to 2008. Check them out after the jump, and weigh in with your picks below.
WARNING: The following videos are NSFW. They contain, among other things, violence and foul language. Watch at your own risk. span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Raving Beauty -- Cecil B. Demented 2000
Improvisational and guerrilla-tastic, Raving Beauty is Cecil B. Demented's response to the world of mainstream cinema and Hollywood. Whipped up piece by piece, like David Lynch and Inland Empire, Demented's manic masterpiece does things Patty Hearst-style (who pops up in a cameo) as Cecil and his crew kidnap Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) and force her to star in the film. It's the ultimate dedication to the form, from getting shots at any cost to taking the big screen by any means necessary.
Honorable Mentions in the Film: Super-awesome sequels of both Forest Gump and Patch Adams
Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season -- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back 2001
Along the same lines as the uber-crappy sequels that pop up in Cecil B. Demented, Kevin Smith gives Ben and Matt's flick some sequel action under the uninterested eye of Gus Van Sant. Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season awards Matt Damon with the chance to blow away rich, jerky smarty pantses rather than wasting his time in a battle of wits. It's an all-too-brief moment, but worth Jay and Silent Bob's trip.
Honorable Mention in Film: Bluntman and Chronic with Mark Hamill.
The Orchid Thief -- Adaptation 2002
This is one of my favorite uses of films within films, mainly because it's Charlie Kaufman's warped account of trying to adapt The Orchid Thief for the big screen. By warped, I mean classic Kaufman, as he gives himself a twin brother (one of Nicolas Cage's best roles) and more intrigue than simple writer's block. The film also helped allow Donald get an Oscar nomination -- the first fictitious person to ever get a nod. I'm wondering -- had Kaufman won, would he have gotten two statues?
Tristram Shandy -- Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story 2005
Since many consider Tristram Shandy to be unfilmable, the perfect way to tackle the material was a film within a film, where scenes from the novel could be intermingled with the pathos and insanity of actors and behind-the-scenes drama. But really, it's all worth it to see Steve Coogan naked, upside down, and lodged inside a replica vagina, waiting to be born. That beats Hamlet 2 any day.
Home for Purim -- For Your Consideration 2006
There's always some sort of performance cooking up in the world of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries -- plays, dog shows, folk concerts. In For Your Consideration, there's Home for Purim, an uber serious film about a young woman trying to come out to her ailing mother and family. But this is Guest we're talking about (even when he has six fingers, he's still at least a little funny). There's insane face lifts (without the aid of prosthetics!), and meddling execs who find the whole thing "too Jewish."
Machete -- Grindhouse 2007
Most films within films are slices of an alternate world we wouldn't really be interested in seeing. (Would anyone want to see all of Savage Beauty or Home for Purim?) But Machete is something else entirely. After the faux trailer popped up in the world of Grindhouse, audiences were mad for Danny Trejo's hero and hoping to see him in all of his feature-length glory. Robert Rodriguez has moved on to all of his Rose-centric projects, so there's little chance we'll ever see all of Machete, but one can dream.
Scorcher 1-6 -- Tropic Thunder 2008
Finally, there's Ben Stiller. I was less than impressed with the Scorcher bits that hit the web before Tropic Thunder was released. It seemed like typical, silly Stiller, but in the film, and the context of their delivery, they became some of the funniest moments in the film. It's one of those rare occasions where you can see a clip, and rather than have it spoil things, it gives you no idea of the laughs that are to come.