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Do you speak Spago?

Do you speak Spago? — A Cynic’s cinema glossary

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above-the-line costs
Staggering pre-production expenses mainly for big-name talent, as in Macaulay Culkin’s post-Home Alone salary (current asking price: $1 million).

auteur
French term for a director with a domineering personal vision. Ex: ”Gee, since I won my Oscar, I feel like an auteur.”

below-the-line costs
The pittance left over after above-the-line costs for actual filming.

best boy
Lead assistant to head electrician. Not as weird as you thought, huh?

blacklist
1950s Hollywood sees red, turns yellow.

Capracorn
Snide reference to audience-pleasing sentimentality done best by Frank Capra, as in It’s a Wonderful Life.

character actor
1: Somebody too convincing to be a lead. 2: A Broadway actor skylarking. 3: Michael J. Fox if he doesn’t get a big part for five years.

cinematographer
Creates great photography so the director can win the Oscar.

comeback
Concept for every Liza Minnelli project.

cool image
1: A shot with predominantly blue tones. 2: Something Johnny Depp has. 3: Something Richard Grieco wants.

cult film
A movie loved with evangelical passion by fans terrified that other people will find out about it.

development
1: Status of a film before a studio agrees to make it. 2: Hollywood purgatory.

director
1: Hollywood species recognized by baseball cap. 2: What every actor wants to be. Ex: ”I enjoy my role on One Day at a Time, but I really want to direct.”

F/X
1: Film industry slang for ”special effects.” 2: Silly name for the 1986 movie, since nobody outside the film industry understood the term.

has-been
Judd What’s-His-Name.

homage
1: What a director says he’s doing when he’s ripping off another director’s style. 2: Anything by Brian De Palma.

Japanese
The bosses.

legs
1: A film’s staying power at the box office. 2. Kathleen Turner’s power base.

MPAA ratings
1. G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. 2. Classification system that alerts teenagers to flicks that have $7 worth of sex and violence.

net profits
No such thing.

New Wave
Late-1950s movement featuring existential themes, anti-professional technique, and naked French chicks.

1939
Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Ninotchka…the last time the Oscars were really worth watching.

Oscar
1: A lot more dollars at the box office. 2: What you can’t remember who won last year.

points
1: Shares of box-office profits guaranteed to big-shot stars. 2: Why Dustin Hoffman will never have to work again if Hook, due next winter, is a success.

power lunch
Rendered obsolete by power breakfast.

previews
1. A film’s prerelease screenings. 2. The final word on Hollywood status, depending on how early you attend one.

producer
Hollywood species distinguished by Giorgio Armani suits with ”I Survived Kim Basinger” buttons worn on the lapels.

production design
1: Overall look of sets, costumes, props, makeup, et cetera. 2: Substitute for plot and characters. 3: Dick Tracy.

release
Initial distribution of movie prints. Wide release: Reserved for blockbusters. Platform release: Goes to major markets for trial run. Limited release: It’s a dog; to be followed soon by a video release.

Rosebud
Major motif in Citizen Kane, which cannot be divulged to those who haven’t seen the film. Sorry.

screenwriter
In Los Angeles, anything with opposable thumbs.

sequel/prequel
What happens after something makes money.

Spago
Los Angeles chef Wolfgang Puck’s cooled-down hot spot, specializing in duck-sausage pizza and actors pretending to dodge paparazzi.

story arc
The plot — but with a car phone.

studio accountants
Hollywood’s creative elite.

subtext
Subtle plot underpinning that became outmoded when Hollywood realized the average moviegoer is 18 years old.