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Film / Living in Oblivion

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Tom DiCillo's 1995 film, starring Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney and Peter Dinklage is a quintessential movie about movies. It tells the story of Nick, the director of a low-budget indie film, trying to keep everything together as his production is plagued with an insecure actress, a megalomaniac star, a pretentious, beret-wearing director of photography and lousy catering. Divided in three acts, each representing a different scene to shoot, this film is an essential for amateur filmmakers.

No relation to the blog where Chris Livingston plays a Non-Player Character in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Troping in Oblivion:

  • Accidental Misnaming: When they get introduced, Nicole mistakenly addresses Tito as Toto.
  • Accidental Public Confession: Type 3. Via a room microphone Nicole overhears Chad bragging about bedding her.
  • All Just a Dream: The first two acts of the films are Nick's, then Nicole's dream. The third act is real, but the scene being filmed is a dream sequence.
  • Anxiety Dreams: Twice. In the second sequence the driver tells Nick that his dream was this. In the third act Nick tells Nicole that her dream sequence is an anxiety dream the night before her wedding.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Nick during his imagined award acceptance speech.
    Nick: "To all these people and many more, I would love to say thank you... but I can't, because what I really feel like saying is... go fu..."
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  • Brick Joke: The first conversation of the film discusses the state of the milk opened almost a week ago. Thirty minutes later, Wolf is seen puking his guts out.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: When a watch starts beeping and Nick can't find it, he goes completely ballistic on the cast and crew before screaming his head off in frustration. Their look of shock is genuine because Buscemi ad libbed the entire rant.
  • Crashing Dreams: The sound of Nick's alarm clock creeps into his dream and eventually makes it come to an end.
  • Curse Cut Short: Nick's Bait-and-Switch Comment is cut short when he snaps out of his fantasy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nicole.
    Script Girl: I wonder what his sign is. Do you know his sign, Nicole?
    Nicole: No, I don't know his sign. But I think his moon is in Uranus.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The behind-the-camera scenes of the first sequence are shown in black and white.
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  • Door Closes Ending: The movie starts with a door opening and concludes with a door closing.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Maurice suggest for the oil and the gas to go in the same inlet of the smoke machine. It works out at first but then the machine explodes which raises the question if this was really a smart idea after all.
  • Film Within a Film: Living in Oblivion is the name of the film the characters are all making.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Chad thinks wearing Wolf's eyepatch will make his character more of a badass. Nick, who doesn't like the eyepatch, dissuades Chad by telling him it looks gay.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Guess why Wolf couldn't film the perfect take.
  • German Expressionism: The stage setting of the third scene is reminiscent of this.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The unnerving ring tone of Nick's alarm clock towards the end of first dream.
  • Hitler Cam: Chad in his Power Fantasy towards the end.
  • Hypocrite: Chad tells Nicole that he is a gentleman and won't brag about the one-night-stand. Later he does exactly that to Nick.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Towards the end, several characters have extended Fantasy Sequences, all of which are revealing about their hopes:
    Fantasy!Chad: Oh Wanda. I love your power. It's like an aphrodeezhak to me.
  • Let's Just Be Friends: Part of Wanda's breakup speech to Wolf.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Tito gets particularly offended by this trope.
    Tito: Why does my character have to be a dwarf?
    Nick: He doesn't have to be.
    Tito: Then why is he? Is that the only way you can make this a dream, to put a dwarf in it?
    Nick: No, Tito, I...
    Tito: Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who's had a dream with a dwarf in it? No! I don't even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I've seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this! "Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it!". Everyone will go "Woah, this must be a fuckin' dream, there's a fuckin' dwarf in it!". Well I'm sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and stick it up your ass!
  • Love Dodecahedron: Nick likes Nicole, who slept with Chad, who asked out Wanda, who's dating Wolf. This only applies in Nicole's dream, in which Nick confesses that he loves her. After she's woken up and is in the real world, there's no evidence that Nick is in love with her; she just wishes that he did.
  • Meaningful Name: Nick Reve. "Rêve" is French for "dream".
  • Method Acting: In-universe. In the first sequence, Nicole mentions that the reconciliation scene hit close to home. And sure enough her acting becomes stellar when she has a Flashback Cut to a moment of her and her dying mother in hospital.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Partially averted with Nicole: after making love to Chad she's sitting on the bed with her back to the camera and the sheet round her waist. Then when he's gone, she flops onto her back without covering herself, because she's alone.
  • No Budget: Nick's film project is an in-universe example of a low-budget indie film.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Tom Di Cillo's first film Johnny Suede was a low-budget Troubled Production starring a then-unknown Catherine Keener and then-rising-star Brad Pitt. This, his second film, is about a low-budget Troubled Production which stars an unknown actress (played by Catherine Keener) and a rising star called Chad Palomino.
  • Ominous Fog: Nick wants it for his dream sequence but the smoke machines gives troubles. At the end they shoot it without the fog.
  • Plot Parallel: In the second act, the dialogue between Chad and Nicole's characters mirror how Nick feels about Nicole or rather how Nicole dreams Nick feels about her.
  • Potty Emergency: Maurice bumps into Tito in the bathroom because he cannot hold it.
  • Power Fantasy: Chad is imagining Nicole pleading to stay with him.
  • The Prima Donna: Chad Palomino.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: A beeping watch ruins the shoot of a scene and nobody helps Nick find the damn thing.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stunt Casting: In-universe example. When they have their fallout, Nick mentions to Chad that he only hired him for his name.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: The statement after the end credits reads: "The characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are sort of fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is sort of coincidental and unintentional."
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe example.
  • Unrequited Love: It's hinted that Nicole has this for Nick.