'Best in Show' Director Takes on Worst in Hollywood

The most powerful man in Hollywood is short, bald and clearly not white.

Still, the mere sight of him triggers unparalleled hysteria in Tinseltown.

His name, of course, is Oscar. And in "For Your Consideration," Christopher Guest is doing to Academy Award addicts what he did to obsessed dog lovers in "Best in Show."

Indeed, in Guest's latest mockumentary, the filmmaker explores how just the slightest inkling of a nomination can warp an actor's mind.

"I don't think people realize how powerful that is, to say to someone, 'I bet you're going to get nominated for an award,'" said Guest.

"It shows the fragility of where people are in show business. Their feet aren't on the ground."

Guest nevertheless has grounded himself with a cadre of skilled actors who can improvise much of their parts and the results have been such lauded comedies as "Waiting for Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind."

In "For Your Consideration," Guest points his lens at the awards season monster, casting himself as the crusty director of "Home for Purim," the independent film within the film that launches its stars into the realm of Oscar contention.

The wannabe winners are portrayed by Guest's go-to ensemble, including co-writer Eugene Levy who plays his lousy agent, indie staple Parker Posey as an unstable ingénue, and Catherine O'Hara as an aging leading lady who wears her Oscar dreams on her sleeve.

They are actors playing actors, familiar with the seesaw of recognition and rejection that fuels Hollywood.

"We're making fun of ourselves," O'Hara said. "It is us."

Levy Bitten by Hollywood Bug

Levy admits the premise of the film has loose roots in reality. He was bit by the Oscar bug once, unable to shake preemptive murmurs he'd be nominated for his role as a zoned-out, fading folk star in 2003's "A Mighty Wind."

Posey's up-and-coming "Purim" character, Callie Webb, is intoxicated by awards season, but Posey dismisses Oscar-mania as "delusional."

"I think it's a huge escape of the real problems," she said. "It's fantasyland."

There are slimy studio execs and plastic surgery nightmares in "For Your Consideration," but Guest insists he is laughing with Hollywood, not at it.

'A Fairly Gentle Look At Hollywood'

Harry Shearer, who plays journeyman actor Victor Allan Miller, says the film gives Tinseltown a big break.

"I think this is a fairly gentle and affectionate look at Hollywood," he said, "compared to what's really going on there."

In the real entertainment industry, Oscar often smiles on independent films, plucking an actress like Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry" and catapulting her to the A-List.

Guest has no such plans for the fictional actors of "Home for Purim," players who are one bad audition away from a tacky infomercial and a one-woman play aptly titled "No Penis Intended."

In a film about people desperate to be recognized for their talent, Guest finds it funnier to focus on their flaws.

"If we were playing smart people that were competent," he said, "I don't see where the humor would be."

Even if the overconfident characters in "For Your Consideration" do seem destined for disappointment, are they so wrong for channeling Sally Field, and wanting to feel that the Academy really, really likes them?

O'Hara says believing in the buzz is only human.

"Wanting is the saddest thing in the world," said O'Hara. "We're all pathetic when we take ourselves seriously."