It’s 1951, the Hollywood studio system is still at the height of its power, and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is having a bad day. As the head of production at Capitol Pictures (yes, the same place that hired Barton Fink a few years earlier), Mannix has to deal with a pregnant, unmarried star (Scarlet Johansson), coach a singing cowboy miscast in a sophisticated comedy, distract a pair of vulture-like gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton), persuade a panel of clergy to give their stamp of approval to his forthcoming Biblical epic — and locate the missing star of said epic — while still finding time to go to confession daily to lament his inability to stop smoking.There was in fact a real Eddie Mannix, a vice president at Metro Goldwyn Mayer from the silent days until his death in 1963. He went into Hollywood legend as a fixer, the man who kept MGM’s stable of stars out of the papers and sometimes out of jail. There are even rumors that he used criminal connections to permanently remove some threats to the studio’s wholesome image, but these are largely the stuff of legend. (The 2006 film Hollywoodland repeated a popular story that Mannix — played by Bob Hoskins — was behind the death of actor George Reeves.) Brolin’s Mannix is a much less threatening figure, and Hail, Caesar!, the latest film from the always unpredictable Joel and Ethan Coen, makes him not the heavy, but rather the catalyst driving an all-star look at Hollywood’s past. It’s a satire of the production system and an affectionate tribute to the kind of filmmaking it nourished. (Cinematographer Roger Deakins is an essential collaborator, as he was on eleven previous Coen films.) There’s also a Hitchcock-inspired subplot involving the kidnapping (and political education) of the aforementioned absentee star (George Clooney, not quite as goofy as in previous Coen films, but blissfully slow-witted nonetheless), and, perhaps to shake off their work on the very un-Coenlike Bridge of Spies, a fair amount of humor based on the mostly exaggerated threat of Cold War-era Hollywood Reds infiltrating the film industry.