Friday September 18, 2009
We push in line at the picture show
For cool air and a chance to see
A vision of ourselves portrayed as
Younger and braver and humble and free
—Joe Henry, “Our Song”
Summer's over. We've got autumn movie posters rotating to the left and autumn movies arriving in our theaters: the semi-serious, the longshot Oscar contenders, the Halloween horror pics. Summer movie season starts the first weekend of May and ends the first weekend of September, so most postmortems have been done already. Mine is in the above quote from Joe Henry—you don't have this song? Get it—and in the overused line of Yeats' from “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” The best lack all distribution while the worst show up in 4,000 theaters opening weekend.
No, it wasn't all bad news. Four of the top five grossers are either good-enough films (“Star Trek”: $257m; “Harry Potter”: $299m), good films (“Hangover”: $273m), or great films (“Up”: $291m)—but that last, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” is big enough and dumb enough that it gets its stink on everything else. $401 million. Michael Bay wants what's in your wallet! He knows there's not much in your mind.
Glad “Basterds” ($105m) has legs—and not just Diane Kruger's. Glad “Julia” is still cookin' it up ($86m). Too bad about the docs: “Food, Inc.” ($4m) and “The Cove” (less than $1m) deserved bigger audiences, but barely trickled into theaters; par for the course for docs. “Funny People” ($51m) deserved a bigger audience, too. “Hurt Locker” ($12m), sure, but I wasn't as ga-ga over it like some, and I get why people didn't go. But “Funny People” was funny and raunchy and it died, relatively speaking. Adam Sandler's “Big Daddy” made $163 million in 1999 ($231 million, adjusted), so where were the Sandler fans? Where were you idiots? At “Transformers,” probably. Or maybe you're all big daddies now.
How about you? What did you see this summer that you recommend? What did you see that left you shaking your head? What are you going to remember? What do you wish you could forget?
Here's the image I like to carry away...