Summary: Today Locke Peterseim gives us something different than his usually insightful review of a summer blockbuster; he gives a macro-review of summer blockbusters as an art form. What does their triumph over what might be called “real” films (i.e., with plots, characters, etc) reveal about us? This is one of his best. Post your thoughts in the comments.
By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
31 August 2015. Reposted with his generous permission.
Oh hey, look, it’s officially the end of the summer movie season.
I had a half dozen clever ways into this piece, but let’s cut to the chase (scenes, literally): I didn’t write much about this summer’s big blockbuster “air-conditioning-and-popcorn” movies.
I didn’t write much about the summer’s small art-house indie films, either, for a variety of reasons I’m working to remedy, but in part because even as I near 50, I’m still somewhat conditioned and programmed to focus first on the big-name, big-box-office summer action movies. They get “stuck in my craw,” and when I couldn’t write about them this summer, for reasons I’ll elaborate on here today, I found myself unable to write about much else until I cleared the flue. Or craw… or whatever this metaphor was about…
Since my youth, I’ve been told (by studios and entertainment media, in the past couple decades by online social media, and always by myself) that Summer Movies are “special;” that if they’re not always cinematically deep, they’re culturally, seasonally, personally important. Most of all, Summer Movie Season (and the upcoming Awards Season) is intentionally, collectively branded by the studios and the Grand Entertainment Marketing Machine as Something We Are Supposed to Care About (i.e. “Spend Our Money On”).
In past summers I’d written about the nostalgic pull of the “idea” of these big summer movies, all of it keyed directly into the warm emotional glow of my 10-16-year-old self’s rose-tinted memories of lining up on summer sidewalks to see films like Star Wars, Empire, Raiders, E.T., and even, in a rare case of my young-adult self successfully capturing that childhood thrill, Burton’s first Batman (which I saw in my early-20s rather than my teens). Right up until the last five years (not coincidentally, around when I began to write about film professionally), I could still muster something like that excitement and giddy anticipation for the Summer Movie Season, all of it, again, fueled almost purely on nostalgia, not reality. “Chasing the experience,” we call it.