MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS: June

Typically, around the beginning of each month, an e-mail circulates between Alex, Murtada, and myself regarding this column. Usually one or two of us has forgotten about it since it is only once a month and we rotate who covers it, so each of us individually only writes it once every three months. I guess all of us forgot this time around. Oops. Better late than never.

Having only missed one weekend that offered only one notable wide opening (X-Men: First Class) which I have essentially no interest in, I feel I haven’t missed much by writing up the column today. As you may have noticed from Alex’s seasonal anticipatory post, this summer is odd. The blockbusters are confined to mostly sequels and superhero movies and there is essentially nothing coming from considerable filmmakers. The festival circuits are seeming quite strong however. It appears as though indie cinema truly is winning in terms of quality. Alas, as always, the box office still indicates the opposite.

Super 8

Initially, I was through the roof thrilled about J. J. Abrams latest work. I wrote an entire post on the 30-second Super Bowl spot. It seemed to me that Abrams was the perfect match to exhibit a quality rehash of Spielberg nostalgia. I also thought that coming off of Star Trek, he was in prime shape to produce a legitimate Oscar contender. On top of that, I considered Super 8 to be the only appealing blockbuster that doesn’t fit the description of sequel or superhero movie. Everything just seemed to fit in place with this one, including the John Williams-esque soundtrack to the advertisements. I didn’t think the duo of Spielberg and Abrams could do wrong. Yet even with considerably positive reviews, I am getting the impression that they have misfired.

I won’t deny that Abrams obviously possesses talent, even though I didn’t love Star Trek, Lost, or Cloverfield. I thought this would be the perfect storm for him because he clearly has an eye for the technical side of filmmaking and he is one of the few big names who resists the Christopher Nolan self-seriousness (that doesn’t seem to work for anyone other than Nolan) and attempts to emulate classic cinema. However, it appears that his technical side has won over. Roger Ebert’s highly positive three and a half star review, posted earlier today, solidified my disinterest in the film.

It is not that I am saying that this is clearly a bad film. After all it is getting mostly positive reviews and many raves. And no one should judge the quality of a film without seeing it. But one can determine what kind of a film a certain title is through reading about it. I’m not a fan of action films; I was only interested in this as a throwback to E.T. (my favorite of Spielberg’s films). That was a film that toyed with the supernatural while explicitly being about a struggling family dynamic that was executed beautifully. Ebert says early on in the review that with Super 8 “what they’re trying to do is evoke the innocence of an “E.T.” while introducing a more recent level of special effects.” The implication of a CGI update is disheartening. The fact is, I would have prefered a film that deliberately lowered the quality of special effects in order to focus the viewer’s attention of the story that really mattered. E.T. doesn’t need CGI. As far as the family dynamics go, Ebert explains later on in the review:

During the first hour of “Super 8,” I was elated by how good it was. It was like seeing a lost early Spielberg classic. Then something started to slip. The key relationship of Alice and her troubled father Louis (Ron Eldard) went through an arbitrary U-turn. Joe’s own father seemed to sway with the requirements of the plot. The presentation of the threat was done with obscure and unconvincing special effects. We want the human stories and the danger to mesh perfectly, and they seem to slip past one another.

Ebert is forgiving of this slip-up. I, however, only wanted to see the film for the potential of for once seeing such a dynamic play out successfully outside of a Pixar film. I’m sure many will enjoy this film and I have no objection to this film being made; it is after all, an original concept with respectable ambition. I just don’t think this one is for me anymore.

Cars 2

I have read plenty of complaints on this site (and pretty much every other film industry based source of commentary) about Pixar’s next feature. Granted, many of these sources disliked the original Cars, I still struggle to understand the legitimacy of their unhappiness. First, and foremost, I have never considered to Cars to be bad film, Pixar’sworst maybe, but still not altogether bad. And most critics didn’t either. One step back isn’t a disaster; and they have bounced back to being as strong as ever. Many are irrationally assuming that this is going to be a bad film, which, even if you hate the original, is an inadvisable gambling assumption given Pixar’s track record. I see this as a little ridiculous; but it is a classic example of journalism and fanboys collectively and pretentiously making impossible claims about a film that has not been unveiled.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not exactly thrilled about this film. Many of Pixar’s other projects, including the abandoned Newt sound much more interesting. But I can’t complain about it. This does not appear to be a sell-out move because all of their original films have all proven financially successful. And Cars was one of their lowest grosses. It is not the most financially logical decision. So the fact remains that Pixar is making this film because some people in the studio simply want to see this film get made. And that is all the reason there needs to be. And so what if this is their first failure? Have they not earned the right to return to the characters and world they created and bring to a larger scale? Maybe it will be a horrendous film. But I honestly doubt it, and even then I won’t condemn Pixar for it. It is one thing to be disinterested in a film. It is another to say “I can’t believe they are wasting their fucking time making such bullshit,” or “Pixar has gone to shit.” Both of those quotes were pulled from comments on sites similar to Film Misery. This is just sad. I will happily pay to see this film and whatever films they produce next. I will see Cars 3 if it comes to pass.

Submarine

For those of you have the cinematic fortune of living in either New York City or Los Angeles (or other parts of the world), Submarine is or has already been made available to you. I’m jealous. It has made a rather impressive festival run in the past year or so and has garnered considerable attention from such locations as Toronto, Berlin, and Sundance. It tells the tale of a young and seemingly uncomfortable adolescent with a light-hearted Catcher in the Rye demeanor. The producer’s synopsis reads:

Writer/director Richard Ayoade adapts author Joe Dunthorne’s acerbic coming-of-age novel to the big screen with this comedy centered on the efforts of precocious Welsh 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) to lose his virginity before his next birthday, and prevent his mother (Sally Hawkins) from having an affair with a smooth-talking spiritual guru (Paddy Considine) after his morose father (Noah Taylor) loses will to fight for his marriage.

British humor has always been far from my favorite style in the genre. But this cynical and racy feature looks genuinely funny and insightful. It is rare to be able to assume such depth from mere advertisements. But this trailer is structured and edited beautifully with Jacques Briel’s ‘Quand on a Que L’amour.’ The cast is quite impressive as well. What really sells me though, is visuals combined with the general theme of being disconnected from society. These seem to indicate a French New Wave influence–and I am very much a fan of that. I feel as though I have made clear my love for The 400 Blows on several different posts this week. Visually, the cues are obvious. The kaleidescope imagery, use of color, slow-motion, and fast zooms all mirror the revolutionary movement that for some reason is specifically aesthetically pleasing to me. In a separate trailer, found here,  you see the love interest photographing the couple kissing in a freeze-frame fashion. This calls attention to film itself, another staple of French New Wave! I love it.

There are other films coming out this month, but these three are the only ones that I wish to highlight. And of those three, only one really excites me. It’s going to be a long summer. Speaking of the French New Wave, however, Jean Luc Godard’s latest film (an entry at last year’s Cannes festival) Film Socalisme managed to get released on one screen this month… I doubt many readers will see that. It is amazing to me that a filmmaker of such caliber could reach such low distribution even a year after its premier. So it goes.

Michael Bay has a film coming out. No comment. Ryan Reynolds is all dressed up green in what I find to be the most unwatchable trailer I’ve seen all year. I suspect it will probably produce an equally unwatchable film. But I am wrong more often than not and no matter the quality of the film, it will find an audience.

The only other film that has my attention at all is the very bizarre indie horror flick, Troll Hunter. As an avid fan of B-movie horror flicks, specifically the classically awful old slashers, this could be a lot of fun for me. Unfortunately, independant theaters are not easy access for me at the moment, so my Netflix account will likely be my primary source of entertainment. To quote Kurt Vonnegut for the second time in three paragraphs: So it goes.

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  • I am very excited for ‘Submarine’ and will be seeing ‘Cars 2’ although my excitement for that one is muted. I would also add ‘Beginners’, which opened last week and expands throughout the month and ‘The Trip’ which opens this weekend very limited.

  • Jose

    June is typically the summer month where they release the least interesting movies, this year doesn’t feel any different but that doesn’t mean I personally don’t see anything I find interesting.

    1) Super 8. Which I sadly won’t be able to see till the end of the month (stupid foreign release dates) so I paid my mom and little sister to attend a screening earlier today so that they can tell me about it. While I must admit some reviews saying that it loses its focus as an awe inspiring sci-fi adventure like ET in favor of being a thriller, I’m still excited for it.

    2) Bad Teacher. The trailer made me laugh, I’d say that this one and The Trip (out now) are my most anticipated June comedies.

    3) Green Lantern. I think it looks like a fun movie. I understand why people hate it so far, but I think I’ll judge it. I think I hear one or 2 regulars here fuming.

    4) Beginners, I guess. Mainly because my school’s LGBT group won’t stop talking about it (even though it doesn’t seem as gay focused as they think). Oh and there’s I think Another Earth (or is that next month?) And A Better Life which has Summit attempting to market is as this year’s Hurt Locker but I’ve seen almost zero buzz for it.

    I’ll wait for word of mouth from The Troll Hunter to decide if I’ll watch it, I really wasn’t impressed with the trailers.

    And I had X Men First Class on my June list and it was number 1 on my list of anticipated superhero movies, having seen it I don’t thin you’re missing much, still a way better movie then Thor though.

  • I was not at all impressed with the trailers for ‘The Trip’ or ‘Beginners’ although I probably should’ve mentioned the latter.

    I think ‘A Better Life’ looks awful and you are absolutely right; the buzz is nonexistant. It looks more like ‘The Blind Side’ than ‘The Hurt Locker.’

    Interesting that you mention ‘Bad Teacher,’ that is one I’ve only glanced over. Perhaps I should give it a little more attention.

  • Asif Khan

    My Most Anticipating Movies of This Month :)

    1. Super 8
    2. Cars 2
    3. Submarine
    4. Bad Teacher
    5. Green Lantern

    saw X Men First Class last night A grade from me …. loved it :))))

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