Good riddance to a horrible movie season

By Stephanie Foster

The chill of autumn means it’s time to bid the summer movie season farewell, and this movie lover is delighted to do so. The last months have been a gusher of star power and explosions, but when it came to artistry, it was a fairly dry well.

Many critics lamented the acting inability of The Rock or the latest penile mishaps in the American Pie series. I prefer to zero in on the worst two cinematic offenders of the summer. In my estimation, their only reason for being is to burn up the box office while deadening the senses.

The first of these is Pearl Harbor. It was the most touted film of the summer, but unfortunately the ad campaign was better than the movie. In terms of excitement, this "movie event" could have been bested by a Tupperware party. Pearl Harbor did not generate the anticipated frenzy, probably because it was boring, bloated and entirely insignificant.

As disappointing as Pearl Harbor was, the most soul-crushing experience of the summer was America’s Sweethearts. By the end credits, I slumped down in despair so far, I was practically underneath the seat. The movie was the poster child for the current ills of Hollywood–$40 million on salaries and twenty minutes on the script. And, not unlike many other films, America’s Sweethearts was entirely devoid of ambition. With the one-size-fits-all ending firmly in check, nothing and no one in the movie had to stray outside of the Hollywood comfort zone.

There was some light at the end of the cliché tunnel, though. Shrek, Moulin Rouge, The Score and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion were all delightful. Great films, however, were hard to come by. The best cinematic event of the summer was Apocalypse Now Redux, the re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 classic. I don’t often fall prey to the "good ol’ days" syndrome, but this movie does induce a twinge of nostalgia for the bold filmmaking of the ’60s. Apocalypse Now Redux was a rich, powerful experience. Even with a 22-year vintage, it is more groundbreaking than anything the Pearl Harbor producers could conceive of. The reappearance of Apocalypse Now in the same summer as Pearl Harbor was a sign from the movie gods–it illustrated the difference between the truly visionary and the barely mediocre.

The summer also brought A.I., which had a robust opening weekend but then plummeted when people heard it was actually about something. A.I. proved that Steven Spielberg is a better director than anyone knew he was. It was visually arresting, deeply moving and complex. I often wonder if a film like this would have fared better in the fall, when the bermuda shorts are put away and the neurons start firing again. A.I. was probably a little ahead of its time.

There are many promising fall films to take away the bitter aftertaste of the summer season. I have high hopes for Vanilla Sky, Ali, Ocean’s Eleven and Gangs of New York. Just one of the above will probably be more interesting than all the summer sequels combined.

I’m certain that many will disagree. But sadly, most of the summer movies barely warrant discussion, much less argument. The summer fare was mostly benign and easily forgotten. Now that the leaves are falling off the trees, I hope I’ll soon see a film worth arguing about.

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