I remain on the lookout for an overview trend as convenient and analysis-friendly as last year’s Summer of Threequels, but so far, not so much. Will “the season of overlong run-times” count? How about “the summer of our discontent”?
“Outside of color-blind Shakespeare adaptations, cross-race casting has been one of Hollywood’s obvious taboos for decades now — a no-no so basic it didn’t even merit discussion. No more: Enough Hollywood stars are enthusiastically applying bronzer in 2008, either for a quick gag or for a serious leading role, that we’re forced to hesitatingly declare this movie season the Summer of Brownface.” New York‘s Vulture blog
As evidenced by: Adam Sandler going Israeli and Rob Schneider Arab in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”; Robert Downey Jr. donning blackface in “Tropic Thunder”; Fred Armisen as Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live”
Possible significance: “In the age of Barack Obama, the idealistic interpretation is that it’s simply not a big deal, and what we’re witnessing is Hollywood’s unusually astute reaction to the onset of the post-racial society… A more cynical explanation is the delayed box-office aftershocks from Borat: If Americans were ready to laugh at a Hebrew-speaking British Jew pretending to be a Russian-speaking Kazakh oaf, then why not fake Arabs and Israelis?”
Trend: Bags o’ fright
“The thought of ‘bags over heads’ creating chills has reached phenomenon status lately.” Matt Dentler
Possible significance: Lo-fi scares? “In a way, Baghead is a parody of those films but it’s still very creepy and scary at moments. It’s kinda like a DIY version of Scream, a knowing wink to the conventions of genre but also fully embracing those genres all the while.”
Trend: Failed Republican president biopics
“Two portrayals of failed, bordering-on-tragic Republican presidents opening within seven weeks of each other means high expectations, lots of political baggage and possibly an Oscar competition of sorts.” Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere
Possible significance: “The temptation to call them a pair of political IEDs being lobbed by Hollywood liberals at John McCain’s campaign will be considerable… the two films taken together will certainly remind audiences of the Republican potential for Oval Office screw-ups and arrogance.”
Meanwhile, the recently revealed “W.” poster (subtitle: “The Improbable President”), which lists out G.W. misspeakings and malapropisms, seems to indicate that Stone’s film will be a sharper-edged than his earlier sallies of “fair, true portrait” have augured.
[Photos: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks Distribution, 2008; “Baghead,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008; “W.,” Lionsgate, 2008]
+ The Summer of Brownface (New York)
+ AusChron: Austin’s Got a Brand-New Bag (Matt Dentler’s Blog)
+ Two of a Kind (Hollywood Elsewhere)
+ Dub-ya: A Tragedy of Words to be Played out on the Big Screen (IonCinema)