As an interesting counterpart to Time‘s summer of docs section, Slate turns to the summer blockbuster, which looks, from all "sky is falling" box office reports, to be in its dotage. Tom Shone documents the rise of the reigning kings of the blockbuster, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and their "friendship," which, as he paints it, rivals the passive-aggressive smiling-though-the-secret-loathing competitive clinches of the most popular girls in middle school:
"He’s taught me a lot about creative compromise," Spielberg once said of Lucas, with a straight face. And when Spielberg repeatedly begged to direct one of the new Star Wars episodes, Lucas reported the story with the glee of a child keeping his favorite toy just out of reach. "I was getting ready to shoot in Australia," Lucas told reporters, "and Steven was whining on the phone all the time, ‘Oooh, I’m sitting here by the pool, and poor me, I don’t have a movie to direct … ‘ "
Slate‘s film critic David Edelstein and the Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern have kicked off what looks to be a week’s worth of diary-style discussion on the topic of "Did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg Ruin the Movies?" Having grown up in age of blockbusters, it’s odd for us to imagine a time when there weren’t extravagantly marketed big events strewn across four calendar months like guests star-scatter’d on the grass (though the bloat is undeniable at this point). It’s a promising discussion, and we’re looking forward to what Morgenstern, a long-term critic who’s worked before and after "the changeover," as Edelstein puts it, has to say about the future of mainstream film. But lay off "Top Gun," Edelstein. Ridiculous, cheesy, and oddly homoerotic it may be â€” it also sums up all we’d want in a summer movie. Which well may be the problem you’re going to discuss.
In another worthy article, Christopher Kelly examines the mainstreaming of the "independent" film, using as his example "Hustle & Flow," which was produced by John Singleton and which was bought by Paramount Classics as part of the biggest deal in the history of the festival at Sundance this year (a reported $9 million, with an additional $7 million for Singleton to produce two more similar films).
But the remarkable success of the movie thus far, and its likely haul in theaters this summer, point to larger matters: It’s a sign that Hollywood’s blockbuster ethos has now completely infected the indie/art-house landscape. In a curious case of Hollywood’s Stockholm Syndrome, the indies have learned not just to love their captors, but also to emulate and refine their ways. Brewer and Singleton’s movie looks so familiar that it takes a little while to realize that we’ve never seen anything quite like it before: the indie blockbuster.
As a side note, it’s hard for us not to find the very idea of this film, which we haven’t seen, repugnant. Writer/director Craig Brewer has attempted an uplifting success story about a pimp with a heart of gold who really just wants to be a rapper. You know, make him a cruel, funny antihero, maybe. But we find the sentimentalizing (Terrence Dashon Howard getting teary-eyed in a church in the trailer) sickening and insulting. "Pretty Woman," it ain’t. But, hey, check out the plot for Brewer’s next project. Maybe he’s just the most ironic person in the pseudo-indie film world.