Let us go then, you and the royal we, into August, the dog days of summer, or, if you will, the place where movies go to die. A month where, this year, at least, the intended hot and heavy months of June and July have turned out to be more like an unpleasantly lukewarm spot you’d encounter in a swimming pool, and critics thoughts turn to larger things. For instance, over at the LA Times, four pieces on the state of things and what could follow the apparently death of the blockbuster:
Movie reviewer Kevin Thomas is overjoyed, seeing the Great Slump of ’05 as something that "could turn out to be the best thing that’s happened to Hollywood in years. Maybe the powers that be would be forced to take chances once again." Thomas sees this a chance to return to the cinema of the 70s, or, in a train of thought we don’t quite follow, as a path for more multiculturalism in the multiplexes. We’d love to see more diversity in casting and story lines, but it seems disingenuous to suggest "a saga about a Japanese American family’s trials and triumphs" or "the odyssey of Madame C.J. Walker, a laundress born into poverty to former slaves" as the antidote to failing summer films â€” America’s reluctance to watch most non-white actors in major roles is another issue worth an article or its own.
Carina Chocano gets all sassy, writing about the genre that is the blockbuster:
This newfangled hit would not depend on word-of-mouth from a platformed release. Instead, with the help of an ad campaign in the double-digit millions and an opening so wide you could see the movie’s tonsils, it would be turned into an audience "event" and a studio "tent pole." "Blockbuster" was redefined to mean a big concept, three massive fireballs and an A-list male lead yelling "Run!" and "Over there!" and "Where is she?"
To which the buxom love interest with a PhD would respond "I can’t do this" and disappear until the big rescue.
Kenneth Turan suggests that movies have been slumping for a lot longer than a year, and that higher ticket prices and inflation have helped mask the fact. Also, he covers something we had a long, tipsy conversation about this weekend â€” Hollywood movies aren’t for adults anymore. Summer films in particular are aimed squarely at that less-picky 13-18 or so bracket, and "What seems to be happening this summer is that, for the moment at least, the kids have decided they have better things to do and the adults are not around to replace them."
Neal Gabler writes about the odd effect the celebrity media barrage is having on us â€” when we are supplied, by gossip magazine, sites, and television, with so many details about the private lives and make-up-less morning coffee runs of celebs, why would we ever bother with going to see them in a film? We were kicking around some inappropriate drug metaphor (mainlining versus smoking, such and such), but we’re in a hurry, so we’ll let you think of your own and insert it here: ________________.
James Surowiecki in the New Yorker covers similar themes (also quoting from Edward Jay Epstein’s "The Big Picture," which seems to be the tome of the season), drawing parallels to the box office slump of 1918 ("The producer…is not producing good enough pictures. Unless he does so, and does so promptly, the movie business cannot hope long to endure," said the critics).