Superfluous slasher sequels and Labor Day mean one thing for filmgoers: the long summer movie season is finally coming to a close. Though I did my fair share of grumbling and there were alarmingly more “Colon: Movies” than ever before, the summer of 2009 ended up being a fairly solid season. The year as a whole has been eerily reminiscent of 1999 in that there have been a slew of top-of-the-line “niche” films and both art-house and multiplex offerings have been more thoughtful than usual by delivering subtext and social commentary with their cliches, laughter, violence and gore. Whether any of these films will matter ten years from now is hard to tell. Looking back on the summer trends, I think I’ll always remember this 2009 season as the summer Hollywood went to war.
The Top Five Headlines from The Summer of War:
- Quentin Tarantino Declares War on the Nazis! Inglourious Basterds : The most controversial, the most talked about, the most unexpected film of the summer is now on pace to be the biggest hit of Tarantino’s career. Love it or loathe it, everyone is compelled to have an opinion. Even those who have found it to be an immoral pulpy mess of a film agree on three things: Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa ranks among the best Nazi villains in film history, Tarantino’s conjuring of the “face in the smoke” is a moving-image for the ages, and Brad Pitt is one funny bastard.
- Kathryn Bigelow Cleans Up Hollywood’s Quagmire in Iraq! The Hurt Locker : Hollywood has made a mess of the Iraq conflict on screen with dud after dud, but Bigelow hit all the right marks with her intimate and intense character study of an elite Army bomb squad in Baghdad. The reason her film is so engrossing is not just for the tension she builds, but also for the way her story transcends the current Middle East situation to deliver a timeless message about the inner turmoil of those brave (and sometimes reckless) soldiers who put their lives in harm’s way every day.
- England Declares War with America over Semantics! In the Loop : Ah, with war, there comes satire, and Armando Iannucci’s British import about a bumbling race to declare war is the funniest satire in years. I can only hope that more people have been watching this on IFC On-Demand than have seen it in the theaters.
- South Africa Declares War on Aliens! District 9 : Neil Blomkamp’s racially-conscious sci-fi allegory struck a cord with those looking for something original and thought-provoking in their entertainment. This was just another reminder for me not to eat crustaceans, and I’ll never again look at those Nigerian spam-scam emails in the same way.
- Sam Raimi Declares War on the Lamia — and the Schleicher Spin Declares Alison Lohman Hot as Hell! Drag Me to Hell : The perfect example of the perfect “niche” film — a big-budget A-list director returns to his low-budget B-level horror roots and creates a hell of a good time for his audience. And, man, I still can’t get enough of that talking goat!
Other Notable Headlines from The Summer of War:
- Hollywood Declares War on Good Taste: With both the latest sicko-bromance comedy, The Hangover, and the latest sicko-mockumentary from Sacha Baron Cohen, Bruno, Hollywood pushed the limits of good taste. Never have I seen two films work harder for laughs, and while both made me chuckle (and want to up-chuck) in their own special ways, let’s be honest with ourselves, was any of it (besides the “tiger song” in the former and the “peace in the Middle East” bit in the later) that funny? Seriously?
- Hollywood Declares War on our Childhood: With the latest Michael Bay catastrophe on steroids, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen — which I successfully avoided like the pig flu — and Stephen Sommer’s gleefully stupid GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra — which I found to be a guilty pleasure thanks to the non-stop cartoon action and Sienna Miller’s skin-tight Baroness get-up — Hollywood pillaged our precious childhood memories for a cheap buck. Gee, thanks, you wanna kick my puppy next?
- Hollywood Declares War on the Future: In both J.J. Abrams’ shiny-happy-emo reboot of Star Trek (overrated but still good) and McG’s unnecessary and idiotic Terminator: Salvation (underrated but still bad) the future was on trial. The verdict: Leave it alone, Hollywood!
- Auteurs Come to Peace with Themselves and Nobody Watches: Woody Allen returned to New York and found a perfect alter-ego in Larry David with the intermittently funny Whatever Works. Meanwhile, Atom Egoyan continued to guarantee himself the smallest of audiences by birthing yet another cold piece of Canadian abstraction with the intermittently absorbing Adoration. And finally, Sam Mendes knocked that bitter chip off his block and took us on a delightfully quirky detour with Away We Go, which of the three listed here most deserved to find a bigger audience.
- Biggest Disappointment: Public Enemies
- Blockbuster that most bored me: Harry Potter and the blah blah blah
- Movie I completely forgot about having seen until just now: Ron Howard’s pointless Angels & Demons
- Buzzed about Movies I missed but plan to Netflix: Up, Moon and 500 Days of Summer
- Movies I hope to never catch: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Ugly Truth, The Proposal, My Sister’s Keeper, The Time Traveler’s Wife
Written by David H. Schleicher
So what films did you love or hate the most from the summer of 2009? What will you most remember about Hollywood’s Summer of War? Kick off the conversation in the comment form below!