The Summer of War

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:

This summer Hollywood was in the business of war, and cousin, business is-a-boomin!

In the summer of 2009 Hollywood was in the business of war...and, cousin, business was-a-boomin'!

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

And lastly:

  • 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

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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!

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4 comments on “The Summer of War

  1. debra says:

    I like your never to catch list. Poor me I saw two of them. Yes my list was all films at a theater. I would like to know your in theater viewing count? One person commented that I saw 39 of them . Today I saw my 40th.
    I think I will have a contest with myself or if you want to join me I am going to see if by the end of the year I can see 12 more films making a total of 52 one for each week.Interesting I did not see one war film this year. I am sure I will Inglourious Basterds

    Debra, all of the films I mentioned in this post that I saw were viewed in the theater. I would probably say I’ve seen about 25 films in the theater this year to date…so I don’t believe I could ever make it to 52 by year’s end unless I took some serious time off from work – ha ha. — DHS

  2. DeeDee (Dcd) says:

    Hi! DHS,
    As a rule I usual do not watch war movies, but I most definitely, want to watch both The Hurt Locker and In The Loop. Because of all the ,positive reviews that I have read about both films.

    By the way, I noticed in your poll that the film In The Loop and The Hurt Locker are tied with the most votes. This time I ‘am not going to mention or reveal which film that I voted for…until after I watch both films.

    I must admit a very interesting overall summary of all the films that you have viewed
    so far, this summer.

    Take care!
    DeeDee 😉

    DeeDee – that seems an odd rule that you should break more often. In the Loop really isn’t a war film, though, in the traditional sense…it’s just a film that talks about war and uses that talk as a vehicle to satirize modern politics. –DHS

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    Well David, I must say that this year you and I are almost completely on the same page. And with revelations about some classic films and directors (I saw BRIGHTON ROCK and THE FALLEN IDOL by the way last night with Lucille at the Film Forum, two films I have always LOVED as you do) our tastes are further comparable.
    We both agree in admitting that PUBLIC ENEMIES was greatly overestimated, and four of the five films you highlight we are in full agreement: DISTRICT 9, IN THE LOOP, THE HURT LOCKER and DRAG ME TO HELL. We only part company with the Tarantino. We agree on BRUNO and Woody Allen’s newest film too. We are basically in tandem on STAR TREK too, though I didn’t find it overrrated. There are some other films that deserve to be in the upper etchelon, but I know you haven’t seen them yet: SUMMER HOURS (French), OF TIME AND THE CITY (UK), SERAPHINE (French), Pixar’s UP, TOKYO SONATA (Japan), SOMMERS TOWN (UK) and EVERLASTING MOMENTS (Sweden) and a few others.

    I have enjoyed all the great reviews you have written over the past months in backing up these convictions.

    Sam, thanks for reminding me…I had forgotten about Summer Hours and Everlasting Moments — two films I definitely plan to queue up!

  4. DeeDee says:

    DHS said,”In the Loop really isn’t a war film, though, in the traditional sense…it’s just a film that talks about war and uses that talk as a vehicle to satirize modern politics.”

    Hi! DHS and Sam Juliano,

    DHS, right you are…because I just read this review about the film In the Loop at this blog site called What Would Toto Watch this morning.

    I have not watched the film The Hurt Locker, but after I read the writer who write for my blog Eric Armstrong’s review of the film, The Hurt Locker, I ‘am well aware of the fact that the latter film “may” deal with soldier(s) experiences in Iraq unlike, some war films that focus on war battles.

    DeeDee ;-D

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