Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer Film Famine

After several false starts, I finally managed to pry myself away from home on the last day of my vacation and found my way into a movie theater, the first time since DJANGO UNCHAINED. In retrospect, I should have found something else to occupy my time. Like whittling.

As a lifelong cinephile, it pains me to my core to admit my increasing apathy concerning the state of film today. The passion is going out of the romance and it's breaking my heart. My attendance to my local multiplex or any cinema for that matter has dwindled down to rare occasions. While I hesitate to ring the death knell for the movie going experience, the truth of the matter is that I
feel partially responsible for its possible extinction.

Frankly, the lack of desirable product in the marketplace makes it difficult to care. This was no more evident than when I scanned Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview issue back in April and barely mustered up an audible "Meh".It just seemed more of the same, summer reruns, Hollywood-style with rehashes of all too familiar formulas: remakes, sequels, superheroes and generic sci-fi, giving me an interest rate of nil. Summertime is normally chock full o' fluff at the multiplex, so that isn't a surprise. The 2013 fluff model is more recycled than ever as though it's helping the environment. The lack of counter programming was appalling. A few held a glimmer of promise, but nothing held that Must See Movie factor.

I opted for ELYSIUM, mainly for writer/director Neill Blomkamp whose DISTRICT 9 garnered a deserved Best Picture Oscar nod after its release in 2009. Unfortunately, his new film has that been there/done that look and tone that made it feel like a sequel to his superior debut. It is apparent that Blomkamp is a visionary, but he seems disappointingly short-sighted, tossing in ideas and conceits from films, stories and TV shows into a Cuisinart and slathering it with his own warmed-over gravy. Matt Damon's Everyman persona serves him well as the hero of the piece, though without much distinction. Shartto Copley, so wonderful in DISTRICT 9, is so annoying here. And Jodie Foster wins the Madonna Misguided Accent Award for this, the worst performance of her career. Some action sequences in ELYSIUM delivered necessary punch, enough to fill a movie trailer but not a whole film. By the end credits, Blomkamp's sophomoric sophomore effort was about as nutritious and satisfying as as a leftover Happy Meal.

So I chose badly. Big deal. I let the lauded FRUITVALE STATION slip through my fingers and could have caught BLUE JASMINE instead of ELYSIUM but I missed the showing by a half-hour. Oh, the sluggishness that apathy produces...

There is hope in this upcoming Fall crop of films coming up with new works by favorites of mine like Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, David O. Russell and Alexander Payne, though many nabobs and nitwits will ignorantly label their work Oscar bait. And then there is Mark Cousins' documentary THE STORY OF FILM, an extensive history lesson as soon through fresh eyes and currently showing in weekly installments on TCM through December. It is a celebration of the art of cinema from the esoteric to its most commercial, a reminder of film's power and beauty from its humble beginnings through its finest hours and how, as I've said so myself, in the dark, we can see the light.

The irony that I am watching that particular show on TV doesn't escape me, but it doesn't matter. It helps restore the passion that has waned in the past couple of years. As for my displeasure over this last season, well, maybe I'm just not cut out for summer romances any longer.
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