The air itself is warmer. Long-legged girls are wearing short-shorts and halter tops, pop music is blaring from car windows and boom boxes and the gyms and the spas are filled to capacity. The ski resorts are closed down and the beaches are opening up. The NBA is once again coming to a dazzling finish and another baseball season is just hitting its stride. You, reading this, feel sexier, and if you're smart you'll recognize that the guy or the girl next to you feels the same way. In the tradition of a relatively young nation this is as good as it gets. It's the beginning of the Summer Blockbuster Season and no one does it better than the U.S. of A. I am not jingoistic by nature but let me say this: as reggae belongs to Jamaica and theater belongs to the British so movies belong to America. Everybody does it -- but nobody does it like us. And a step further: no one takes the blossoming of summer as an artistic call to arms the way Hollywood does. Take in a deep lungful: smell the popcorn and the elephant ears, the sweat and the dust; hear the ice cream trucks and the outdoor concerts, see the fireworks and the sun rippling off the waves. It is that time, brothers and sisters, that time of the Summer Blockbuster, when America becomes all that it will, the good and the bad, the sacred and the profane. Let that be the reason.
There are some things that the U.S.A does better than anyone else. Sorry but it's true. Prime among those is make money of course, but that's not all there is to it. Dollar bills inform our aesthetic in a way that they do no one else but what does it matter? If a nation's aesthetic is formed by a god, an ideology or an art form does it make a difference? I won't answer that here but let's face it: in America aesthetic is shaped finally by dollar bills. If it works, it sells, that's how we know. A lot of times that sucks but other times it's fantastic! Capitalism can be so clear and without bias or intent. Without our particularly American aesthetic we never would have been treated to the destruction of the Death Star, what laid inside the Ark of the Covenant, or a battle in a giant whirlpool between two giant pirate ships! I mean shit does it get any bigger than that? Whether or not you think bigger is better the fact remains that no one does bigger better than Hollywood and here we are at the cusp of the season that rightly or wrongly validates everything that America is: Summer Blockbuster Season!
I mean, can you resist? Really? We've already had a psychedelic race car driver in a psychedelic world, a Drunken Immortal and a Monkey King, a millionaire playboy fighting for justice in a flying suit of armor and the greatest adventure hero of movie history blithely springing back to his old tricks in geriatric style and it's not even June! Is anyone not having fun yet and if so, WHY??? Holy Cannoli (as a friend of mine is fond of interjecting)! Still to come is a bat-suit-and-tights wearing caped crusader facing his maniacal, clown-prince, arch-enemy (THE DARK KNIGHT), a demon-spawn hero and his flame toting girlfriend(HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY), a mild-mannered scientist who turns into a big green monster when he gets pissed (THE INCREDIBLE HULK), Will Smith as a super-hero bum (HANCOCK) and a robot romance (WALL-E) – I mean, ARE YOU NOT HAVING FUN YET? Ca-monnnnnnnn! Get over yourself!
This country has plenty of problems: we're rich, fat, racist, sexist and stupidly imperialist. We hate poor people and love rich people. We resist change that doesn't provide us more creature comforts. We're mind-bogglingly puritanical when it comes to sex and shockingly perverse when we want to justify war. We use up 75% to 99% per cent of the world's natural resources (depending on which study you read) with five percent of the world's population. Hey, nobody's perfect. But no one does big, dazzling escapist spectacle like America. Let's face it: that is the ultimate realization of our best selves. I know, it should be free speech or equality for all or the Pursuit of Happiness...but it ain't. Instead it's the pursuit of super-models, the Super Bowl and super-sized meat, fried foods and sugar. That's America. That's us. We're stimulation junkies. We're the world's greatest drug dealer and our own best customer. Our greatest cultural legacy will be our commercials, you watch. But our finest cultural moment will happen at the movies.
Too often in this culture we're asked to dumb down, to not think. In a nation based on the principle of free speech we are ridiculously tolerant of Talk Stupid. For a society that prides itself on freedom we're far too ready to absolve ourselves of responsibility. But it's Summertime, baby! This is the time of year when a little release is okay, even preferable. I mean, what is there to think about on a roller coaster or a tilt-a-whirl? What is there to consider with cotton candy? If you even have a seat belt strap it on and take a deep gulp of oxygen because the time has come to get your scream on. It's already a blast. Between Robert Downey Jr. and Wish Fulfillment IRON MAN was great! THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM was far more delightful than it felt like it had a right to be. Ingest some shrooms with your popcorn and SPEED RACER was a happening. The time will come, should come, must come, for the THERE WILL BE BLOODs, the NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MENs, the MILLION DOLLAR BABYs and the LITTLE CHILDRENs, but Summer is the time when it's a hundred degrees outside and thirty-two degrees inside, the time when sex is in the air and it's burning through your wallet, when there are no real holidays because every day's a holiday and the movies are not about your brain but about your heart and loins (there, I used "loins" in a sentence.) Classically speaking this is the time of JAWS, STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Recently, it is the time of SPIDER-MAN, SHREK and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. The first three were trailblazers that established a precedent, the last few, among a great many others, carry on a tradition.
You can't go back to your youth once it's lost but Summer Blockbuster Season perpetuates a piece of it for you, for us. Maybe that's why it's become the new Great American Tradition. Maybe, but who cares why? It's fun and it's us. Popcorn, Goobers and orange soda for me. Get in where you fit in and let's ride.
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Bobby Bermea inherited his deep and abiding passion for movies from his mom. He writes about them as a fan: from the heart, without agenda or rancor and if he's lucky, with a little humor, wisdom and common sense. |
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