Let’s say, for all intents and purposes, this last summer began May 1st with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a title barely acceptable in comic book form, but unrelentingly dumb for a movie. Now, I did not see this film because, apparently, it really sucked, and any way you slice it that’s a rather poor start to the summer. And considering that the rest included Transformers: ROTFL, Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, Bruno, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and considering that pop culture has deemed District 9 the most exciting thing to happen all year, well…from the outside, it seems a little depressing, especially in the wake of last year (Speed Racer, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Pineapple Express, Wall-E). Even studio-funded art suffered – for awhile there, the only art to come out of the studio system was Michael Mann’s latest failure of visual-narrative form, Public Enemies.
So it’d be easy to, yes, look back and scorn the powers-that-be for inflicting upon us another summer of nonsense, but that would be to look past the truly awesome Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the only blockbuster all summer that carries a true directorial vision) and The Hangover, for my money the best of the major summer films, near-great films like Up, interesting-but-highly-flawed works like Funny People, and a slew of independent and foreign films ranging from the truly incredible (Summer Hours, The Hurt Locker) to the exceptional (The Girlfriend Experience, Goodbye Solo, The Headless Woman, Humpday, In The Loop, Lorna's Silence) to the pretty good (500 Days of Summer, Moon, Three Monkeys, Paper Heart, Away We Go) to the absolute messes (Cold Souls), all the way to the always interesting reaches for greatness that never quite get there, but you gotta give them credit for trying (Tetro, The Limits of Control, The Man From London).
And of course…Inglourious Basterds, a film so apart from the rest in every way, and one of the most important films of the decade, though too flawed to be one of the best.
Now, when you look at THAT list…this summer turns into something different altogether. It shows that apart from some of the more hyped films, some truly interesting, original voices were heard. So, no, I will not take the easy way out and look back disappointed that Hollywood could not produce an action film worth getting excited about all summer (although we did get Crank: High Voltage earlier this year, so it’s not a total loss), tempting though that may be. I will remain thankful that these voices remain, and are more accessible than ever – I saw The Girlfriend Experience and The Man From London through my cable box. In HD no less! It’s been a damn good summer, just not in the way it often is.