Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The Summer Movie Season:  Sit-Out or Be-In?*: 
A child of the 60s looks at the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster
*For the uninitiated, a “Be-in” was a 60s counterculture social event (a “happening”) similar to a “Love-in.”
Like many people my age (never mind), I have a tendency to look back on specific aspects of the past through decidedly rose-colored glasses. Motion pictures in particular are vulnerable to this alchemy, as I fell in love with movies during the late-60s and 70s: a time of groundbreaking innovation in film.

The growing pains of American cinema that typified the New Hollywood years, in many ways mirror my own. Both the era and the films it produced are inextricably linked in my mind to my adolescence and my nascent understanding of the world. So much so that if often felt that Hollywood and I were both growing up at the same time. 
While such a subjective, emotional response to movies is at the core of every film buff, the negative by-product of such a polarized form of passion is that it makes one’s assessment of past films dangerously prone to a nostalgic sentimentality. Nothing wrong with deserved praise meted out to the films of the past, just so long as that rear-view adulation doesn't prevent the fair and objective evaluation of contemporary films.

A typical rant of mine is to bemoan the annual summer blockbuster season. I complain about the dearth of watchable films released during the summer months and bellyache about how those without a taste for sequels, comic books (pardon me, graphic novels), or Michael Bay blowing things up, must content themselves with Netflix or cable until September.
(MORE ...read my complete article HERE on Moviepilot ).

Xanadu. This particular Olivia Neutron-Bomb was detonated 8-8-80 
The winter and fall months were once reserved for high-profile holiday releases, films hoping for Oscar attention, and the so-called “prestige-film” (self-serious movies - often with literary, historical  or cultural significance - that may or may not have had big boxoffice potential, but were calculated primarily to bolster a studio’s image as a maker of important, “quality” films).  Summer was once the season studios chose to release their difficult-to-categorize films. Films that took chances or failed to fit specific marketing genres.

A great many of my all-time favorite movies that have gone on to become classics were summer releases. Something I can't imagine myself saying about today's crop of overproduced CGI cartoons...even if I were a target-demographic adolescent.

Click on the titles below to read more extensive commentaries on each film.
The Day of the Locust /  May 1975
Petulia  / June 1968
Rosemary's Baby / June 1968
Bonnie & Clyde / August 1967
Klute  / June 1971
Nashville / June 1975
Night Moves / June 1975
Of course, I’m not an absolute, head-in-the-clouds idealist. I’m well aware that if a work of corporate calculation like the entire Marvel Comics movie franchise can literally rake in billions for what is essentially a money-making industry….that’s the direction things are going to continue to go. But as any child of the 60s can tell you, what’s good for The Establishment and Big Business isn't exactly good for humanity.

The Summer Blockbuster Season has a lot in common with the lyrics to the Adam Freeland song, “We Want Your Soul”

Go back to bed America, your government is in control again.
Here. Watch this. Shut up.
You are free to do as we tell you.
You are free to do as we tell you.

...indeed, free to buy more merchandise disguised as film.

Copyright © Ken Anderson


  1. Thanks for posting this. As a "tail-end" child of the 60's, I too abhor the silly overly-loud shaky cam chaos filmaking that has become the norm. Movies today are made for idiots. The only really good film in the last 10 years was "Idiocracy", which nails perfectly the shallowness of today's culture.

    I've had more people come up to me in the past week and gush "are you going to see the new Star Trek film? ooooo! Pacific Rim looks so cool!!!!!" When I tell them that the new "Trek" is completely devoid of any the incisive social commentary that Gene Rodenberry put into the original (who's Gene Rodenberry? they ask quizically) and that Pacific Rim is just another advertisement for Burger King tie-in toys; they look at me with a blank expression.

    1. Your observations would be funny if they weren't so sadly true. I know that there have been trash films with us always, but at least for a time they were in the minority and balanced out by films that tried to do more than sell us something or placate us.
      Now I see what people line up to see and I can't really fault Hollywood. It's like people today are digging their heels down and saying, "Do not make me think. Don't challenge me, and don't make me feel uncomfortable. I insist on staying ignorant! Now feed me more tranquilizing noise, colors and lights!"

      I don't fault people for getting all excited about the rash of summer blockbusters, but even when I was 14 years old i wanted movies to lead me somewhere....to expand my experience. Not keep me forever in adolescence, reading comic books in perpetuity.

      It all puts me in mind of the of the real or apocryphal news blip I heard recently of Bill Nye being "booed" during a speech for mentioning the scientific fact that the moon reflects the light of the sun. When there's money to be made from an entire society fighting to remain as stupid as possible, an industry like the motion picture business is merely following marketing trends.
      Your reference to the film "Idiocracy" is waaaay too apt!
      Thanks very much for your comment!