A Summer It Was

August is toast in two and a half weeks so I guess it’s time for a summer ’06 wrapup piece. I don’t feel like doing a typical why-they-failed-or-succeeded analysis, so I’m just going to run a listing of the stories that felt like standouts in terms of my weekly Elsewhere agonistes. There were 25 punchers in 14 weeks.
I will, however, reiterate what I felt was the most welcome and most dramatic story of the season: the out-of-the-blue “just say no” decisions of some big-studio chiefs about some hugely expensive big-star vehicles & fee deals (Used Guys, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not), which may be harbingers of a trend.

This felt welcome because big budgets always diminish the entertainment factor, on top of which this seemed like the first breath of upper-level fiscal sanity in this business in a long time. To me it felt analogous to the chain-reaction topplings of socialist governments in 1989. Suddenly studio honchos seemed to be saying, “Sorry, dudes, but you’re going to have share more of the risk and make do with two vacation homes instead of three or four.”
This attitude is also part of the industry cutbacks and contractions going on right now, at least tangentially, and of course this has everybody terrified or at least biting their nails. And I say this: Fear is not a pleasant thing but it’s a good thing to wade into every so often. It cleans out the blood, sharpens the mind and usually results in needed change and discipline and re-thinks.
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Hollywood’s summer begins in late April these days, but let’s kick back and be liberal and call it April 8th so I can link once more to that Flags of Our Fathers piece I ran just over four months ago.
1. What Is Flags of Our Fathers, and How Will It Play? (“Regarding Fathers“, 4.8)
2. HE Inaugurates Reader-Comments Feature, which was up and rolling as of 5.3. One of the liveliest and most enjoyable things to happen to this site in a long time.
3. The End of Super-Tom as signalled by the un-terrific domestic grosses for Mission: Impossible: III The piece was called “The Upside of Taps“, and it ran Sunday, 5.7. The next day came links to Nikki Finke and Mark Ebner‘s stories about scientologists buying up M:I:3 tickets. Still later came news that the South Park Cruise-in-the-closet episode had been Emmy-nominated, which never would have happened if Cruise wasn’t perceived as vulnerable and not-the-man-he-was five years earlier.

4. Runnng With Babel, first in a 5.14 interview with Alejandro Gonzalez Inna- ritu called “Bullet Time” and then in a 5.23 Cannes Film Festival review of the film.
5. The DaVinci Code Blows, as conveyed in “Hissing Balloon“, a Cannes Film Festival review than ran on Tuesday, 5.17. Not that anyone cared. It was soon after kicking worldwide box-office ass, and it didn’t quit until early August. The U.S domestic tally alone was $216,385,837 by late July.
6. The Bitch-Slapping of Southland Tales at Cannes Film Festival, as sadly reported in this 5.21 review/article called “California Dreamin“. A regrettable thing because I know director-writer Richard Kelly slightly and consider him a good hombre.
7. The Booing & Despising of Marie Antoinette at Cannes, as contained in a review that than ran Wednesday, 5.24, called “Blood of a Lady“.

8. Surprise — The Break-Up Isn’t Half Bad (Saturday, 6.3). I’m not sure that running a positive review helped mitigate my running tracking numbers that were accurate as far as they went but which forecast the wrong financial future for this film. This episode highlighted, properly, the less than 100% reliability of tracking, certainly without understanding timing isses and demographic factors in their right proportion.
9. The Up, Down & Really Down Ride of Superman Returns, starting with my initial 6.19 review, written from my Las Vegas hotel room while visiting Cinevegas. Followed by a Superman Returns may-actually-be-a-little-long piece. Which was followed by a 6.30 piece about Superman Returns fighting for its life and possibly being in trouble. The whole cycle was over in the space of less than three weeks
10. Nacho Libre Ain’t Half Bad Either (Mexican Goof Ride” on 6.13).
11. The Devil Wears Prada is a Smart, Above-Average Chick Flick with Two Especially Good Performances (“Fashion Abrasion” on 6.25).
12. Pirates 2 Eats It (“The Big Empty” on 6.29). Which mattered not, of course, as acknowledged in this 7.8 item.
13. Little Miss Sunshine is the Best Comedy of the Summer (“Sunshine Is It“, Monday, 7.3)

14. The De-Hippifying & Dumbing-Down of Snakes on a Plane Hype (the dumbed-down U.S. one-sheet, 7.5 — the dumbed-down Euro one-sheet, 7.6 — The Fun’s Over, 7.23 — Snakes Checklist.
15. Dupree and the GenX Arrested-Development Syndrome (“Party On“, 7.6 — “The Legend of Owen Wilson, a True Original“, 7.9 — “Down on Dupree“, 7.12.
16. M. Night’s Confession and the Subsequent Drowning of Lady in the Water (“Feel Night’s Pain“, 7.9 — “Soggy All Over“, 7.20).
17. Love and Respect for Miami Vice (“Nice Vice“, 7.11) — although the public pretty much said ‘fuck this’ — “Vice Aftermath“, 8.6)
18. Talladega Nights Is Okay, Even If It’s Not Funny (“As I Lay Dying“, 8.3)
19. A Surprisingly Strong Sandler Film Surfaces… (“Men Apart“, 7.24) …And Is Soon After Bumped Into ’07 (“Why Reign Is On Hold“).
20. The Official De-Oscarfying of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (“Forget the Toronto Film Festival“, late July)
21. The Gibson Mess (“Goony Bird“, 7.28 — “Terrible News“, 7.29). I wrote so much stuff about this that I’m sick of it now and don’t feel like linking to each and every item.

22. The Solid Crafting of Oliver Stone (“Comfort Blanket“, 7.31).
23. Robert De Niro and Eric Roth’s De-Wackifying of James Jesus Angleton (“Sussing Shepherd“, 8.9).
24. The Proceed-With-Caution History Boys Campaign (“Art of the Dodge“, 8.11).