Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Blockbuster A Week: Intermission

You can say that I cracked under pressure if you want, but I'm taking a week off from blockbuster-ing. Reason one: I've got other shit to do. Reason two: I just can't get excited about Nacho Libre, which is the biggest new movie of the weekend. I thought Napoleon Dynamite was only spottily amusing, with a sensibility that struck me as "Wes Anderson For Beginners." And though I like Jack Black (sometimes), nothing in the trailer got me jumping, and the reviews have not been encouraging. So to hell with it. I'll go to the movies again next week … most likely Click.

Instead, let's take a moment to assess the project to date. The original idea was to dive deep into Hollywood's big-time summer programming, to see what they think will lure us away from our TiVos and internet porn, if only for one night a week. And thus far, the summer has been front-loaded, with four mega-expensive action-adventure pics (only one of which has really bombed), one star-driven comedy (which outpaced expectations), and one pricey kidflick. I haven't loved anything, though Cars was frequently thrilling, X-Men had some spine-tingling moments, and The Da Vinci Code, The Break-Up and Poseidon were all better than the reviews led me to believe. (Hmmm … maybe I should've seen Nacho Libre after all.)

Anyway, it's fair to say that Hollywood has been getting the job done so far this summer. Box office is up, there's been a lot of chatter in the culture at large about these movies, and aside from (arguably) Poseidon, none of the hype jobs have really felt like empty, artless cash-ins. This project hasn't really been a grind so far, and in the early going especially, when there was a new Superman Returns trailer every week, there seemed to be a real momentum to the summer.

That said, Superman Returns may be the last chance Hollywood has to really knock one out of the box in the summer of '06. There are other movies I'm looking forward to as much or more–primarily Miami Vice, which has the potential to be art–but the quintessential blockbuster doesn't just make money, or make year-end critics' lists, or get riffed on in late night monologues and sketch shows. It does all that, and becomes a permanent part of the culture to boot. Think Jurassic Park. Think E.T.. (Think Spielberg, basically.)

Of course, it's hard to expect that kind of impact from a slate of sequels and remakes. The fact that Hollywood has managed to squeeze out this much juice from such overripe fruit is a testament to a handful of actors, producers, and directors who really seem to be trying to entertain and even move us. Even when they fall short, you've got to applaud the attempt. So … yay attempt.

More to come later in the summer, including an attempt to further define the differences between good junk, artful junk, and "art." Who knows? Click might provide a clear pathway into this discussion, which is well-overdue.

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