Editorial: Why I Cheated On the Summer Blockbusters

Kings of Summer Pipe

As August hit, something hit me.

With four brand spanking new major studio releases (Elysium, Planes, We’re the Millers, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), all entering the final month of the hallowed summer movie season this past week, a realization coursed through every cell in my body…

I’m summered out!

Yep, seeing those four newbies do the same thing that just about every other typical blockbuster has done this over-crowded season, has officially worn me out. I’ve become disenchanted to the point that I didn’t want to write a review for any of them, mainly ‘cause I felt I’d be writing the same article pertaining to past 2013 summer releases. And guess what? I didn’t. Go me.

Planes is your standard-issued 3D animation that could make old people playing bingo come across as riveting. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is your obvious under-developed fantasy teenaged sequel. Elysium had the provocative idea yet delivered in a predictable manner as seen in its social commentary genre predecessors. And We’re the Millers, though hustling a bit more in the creative department than the typical R-rated road trip comedy, was already fighting an uphill battle with a slew of those being on display in the previous three months.

Planes El Chupacabra

Bottom line (that’s being written in the middle): Studios need to look up the word OVERSATURATION.

So yeah, for the first time in about five years, inspiration to write a formal movie review went out of yours truly like a drunken 3 a.m. Taco Bell trip in the bathroom upon sunrise. This has actually happened a few times – the inspiration to write that is – over the course of this summer. Thankfully though, there’s been a constant pep-rally so to speak that has rejuvenated this guy:  The indies!

Independent films, a.k.a. the little guys, have saved me from turning into a grumpy “get off my lawn” kind of critic/journalist. Recently, I attend the kickoff to a wonderful weekly independent film series put on by the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida. The goal of the ever-growing festival is to present indie flicks that were well-received at marquee film festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca. The Kings of Summer, a Sundance darling, was the curtain-jerker for the GIFF weekly engagement and it took my flaccid mind and brought it to excitement watching levels.

Far too often there’s seldom room for the indie films to invade theaters, especially when there’s an inordinate amount of CGI-fests and/or all-star cats attached to tentpoles as they say, clogging up screens. Aside from New York and Los Angeles, many of these lauded indies will not be screened in other markets outside of the upper-echelon (usually top five cities). That’s a bloody crime in Italy too, for the limitless imagination and unmanaged passion – two crucial elements missing from today’s manufactured studio masturbatory products – are flowing through these resonating cinematic works.

The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer, granted, a coming-of-age tale that is commonly articulated on the independent film scene, still feels different, and therefore, refreshing when comparing it to the like-minded genre products the big boys attempt to churn out. We see fresh faces, unique approaches to onscreen storytelling aesthetics, and a natural presence that is projected out that forms an emotional bond with the audience. In the above mentioned recycled studio garbage that was conjured up with exuberant amounts of money and lazy box office analytics, chances are you’ll experience a numbing feeling and, um, that’s about it. It’s kind of like how some married people say they grow tired having sex with their spouse because it’s the same moves, positions, etc. And a lot of the time, no one wants to spice things up due the “convenience” of the situation. It’s more-or-less a bad habit that one just can’t break. The solution and sure-fire way to remedy this: Cheat, baby!

As amoral as that is, people need to apply that notion to their movie-watching to send a message to the way-too-comfortable studio execs. Just as seen in long-term relationships, they are no longer concerned about presenting themselves well, and are just sitting back in their sweat/yoga pants contently snagging (stealing) a paycheck.

Bottom line #2 (more appropriately placed this time): Studio suits need to look up the word VARIETY as well.

Now with all that being said, I applaud the Gasparilla International Film Festival for taking the initiative to put new/alternate choices in front of moviegoers more than just once a year when the official fest takes place. Other festivals, if they have the means, should follow suit and provide/educate their respective film loving locals that there is more around and don’t have to settle with uninspired redundant studio summer schlock.

At the moment, I’m once again a pleasant critic/journalist, and take solace in the fact that when the barrage of summer crap comes at me at full force and dampens my spirits, I’ll know where to go to find something new, motivated, and substantial.


Joe Belcastro is a contributor to CraveOnline and the writer of the weekly series The Pitch. Follow him on Twitter @TheWritingDemon.