Let’s be honest. Summer just ain’t bringing it this summer. Some of the biggest openings of the year have underwhelmed. The Lone Ranger didn’t come within a whisper of landing in the #1 spot in its first week out, and word of mouth has been pretty poisonous. I liked White House Down significantly better as fun/dumb entertainment, but that one too has sunk like a stone at the box office.
In fact, aside from Pacific Rim this weekend, most of the remaining big-ticket July offerings look fifty shades of “meh.” (Grown Ups 2? Red 2? The Smurfs 2? Oh joy!)
No, if you really want to get the most out of your cinema experience, the odds seem to greatly favor skipping out on the mainstream stuff altogether. Here are your best bets for the week.
(NOTE: One of the selections highlighted in last week’s “best bets” column, SOMM, is still kicking along. Tonight, the screening will be accompanied by a wine tasting, so make sure your palate is clean.)
Tuesday, July 9: Say Anything… (Lagoon Theater)
I’m sure Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” has some application in real life outside of causing children of the ’80s to suffer romantic PTSD and accompanying visions of John Cusack hoisting a boombox above his head. It’s a scene that could’ve only been concocted by a former Rolling Stone writer, and Say Anything… was that former writer Cameron Crowe’s first (and, more than a few people would argue, his best) film as a director. Long before he bought a zoo, he made a mixtape.
Wednesday, July 10: Downloaded (Trylon Microcinema)
This month’s Sound Unseen selection comes from one half of Bill and Ted — Alex Winter (the one who isn’t Keanu). Downloaded is a documentary about what filesharing has done to the industry, and traces the phenomenon from the days of Napster all the way up to the Spotify here-and-now. According to Wikipedia, the film has grossed $5,406, which sort of says all that needs to be said about the state of distribution today.
Thursday, July 11: The Spectacular Now (Walker Art Center)
Written by the team behind (500) Days Of Summer and directed by the person behind last year’s Smashed, The Spectacular Now stars Miles Teller (who could pass for the 2013 version of John Cusack, actually) as an aimless teenager whose life outlook gets challenged by a girl who is, bluntly, too good for him (played by The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley). The film won the special jury award at Sundance for the strength of its performances, and the Walker is bringing director James Ponsoldt and producer Billy Rosenberg into town for their premiere showing. Click here for an interview with Minnesota-native producer Billy Rosenberg as posted on the Walker’s blog.
Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14: Safety Last! (Trylon Microcinema)
Like so many silent comedy classics, Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! is mainly familiar to audiences through one single indelible image — that of Lloyd hanging hundreds of feet in the air while clasping at the hands of a giant clock face as it threatens to separate from the side of a skyscraper. Just as The General is so much more than Buster Keaton sitting on the moving piston of a railroad engine car, and just as Modern Times is so much more than Charlie Chaplin getting sent through the oversized gears of a magnificent machine, Safety Last! is a memorable comment on the rapid urbanization of 1920s America.
Sunday, July 14: The Thief of Bagdad (Heights Theater)
Adjusted for inflation, Douglas Fairbanks’ swashbuckling The Thief of Bagdad might still be considered one of the most expensive films ever made. It cost roughly $2 million in 1924 dollars. (In comparison, The Birth of a Nation, then still the box office champ to end them all, cost about $112,000.) And you can see almost every penny in this new digital restoration, presented at the Heights with live accompaniment from their Mighty Wurlitzer organ. You want spectacle this summer? Start here.