It’s absolutely, unquestionably official. This summer blockbuster season is a bust on almost every conceivable level. Aside from a few relatively decent performers like the latest Planet of the Apes movie and Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, almost everything else has performed somewhat below expectation. Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, and Edge of Tomorrow — none of them had broken $200 million by the end of July. In fact, nothing at all period has come even close to $300 million, which is lately the new line in the sand that separates boilerplate hits and genuine box-office phenoms, especially since most summer movies these days are actually budgeted at or around $200 million. And you know what I have to say about that? Yay. I relish the headline of a recent Daily Beast article: “Is the Summer Blockbuster Dead?” There are tons of better options out there, and this week has no shortage.
Thursday, July 31: Meet Me In St. Louis (Heights Theater)
It’s a little bit “Christmas in July,” what with the film’s climactic rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (which if you can make it through the entire song without getting misty, you are most definitely a robot). But there’s also a significant amount of calendar time from this year-in-the-life family saga devoted to the thrills of summer as it melts away into the cool autumn. Hop aboard the trolley and clang away this week at the Heights.
Friday, August 1: A League of Their Own (Lake Harriet Bandshell)
The notion of whether a women’s baseball league could ever capture the public’s heart to the same level as men’s leagues gets a lot of play throughout this WWII dramedy, with an answer that even today stands as discouraging. One thing that’s definitely clear, though, is that this women’s baseball movie is easily as effective an entertainment (and tearjerker) as practically any male-centric baseball flick. Bull Durham, Major League, The Sandlot, The Natural. If you ask me, the members of the All-American League stand shoulder with them all.
Friday, August 1 & Saturday, August 2: The Big Lebowski (Uptown Theatre)
Criticism and commentary seem beside the point now. The film abides. More than almost any movie from my generation, Lebowski — a comedy about American emasculation sung in the key of White Russians — is a cult phenomenon among the millennial set, and very likely the movie that will be etched into their tombstones, even over their Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men (which would make a nifty alternate title for Lebowski, come to think of it) and Fargo. The film, anchored by Jeff Bridges’ most beloved performance and ferocious support from John “You’re Out Of Your Element, Donny” Goodman, is screening this week at the Uptown.
Friday, August 1 through Sunday, August 3: Pulp Fiction (Trylon Microcinema)
For better or worse, this is the movie that divided recent film history in half the same way Marlon Brando’s performance in A Streetcar Named Desire divided screen acting into before mumbling and after. Mumbling? There’s very little of that going on in Quentin Tarantino’s hyperactively loquacious gutter-rat comedy.
Friday, August 1 through Thursday, August 7: A Summer’s Tale (St. Anthony Main Theatre)
Jonathon Sharp will be reviewing this Eric Rohmer classic later in the week on WCCO’s Movie Blog. In the meantime, relive the epic throwdown between then-City Pages reviewer Matthew Wilder and then-Oak Street Cinema curator Bob Cowgill over the former’s dismissive review of Rohmer’s work as a whole. (In my world, this was the Twin Cities’ version of Pauline Kael vs. Andrew Sarris.) At the time, I sided with Wilder, but as I’ve grown older, there are some valid, sparkling points made from Cowgill’s corner.