We’re getting into the home stretch of Summer 2009; I’ve seen many of the films hitting theaters in August, and the ones I haven’t seen I’ve got the buzz on. Looking at the three months past and the month ahead the individual personalities of the major studios take shape, and so I’ve crafted this guide to the Movie Summer of 2009, If the Studios Were People.
Paramount – A Family of Mismatched Kids Raising Themselves
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Michael Bay’s latest is an angry 17 year old nu-metal head who smokes in the 7/11 parking lot. He’s holding down a job – he mans the Fryolater, late shift – and he supplements that by selling ditch weed to his younger brother’s friends. He’s helping pay the bills, but he’s angry and moody. He talks a lot about partying, but all he does is drink the occasional 40, smoke a skunky joint and then throw up. He talks a lot about girls, and his room is covered in pictures of pin-ups, but he wouldn’t know how to deal with a real girl if he met one. Moronic and given to throwing out racially insensitive terms (but why can’t he say it if the black kids down in the hood can say it?), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is never going anywhere in life.
– Yeah, he’s in the Chess Club. Yeah, he can speak Elvish. But don’t
get it twisted – this 15 year old nerd has the geek chic thing down
pat. He gets great grades and he has multiple level 80 alts on World of Warcraft, but that doesn’t stop him from running track and getting handjobs from the prettiest cheerleaders. JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is
going boldly where few geeky franchises have gone before, right into
the crossover. He gets invited to the cool parties and still has time
to hang with his friends at the local StarCon. And he’s going places;
just wait until this guy enters his sophomore year and you’ll really
see somebody taking over the universe.
GI Joe – While Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen keeps the roof over everybody’s head and Star Trek is making a future for the family, GI Joe is
sitting at home, eating bowl after bowl of cereal and lighting things
on fire. If this 9 year old wasn’t so goddamned cute and sweet you’d
want to throw him into juvie hall. After all, he displays lots of
anti-social behavior, he seems unable to tell right from wrong and he
finds violence not just funny but almost uplifting. The big fear is
what happens on the day when little GI Joe replaces his pop gun with the real thing.
Universal - The struggling artist, Universal doesn’t quite
understand why his violin case is filled with nothing but bird shit.
After all, he’s working hard; whether or not you like all of the songs
he plays, like Public Enemies or Land of the Lost or Drag Me To Hell,
you have to admit he’s trying to do good work. And more than that, he’s
not even trying to be obscure. Universal isn’t sitting out there
playing lame-ass chamber music nobody knows; he’s trying to give you
pop songs, but pop songs that are really well made and interesting and
personal and actually have something to say. He’s out there trying to
weld art and commerce, and the lesson he’s learning is that nobody in
the listening audience gives a shit about art. They’re all buying Korn
records and then smoking the shitty stuff Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sells.
Sony - It’s weird. You know that Sony has horses in the race,
but then you see them on the stands, eating a hot dog and watching.
This year they’re really spectating and seem to be putting very little
effort into winning. They have ponies like Year One and Angels & Demons, but they’re sort of the bastard offspring of good stallions and poor mares; Angels & Demons’ papa, The DaVinci Code, looks on with disdain as his foal can’t stir up the box office or the controversy he did, and Year One‘s
dad took his name off the birth certificate and is spending time
writing unappreciated baroque pop music with Universal. Sony’s got a
couple of horses still in the stable, and while District 9 may be the one Sony pony who takes a crown, Julie & Julia appears to have snapped her leg before even getting to the gate. But at the end of the summer you can only suspect that Sony is looking to an old favorite to come back and win them some races; it turns out they haven’t put Spider-Man to pasture after all, and they’re getting him back in race shape.
Fox - Man, these bargains look great. Fox has set up shop on a
card table on Canal Street and he’s selling you bags that look a lot
like the designer bags that cost other studios a shitload more money.
You can’t help yourself and you pick up a Wolverine, which reminds you of the great product Marvel is putting out. And then there’s an Ice Age bag,
which could really pass for a Pixar purse in the right kind of
lighting. Then you get these things home and they just fall to pieces
on you; your cell phone comes clattering right out of the Wolverine bag and shatters, making you forget all your contacts and appointments. The Ice Age purse looked big and roomy and three-dimensional but then you try putting your stuff in there and nothing fits. And that Night at the Museum bag
you got? Did someone shit in this thing at the Chinese slave labor
factory? You go back to the street corner where Fox was selling his
wares and he’s gone, with all your money. Sure he could have made more money if he had actually invested in decent bags, but fuck that. He wants the quick buck and the quicker getaway.
Warner Bros - No, they’re not brothers in a familial way.
They’re brothers in a fraternal way – frat brothers of the highest
order. Sure, one of their own white baseball cap frat guys earned
himself a D with his Terminator Salvation party, but they always have their Wizards and Witches Ball to fall back on. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is
their sixth semi-annual ball, and no other house has had this kind of
luck for this long. Not only was the party good, but it earned lots of
cash to keep up the sweet off-campus digs. And when you add all the Harry Potter balls
together you see that the Warner Bros (Psi Beta in the house!) have
earned a billion dollars. But what really makes them the Big Men on
Campus this year was their Vegas-themed party The Hangover.
Everybody thought it would be a fun party, and Psi Beta really earned
some intracampus love by letting some dweeby nobodies be the stars of
the joint. But then shit got real: The Hangover became the biggest R-rated comedy ever.
And the third biggest earning R-rated picture ever. And all of a sudden
those dweeby nobodies were hip somebodies, and everybody wanted an
invite to the next Hangover party.
Disney - The old guy walks up to the weight sets at Muscle Beach
and the other bodybuilders pay him no mind. But then his shirt comes
off and he’s benching 300 pounds, all the while blasting some doo wop
music. And he’s got a four hour boner and a pocketful of Cialis. This
is Old Man Disney, still in the game, still repping it old school, but
still also keeping up with the kids. He’ll deliver something as lovely
and beautiful and meaningful and age non-specific as Up and then follow that with some cheesy ass break dancing routine that appeals to the 8 year olds, like G-Force.
And he’ll get plenty of donations from both. He’s happy to be on both
sides of the line, the sublime and the shitty, because he’s been around
enough years and seen enough hard times (he used to have to walk uphill
both ways to hand animate his every frame) to know that you have to
give the kids what they want and what they need.
The Weinstein Company - You can already smell the dead flesh.
There’s a huge fat form under a thin bedsheet, and you can smell his
flesh necrotizing. He’s on his last legs. The jig is almost up; he
tried to live fast and loose but came up with only empty calories and
past due notices on all his utilities. Big Weinstein thought he had it
in him to take the world by storm but here he is, trapped in his bed,
just about to die. He’s praying for a miracle and he has two old
friends that he’s counting on. If good old QT, the boy he brought up
from nowhere, can really make something from Inglorious Basterds,
maybe Weinstein can get that lap band surgery, can get taken from his
home on the back of a tractor trailer and learn how to live clean and
healthy and good. And then there’s Rob Zombie, but the truth is that
Weinstein has already spent his Halloween II money; it’s
the only thing keeping the lights on in the house. And as we move into
August, even Weinstein – once the big talking bully – may be making his
peace with the end.