Features and Columns

Talking Heads: The Summer Movie Forecast

By  · Published on May 13th, 2011

Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as DogEatsHeart and 5Obstructions5 in order to discuss some topical topic of interest.

This week, the pair apply some sun screen and some green screen in order to forecast how the movies of Summer 2011 might shape up. Is there a secret weapon to its inevitable success? Is its success inevitable?

Anything would be better than last year, right?

Landon: ? ?So summer is always an exciting time for movies. But with so many movies that are so highly anticipated, there’s a lot riding on the season, and you don’t quite know what you’re going to get until you get it. Big summer movies have given us both Spider-Man 3 and Inception.?

My question to you is, come September, how will we be characterizing the summer of 2011?

I’ll give you time to consult your Magic 8 Ball.

?Cole: ? ?It looks like “Outlook Hazy,” but it’s like the liquid has sort of bubbled up in the middle of the words, you know?? Happens to older balls. So using no ball-based predicting devices, I’d have to say that I hang my hopes on a strong, varied Summer that has to be better than last year.

You have big budgets going after genres of all kinds, from superpeople to aliens to westerns, and in between you have some promising smaller films poised to impress.

Is that what your Ouijia Board says?

Landon: ? ?I would tell you, but it just caught on fire?.

But yes, I share your optimism, and not so much with the giant movies – I think we know exactly what to expect with Harry Potter 7.2 and Transformers 3 for better or worse (respectively) – but with the sheer variety itself.

Cole: ? ?Variety is key this year.?

?Landon: ? ?I have to say I’m particularly optimistic about this summer’s comedies compared to almost any other year I can think of?.

Cole: ? ?You’re ready to see more sober debauchery taken from Vegas to Thailand??

?Landon: ? ?More or less…Bridesmaids is getting strong praise and movies like Horrible Bosses and Bad Teacher look like they’ll more than make up for Hangover 2: Hanger Overer?.

Cole: ? ?The deck is stacked.?

I have no idea if this is true because I have things to do besides count, and my abacus caught fire earlier, but this summer feels bigger all the way around when compared to last year. ?Maybe because I already lived through the flaccid, yawn-worthy Summer of 2010, and the sheer, pure, joyous excitement of naked possibility for Summer 2011 lies on the horizon like a sunrise after a long, dark night.?

But it feels like there are more movies coming out, and more bats being pointed at the bleachers.

?Landon: ? ?This could backfire for some titles, but it looks like every category is filled out pretty thoroughly: superhero movies, inevitable sequels, kid flicks, reboots, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts? and, of course, Pooh. Then there’s cowboys/aliens, a Spielberg-style summer movie…and Smurfs.

Cole: ? ?It’s like the studios, in their secret flaming Ouijia board-filled meeting, decided to give their best shots at a wide range of styles and genres.? Which is a good thing. Plus, 2011 doesn’t seem hobbled by something that 2010 was: appealing solely to the 1980s. Last year was the summer of A-Team and Karate Kid.

Landon: ? ?Hopefully Take Me Home Tonight stopped that trend for good…or, at least, Dan Fogler?. This is the first time in awhile that it seems the streamlined studio movies aren’t the only thing available…room has been made for various genres and movies for various audiences. They have to know that Larry Crowne can’t “compete” with Transformers 3, but they’re not solely appealing to the Transformers 3 crowd even though there’s more money there.

And by “they” I mean Hollywood’s secret shadow government that makes all the decisions for the studios.

?Cole: ? ?Exactly. It’s refreshing to see some other types of stories and storytellers given a crack at summer.?

?Landon: ? ?What looks really strong this year are the crop of indie/arthouse/limited or semi-limited release flicks. It seems like the idea that those movies don’t have to be released in December is being acknowledged again?.

?Cole: ? ?Another Earth, Hesher, Submarine, The Guard…they’re all getting released as shrewd counter-programming.? So, all of this to say that even if a solid number of the movies disappoint, the shotgun approach means a summer that might come out on top. And I don’t mean or care about the box office here. I mean with quality. Jonah Hex? Last Airbender? Is it possible that this summer can produce content that terrible?

I mean, we all know that Satan has a producing credit on The Smurfs, but at least that’s a movie where you know what you’re getting into. It feels like last summer conspired to take a lot of horse dung, smear it on digital projectors, but cut thrilling trailers to make us think there was a chance of survival.

?Landon: ? ?Satan has a good track record though. I like his choices. I particularly enjoyed his involvement with the first Cars movie?.

Cole: ? ?And Rosemary’s Baby.?

?Landon: ? ?But yes, unlike false trailers, it seems (and I hope) with this summer that all the movies which might be disappointing are pretty evident from the get-go. There’s suspicion and predictably bad buzz about The Hangover 2 and Priest, and at the same time it’s very clear that certain audiences know they should stay away from Transformers 3 or Cars 2?. The difference is that there are other movies for those audiences to see.

Cole: ? ?A cinematic hedging of bets.?

The buffet has old pudding with the skin floating on top of it, but there is a plentiful cornucopia under the sneeze guard. Will that be enough to create a successful summer? Stuff like Harry Potter and Super 8 look poised to deliver huge experiences, but what if the shotgun approach yields more good movies, but no truly, memorable ones?

?Landon: ? ?That could be the exchange we get. Last year, really exceptional/enjoyable movies like Inception and Toy Story 3 kinda made up for a whole lot of mediocrity and some big stinkers. This year the average seems to be significantly better, but I’m not sure if there will be out-of-the-park home runs?.

??But the fact that Tree of Life is for many the most anticipated movie of the summer, given a studio economy that seems hungry only for franchises, gives me a lot of hope?. Even at the risk of giving you boredom.

?Cole: ? ?It sounds to me like we’re both giving this summer a Clean Bill of Health before sending it out on the field to play ball.? Dare we say without cynicism or sarcasm that we’re…really, really excited???

Landon: ? ?At the risk of treating multiple successive punctuation marks seriously, yes, I am genuinely excited about this summer’s crop of movies?.

Dare you agree?!

Cole: ?I dare. However, my Magic 8 Ball just cracked, and blue toilet liquid is leaking on me and my only nice pair of pants. I’m sure it’s not an omen.

Landon: ? ?You better take care of that. I should probably put this Ouija board out before it sets fire to my curtains?, because then it’s curtains for me!

Cole: Wow.

Landon: I know.

Well, go clean up. Let’s recap in September when we can express our inevitable ennui and mandated cynicism.

?Cole: ? ?Fingers crossed. Tight.?

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.