My Summer at the Art House

NOTE: This post can also be viewed as a list on my Letterboxd account.

Summer is notoriously known as the season of big-budget, blockbuster cinema. Going as far back as Jaws in 1975, the blockbuster as we have come to know it has long been a staple in the film diet of both American and international moviegoers. But in recent years, films like Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, widely regarded as some of the greatest films of all-time — and created on far more modest budgets ($8-to-$12 million) than the films of today — have given way to poorly developed spectacle films featuring astounding visual effects but made on ever-ballooning budgets. I speak, of course, about flicks like G.I. Joe (and its sequel), White House Down, and The Lone Ranger.

The biggest problem, though, isn’t the studios or their respective executives. It’s us, moviegoing audiences. Rotten film after rotten film after rotten film, the majority of general audiences continue to buy into what the studios are selling. I’ve read stories about how handfuls of audience members sat through this summer’s The Wolverine — that one sure came and went, didn’t it? — with nary an eyebrow raised, but once the credits rolled and additional teaser footage was shown, some crowds erupted in applause and excitement. All this does is push large studios to continue what they’re doing: make profits off of unoriginal, less-than-stellar ideas. After all, if audiences are willing to sit through 2 hours of crap to see 15 or 30 seconds of otherwise-unseeable footage, why bother trying to innovate or sell a story?

But I digress. After being massively disappointed by Star Trek Into Darkness, slightly off-put by The Great Gatsby (save for that soundtrack), and left wanting more from Iron Man 3, things began looking bleak in my mind for all those big-budget Hollywood movies. I haven’t been into the Fast and Furious franchise in some time — I’ve only seen the first and second installments — and I somehow managed to completely miss Man of Steel when it was in theaters. And let’s not even mention those entirely off-putting Pacific Rim trailers, replete with monsters, robots, and all the dubstep one could ever need. I hate to judge a film before I’ve seen it — and I do know some who enjoyed it — but my word, I don’t think an average person could pay me enough money to see Pacific Rim. It just looks like a headache waiting to happen.

Surprisingly enough, the best big-budget film I got around to all summer was none other than the supposedly-doomed yet absolutely enthralling World War Z, a movie that saw itself re-written, re-tooled, and resurrected at the eleventh hour by the unlikeliest of heroes: Damon Lindelof, he of “Lost” and Prometheus infamy. I of course never saw the initial cut of the film, but it seems that the months of re-scripting and re-shoots served the film well, as it sits fresh (67%) among the RottenTomatoes shelf — a lower aggregated score than Iron Man 3 (78%) or Star Trek Into Darkness (87%), but better than both in my opinion, both as story and as spectacle.

The increased production of disappointing blockbusters has led me, an adorer of films of all scales, to shift gears and find new, more interesting films to watch. That is, of course, in addition to my constant desire to seek out different types of films than those I can find readily available in dozens of local theaters. It’s no secret that the festival films and other independents find themselves in rather limited release, so it’s best to catch them right when they hit your local theater; there’s no telling how long they’ll be around. For those looking for something different from traditional summer big-budget fare, these smaller or independent films serve as the perfect palette cleansers, especially when you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth from the latest no-good Hollywood sequel or reboot.

And so, instead of heading to the mutltiplex to see all of the most recent superhero, comic book, and sci-fi action flicks, I opted instead to spend my summer at a place long-forgotten by many a moviegoer: the art house theater. Known for its no-frills nature, my local art house theater has 5 auditoriums, each with traditional non-stadium seating, a rare find these days.

The walls are covered with classic Hollywood murals, paintings of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Woody Allen in Annie Hall, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, and so many more. The place creates the perfect atmosphere within which to take in a good film, sets the mood just right, no matter your state of mind when you walk in the front door. And so, just like that, my summer movie experience began.

With that introduction, I present to you “My Summer at the Art House,” a listing of each of the smaller-budget films I saw this summer as counter-programming to your typical summer multiplex fare, each seen at my local art house theater. Clicking on any of the photos below will open a slideshow carousel; each entry includes a brief synopsis of each film as well as my take on it, the grade I’ve given it, and its respective Rotten Tomatoes score (for comparison purposes). Without further ado, here is “My Summer at the Art House.”


One thought on “My Summer at the Art House

  1. Pingback: My Top Ten Films of 2013 | Qwerty Thoughts

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