Maybe my standards are low, but it wasn’t that bad a summer for movies, was it?
Granted, the season was — as is now Hollywood’s wont — focused on blockbusters and sequels. If you judge just by critics and not box-office returns, some lived up to the hype (the final “Harry Potter”) and some did not (the second “Hangover”).
But the greatest impression was left by movies that were originals, not sequels.
The season began in May with a hilarious flourish thanks to “Bridesmaids.” It was truly laugh-out-loud funny, and yet it had heartfelt moments, too. It was that rare big-budget comedy that starred women and featured multifaceted female characters who had believable, complicated friendships — what a concept! It rightly made big-screen luminaries out of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Please, Oscar voters, give McCarthy a supporting-actress nom.
While it wasn’t as pitch-perfect as “Bridesmaids,” “Crazy Stupid Love” was a way-above-average summer comedy. The script was a little underwhelming at points, but the acting (and apparent improv-ing) made up the difference. I’d vote Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling as Best Screen Bromance of the summer.
One of the biggest surprises of the season was how charming the latest Woody Allen movie was. (We’d all pretty much given up on Woody, hadn’t we?) “Midnight in Paris” didn’t have the depth of some of his earlier work, but the tale of a modern-day writer who magically meets Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the artistic gang in Paris had just the right amount of whimsy. “Midnight in Paris” turned out to be Allen’s highest-grossing movie ever, with more than $50 million in the till.
August brought us the movie adaptation of “The Help,” and damned if the film didn’t live up to the high expectations inspired by the beloved book. Knowing that relatively untested director Tate Taylor was a childhood friend of novelist Kathryn Stockett didn’t bode well (it reeked of hey-pal-let’s-put-on-a-show!), but he worked all the stories within “The Help” into a cohesive, effective film. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer gave two of the best performances of the year, as maids dealing with racism in 1960s Mississippi.
Now, for my personal most-disappointing film: “Cowboys & Aliens.” The concept of mixing and matching those two genres was genius. Add the old-fashioned, manly magnetism of Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, have Jon Favreau direct the whole shebang, and you’d think: how could it possibly go wrong? In a word: script. It didn’t take advantage of all the creative fun that could be had by having aliens invade an Old West town. Such a shame.
What were your highlights and lowlights of the summer movie season?