Flop gun: Hugh Jackman in "Wolverine" (above)
All long-term relationships have their ups and downs. You have to work at keeping passion alive, they say. Well, this past summer I've been through one of those periods of doubt to which all of us in relationships are prone. The cinema and I have had a wobbly period. And the physical side of things has broken down completely — I haven't been inside one for a good many weeks. Consequently I've developed a wandering eye.
My gaze has drifted chiefly but all too predictably to the new, young and sexy TV box-sets which flaunt themselves shamelessly on our broadsheet culture pages. It's been quite satisfying if only for the novelty of instant gratification, but chiefly it has made me aware of what is lacking in my real relationship, and the fact that, despite everything, I am desperately keen for it to continue. But this summer, my loved one has been making it very, very difficult.
That's enough of the laboured metaphor. You get the picture. While your back has been turned during Standpoint's brief summer hiatus, you have missed precisely nothing on the big screen. The cinema hates and fears heatwaves for obvious reasons, but it should perhaps be grateful that there were more people drinking and watching the world go by outside and not witnessing the terrible quality of what has been on offer. Being a critic, I'm asked fairly regularly what is the best film I've seen recently, and this year I've been genuinely stumped. Behind the Candelabra (which I reviewed in the last issue) was very good — but really, only by the standards of what has truly been an annus horribilis.
For the past 20 years or so, summer has belonged to the blockbuster. There's nothing wrong with that. Some blockbusters — such as Jaws, which really started it all back in the 1970s — are popular classics which can bear repeated viewings. Independence Day had real flair, the very first Batman a gothic, operatic panache. But along with special effects and sensationalism they paid the audience the compliment of adding suspense, narrative logic, some wit and a few well-drawn characters one could root for (the joyful Indiana Jones for example, now seems firmly of a different era). Now, the major seasonal releases pass before us as we watch, for the most part, dead-eyed and uninvolved. And they disappear, forgotten, offering no real highlights for us to recount, no funny, scary or audacious moments. There are no great lines, nothing to re-enact or report. They just happen, and then they're gone.