This week Will Leschber looks back over the closing summer season so we can all then look forward to the fall.
I find myself at that much maligned crossroad. The crossroad of the job hunt. What is it about the dawn of fall that thrusts us into another phase of life whether we want to or not? Is it that we’ve been conditioned to see this time of year this way? Maybe it’s all the back to school shopping we did growing up. Or maybe it’s the habitual feeling that wraps around summer’s end and edges the nervous excitement surrounding something new: New School year, new season to see, new jobs to hunt. Summer is closing and playtime is up.
The thing about summer is that it’s comfortable. The weather is warm, weddings are in season and vacation is on the horizon. Sure, adult living in the Bay Area may look a little different with heightened workloads and rampant cold fronts, but you get my drift. Also we are fed a wave of comfort food in the form of summer entertainment: remounting of old classics, new installments of franchise favorites, new additions to old genres. I know, I know, so much of this recycled dreck is a fraction of the quality we’d like to see. For every Dark Knight there are twice as many Transformer entries or Amazing Spiderman 2 misfires. That being said, I’d rather focus on the surprise successes. This summer we’ve seen familiar ground retread to spectacular ends. That’s my point, There is comfort in the familiar and also hope that these retellings or new genre entries will aspire to be better than their predecessors.
Along the indie film lines we were treated to familiar genres turned on their heads. My favorites were: a stylistic and ever-cool reclaiming of the vampire genre in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive; The romantic comedy as you’ve never seen it before with Jenny Slate’s turn as comic misanthrope, peter-pan-adult facing abortion in Obvious Child; And Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel which takes stories within stories to package nostalgia in a superb pseudo-coming of age tale. All of these remind me how good familiar stories can be when told by a superior storyteller. Blockbuster-fare impressed as well. Here are the highlights: The spectacular sequel to an unlikely reboot in The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a rock-em-sock-em adrenaline punch in the under seen sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow, and the new addition to the Marvel Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy. On paper each of these films appear unlikely to succeed with characters ranging from aliens to talking apes to gun-toting raccoons to walking trees to Tom Cruise! But the filmmakers succeed threefold: they have a clear vision of the kind of movie they are, the filmmakers balance tone and pace perfectly and lastly, in the end the final product plays to our familiar taste while providing something new an exciting in the process. Hell, even my favorite theatre experience of the last few months was a classic remounted. Custom Made Theatre’s production of The Crucible reminded me how fresh and powerful an old classic can be.
The best somehow finds a way to merge the new and the familiar. We need both to move forward. It’s enriching. Contrasting ideas can enrich our general point of view. Old ideas slammed against new ones, that’s summer! The old is new again. Now that we’ve taken stock and peered back over the closing summer season, we can prepare to look ahead to fall and all that lies forward. Tune in next time for a fall preview!
And as a post script shout out, I’d like to hail fellow Tpub Blogger Anthony R Miller. In his last blog entry. Anthony said, “I find conversations about the new Planet of the Apes film are just as important and stimulating to me as conversations about the role of regional theatre in America today. I need both dammit.” I agree. Keep talking theatre, keep talking Apes, keep talking my friend. I like what you have to say.