Ended Summer: Movieline's Staff Recalls the Best Moments of Summer 2011
It's hard to believe that what started with a smash of Thor's hammer back in May is ending meekly almost four months later with an orgy, a lost space mission and 3-D sharks. Alas, with Labor Day having arrived, summer is officially unofficially over. But! Before the crisp fall movie season begins in earnest, it's time to look back on what transpired. Pour yourself one last glass of Country Time lemonade and click ahead to remember the highlights of the summer movie season with your bestest Movieline editors.
My most shameless anticipation of the summer paid off in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Not just because it kept me slack-jaw rapt with its epic 3-D plunge through the IQ cellar, but because for a guy who can basically get away with anything he wants, Michael Bay applied the lessons from Transformers 2 haters worldwide to the franchise's third installment. Can't see the robots' faces? OK, fixed. Action moving too fast and unintelligibly? Consider it slowed. Too many vaguely racist Transformers? Boom, gone. He even had the temerity to shed his unpopular leading lady in favor of not only a younger model, but a Victoria's Secret model. And yet Bay the visionary created a singular piece of popular entertainment -- a film so in tune with an American zeitgeist emphatically entitled and drunk on paranoia that Dark of the Moon felt like some harrowing testament to our waning exceptionalism. Dude had Decepticons shooting the Lincoln Memorial in the face. Bay's response is exhilarating -- plus he put hundreds of cast and crew members to work and got $350 million circulating in a stagnant economy. Screw the Tea Party; let's have a Bay/LaBeouf ticket in 2012.
Under the term's most basic definition, Ryan Gosling has been a "movie star" since Remember the Titans in 2000, but it wasn't until Crazy, Stupid, Love. that he became a movie star. Oh sure, he displayed plausible Leonardo DiCaprio-lite leading man moves in his breakout turn in The Notebook, but until the wonderful James L. Brooks-y summer romcom (take a bow, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa), Gosling had seemed more interested in hiding himself behind indie beards, sex dolls and receding hairlines than embracing his star bona fides. That's officially over: with Crazy, Stupid, Love. already released and Drive and The Ides of March in theaters this fall, Hollywood Gosling has arrived. Handsome, charming, mischievous, charming and handsome (what?), Gosling is the burgeoning A-lister that everyone thought Ryan Reynolds would become this summer. In Crazy, Stupid, Love., he's the player with a heart of gold who helps Steve Carell overcome the break up of his marriage. In essence, he's a playing a big screen version of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother -- a character prone to broad strokes and fine suits. Gosling, however, keeps everything tight and believable (also tight: his abs), investing the slick Jacob with not just the wounded heart we've come to expect from this type of cad, but also bursting hope. That's ironic since Gosling is the best hope Hollywood has to head the next generation of leading men in the post-DiCaprio/Smith/Depp/Cruise era. He's a real hero, a real human being and -- most important -- a honest-to-goodness star.
I caught Paul Feig's Bridesmaids at its very first screening at the SXSW Film Fest in Austin back in March, before anyone had an inkling that this summer would become the summer of the female-driven R-rated comedy. By the time support built for the raunchy Kristen Wiig vehicle (yay Wiig!) in May -- wedding season, yes, but also the perfect time for launching a mainstream movie movement -- the foul-mouthed slacker women of the world found they finally had a film to rally around. Bridesmaids' commercial success opened the door for more daring female-driven films to follow, and it's about time. Who knew the sight of Maya Rudolph, crouched in snow-white bridal couture, desperately pooping in the street after an attack of the post-churrasco bubble guts would mark such a watershed moment in modern cinema?
My favorite movie experience this summer did not take place in a theater, but -- strangely enough -- in Hall H at this year's Comic-Con. (I say "strangely enough" because Hall H is a miserable place for agoraphobes. A crowd of 7,000 is ushered into the auditorium through a single door like cattle -- costumed cattle carrying pungent $10 personal pizzas who cannot adhere to simple instructions like "please no recordings.") Anyway, I was in Hall H, trying to put as much space between myself and the pregnant green woman next to me, when Francis Ford Coppola and Val Kilmer took the stage for their Twixt presentation.
After showing the crowd a trailer -- which was good, but better knowing that Kilmer watched (or directed his face at) the entire thing, in the dark auditorium, while wearing sunglasses -- Coppola announced that he was going to give us a live Twixt "experience." With the help of a souped-up iPad, the director spontaneously selected alternate scenes of Twixt while an audio team behind him scored the impromptu cut on the fly. It was a mess. Coppola hadn't yet mastered the technology but he was kind enough to take us "inside" the process.
While he continued trying (and failing) to piece together a new Twixt cut, Coppola described how he wanted to take his crew on the road so that the world could see Twixt "live." It was a beautifully ironic moment -- Coppola describing how he wanted to completely redefine the moviegoing experience via live-editing technology -- while unable to operate a touch screen. If Francis Ford Coppola is unafraid to profess his grand ambitions to thousands of strangers while biffing in real time, it's OK for any of us to try and fail, right? It's just a bonus if you have Val Kilmer there, silently supporting you behind sunglasses.
My favorite moment at the movies this summer has little to do with cinematic quality or integrity. In fact, it has to do with the opposite of those things. When I attended a press screening of Spy Kids 4D: All the Time You Could Be Spending Elsewhere, I settled in my seat for glute-numbing schlock opera. My fears were valid, but my boredom was allayed -- for sitting in front of me was none other than Jeremy Piven! (He plays the movie's key dual role). How I beamed! Not only was the 46-year-old actor wearing a tiny vest that I coveted, but he attempted to laugh at all of the movie's funny parts. That's a sport. I like sensing humanity in my Chicago-bred brethren. I interviewed him soon after, and we discussed Marlon Brando -- because my job rules and I don't have to ask about Smell-O-Vision and spy children, like other movie reporters. Ari Gold, you're all right. Spy Kids, keep your distance.
[Photos of Val Kilmer and Jeremy Piven via Getty]