FALLING INTO DISGRACELAND 

Forget MTV. What I wanted was my summer blockbuster!

Well, here we are in September. FatherÕs Day has blown on past; the Fourth of July has come and gone; and even Labor Day has reared its ugly head. Summer is officially over. This year IÕm more upset about autumnÕs approach than usual (it doesnÕt help that this is the first year IÕve been in the same full time job both before, during, and after the season). IÕve gone to the barbecues and the beaches; IÕve done the summer sales. But thereÕs something summery still missing, something summery IÕm still waiting for: the blockbuster movie. DonÕt even try to tell me it was Rush Hour 2. A sequel cannot, by law, be the summer blockbuster. And it certainly wasnÕt Tomb Raider, Pearl Harbor, or Planet of the Apes. I saw those, and no. It doesnÕt matter how many Angelina Jolies, Ben Afflecks, or Mark Wahlbergs you have, those movies were not what I was looking for. IÕm something of a movie junkie (I really need those hour and forty-eight minute breaks from myself). And I pretty much like anything, especially if itÕs accompanied with popcorn. IÕll watch indie films and teenybopper flicks and my guilty pleasure are those really dumb movies that center on what I call Òthe dancing and the kissingÓ (think Center Stage or Coyote Ugly). The only thing I canÕt watch -- especially not in theaters -- are horror movies (I tend to want to jump up and run around). Anyway, the other day IÕm in a theater, waiting for my feature presentation when thereÕs a trailer for Serendipity, a movie with John Cusack and Kate Beckingsale. Now I actually want to see this movie -- I think it looks cute and it doesnÕt hurt that John Cusack and Jeremy Piven are in it. But, as the trailer was ending, a baritone voice rang out in the dark: ÒI love romantic comedy.Ó Exactly. This guy was being sarcastic (I assume, because he and his friend started laughing) and he was totally right. Romantic comedy sucks. I wish that wouldnÕt be a genre anymore. Yes, I want my movies to have dashing leading men, and it would be nice if there were some sort of love thang going on, but a good movie needs so much more (I think anyway). Like a plot. Or a sense of humor. Maybe even heart, intelligence, a really good car chase, and explosions out the wazoo. In short, I want Independence Day. Armageddon. The Matrix. Nothing even came close. I mean, sure, there were films this summer I enjoyed, films I would even watch again (this is the sole standard I hold to the products of Hollywood), but nothing that really sung. I thought Legally Blonde was cute -- of course in all disclosure, MGM blonded me. And AmericaÕs Sweethearts was sort of entertaining, if you forgive the complete lack of chemistry between Cusack and Julia Roberts. And I have it on good authority -- my friends in the biz -- that The Princess Diaries, a G-rated film about a girl who finds out sheÕs a real live princess, has had one of the longest runs of the summer (hey, it was directed by Garry Marshall, who did Pretty Woman). This summer has been a revolving door of mediocre offerings. Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Captain CorrelliÕs Mandolin, Summer Catch. Okay, I havenÕt seen these movies, so it might be unfair for me to call them mediocre, but just listen to the names. No one is going to go see those, and I have to say a summer blockbuster sort of implies a box office draw. Maybe IÕm just getting crotchety in my old age. I think the radio sucks, too, but I havenÕt railed against it recently. Although I know why the radio sucks -- because people pay to have their songs played. I guess that begs the question, who is paying to have these movies shown? And why? ItÕs not like thereÕs an album I can buy like with songs on the radio. Or did the writersÕ strike actually happen, but was covered up by Hollywood insiders so no one would feel sorry for the poor writers who get a pittance of what Tom Hanks makes? And then the writers were replaced with typing monkeys who came up with Crazy Beautiful. Or is the quality of movies generally declining? Television seems pretty good now -- although itÕs been a while since the last season so maybe IÕm remembering it in a rose colored haze -- maybe all the good movie people have skipped the big screen for the small. IÕm going to settle for the most optimistic theory. One that says there wasnÕt a writersÕ strike, that the general quality of movies is the same, and that there are talented people working in every aspect of the entertainment industry. IÕm choosing to believe that the writers were just trying to prove what would happen if they ever did go on strike. A gentle threat of what could be, like when Glenn Close got to bunny boiling in Fatal Attraction. Either that or they were too preoccupied with finding temporary employment if the strike did happen. LetÕs just hope everything will be back to normal by Christmas.

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