Since You’ve Been Gone – A Summer Retrospective

 
 

The summer’s over and you should feel bad. But wait! On the plus side, it’s been one of the best summers for cinema in years. Jon Hozier-Byrne takes a look at why it may be the best three months for film since 1977

There is a long-standing debate amongst movie nerds the world over as to what was the best year for movies. Not high brow cinema, it should be noted, but movies. Films you enjoy watching again and again, movies that stand as landmarks in our shared adolescence. In short: less Godard, more Ghostbusters.

For some time now, that debate has remained relatively unchanged, and has settled on a three-way tie between 1977, 1984, and 1994. Some say 1977, complete with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Woody Allen’s sublime Annie Hall, and, of course, Star Wars, make it the greatest year for movies. Others argue that 1984’s kitsch, fun revival, with the likes of Ghostbusters, This is Spinal Tap, Footloose and The Terminator, make it more deserving of the title.

Perhaps the most convincing argument of all, and the one all right thinking 20-somethings ascribe to, is 1994, with modern greats like Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and The Lion King. Throw in the best films of Jim Carrey’s early career (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, all released in 1994), and you’ve got one of the landmark years in cinema.

But there’s been something special about this summer. In a time of worldwide financial meltdown, box office tills have been ringing like never before. For the first time in movie history, two films have grossed over $1 billion dollars at the box office in the same year (Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland).

Admittedly, we’ve had our share of drudge, between the likes of Prince of Persia, and the awful, just so very awful The Expendables, but we’ve also had some of the greatest films of the last decade.

The first instant classic of the summer came with the much anticipated Toy Story 3. Granted, it dragged somewhat in the middle, and reviewers everywhere read way too deeply into possible homosexual allegories with Michael Keaton’s Ken, but it was also one of the most surprisingly poignant films to grace cinema screens in an age. A lot of what made this film, and its tear-wrenching finale, so very distressing, was the continued theme of lost childhood.

Make no mistake, this film was not intended for kids alone (see the scene when they all hold hands – perhaps the darkest and most philosophical scene ever animated). For the first time, we see an intelligent, highly refined film designed particularly for the generation that watched the original Toy Story as children in 1995.

The film is made for the generation that grew up in tandem with Andy, for whom Toy Story was a huge influence on their early lives. In the film’s heartbreaking finale, it isn’t just Andy who’s saying goodbye to his youth through his childhood friends, it’s us too.

Shortly after Toy Story 3 broke big, came the release of debatably the most intellectual and visually stunning action film ever made – Christopher Nolan’s Inception – simply one of the most original, best scripted, and superbly constructed films in over a decade.

In short, it’s our generation’s Fight Club, and while David Fincher is off making loose adaptations of the origins of Facebook, Nolan has not only launched himself into the pantheon of all-time great directors, but all-time great screenwriters too. Inception is the best film of Nolan’s already stunning career, and he did it without killing any of his actors.

The final great film of the summer came in the form of Michael Cera acting like a spoiled child, playing bass guitar and having swordfights. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World is not just one of the best films of the year; it’s one of the best films this reviewer has ever seen.

Granted, I fall squarely into the key demographic – early 20s males who spent more time playing SNES than was good for them – but regardless of age, gender or personal high score, it’s still hilariously funny, brilliantly made, and, most importantly, completely unique and utterly original.

Contrary to many reviewers, the film isn’t simply “about” videogames; it simply uses that motif to represent how real life situations might be contextualised by the generation raised by Nintendo. The youth counter-culture of the eighties had The Breakfast Club, the nineties had Clerks, and we have Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

Ultimately, it’s too early to tell if 2010 will join the debate as a contender for the greatest ever year for movies, and realistically, it probably won’t. But regardless of some of the dross this year has produced, Toy Story 3, Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs The World alone makes this the best year for fun, intelligent movies in a good decade and a half.

This summer was a gift, a break from the monotony of pointless 3D showboating, giant, fighting robots and Megan Fox. Just don’t mention The Expendables.

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