Lessons Learned

A retrospective in film dos and don’ts from the summer of 2009

Ah, summer: a time of blissful carelessness, rash decisions, heat-induced mistakes and occasionally painful life lessons. (Remember Sallie May from the summer of ’01? Didn’t think so.)

The old adage that art imitates life couldn’t be truer than during the months of May to September, when Hollywood peels off its clothes, adopts that “go big or go home” mindset so typical of summer and jumps into the deep end of the hit-or-miss pool.

Of course, as in life, whether that jump ends up becoming a killer cannonball or pathetic belly flop is another matter altogether.

The summer might not be over yet, but as we all know from experience, a lesson learned is a lesson learned. And judging by the number of both sizzling hot cannonballs and wince-inducing belly flops that have graced us in the past few months, Hollywood’s learned a lot of lessons this summer — and so have we.

12 Things We’ve Learned From The Movies This Summer:

1. Everybody loves a bromance, especially if Bradley Cooper is involved. The line between homo and hetero has been safely and inoffensively blurred in a beautiful American creation called the bromance, epitomized by The Hangover. If watching a bunch of straight men spending some quality platonic/alcoholic time with each other doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you have a cold heart. Either that, or you’re not a true American. Off to Europe, you!

2. Nobody likes seeing genitalia in high definition. No, not even yours, Sacha. Or, I should say, especially not yours. What, you don’t think we got enough of it in Borat? For God’s sake, just put that thing away already before someone gets hurt.

3. If you’re gonna pull the rom-com schtick, at least make it an offbeat indie rom-com with a solid soundtrack. The people and places might change, but the basic rom-com formula will always remain the same. Still, it makes all the difference in the world whether the leads are generic and boring (Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler) or deliciously quirky (Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), whether they rock out to Katy Perry (neither hot nor cold, just lame) or The Smiths (classic bonding material) and whether the jokes are explicit, dime-a-dozen verbal abuses (apparently, comfort and efficiency are not bang-able qualities… ha?) or meticulously crafted moments (awkward silences FTW). The Ugly Truth: 0, (500) Days of Summer: 3.

4. Zooey Deschanel is really cool, and can sing. OK, we get it already: Zooey Deschanel is quirkier, sexier and more interesting than any of us girls will ever be. Can we all just get back to our comparatively uninteresting and insufficient lives now?

5. There are other young and nerdy fish in the sea besides Shia LaBeouf. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any dorkier, the nerd-gods bestow upon us a bleeding-heart Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an impressively buffed-up Rupert Grint, an awkward-as-ever Michael Cera and a new-and-improved Spock, Zachary Quinto. Hallelujah.

6. Aliens never get old. This summer saw a continuous stream of alien flicks — Battle for Terra, Star Trek, Aliens in the Attic. And with Peter Jackson at the producing helm of the upcoming District 9, it looks like our obsession with creepy extraterrestrials is only going to get worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it. (Who says aliens have to be ugly and weird-looking? I’m sure there’s an entire species of Brad Pitts somewhere, on some very awesome, very blessed planet.)

7. If you can get over her homely looks, unattractive on-screen appearance and general frumpiness, Megan Fox is a talented actress, so cut her some slack already. I mean, if you can forgive Amy Adams’ mom-do in Julie & Julia, Bonnie Wright’s (Ginny) gangliness and see-through complexion in Harry Potter and Nia Vardalos and her big fat Greek self — again — in My Life in Ruins, you can do this, too. I believe in you.

8. Daniel Radcliffe is secretly a hobbit. It’s a good thing the kid was hired for a multi-jillion dollar franchise when he was 11, or else there’s no way in hell the 5-foot-5-inch tall (or should I say short?), eye-twitching actor would have had a chance. Or gotten any, even from pale, gangly, awkward gingers. Just kidding. I’m sure there are plenty of gingers out there for everyone. Kidding, again. But really, Dan, have you considered man-heels?

9. Johnny Depp can do no wrong. It’s actually unfair how badass Johnny Depp is, whether as a badass pirate or badass demon barber or badass bank robber, a la Public Enemies. Personally, though, I’m waiting for the day Johnny takes on a romantic comedy opposite Sandra Bullock. Don’t pretend like you’re not curious. Ten bucks says he wouldn’t be badass enough to part with his eyeliner. Twenty says Sandra would beat him in a cage match (that woman is damn intimidating in a skirt-suit and pointy heels).

10. No movie with the word “funny” in the title should exceed two hours. Was I the only one wondering when Funny People was going to end? As much as we all love Judd Apatow, his kick-ass traveling cast of male actors (they could be a circus show) and his new take on funny, too long is too long — especially for a dramedy with a lot of slow dialogue and unflattering close-ups (Adam Sandler’s getting wrinkly, don’t you think?).

11. It sucks to have to share the screen with Meryl Streep. The woman is a well-oiled machine with acting chops so fierce they could make those gun-toting rednecks in Bruno shiver in their boots. Who could compete with that? Nobody blames you, Amy Adams, for your underwhelming performance in Julie & Julia (actually, I do a little, but that’s just because your annoyingly perky voice and exaggerated facial expressions are easy to hate); it’s not your fault Meryl’s a beast with the natural talent and charisma to knock you out of the ballpark.

12. Nothing says summer — or money in the bank — like Harry Potter. Whether or not you’re a loyal fan, you can’t deny the wizard’s lucrative lock on the movie industry: Half-Blood Prince cleared out The Dark Knight and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith to become the No. 1 highest-grossing midnight opening of all time. I might or might not have contributed to this statistic wearing a homemade quidditch robe. I guess you’ll never know.

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