4B - The Michigan Daily - Wu1.rt c. - Thursday, September 14, 1995
Independent films dominate summer season
By Joshua Rich
Daily Film Editor
Since the inception of the so-called
"blockbuster" film in the late-I970s
- with such mega-films as "Star
Wars" and "Jaws" - the summer
has often been a period marked by
large-budgeted, overly-hyped and
rarely intelligent motion pictures. It
is during the summer months when
films gross the most money and at-
tract the widest audiences of the
year. This season is frequently de-
void of deep and complex features
which are usually lost amidst a slew
of crowd-pleasing, mindless action
flicks and idiotic slapstick comedies
replete with scatological humor.
The summer of 1995, however,
saw a small change from years past,
as a group of over-achieving inde-
pendent films gathered to make it a
season of relatively high quality.
And while indie movies nourished
the brains of many film fanatics, a
few more expensive pictures tickled
our senses us with smart plots and
Nevertheless, there were the usual
senseless summer blockbusters lurk-
ing on the silver screen as well, and,
as always, these were the ones that
came away with the highest gross
sales. Just as simple films like
"Ghost" (1990), "Jurassic Park"
(1993) and last year's duet of "The
Lion King" and "Forrest Gump"
were the most popular films of their
respective summer seasons, so too
were some mediocre movies this
Following tradition, Americans
were more willing to part with seven
dollars to see a campy film like
"Batman Forever," than we were to
watch a more interesting, low-bud-
get movie such as "Smoke." But
that is no surprise.
Leading the pack were two mov-
ies, both different in content and
style, yet very similar in their re-
spective universal appeals. With
"Apollo 13" close behind, "Batman
Forever" grossed some $185 mil-
lion after a record-breaking open-
ing weekend in which it earned over
$50 million at the box office. Ironi-
cally enough, this was by far the
worst movie of the term.
Director Joel Schumacher
("Flatliners") picked up the latest
installment in the "Batman" series
after former director Tim Burton and
star Michael Keaton bowed out. Here,
the usually underrated Val Kilmer
plays the dark knight opposite the
annoying Jim Carrey as the Riddler
and the unfortunate Tommy Lee Jones
as Harvey "Two-Face." In this sprawl-
ing, boring and overall unimpressive
fantasy farce, the acting is sour, the
premise is absurd and the Art Direc-
tion is too bleak to be inviting.
Better results came from rival
"Apollo 13" which, though based upon
a real situation, managed to stay quite
interesting and suspenseful for over
two hours (even though we knew all
along the outcome of the drama). Di-
rector Ron Howard succeeded in mak-
ing his first giant space drama into a
film that, for the most part, could be
enjoyed by all. Still,"Apollo 13," like
most other recent films starring man-
of-the-moment Tom Hanks, remained
an entirely glossy film which lacked
much depth and discreet character-,
While these popular but inadequate
features failed to impress at least this
critic, other big-budget movies turned
out to be much more pleasing.
Most memorable was actor and
fledgling director Mel Gibson's pet
project, "Braveheart," about medeival
Scottish hero William Wallace. While
Gibson reportedly abandoned his ex-
pensive salary in order to complete
the film within its financial bounds,
he ultimately produced a thrilling film
of epic grandeur. "Braveheart" in-
volves striking cinematography, vio-
lently-poetic combat scenes and an
engaging plot that, when portrayed
on screen by a fine cast of little-known
actors, keeps its audience's interest
for over three hours.
Another picturesque movie, "The
Bridges of Madison County," was di-
rector/actor Clint Eastwood's addi-
tion to this crop of films. He polished
writer Robert James Waller's popu-
lar, sappy romance novel, and by do-
ing so he created a touching and pol-
ished story of romance and lost love.
Look for this to be nominated for
many Academy Awards towards the
end of this year.
Other notably well-made Holly-
wood products this summer included
"Clueless," director Amy
Heckerling's biting, satirical look at
the teenage culture of the 1990s; Tony
Scott's suspenseful submarine adven-
ture "Crimson Tide;" Mexican direc-
tor Alfonso Arau's expressionistic
love story "A Walk in the Clouds;"
and Kevin Costner's costly post-
apocalyptic water flick,
"Waterworld." With all the publicity
surrounding the great production ex-
pense of this film, "Waterworld"
wound-up being an acceptable movie
based upon a smart basic idea and
involving remarkable special effects.
Special was the operative word for
this season in which, as previously
stated, independent films turned out
to be the truly high-quality movies.
This is despite their usually low ex-
Big savings on newsletters for
all clubs, businesses, and
The late Italian actor Massimo Troisi starred as a humble lover in the "Postman,"
one of the many fine independent films that hit movie screens this summer.
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penses and sometimes even lower
exposures. Beginning with the huge
success of last year's "Pulp Fiction"
- the most profitable indie movie in
history, grossing over $100 million to
get films have enjoyed a boon in popu-
larity amongst American audiences.
Most memorable amongst the as-
sortment of independent pictures re-
leased this summer were a few films
that focused on different parts of life
in America. Even though it arrived
late in the season, acclaimed director
Bryan Singer's crime saga, "The Usual
Suspects," turned out to be the finest
of all the films released between Me-
morial Day and Labor Day. This styl-
ized mystery incorporates clever dia-
logue, sharp photography and an ee-
rie musical score to create one of the
most suspenseful movies in recent
Also fine was Wayne Wang and
Paul Auster's "Smoke" which pro-
vided audiences with an intimate look
into the lives of some cigar store pa-
trons in Brooklyn. Restrained acting
by Harvey Keitel and the always quiet
William Hurt highlighted this film,
complete with one fine performance
and original character after another.
Terry Zwigoff's brilliant and novel
documentary, "Crumb," showed
viewers more than just how a comic
strip comes to life. It focused on the
life of 1970s art icon R. Crumb, and
allowed us to take an unbiased look at
the intelligence behind the image, the
master behind his madness. "Crumb"
was accompanied to theaters by fel-
low Sundance'Film Festival cham-
pion, "The Brothers McMullen,"
freshman director Edward Burns's
savvy slice-of-life picture about three
Irish-Catholic brothers living together
on Long Island.
Throw in Italian import "Il Postino,"
absolutely fabulous fashion documen-
tary "Unzipped," and shocking and
frighteningly real teenage drama
"Kids," and this summer may cer-
tainly be remembered as a season
when the indies triumphed.
For the most part these small-scale
films, often the kind ignored if ever in
wide theatrical release, were pleas-
antly successful. All in all, they were
original and engaging pictures that
captured many different emotions and
segments of daily life. And these are
qualities that the term "blockbuster"
doesn't regularly bring to mind.
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