Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Summer's movies

I suppose it's that time of year. Everybody's putting out their list of summer movies. Did you know that summer movies were an invention of the Balaban & Katz chain of movie theaters in the 1910s? If you don't know Balaban & Katz, the movie chain that invented and codified how to run a chain of movie theaters profitably, you should. The Balaban & Katz chain (later the foundation of Paramount's movie-house chain) showed everybody how to run the backbone function of the classic Hollywood studio system (running and operating the movie theaters was the main business; actually making movies was merely the prop to support the theaters).

Anyway, Balaban & Katz had a problem: no one was coming to their theaters in the summers, because it was too hot (the chain was centered in Chicago, so picture a movie theater in Chicago's summer without air-conditioning - you wouldn't go either). In 1917, the Balabans, being brilliant entrepreneurs, discovered this new invention called air-conditioning - it had previously been used in the meat-packing plants of Chicago to keep meat cool. Switch the air-conditioning from cooling dead cows to cooling the still-living carcasses of their Chicago audiences, and voila! Balaban and Katz was raking the money in hand over fist. And that's how the summer movie season began.

Here's some movies I'm waiting for this summer:

1. Jia Zhangke's The World. Jonathan Rosenbaum loves this movie and Zhangke's previous Platform AND it's about tacky theme parks, globalization, alienation, and a scaled-down version of the Taj Mahal. What's not to like?
2. Richard Linklater remakes The Bad News Bears. Linklater supposedly has three movies coming out this year. I'm not frankly sure what he's doing with a remake of the properly forgotten TBNB, but we'll see. Linklater has shown he's mastered the art of making seemingly inoffensive mainstream Hollywood fare in School of Rock (my advice? don't let Linklater fool you that easily. he's playing with your head).
3. Wong Kar-Wai's 2046. Don't ask me why it's taking so long to get over to these American shores, but anything with Tony Leung (aka the God of actors, see below) and WKW? You're going to have to saw my legs off to keep me away.
4. Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know. This movie won the prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, a prize at Sundance, and at the Philadelphia Film Festival. What more recommendation do you need?
5. Hey, maybe someday, sometime somebody will actually show Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha in Chicago? Is anybody out there listening?

Anyways, that's my take on the summer season. For much of the remaining, more typical movies of the summer - including the 15 or so zombie movies coming out (no, really, there are a truly inordinate number of zombie movies this summer) over the next few months - remember, we have the Balaban brothers to thank for those.


Blogger Kza said...


Funny Ha Ha played on the Sundance channel a few days ago. I have it on my TiVo, and I'd be happy to send you a VHS copy if you'd like.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Alex said...


Sounds great, if you still have it on your TIVO. I can't determine an email address off your Blogspot profile, but mine is agorelik@gsb.uchicago.edu. Please send, please!

5:30 PM  
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