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The PopMatters Summer 2008 Movie Preview

PopMatters looks at each month that makes up this yearly caravan of summer moviegoing, picking out the winners and wastes of time. Today: Remembrances of Summers Past: 40 Years of Movie Memories: Highlights from Gibron's popcorn moviegoing history.

Stay tuned each day through Friday as we preview the coming summer films month by month and conclude with a historic look back at 40 years of summer blockbusters.

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something celluloid this way comes."

Like the carnival at the center of Ray Bradbury's classic 1962 novel, the annual arrival of the Summer Movie season is like a decidedly deceptive big top temptress. Every year, Hollywood unveils a carefully planned cavalcade of thrills, spills, laughs, and gaffs, and lemming-like we accept. They lure us with cleverly conceived pitches, the shrillness of the shill aimed to remove any doubt in our frequently burned brain. No matter how many underperforming sequels they toss at you, no matter how rigged the big screen games seem to be, they use a trailer's tempting siren song to alleviate any chance of resistance. It's all about the pitch, the barker's cry that calls you into a surreal world of cinematic sawdust and purposely outrageous blockbuster geeks.

And as stated before, we fall for it, hook, line, and routine CGI stinker. We can't pass up the sweet, almost sickening scent of the comic book cotton candy or the stomach stretching fattiness of an overdone franchise feast. The entertainment elephant ears are either fried to perfection or greasy and grotesque, and somewhere, studio clowns laugh at us, wondering how we can be so gleefully gullible. It’s a circus of strange proportions, three or more weekly rings stuffed with astounding -- and subpar -- acts. On occasion, we come across a sleeper, something destined for the smaller tents surrounding the main stage that ends up being more memorable than the marquee performer. There are also the heavily hyped treats that turn out to be as tired and trite as any amateur.

As we prepare to walk the high-wire one more time, to look down below at the unreasonable ramble as they demand more of the same and complain every staid step along the way, PopMatters is here to play top hatted and tuxedoed master of ceremonies. We will look at each month that makes up this yearly caravan, picking out the possible winners and the apparent wastes of time. There will be disagreements over what deserves primary attention, and some smaller efforts may suffer as a result. Still, with nearly 70 individual motion picture artistes lined up to woo us and win us over, there will be choices a'plenty. And who knows -- maybe one of these talented attractions will shine so brightly that it will stand among the year's best come 31 December. Until then, let the show begin!

-- Bill Gibron

Director Spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock helped to create the modern horror genre, the modern thriller, and the modern black comedy. He changed film, even as he was inventing new ways to approach it. Stay tuned through October as we present our collection of essays on the Master of Suspense.

Film

'Psycho': The Mother of All Horrors

Psycho stands out not only for being one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, it is also one of his most influential. It has been a template and source material for an almost endless succession of later horror films, making it appropriate to identify it as the mother of all horror films.

Francesc Quilis
Film

The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti (By the Book)

With discussions of characters like Leon Ray Livingston (a.k.a. "A-No. 1"), credited with consolidating the entire system of hobo communication in the 1910s, and Kathy Zuckerman, better known as the surf icon "Gidget", Susan A. Phillips' lavishly illustrated The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti, excerpted here from Yale University Press, tells stories of small moments that collectively build into broad statements about power, memory, landscape, and history itself.

Susan A. Phillips
Books

The 10 Best Indie Pop Albums of 2009

Indie pop in 2009 was about all young energy and autumnal melancholy, about the rush you feel when you first hear an exciting new band, and the bittersweet feeling you get when your favorite band calls it quits.

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