From Chicagoist — (07/03/13)
A few weeks ago, Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel broke box office records and posted the biggest June opening ever—yet I can’t seem to find anyone who will actually admit to liking it.
Summer ennui at its finest. Every week a new blockbuster dutifully queues up to wow us into submission and take huge chunks of our money, only to take a precipitous box office plunge the next week when word gets out about what a hollow experience it all was. Man Of Steel comes out a mere seven years after the last time Superman was given a rebooting (the much-maligned Superman Returns), and aside from the thrill of seeing our hometown home-boy, Michael Shannon as General Zod, the whole thing felt like watching somebody else play a video game. The week after that, it was Brad Pitt and bloodless PG-13 zombies (Romero wept!) in World War Z that was largely greeted with a shrug. This 4th of July weekend brings Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, another pointless entry in his endless string of remakes and “re-imaginings” (Side note: Depp constantly brags how he doesn’t watch any of the shitty movies he gets paid so much for foisting on us. Don’t you think it’s about time someone forced him to?) Forget asking ourselves if we really need this—is this what we really want? To be underwhelmed over and over again by empty spectacle?
Meanwhile, there’s another Hollywood franchise kicking another kind of ass—granted it’s a much quieter kicking of a much smaller ass—but its very existence is its own kind of wonder. Before Midnight is the third film in Richard Linklater’s brilliant series of romances starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke that started in 1995 with Before Sunrise. In that first film, Delpy and Hawke meet on a train in Europe and form an intense bond while spending the night walking and talking in Vienna. In the second film, 2004’s Before Sunset, they reconnect nine years later while Hawke is in Paris on the last stop of a book tour. In what may be one of the greatest endings of all time, that film suggests that, this time, they might stay together. And nine years after that, Before Sunset confirms that, yes, they are still together and, yes, life and love can be a bitch. Taking it’s cue from Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films, the passage of time becomes just as important as the characters. Delpy and Hawke are older—but so are we. Each new film feels like a class reunion. It’s a trilogy of a different nature than the one we’re used to—one brought about by a desire to continue to explore these characters that we grow to love and identify with, and through them ask questions about our own lives. That seems like a grand statement, sure, but isn’t that kind of supposed to be the purpose of art?
Before Midnight has only grossed a fraction of what Man Of Steel grossed in one midnight screening, but here’s the thing: Everyone that sees it seems to LOVE it. It’s akin to The Replacements selling something like 10,000 records in the ‘80s while REO Speedwagon sold shitloads—but who are we still talking about? Compare your average REO fan to your average ’Mats fan. Big difference. (Full disclosure: I happen to LOVE the Speedwagon.) There’s a love and a devotion—a kind of ownership—that’s far more intense and rewarding than just being one in a string of faceless millions like all those digital zombies in World War Z.
Yeah, I know what I sound like. And, yes, I’m aware that it’s summer—and I’m as eager to see White House Down as much as the next nitwit—but does that mean we have to be fucking stupid all the way until fall?
Before Midnight is still playing at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, where it’s been doing excellent indie-rock business since late-May. It’s also playing at AMC River East 21, but it’s recently been cut down to one pre-noon showing a day—presumably, to make room for all those Lone Ranger showings—so catch it while you can.Read less