You can’t just watch “The Tree of Life” all the time. Here’s a list of highbrow-lowbrow pairings for your summer movie schedule.
The summer movie season has long been the time in which major studios unleash their biggest moneymaking spectacles, and this year, having already given us a steady stream of superheroes, sequels, and action extravaganzas, appears to be no different. That said, for the adventurous viewer, a slew of alternatives are waiting to be found, as this summer sees the release of a fascinating and varied crop of new independent films. In fact, it seems that for every blockbuster option presented to you, there is an indie alternative that might satisfy the same criteria. With that in mind, here are our highbrow/lowbrow summer movie picks.
HIGHBROW SUPERHERO MOVIE:
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but also dealing with a character who possesses uncanny abilities, is indie filmmaker Michael Tully’s brilliantly bizarre new film, SEPTIEN. In it, Tully plays something of a mysterious super-creature himself, as the prodigal son who returns to the home of his two brothers after an extended absence with no clue as to where he has been, and with his withdrawn and stoic personality matched by his uncanny ability to excel at apparently any sport. SEPTIEN might not be a superhero film by definition, but like those films it takes a mysterious and exceptional person as its subject matter; it is a fascinating piece of work.
LOWBROW SUPERHERO MOVIE:
In a year that has already given us THOR, X-MEN FIRST CLASS, and THE GREEN LANTERN, the latest in 2011′s parade of superhero extravaganzas is CAPTAIN AMERICA. Though there is something interesting about the film’s WWII setting, it seems to be yet another formulaic superhero origin story, with the most notable aspect of the film being the strange and off-putting CG-nerdification of Chris Evans’ pre-super soldier physique. Sure the effects look decent, but it’s just weird.
HIGHBROW RELATIONSHIP COMEDY:
The new film from writer/director/star Miranda July (ME YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW), THE FUTURE tells the story of a couple who after adopting a cat, decide to live the next 30 days before the cat’s arrival as if it were their last. Wholly unique in a way that no studio-financed film would touch (the cat narrates part of the film, for instance), THE FUTURE explores a couple’s relationship in a manner that is refreshingly original.
LOWBROW RELATIONSHIP COMEDY:
“FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS”
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis star in this rom-com about two friends that start to have sex with each other. Complications ensue. Though its synopsis states that the film attempts to subvert typical Hollywood cliches, the plot sounds fairly standard, resting on the star-power of Timberlake and Kunis as its main draw for audiences.
HIGHBROW SCI-FI GENRE MASH-UP:
Indie sci-fi/drama ANOTHER EARTH was a breakout hit at Sundance and SXSW, and tells the story of a relationship born out of a tragic accident that coincides with the discovery of an identical planet Earth in the distant sky. Newcomer Brit Marling co-wrote and stars in the film, which poses several intriguing existential questions as her character becomes obsessed with this new planet – which apparently is inhabited by parallel versions of all of us – and the possibilities it presents for redemption and forgiveness. Science fiction in general is all about new possibilities, and ANOTHER EARTH is a great example of the new and exciting territory still to be explored within the genre itself.
LOWBROW SCI-FI GENRE MASH-UP:
“COWBOYS & ALIENS”
One of the more interesting trends in film this summer is the science-fiction genre mash-up. Also including something like ATTACK THE BLOCK (inner-city coming of age/action sci-fi thrill-ride), the foremost example of this has to be western-meets-sci-fi actioner “COWBOYS & ALIENS,” which features the high-concept concept of a spaceship crash-landing in 1873 Arizona and inciting a battle between alien invaders bent on taking over the Earth and a cowboy posse who is out to stop them.
HIGHBROW ANIMALS-THAT-THINK-THEY-ARE-PEOPLE MOVIE:
Luckily for all of you highbrow animal lovers, PROJECT NIM is also being released. The new documentary from James Marsh (MAN ON WIRE) tells the incredible true story of Nim, a chimp who was raised as a human as part of a scientific experiment. Addressing thematic concerns about the complex nature of humans and animals, it shows the effects of attempting to humanize an ape in a much more personal, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking way than can be offered by the sheer spectacle of any big-budget science fiction extravaganza.
LOWBROW ANIMALS-THAT-THINK-THEY-ARE-PEOPLE MOVIE:
“RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” / “ZOOKEEPER”
Also trending this summer – films about animals that think they’re people. As a prequel to the popular franchise, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES stars James Franco as a guy who engineers a race of super-intelligent apes that end up taking over the world. If the trailer is any indication, we are in for plenty of CG apes running around and attacking folks and Franco looking upset. And if that is not enough lowbrow primate action for you, there is also ZOOKEEPER, the new Kevin James comedy about a guy who works in a zoo where the animals can talk. Sounds great.