Arts, Column

COLUMN: The Awkward Season: Months Of Mediocrity In Motion Picture Releases

I have a habit of obsessively watching movie trailers. This isn’t a plea for help, and I think I generally practice sound mental health. It’s just fact: I watch a lot of movie trailers. It’s fun knowing the general movie forecast before the lay viewer, and I enjoy sounding clever and informed at family gatherings. Trailers also require less of an emotional commitment than television shows, but this column isn’t about my capacity for emotional commitment, and frankly, I may not have the capacity to commit to such an emotional column. No, it’s our capacity for emotional commitment at stake here, as another winter season of great movies ends and the longer season of sequels begins.

That Awkward Moment came out this weekend, and well, it’s not very good. You can slide over to Rotten Tomatoes to get a sense of how the film fares: That Awkward Moment garnered praise from 23 percent of critics and 58 percent of regular viewers. That’s better than writer/director Tom Gormican’s last project, though. Gormican worked as a co-producer on the star-studded but scatterbrained Movie 43, which earned a whopping 4 percent of critics’ approval.

If you’re unfamiliar with its premise (good for you), That Awkward Moment follows the “broship” of three young professionals played by Zac Efron, Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station). According to the trailer, delightful little awkwardness ensues. Zac Efron gets intimate with a woman, Jordan accidentally tans his male organ, and Teller gets hit by a bus.

To my begrudgingly honest chagrin, I remember watching the trailer for That Awkward Moment, shrugging, and saying to myself, “I could see myself paying 10 bucks to see that.” I could hang out with those guys for an hour and a half. I have an Entourage poster. I had thought the movie might be another Pitch Perfect or Warm Bodies-which came out on the same weekend last year-but apparently it won’t.

That Awkward Momentis just another bad movie. Getting hit by a bus isn’t awkward. It’s funny, sure, but not awkward. Making a pact to stay single, as the guys do in the movie, and then meeting a girl you like and ditching those friends isn’t awkward-that’s life. Owning an Entourage poster and really liking Pitch Perfect isn’t awkward, because I won’t allow it to be. You know what’s awkward? Walking out of a bad movie. It’s that awkward moment when you pay 10 bucks for a movie and walk out with regret.

It’s awkward when I sit down at my desk fully committed to spending the next two hours watching movie trailers and realize that I’ve seen all these movies before. Another vampire movie? Didn’t everyone from 300 die? Do we really need more Marvel movies? Don’t mistake my confusion for apathy. I’m admittedly excited for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the second installment of the second Spider-Man series. I’m excited to see another city completely neutralized by a giant monster in Godzilla, because there’s no way we didn’t see that last summer.

This is awkward. We just had three whole months of creative, artistic movies. American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and Frozen were all original, organic works of art. And this summer, we’ll have three months of sequels, all of which will climax with the same city-crushing, guns-blazing shootout. And we’ll flock to theaters across the country, and we’ll forget about American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and Frozen, because the explosions have such pretty bright lights.

What’s awkward isn’t that these movies are that bad. It takes a certain amount of talent to make many of these films look so spectacular-and the visuals are objectively spectacular. It takes a certain amount of talent to make stilted dialogue sound compelling, because the giant monster is coming to destroy the city and we have to stop it! It’s all very awkward, because for a few months every year Hollywood makes great movies. Then, for the rest of the year, they trot out more Adam Sandler and Michael Bay movies. Watching giant robots fight giant robots is usually fun., but it’s not the same as watching Leonardo DiCaprio snort cocaine off a stripper or Joaquin Phoenix fall in love with Scarlet Johansson’s voice.

Maybe it comes down to our not having the emotional capacity for a whole year of deep, meaningful movies. So I guess we’ll keep giving Disney billions of dollars, because it’s easier to pop into the theater for two hours and then continue on with our day than it is to really care about what we’re watching.

February 3, 2014