What do Wellesley students do in the summer without midterms, readings or unpredictable buses to fill our days? Well, the 130 respondents to a poll sent out last week by The Wellesley News managed to make a little time to go to the movies, with more than half of responses (53 percent) saying they went to see four or more new releases in theaters.
Within the industry, the summers of 2016 and especially 2017 were viewed as harbingers of doom, full of lackluster box office returns and big-budget franchise flops. However, in 2018, different sources report an increase in box office ranging from 12.8 to 13.6 percent when compared to last year. Commentators attribute the rise to factors such as more diverse offerings (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Sorry To Bother You,” “BlacKkKlansman”), a string of well-received sequels and franchise entries (“Ocean’s 8,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Incredibles 2”) and several high-performing indies and documentaries (“Hereditary,” “Book Club,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “RBG”).
On the whole, both critics and box office analysts claim that the summer of 2018 was pretty good, and Wellesley seems to be more or less on the same page. Half of the students who replied to the survey agreed with the statement that 2018 has been a good year for movies thus far, with 24 percent on the fence and only 15 percent in outright disagreement.
However, our viewing habits did veer somewhat from the country-wide norm. The long-awaited Pixar sequel “Incredibles 2” was both the movie most widely watched by Wellesley students according to the survey–60 percent of respondents saw it–and the top-grossing movie of the summer, raking in over $605.6 million at the domestic box office. After that things diverge. “Ocean’s 8,” the gender-flipped resurrection of the “Ocean” franchise starring Sandra Bullock, ranked number nine at the box office but came a close second in our survey, seen by 57 percent of respondents. Another stark contrast was “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the second highest grossing film of the summer which ranked eleventh in our survey, behind heartfelt indie gem “Eighth Grade.”
As to what film Wellesley thought best, the winner was clear: “Crazy Rich Asians” with 30 votes. “Incredibles 2” came in second with 18 and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” a close third with 14. Other films receiving several votes included “Ocean’s Eight,” Boots Riley’s cerebral social satire “Sorry to Bother You,” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” chilling occult-themed horror “Hereditary” and “Eighth Grade.”
Several Wellesley students who chose to elaborate on their thoughts about the state of movies in 2018 cited more diverse on-screen representation, especially in big-budget Hollywood productions, as one of the main reasons for their positive appraisals of the past summer’s films. One student who chose to remain anonymous commented that her vote for best summer movie, “Crazy Rich Asians,” had “its own problems and is by no means perfect” but that, referencing comments made by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, the ability for non-white audiences to see themselves represented in bloated Hollywood fare is in itself a meaningful step forward.
Tess Vetter ’21 enjoyed “Mamma Mia 2,” “Incredibles 2” and “Ocean’s 8,” commenting that, “they had some plot inconsistencies, but I had fun watching them, and that’s what I care about in summer movies.” Summer movie season is generally known for being dominated by more light-hearted, explosion-filled fare, and some students found themselves enjoying it even more than expected. “The new Mission Impossible movie made me so happy it became the first movie I saw twice in theaters,” wrote Sarah White ’19. “I’m still trying to figure out why!” Julia Sciortino ’21 felt similarly about “Mamma Mia 2,” going to see it four times and deeming it “the greatest movie ever made,” elaborating that “they should stop making movies because none of them will ever be as good as ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’.”
Meanwhile, other students, including Dominiki Kurz ’20, are far more interested in looking forward to the remainder of 2018, when the most promising awards season hopefuls tend to be released.