A movie review of "Bummer Summer," Olympia resident Zach Weintraub's micro-budget, black-and-white indie gem. It follows three late-teen slackers as they meander around Olympia toward a summer-break destination that proves unexpectedly elusive.
I recently overheard a young woman, around 19 or so, chatting with a girlfriend on her smartphone. What she said made me fear for America’s intellectual future.
“My dad made me watch ‘The Remains of the Day’ with him,” she said, as if viewing James Ivory’s 1993 classic were a form of punishment. “It was, like, two-and-a-half hours of nothing happening.”
I can only wonder if she’d be more receptive to the laid-back, ironically titled indie gem “Bummer Summer.” Not because it’s a simpler, less mature slice of observational drama (which it is), but because it’s a similarly graceful film in which “nothing happens” to late-teen slackers she could relate to.
You could also say a lot happens to ageless characters on a timeless quest we all can relate to.
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Finding magic in the mundane, this terrific first-time feature from Olympia resident Zach Weintraub turns “nothing happening” into something beautiful.
In partnership with co- producer and director of photography Nandan Rao, Weintraub shot “Bummer Summer” in and around Olympia in summer 2009, armed with a $7,000 budget, a cast of nonactors and a Canon EOS 5D digital SLR still camera in monochrome video mode. Before graduating early from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Weintraub conceived the film as an alternative to NYU’s traditional short final project.
The gambit worked. Loaded with breathtaking compositions of Ansel Adams-like exactitude, “Bummer” has gained modest momentum as a festival favorite, including top honors here at 2010’s Local Sightings Film Festival.
Whether Weintraub intended it or not, his little movie also pays respectful homage (and, in its own quiet way, earns favorable comparison) to such cinematic milestones as “Jules and Jim,” “The Last Picture Show” and “Stranger Than Paradise,” with some recent vintage mumblecore tossed in for shoe-gazing indie cred.
It’s best left to the viewer to discover what actually happens to 17-year-old Isaac (Mackinley Robinson), his older brother Ben (Weintraub, directing himself) and Ben’s ex-girlfriend Lila (Julia McAlee) as they meander toward a summer-break destination that proves unexpectedly elusive. Suffice it to say that Weintraub mines gold from the interstitial moments of life that a less interesting filmmaker would dismiss as unimportant.
Jeff Shannon: firstname.lastname@example.org