SURVEY SAYS: The Best Blockbuster of Summer 2008

July 24, 2008 ( - Last week's survey on summer reading spurred a number of readers to ask about those famous summer blockbusters.

So, this week, I asked readers to share what was the best movie they had seen this summer, theater or DVD.

Well, the most oft-cited flick of the season was Wall-E , followed by this past weekend’s big hit, The Dark Knight , and the just pre-Memorial Day released Iron Man – choices that were also critical successes.    Having said that, among readers, only about one-in-eight cited Wall-E ( 13% ), while under 10% noted The Dark Knight, and just 8.6% named Iron Man.  

A relatively robust one-in-four ( 27% ) said “none”, though that number’s origins were varied, ranging from folks who hadn’t seen any movies to folks that hadn’t and weren’t planning to (ever?) see movies, to folks who had seen movies, but just none that seemed (to them, anyway) worth a rating of “best.”.  

Also on the list (though, to my recollection, pretty well panned by critics):

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Sex and the City
  • The Bucket List
  • Get Smart
  • Hancock
  • HellBoy II

Other Mentions

And they might not have garnered much reader support (more precisely the support of many readers), but these movies did grab mentions:

  • Atonement
  • Casablanca–playing outdoors at a local park
  • Cashback (DVD)
  • Control (DVD) a film made in the UK about the live of Ian Curtis, frontman to the British new wave band, Joy Division. Curtis committed suicide May 18, 1980 the day before the band was to embark on their first US tour. Movie was a good reflection of the book “Touching From A Distance” written by Curtis’ widow.
  • Fracture (DVD)
  • Lady in the Water by M. Knight Shyamalan – I’m really behind in movie watching
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Mama Mia!
  • Mongol
  • My Winnipeg
  • Ponette (DVD)
  • The Kingdom (DVD)
  • The Savages (DVD)
  • Torchwood
  • Vantage point (DVD)
  • We are Marshall (on DVD)
  • Young@Heart

Ironically (perhaps), when asked to identify the most over-hyped movie of the summer, there were some "familiar" faces from the prior page.  

"Winner" of the most over-hyped blockbuster was…. The Dark Knight (though a number who chose it admitted they hadn't seen it - but were tired of all the Heath Ledger-oriented coverage), cited by more than one-in-four respondents.  Hancock was a distant second, but was only just ahead of " all of them "

The rest of the over-hyped list:

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Sex & The City
  • The Hulk
  • Beowulf (as one reader noted, gives new meaning to the words "based on")
  • Dont mess with the Zocon.
  • Get Smart
  • Spider Man 3 (DVD)
  • There Will Be Blood (DVD)

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

BONUS QUESTION  On a very different note, this week I also asked readers whether or not they thought the country was in a recession.

Now, by way of explanation, I noted that Last week, ex-Senator (and up till just after that, economic adviser to presidential aspirant John McCain) Phil Gramm (in)famously suggested that the U.S. was in a "mental recession."  

That is to say, not in one according to accepted economic measures (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP - of which we have yet to record even one, btw), but that Americans had effectively convinced themselves (or been convinced by "whiners" - his word, not mine) that we were in one, whether we actually were or not (Senator McCain quickly disassociated himself from those comments, by the way - and made what were surely joking comments about potentially assigning Gramm to the ambassadorship of Belarus).

The comments were all over the board - and as divided as the polls suggest the electorate is.   However, the sense of recession was palpable; 45.5% said they thought we were in a recession, and 10.1% said they believed that some parts of the country/economy were there, even if the entire country wasn't.

Just 14.1% said we were not in a recession, and 12% said "not yet."   Only 4% weren't sure, but 14.1% conditioned their perspective on "it depends on what you call a recession."  

There were a lot of interesting verbatims on the subject this week - I'm sure you'll find several that mirror your own perspective on the subject - and no doubt some that you think are completely out of touch with reality (and perhaps both).

Regardless, they're on the pages that follow, in no particular order.  But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who said, " They must not buy groceries... or gasoline... or receive quarterly 401(k) statements with personalized returns! YIKES!"

Thanks to everyone who participated in our bonus survey!

I'm not sure Phil was really off the mark. However, mental or economic, it doesn't matter -- if the public at large is behaving as though we are in a recession, then it might as well be a "real" recession.
If we're not it sure feels like we are...
They must not buy groceries... or gasoline... or receive quarterly 401(k) statements with personalized returns! YIKES!
I worked for the government in the infamous days of the Gramm-Rudman Act, and I don't put much credence in anything Phil Gramm has to say. That Act was probably the worst thing that happened in the government in the 30 years I was employed with them.
The economy is close to a recession but not quite there yet. With the economic stimulus packages will barely keep the economy going. Once the election is over and the politcians have no incentive for other economic stimulus packages then the economy will slip into a recession next year.
Maybe not a recession by definition but definitely in "economic woes".
Of course, the media is really good at blowing reality completely out of proportion. Frankly, I'm doing better financially now than I was 10 years ago.
We're in a recession already. However, hearing Phil Gramm's voice and ideas is enough to induce a depression in me
Maybe Phil Gramm just isn't in a recession yet. I think everyone I know is having trouble making ends meet, but I'm sure all that lobbying on behalf of the people who helped create the current economic climate softened the blow for him considerably.
GDP may not be negative but personal financial conditions are deteriorating.
Americans are whiners, but we are still in a recession.
Inflation is high but companies are making a profit. GDP is crawling along and investors are concerned.
My understanding is that we have had a lower percentage of growth (2%) but not negative. People watch tv and assume everything they hear is accurate.
I don't know what you want to call it, but when costs to survive are moving at a much higher rate than merit budgets, and therefore pay increases, you tend not to spend money other than on the essentials to survive, causing multiple stores in malls, restaurants, and other businesses that were "convenient" to close their doors. No whiner here, just the eye on the obvious.
I admit that times are tough, but while the economy is still growing, be it ever so slowly, you just cannot say we are in a recession. Phil Gramm is correct.
Democrats' and New York Times' wishful thinking aside - we are not in a recession by any measure. But they continue to talk us into one, so their egging it on will result in a recession before the November election.
When a tank of Gas (for a Toyota Avalon) costs $70.00 all other spending in the economy drops. Look at all the layoffs by the airlines.
Let the priveledged Mr. Gramm give up his weatlh, enter the workforce at the median professional salary, get a mortgage, support a family, and have to pay for gas. He might change his mind.
Maybe the U.S. isn't in a recession yet, but could be headed there if the mortgage crisis and oil prices don't improve. Unemployment is up, prices are up due to oil, and folks are starting to cut back if not go into serious debt just to get by. This will eventually take its toll on the economy in other ways, I suspect even on the GDP...
But it can always be worse....
Congress needs to authorize drilling so that we can reduce the cost of fuel.
Based on the definition it would say we are not in a recession. Maybe that definition doesn't cover all the possibilities. There is enough bad news around about the housing market and job losses. I live in Michigan so whatever it is we are in has been here for quite awhile. Inflation seems to be the biggest problem though which is different than a recession. We are all spending more on gas and food that the mood is negative but it may not be really a recession.
eliance on a technical definition to claim "not a recession" is for the economists. Politicians should have an empathetic definition for this "non-recession" so Joe Public can understand why his buddy lost his job, higher gas prices, and sagging stock market... and what the politician is doing about it.
Unemployment is up in most place, and real incomes have declined. It may not be a recession by technical definition, but most Americans are feeling the pinch of one.
Gas and food prices have doubled, people are losing their homes, companies are going out of business at an alarming pace, the stock market is down, the dollar is weak...of course we're in a recession. I wasn't yet sure who I was going to vote for, but if McCain's advisor is calling those of us who are feeling this recession and having to dramatically adjust our lifestyle to cope with these things whiners, McCain just lost my vote. 2008 Obama!!!
I imagine that Mr. Gramm has enough money and perks from others to withstand the high costs that have bombarded us in all facets of life thanks to the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, but most of us don't. To belittle those that struggle every week is not wise. It is one thing for the cost of all goods and services to rise due to basic economics but when salaries don't increase, even a little, that is a crisis for many of us - whether or not you call it a recession. My company has a salary freeze in place, right on top of one that recently ended. But every person/company I do business with personally is raising what they charge me. Am I the only one that understands this eventually becomes a problem?
I wish there was some guidance to how long presidential campaigns can run. I believe the country is in election fatigue since this campaign season has run for what seems like forever. One year should be enough!
I think Phil Gramm's comment that we are in a "mental" recession is accurate. As far as I can see, there are two possible outcomes to Americans believing we are in a recession: 1) We'll talk ourselves into a recession by panicking and acting recklessly, or 2) We'll act so conservatively that we talk ourselves OUT of this "mental" recession (thereby avoiding a "real" recession).
I am on my soapbox today: Face reality, gas companies are making record profits to the detriment of the American public. This alone has caused problems for most economic levels except the very rich. We as a nation are dependent on gas on so many levels. My question is, "Will the price of gas drop after we get a new president?" or "Will the great people of this nation continue to get screwed?" Unfortunately, I think we will continue to get screwed. At some point we need to band together and make some real noise. I am surprised it has not happened yet. In college, a friend of mine told me that her Dad was an inventor and she said that their house was watched, phones taped and mysterious things happened to things and documents. I have been convienced for years that the government and/or the politicians do not want to find any solutions to our current plight. They make too much money. With all of the smart people out there, I am sure we could come up with something. For your info, google Stan Meyers who invented the Water Power Car.
This time last year, we had sufficient 'discretionary spendable cash' that my husband and I had dinner out 3/4 nights a week at nice restauranuts (as in around $100+ each night). Now, once a week is all we can afford at a much lower-cost restauraunt. Inflation or not, with the cost of commuting and the increased cost of everything else due to the higher gas prices, we broke down and bought a gas grill to make cooking dinner in the summer do-able.
Would you like to buy 80 million bricks at the cheapest selling price in ages? I didn't think so:) - no one is building anything!
Gramm was exactly right. All the whining makes some people feel that we're in a recession. I believe most peolpe in America have no idea what a recession is.
The current environment brings to mind President Carter's famous "malaise" comment of many years back. While there are enough examples of poor performance in the macro-economy, the US in general suffers from a lack of confidence about the future and is therefore unable to "will" itself forward as in the 70s. I think it will last until after the November elections, after which we will be able to look forward again.
If it wasn't for the media hype and the oil traders/speculators, we wouldn't be in such a mixed state; many companies are making money. We need the media to focus on the positive side of news as well.
And is Phil Gramm wrong? No. Neither was Geraldine Ferraro but God forbid a politician actually speaks the truth. Apparently we don't want to hear it or rather the media doesn't want us to hear it so they paint the person and what they said in a harshly, negative light. How stupid do they think we are? More importantly, how stupid are the people who actually believe that claiming we are in a mental recession rather than a real one is such an evil, bad thing to say?
I'm pretty frugal, so always feel as though I'm in a personal recession. Looking around, big trucks still zoom by me at 90 mph, there are still lines in restaurants on a Saturday night and I still see plenty of shopping bags in people's hands. Unfortunately, (I think) Americans feel the need to spoil themselves and just walk around with heavy credit card debt and think nothing of it.
The numbers don't say that we are in a recession. However, the numbers also don't say that we have high inflation yet I am spending 70% more for gas than a year ago (not including the new "gas surcharge" on every other bill that I have) and I don't even want to begin to calculate how muich higher our food bills are.
Does anyone in that party remember "It's the economy, stupid"?
It is so obvious to the American people (aka whiners) in their everyday lives. I haven't figured out which parallel universe folks like Phil Gramm and his ilk live in.
I think the liberal media has overblown the state of our economy in an effort to get Obama elected president. With some of Obama's plans, we definitely will end up in a recession because he is "anti-business" (guess he doesn't realize without U.S. businesses our economy can't survive) and then the liberal media will manipulate the facts and blame President Bush's policies. It's just politics as usual--nothing new.
If Mr. Gramm is correct and this is all mental, than explain why our savings accounts are shrinking as we use them to make ends meet. Prices have to come down or wages will have to increase, fueling the cycle of inflation.
After the election there will be an immediate jolt to the economy
We are definitely in a recession and all Washington seems to be doing is fiddleing while Rome burns! Add this to the fact that there is NO one to vote for that is real enough to see the facts.
The flight to quality will be a wealth transfer mechanism. People that dont know any better or dont have patience will give money to the people that do know what is going on and have patience. Find your risk level and hold on to your hat, the ride will be bumpy.
It's hard to say we are in ecomomic decline when I still see high school teenagers cruising in their expensive sports cars without a care about $4.00 gas, changing their tech toys every 3 months to text their friends (while cruising), routinely frequenting restaurants that I didn't see the inside of until I finished college and had a full time job, and wearing clothes that definitely didn't come from J.C Penney's. Maybe Gramm is right, we've become a whiney bunch of spoiled brats!
Everything is media-driven, and people hear nothing but bad news, so they are tricked into thiniking we're in a recession, when, in actuality, things could be worse.
I do agree that people are "whining" (maybe a more accurate phrase is that they are accurately bemoaning) about the recent spikes in the cost of gas and its impact on nearly everything else. But, I haven't noticed any corresponding behavior changes, e.g. driving less, shopping less, conserving more. I think most of us who are adults now do not really have vivid memories of living through full-blown recessions and while the media and politicians talk about recessions and economic downturns and while we have felt the financial impact, we simply don't know what to do about it, other than continue to live our lives as we always have.
We are in worse shape today than at any point since the Great Depression. We are in for a massive readjustment to our lifestyles over the next 5 years or so and it won't be fun.