Rebecca Ascher-Walsh longs for the days before audiences were told exactly how to feel about every new blockbuster

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated June 17, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

The summer of movie hype is here!

One of the best things about being an entertainment journalist is that I’m the first kid on the block to see movies. I applauded my way through ”The Matrix” weeks before it opened, and I got to tell everyone I met that the coolest movie in the world was about to hit theaters. That announcement made me better than cool; it made me pre-cool.

This summer, I’ve given up all rights to such a title.

In the good old days (before May 15, 1999) audiences had the power to make a movie. Think of ”Four Weddings and a Funeral,” or ”The Full Monty,” or the first ”Austin Powers.” Even the filmmakers were surprised how many of us showed up, and kept showing up.

But this summer, we’re being treated like morons with no taste, and not just because we’re being subjected to a new Adam Sandler movie. For months, we’ve been informed — before the films have even wrapped, in some cases — what it is we’ll be seeing this summer.

Take ”Star Wars: The Friggin’ Phantom Menace.” After spending weeks reading about people pitching tents and enduring sleepless nights on the street in order to be first in line, I was exhausted. And by the time I could actually get into the movie on a Saturday and still do my laundry, who felt like it? I was so sick of the topic I felt like I’d suffered through it 100 times already.

”Notting Hill” and ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” were similar experiences for me. Don’t get me wrong — I loved them both. ”Notting Hill” made me giggle and almost made me cry, and ”Austin Powers” made me snort with laughter. But I missed that moment of thinking, ”I can’t wait to tell my friends they have to see this,” because anyone who’s a good American knows they’re supposed to love ”Notting Hill,” and unless you have a personal problem with milk or Virgin Atlantic airlines, what’s not to love about ”Austin Powers”? The man is everywhere, so he must be fabulous. Even EW is proclaiming Heather Graham to be this year’s ”It” girl — who dares disagree? (Not this grateful EW employee.)

Happily, I think these movies do live up to their hype. But the hype made it so much harder for me to feel that certain thrill when I was watching them. I wasn’t delighted to laugh my way through Hugh Grant’s bumbling courtship of Julia Roberts, or Mike Myers playing Fat Bastard — I was relieved.

I can’t wait until the kids are back in school, the movie studios go back to making movies rather than just promoting them, and I can reclaim my fortune-telling reputation. As for this summer, I plan on going to Blockbuster, clearing 10 hours from my schedule, and finally watching ”Titanic.” At least then I can be retro-cool.