Pretend you've just been invited to a celebrity wedding and you only have a few hours to find something to wear, get your hair done and find a date.
You rush to the local mall, but for some inexplicable reason every store is selling the same item … a black sleeveless T-shirt.
It's the same shirt you've seen a million times. This year's cut is just a hair different.
You're desperate. What now?
Do you buy the T-shirt and dress it up with some fancy jewelry and a pair of silk evening slacks? Do you wear something old that screams out, "This is the best I can do!"
What if everyone else wears the new black tee, making you feel like an outcast?
These are the type questions I am burdened with this summer when going to the movie theater. You end up choosing between a bunch of movies that are exactly the same, if not a remake or a sequel of something old.
I could choose to skip some movies. However, if people start talking about them, I'll be clueless.
Do I again spend 10 bucks on celluloid fodder again? Do I skip a movie and, when it comes up in conversation, make interesting small talk about Forrest Gump?
Unwanted Multiplex Leftovers
Basically, we're all in a pickle any way you look at it.
Here's why: This summer we've had another Charlie's Angels, another Legally Blonde, another Bad Boys, another Tomb Raider, as well as third helpings of The Terminator, Spy Kids and American Pie, and not one but two installments of The Matrix. (Well, OK, the third comes out this fall. But still.)
On top of this, Hollywoods giving us big screen verisions of comic books with The Hulk and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and a cinematic interpretation of the Disney amusement park ride Pirates of the Caribbean.
To throw in another dose of the familiar, there's one movie based on the sequel-friendly monsters from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. They didn't know whether to call it A Nightmare on Elm Street 8 or A Nightmare on Friday the 13th. They settled on Freddy vs. Jason.
Of course, if that's not a winning combination, you might try Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in Gigli. Is that a movie based on a relationship or a relationship based on a movie? Who knows?
Basically the box office is in a mental and financial slump this summer, dropping both in ticket sales and IQ points from this time last year. Blame it on the tough economy, you say? I say no. Blame it on the lack of interesting flicks. There are few original screenplays, few fresh ideas.
As a matter of fact, this summer, when people in the industry refer to "the buzz on the streets," it's not about a movie, but the mosquito problem in the Hamptons. Remember Drama? So far, none of the films previously mentioned has garnered any pronounced critical acclaim as far as potential for the Big O — and in Hollywood, that's an Oscar.
Yes, there are candidates for costume and special effect nominations. However, acting, writing and overall cinematic greatness have yet to be mentioned in discussions of any of the films released thus far this summer, maybe even this year.
At this point, I'm on pins and needles over the release of Seabiscuit. The early reviews have been great and quite honestly, even if it stinks, it'll be better than what's out already. At least it's based on a great book, and it's a drama, albeit one with a happy ending.
Remember drama? That was an element films had that made them compelling. That and they made your own life seem less dramatic.
Seabiscuit has a great cast — Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges. It's fair to say you can never go wrong with a few good studs in front of the camera, not to mention all the pretty horses.
Besides that, looking into the near future (August to be exact), I see just a few films that moderately pique my interest and that are not based on explosives, mind-bending effects or yesterday's news.
Briefly, there's Masked and Unmasked, featuring Ed Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges (good to see him working so much), Angela Bassett, Luke Wilson, John Goodman, Penelope Cruz (OK … maybe she's not a good example) and — get ready for this one — Bob Dylan.
A synopsis: Dylan plays a convict who gets out of jail to play a charity concert, but the promoter plans on stealing the proceeds.
It's worth seeing this film for the acting credibility of the cast, but moreover, I'm looking forward to the personal challenge of trying to figure out what the hell Dylan is saying. I can't understand him when he sings. Deciphering his lines should prove to be more difficult than the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.
The Secret Life of Dentists sounds rather intriguing, too. It stars Campbell Scott, Hope Davis and Denis Leary, and revolves around a jealous husband and one of his crazy patients. Not an unusual premise, but any chance to brush up on dental hygiene is worth the price of admission.
Civil Brand features a largely African-American cast and works on a proven Hollywood formula — women behind bars. The women, treated unfairly, start a revolt. With a cast including MC Lyte, Da Brat and Mos Def, you know the soundtrack will kick some incarcerated booty.
I'm sure your picks will be different from mine, but you can't deny that originality is not part of the program this summer. Looks like, as usual, we'll have to put our popcorn buckets in high gear for the holiday overload of real movies, which the studios strategically hold back for Oscar season.
In the meantime, it's black tees for everyone.
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.