For the last several years, I’ve figured that there is something Dionysian about Summer and something Apollonian about Winter. When November rolls around, the Best Picture candidates come out. Everyone gets thoughtful, but in the Summer, nothing doing. A few films do a pretty fine job capturing the madness of Summer… I think of “The Seven Year Itch” principally, although Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam” does the same thing.
This week, five films you turn to in the hot months.
- Vertigo/Psycho/The Birds: the three most disturbing Hitchcock films
- ET/Super 8: both of these films capture the fine sense in which moving from one backyard to another is like moving from one world to another.
- Jaws/Jurassic Park: for me, the appeal of the monster movie is that of having something very large which suddenly appears and changes all the rules.
- Sans Soleil: I watch this one at the beginning of every summer; nothing else really conveys the uncanny feeling of travel- of going somewhere else, seeing strangers in the midst of their other lives, and then never seeing them again.
- Wages of Fear: sweltering, intense, nihilistic.
- Belle Epoque
- The English Patient
Jon Paul Pope
- The Big Lebowski
- Little Children
- The Night of the Iguana
- The Sandlot
- Rio Bravo: Summer = westerns, and this is the best.
- The Dark Knight: Superhero blockbusters, except this one is actually pretty decent.
- Pacific Rim: Must have monsters.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley: The lazy, laid back summer vibes of Italy.
- Tree of Life: Hot months require water and nourishment.
- The Rules of the Game (France, 1939): It doesn’t get more blockbuster than this audacious film about upper-class French socialites. Its cultured humor is orchestrated to perfection and it’s one of the funniest (and finest) films ever made, I think.
- Wild Strawberries (Sweden, 1957): This is Bergman’s attempt at telling a heartwarming story about a retired professor who takes a road trip back to his campus to accept an award, and during said trip, he meets new people and relives nostalgic memories of youthful love. This film has everything: sun, picnics, broken-down cars, award ceremonies, dreams, young people, old people, a farm, and of course, strawberries.
- Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Germany, 1972): And on the other end of the spectrum, we have Herzog telling a tragic story of a group of conquistadors looking for El Dorado. The jungle is lush; the sun is unforgiving—dehydration and delirium set in. I’ve historically watched this film on a quite Saturday morning during the summer months. Be sure to have French press coffee on hand.
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (USA, 1948): John Huston adapted this B. Traven story into one of the best films to come out of the 1940s. I’ll romanticize the summer heat whenever it gets really muggy out by thinking of Dobbs, Humphrey Bogart’s character in this film. I’ve also watched this film on a quite Saturday morning during the summer months. And again, black coffee accompanying. (routine routine!)
- Trafic (France, 1971): Jacques Tati is a master of simple comedy. So simple that often times words are rarely exchanged. How do you tell a joke without words? Let Jacques show you with his quintessential film about gadgetry mishaps and traffic jams. It’s superbly delightful.
Shortlisted: Sans Soleil (France, 1983) Bottle Rocket (USA, 1996), The African Queen (USA, 1951)
- Iron Man – Blockbuster, yes. But also so stifling hot in it’s production and execution.
- Song of the South – Makes me want to mop my brow with every frame.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Fun, fun, fun. Every shot is drenched with humid heat.
- Sanjuro – If John Ford could craft an amazing western set in Samurai times, this would be it. Sweaty honor-ridden goodness is this. Black and white can’t hide the perspiration. Looks like blood. And … blood looks like sweat.
- There Will Be Blood – Oil.
- Jaws: Perhaps the only perfect movie made. Perhaps hyperbole doesn’t exist when you’re talking about the only perfect movie ever made.
- Junebug: A sweltering southern gothic.
- Days of Heaven: Though the movie itself moves through the year, the movie is anchored in the lethargic betrayal of summer.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild: “Y’all best learn how to live.”
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: One summer I watched this everyday for two weeks solid. It was the tv edit so I always thought Cameron was super strong because the line went: “Cameron is so tight, that if you stuck a lump of coal in his hand in 2 weeks you would have a diamond.”