Summer is this movie nerd’s heaven. . . unlimited access to the TV, a perfect excuse to eat nothing but popcorn and gummy bears, absolutely no reason to change out of my PJ’s. Honestly, it couldn’t get any better. So, you can probably imagine that I’m always happy to offer up some recommendations. The following are some of my favorite summer movies.
My father can introduce me to every award-winning and well-directed film on the planet, but still this movie remains number one on my list. It’s 1979, and Joe Lamb, a grieving Ohio tween, is determined to help his friend Charles finish making his zombie movie on Super 8 film. Enter Alice Dainard, a pretty enigma of a girl who is coerced into playing the only female character of the film. None of the boys really know what to make of her, but she and Joe become fast friends. Everything changes the night the filmmakers decide to shoot a midnight scene at the train station to add “production value.” Someone drives onto the tracks, and the approaching train derails (very spectacularly), but not before something bursts out of a compartment and crawls away. The kids are inexorably drawn into the events that follow because they can’t help but wonder why all these people are disappearing. . .
Call me a sucker for a romance, but I can’t get enough of musical movies done well. Sophie is a twenty-year-old girl whose mother owns a hotel on a beautiful little Greek island, but her father has always been a hazy figure of the past. Sophie then digs up an old diary of her mother’s, which clues her into three guys who “dot dot dot”-ed with her mother nine months before Sophie’s birth. She then decides to invite all three of them to her wedding! Chaos ensues as she tries (and fails) to keep her mother from finding out these guys are on the island while still juggling her wedding and her existential crisis!
The Great Gatsby
I don’t think any other movie has ever caused such a mixed pool of reviews. You either loved it or hated it. It’s the story everyone knows, so I’ll be quick: Jay Gatsby is a disgustingly wealthy New Yorker who throws the most ridiculous parties in his mansion on the coast of West Egg, but he himself never seems to participate. The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbour over the summer of 1922. Nick is slowly drawn into Gatsby’s inner circle as Gatsby realizes that Nick has connections to a certain lovely lady across the bay. . .
The Parent Trap
Whether it’s the original or the remake, you cannot go wrong with this film (although the Lindsey Lohan version is currently on Netflix). A bitter rivalry ensues when two identical girls meet at summer camp, and, as a result, they’re forced into isolation, forced to spend every moment together. It’s not long before they discover that they are in fact related (and twins! Who knew?!?), so they decide to switch places with the idea of each girl getting to know the parent she’s never met. The end game is, of course, to have their parents see each other and fall madly in love again. This process is started a little prematurely when Dad gets engaged to a gold-digger, but the girls manage to fling their parents together and recreate the romantic night they met. Does it end in a happily ever after? You’ll have to find that one out on your own. . .
Lawrence of Arabia
Okay, so I might have cheated a bit on this one. The film hardly takes place over the course of one summer, but it is set in the desert, which is about as summer as you can get, am I right? A caveat: Lawrence is about four hours long, so think about what you’re getting yourself into before you sit down with a bowl of popcorn. That being said, it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful, powerful, and important films ever made, so don’t let the running time hold you back. Lawrence is the story of a British officer who is stationed in the Arabian Peninsula during WWI. As the war progresses, his involvement with the Arabian army and the Arabian special forces makes him question his allegiance to Britain — Britain being the foundation of his entire identity. The unavoidable violence of the war, one the most violent ever fought, also sheds light on some of Lawrence’s personality traits and forces him to face uncomfortable truths about himself. In one word, it’s an odyssey, and it’s a deeply accurate portrait of a soldier’s life.
There you have it. A list of movies I’ve watched far too many times over the course of the summer. If you’d like to watch Lawrence of Arabia the way it was meant to be seen (on the big screen), the Aero Theater in Santa Monica is doing a screening on Saturday, August 9, at 7:30 p.m. — and don’t worry, there’s an intermission! I hope to see some of you there, and I also hope that you’ve gleaned a few recommendations from this rather eclectic list. Happy watching!
title quote taken from Super 8, a film written and directed by J.J. Abrams.