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Celebrate Summer With Our Favorite “Summer Movies”

Celebrate Summer With Our Favorite “Summer Movies” (photo)

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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and the unofficial start of summer movie season. And when we say “summer movies” we typically mean the sort of stuff released during the summer: big, noisy, expensive blockbusters. But earlier today on his blog, Roger Ebert posted a great old episode of “Siskel and Ebert,” where the guys, dressed in their wackiest Hawaiian shirts, celebrated what they called “the movies of summer.” In other words, movies set in summer, or evocative of our own personal memories of summer.

True to form, many of their choices are deeply personal and highly eclectic: for example, instead of picking one of their classic beach movies, Siskel goes for Frankie and Annette’s reunion movie “Back to the Beach.” With my mind already on the warm weather, I thought I would chime in with a few more favorite “movies of summer.” And following their lead, these picks are completely subjective. When I think of “summer movies,” I think of these admittedly off-beat choices.


1. “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (1995)
Directed by John McTiernan

It’s all about those opening credits and that first scene, which rocked me back in my seat when I saw this film for the first time sixteen years summers ago. The Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” plays over steamy shots of Manhattan, culminating with the sudden explosion of bomb in a department store. “Die Hard With a Vengeance” is probably the third best “Die Hard” film, and I couldn’t possibly defend it as an objectively “good” movie. But my memories of going to see it and loving it as a kid back in May of 1995 are so strong. It’s the very first movie that came to mind when I began thinking about this piece. And it’s a great summer movie in both senses of the term —
all the frantic chases, fight scenes, and high-energy stunts leave you just as frazzled and overheated as John McClane.


2. “Body Heat” (1981)
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Maybe because of my overactive sudoriferous glands, summer makes me think of sweat. And in the context of movies, sweat makes me think of “Body Heat,” one of the few movies where the characters wear sweat stains loudly and proudly, like badges of honor. Clearly, Lawrence Kasdan didn’t work out any kind of product placement deal with an anti-persperant company for this movie; William Hurt spends half the movie with his shirt slick with perspiration and Florida humidity. He spends the other half naked Kathleen Turner, while the two plot to kill Turner’s wealthy husband in the middle of a brutal summer heatwave. “Body Heat” captures the way high temperatures can make any of us go a little crazy, with lust or with hatred. And it makes sweat, something I typically assign negative connotations, genuinely sexy.


3. “Before Sunset” (2004)
Directed by Richard Linklater

I’m not honestly sure when during the year “Before Sunset” takes place. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, and looking at the trailer as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy stroll through the streets of Paris, we see fallen leaves at their feet, suggesting it’s probably September or October. But regardless of when “Before Sunset” is actually set, it feels like it’s set on one of those perfect summer days, when the air is warm but crisp and there’s a light breeze in the air. Thinking about that movie always evokes summer for me: I saw it for the first time on a broiling summer day with the woman who’d eventually become my wife and the imagery the movie calls to mind — those beautiful strolls through Paris, that amazing late afternoon light — gives me flashes of sense memory from my own life, back to meeting strange and exciting new people in my own travels, playing the guitar at friends’ apartments, nighttime walks in the city, and falling in love over a good conversation.


4. “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001)
Directed by David Wain

I never went to sleepaway camp, and I was sheltered from all the slasher movies and raunchy comedies set around sleepaways until I was older. So the phrase “sleep away camp” harkens to my mind the images from a film that makes fun of all those other movies, 2001’s “Wet Hot American Summer.” The movie was actually filmed during a real sleepaway camp’s off-season, when it was plenty wet (you can see rain falling outside cabin windows on several occasions) but not especially hot. Still, even if David Wain and his crew don’t really capture the literal atmosphere of New England summer, they do manage to capture the emotional atmosphere of those bygone days, capturing through their absurd humor and deadpan non-sequitors some of the sparkle of young love, or at least the dumb first crushes that feel like the end of the world when they don’t pan out. Even though “Wet Hot” features some really dark jokes, it’s tone is still sweetly innocent. Though they make fun of camp movies, Wain and the rest also seem to wish they could go back and relive their youths (even though the cast is all far too old for their roles, they all play them anyway, probably to get a little taste of fulfilling that wish). Also: for a silly movie, the opening credits, set around a campfire to Jefferson Starship’s “Jane,” sure are legitimately cool.


5. “The Sandlot” (1993)
Directed by David Mickey Evans

One of the interesting observations Siskel and Ebert make on their “Movies of Summer” show is that summer movies almost always seem to be set in the past, and tap into our feelings of nostalgia for the innocence of our childhoods. Summers as an adult never mean as much as summers as a kid. As an adult, summer basically means one week vacation and more uncomfortable commute to work. But for a kid, summer represents a brief taste of genuine freedom. All of that’s true certainly about “The Sandlot,” a movie so fond of the past that it’s structured as a warm remembrance in the mind of one of the main characters, who flashes back to the summer of 1962 — “the best summer of my life,” he says — the year when he moved to a neighborhood near Los Angeles and fell in with a group of kids who play a daily game of baseball on a local sandlot field. As a kid, this charming story entertained me to no end. Of course, now I realize it is nostalgic in the comical extreme: the entire flashback occurs in the midst of the most critical game in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season. The narrator is the radio announcer for the Dodgers and his best friend plays for the team. Instead of basking in the fact that they’ve both wound their way through life to get to this incredible spot, he spends the entire movie looking back at their childhoods. And as a kid, I thought this was just about the coolest movie ever.


Well, how about it? Those are my five; what are your favorite “movies of summer?”

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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