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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.