Friday, July 13, 2012

Nostalgia for summer movies

Something about the summer heat makes me crave the bigness of movies. A good blockbuster may be hard to come by these days, nevertheless I often become nostalgic for "summer movies" this time of year. It probably has something to do with all those memories of staggering out of the theater into warm, bright atmosphere of summer after a movie experience. For instance, I'll never forget those first few steps into the sun after seeing Jurassic Park in 1993. In the cocoon of darkness and air conditioning, I was so enraptured by the storytelling for two hours that I had quite nearly forgotten the outside world. As the credits rolled and we left the theater, I remember stepping out into the parking lot and being blasted by heat and light while struggling to regain a sense of time and space. Even as I adapted to the conditions on our trek back to the car, visions of severed human arms and goat legs danced around in my head. In the years following, I would have similar experiences (though admittedly not as memorable) with Independence Day, Twister, Star Wars: Episode I, and other escapist entertainments. As I got older, I broadened my tastes considerably. But I will always have an affinity for the fanciful gluttony of blockbuster films and the communal experience of moviegoing with which they have become synonymous. So even though I seemingly find less to enjoy about summer blockbusters with each year, I hope I never lose that desire to retreat from the summer heat and get lost in a movie.
In coming days and weeks, I will be celebrating summer movies in a number of capacities both here at The Cinematic Art and elsewhere. Here at this site, I will soon unveil a weekly review series chronicling the Indiana Jones films in similar fashion as I did the Star Wars films earlier this year. When it comes to summer movie fare, I can think of no bigger staple than Harrison Ford in his fedora and cracking his whip. That's why I am looking forward to taking retrospective look at each individual film and considering how they stack up against each other (stylistically, aesthetically, thematically, etc.).
Another retrospective series that I will be contributing to is The House Next Door's Summer of '87 series. For the last several years, the "Summer of..." series has been a staple in my summer reading. It has given writers such as Odie Henderson, Matt Zoller Seitz, Eric Henderson, and many others a chance to dive back into movies a quarter of a century after their release and offer fresh insights and delightful prose, to boot. I'm honored to be contributing several articles to this year's series and have enjoyed taking a look back at 1987's unique cinematic offerings.
Finally, my last significant summer project concerns a more current phenomenon of the summer movie cycle: The Dark Knight Rises. The final act in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy will be the subject of my next Critical Distance entry for The House Next Door. (Previous entries in the series covered The AvengersMission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, and The Artist.) Per the underlying idea of "Critical Distance" my take will not be a traditional review like the kind we will see trickle out starting next week. This will instead be published a week or two after the film's release in the aftermath of what is bound to be a spirited discussion amongst critics, fans, and other filmgoers. My aim is to take a look at both the film and the dialogue it has inspired and situate it within the larger thematic and aesthetic arc of all three of Nolan's films. I recently re-watched Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, both of which I have complicated feelings towards. So once the arguments are aired and the dust settles from The Dark Knight Rises, be on the lookout for what I can only hope will be an epic consideration of Nolan's Bat-films and their significance in the critical dialogue and in the annals of summer movie fare.
When I have completed these projects (and whenever I have time between them), I will be primed to switch gears and review older auteur films that have slipped through my fingers in the time I have devoted to Hollywood cinema. Because when the air cools down and the leaves begin to fall, a very different cinematic nostalgia kicks in. You'll see the results of that in the Fall as I begin turning my focus toward Kurosawa, Dreyer, Renoir, Truffaut, Bergman, and others. The summer is nice while it lasts, after all, but in the seasons of my mind, nothing trumps the Fall.

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