Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Summertime means Fridays are movie night once again

Here we have it, another article dealing with the camaraderie/rivalry of Lucas and Spielberg. Seems like I’m not the only one that can get enough of them. This CNN.com article talks about how they go head to head this summer with each of their would be blockbusters, Star Wars Episode III, and The War of the Worlds.

Over the years, Spielberg has garnered the dubious honor of the invention of the “summer movie”. When JAWS was released in the summer of ’75, it became the first summer blockbuster hit ever.

Jaws is one of my favorite films of all times, a genius piece of thriller work that takes the horror genre and turns it into a deep exploration of personal fears and vindications. What makes Jaws brilliant is that it succeeds on both levels; it is engaging, nail bitingly tense, and frightening. But is also an interesting character study that delves into the relationships between three men and each of their relationships to this shark. The shark represents a different thing to each of them, and it is this juxtaposition of their individual attitudes that keeps the film interesting for me time after innumerable viewings.

I recently overheard a jaded screenwriter the other day, saying that “Jaws ruined film making.” He went onto say that while he didn’t think Jaws was all that bad a film, that it turned Hollywood into a sort of financial horserace, where every studio scrambles to release the picture that would be the bigger monetary winner. According to him, this annual contest veered the course of film making from an artistic endeavor into a question of bigger is better.

I do think that as the years have gone by, studios seem to throw creativity by the wayside in order to create the perfect formula that will yield dollar signs. But to say that Hollywood was never concerned with final profit is ridiculous. While the history of cinema has shown that the artistic freedom of the film maker can have tremendous results, Hollywood has also always had its share of Saturday Matinee adventures, horror films, cowboy pics etc. The “summer movie” genres have been around since the 30’s, not just the 70’s.

I love summer movies. Well, that is to say, I love going to the movies in the summer. I am well aware that many a heinous movie, of which I have railed previously on in this blog have been released in the summer season. Nevertheless I can’t help but get excited for all the “event” movies that come out every year. It’s like a ritual for me. Every Friday, I gather as many friends as I can, force them to wait in line for good seats (if necessary), and buy myself a ticket and a tub of popcorn. I become filled with a sense of prescient giddiness, as I hope to become engulfed in a some far fetched adventure for the evening. Sometimes I will be disappointed or bored to tears, other times merely entertained, and every once and a while I will be completely transported. Many of my positive associations with summertime and movies have their origins from my childhood, where without the pesky reigns of school, I was able to go to the movies one, two, even three times a week. Summer movies were freedom, they were pure sugar high, caffeine infused spurts of enjoyment.

For me the summer movie is about letting go and just having fun. After a long and often somber toned fall and winter of heavy award targeted films, some grand, and some average, we can shed off the woolen cinema of drama, and sit in our shorts watching frothy comedies and exciting adventures.

It’s true that many summer movies can barely hold their own, or our attention for that matter, but when they do, it is truly marvelous. Summer movies need to be seen with other people, in packed theatres, with audiences from all walks of life. Summer movies can be the great equalizer. Remember Indiana Jones? Jurassic Park? Independence Day? The Matrix? X-Men? Spiderman 2? These movies were all great fun to watch in the theatre, and many of them were more than just mild entertainment, with interesting stories that posited questions about who we are, and where we are going. These summer movies are the very best of all.


Blogger Patrick A. Reed said...

Hey Ms. NYer-

Figure I should point out (as a habitual proofreader / fact checker) that Jaws was summer of '75, Star Wars was summer of '77...

Anyway, here's to summer. Starts with HHGTTG this weekend, and then it's movies non-stop 'til September. I await seeing what you have to say about each.


5:31 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Crap! I was totally gonna fact check that before I posted it and forgot! Right you are, it was '75. Thanks. Hooray for summer!

1:04 AM  

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