My Summer of Love

Minnesota filmmakers remember the warm-weather flicks that got them hot (or bothered)

JAWS

BY EMILY GOLDBERG

The opening scene of Jaws ruined my teenage life. I lived to absorb as many (then-"harmless") UV rays as possible on Long Island's beautiful beaches. Oh, yeah--and swim. But then came that mackerel's-eye view of those nubile legs. One minute Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) is splashing seductively in the surf, the next (you know the music)...she's shark chow. We freaked. Mass hysteria ensued. Beaches were closed. Marine biologists, statisticians, and even hunky lifeguards tried to talk us down, but we wouldn't have any of it. Our summer was ruined. Mr. Scheinman, my band instructor, knowing a showstopper when he saw one, decided to capitalize on the frenzy. The following year, in front of a stunned audience of parents and siblings, I honked along in the clarinet section of my high school band as we performed John Williams's now indelible "Main Title and First Victim" while a slide show of gruesome shark attacks loomed above us on a huge outdoor screen. Fortunately, we all had four years to recover before The Amityville Horror hit Long Island multiplexes.

Emily Goldberg is the director of Venus of Mars.

 

ALIEN

BY CHRISTINE KUNEWA WALKER

I saw Ridley Scott's Alien in the summer of 1979. I had just graduated from high school and was facing important life decisions. My boyfriend had just returned from a two-year Mormon mission and he wanted to get married and start a family right away. I preferred to wait. One night we went to see Alien. The experience proved to be one of the most visceral and thrilling movie moments of my life--while signaling the end of that relationship. My boyfriend hated the film; he said it was too long. I suspected his real problem was that he didn't like seeing a woman (played by Sigourney Weaver) survive her male counterparts and "blow the fucker"--the alien--into space. Even then, the pace of the film spoke to me. Scott takes his time seducing us with glorious images of light and shadow--a peek here, a peek there, culminating in an exhilarating experience. If my boyfriend couldn't see the magic in that, he had to be toast.

Christine Kunewa Walker's films as co-producer include American Splendor and the forthcoming Factotum.

 

APOCALYPSE NOW

BY CRAIG RICE

The 1979 release of Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola took possession of my mind and changed my vision. This expressionistic narrative prose poem captured the sensory elements of the '60s. It was a tab of acid washed down by too much Jack Daniels. It was an exploratory journey through the jungle of the mind. It was hot outside and in the movie. The use of music, the color and lighting scheme of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, the overlaying of images, the slight plot line: It was the end of the '70s--perhaps the highest point in world cinema. Coppola was the most respected of young American directors--even though the media, in article after article, had predicted his failure and the film's. Behind schedule, over budget, and out of touch in the Philippines, Coppola was said to have gone crazy in the jungle. Had he turned into both Willard and Kurtz? We filmmakers knew he had gotten off the boat and was prepared to go all the way.

Craig Rice's films include Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks.

 

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S
EUROPEAN VACATION

BY CHUCK OLSEN

By any reasonable measure, this summer sequel is a terrible film. Oh, sure, it did well enough at the box office to qualify as a bona fide blockbuster. That was pretty much guaranteed, as it was riding on the coattails of the original film. But most critics agree it's the low point of the Vacation series, if not of Chevy Chase's entire career. Who cares? It's summer, 1985. School's out. Most important, European Vacation is rated PG-13. Practically rated R. No parents around to louse things up. Freedom is a dirty movie. My friend and I ride our bikes up to Northtown Mall, outwardly cool but secretly giddy. The lights go dark. The movie is funny--and ridiculously stupid. The Griswald kids from the first film are now, inexplicably, played by different actors. Sex-obsessed Rusty is our man, though: He hooks up with a randy Bavarian girl and...holy crap, he's totally feeling up her breasts! Thank you, Amy Heckerling.

Chuck Olsen is the producer-director of Blogumentary.

 

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE

BY ERIC TRETBAR

Summer movies succeed with special effects, but not the kind you might think. Star Wars revealed what we had always suspected--that the shining future was rusty, dented, and imperfect. That film was a fantasy whose everyday details proved that the ultimate effect was reality. Napoleon Dynamite succeeds with a similar realism. Despite its "indie film" identity, Napoleon Dynamite reveals the secret reality of another misunderstood place: the farm. With his natural self-confidence, grumbling acceptance of everyone, and eccentric family, Napoleon is how farm kids (my relatives!) really are. The filmmaker's affection for the freak show that is Napoleon's hometown is infectious. Attention, Hollywood: Audiences love what's unique and real--because we're all freaks, farmers, and Wookies. And wouldn't we all love to take the campaign button from the sneering jock, chuck it down the hall, and then run? Now that's a special effect.

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