My Summer of Love

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

Jon Springer's short films include "Heterosapiens" and "Living Dead Girl."




I'm not one to white-knuckle it at the movies until summer blockbuster season. However, I do admit to occasionally indulging in a bucket of buffalo wings, a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and a pile of mindless Hollywood videos, letting my brain vacation itself into a drool. If I pay the 10 bucks at a theater, I usually get pissed off knowing that I could have made a hell of a movie with what they spent on catering. My father has not been overly impressed with my small-town moviemaking career: premiering work at the Walker, directing a film festival, traveling out of the country. He is most impressed with a national Norelco commercial I worked on--as the coffee-fetcher. He still boasts about it. Dad and I don't agree on much, but we had a great time at the movies the summer I turned 22. My birthday gift was to see a film and eat lunch anywhere I wanted. I asked Kyle (my seven-year-old brother) what he wanted to see. It was 1991 and James Cameron (God bless his tiny little soul) had just come out with Terminator 2. This was Kyle's choice, and we whisked away from my dad's home in Coon Rapids. After the film, we ate (as much as we wanted) at Taco Bell and gushed about the amazing special effects (while I secretly wet myself over Linda Hamilton's pipes).

Lisa Ganser is the chief curator of the Flaming Film Festival and the director of "Janestown."




I saw the remake of TV's The Fugitive in Toledo, Ohio, in the summer of '93 while visiting my family in a tiny cornfield-town 40 miles away. Toledo was our cultural mecca growing up: It had malls, multiplexes, a museum, gay hairdressers, and a red-light district...but not so many smart action thrillers like The Fugitive. Coming from four generations of pharmacists, including my mom, brother, and sister, who carted around pens, notepads, cup holders, and magnets plastered with pharmaceutical insignia, I cheered on The Fugitive's indictment of "big drug companies." And I was slap-happy to see Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford fall in love through a chase that didn't end in the fugitive getting caught. This exquisite form of cinematic tension, known to some of us as foreplay, resulted in one of the more satisfying hookups of two straight guys I'd ever least in Toledo. I came back to Minneapolis thinking there was hope for summer movies yet.

Sayer Frey's films include Eileen Is a Spy.




Michael Mann's 2004 summer sleeper obsesses over the nature of surfaces to the point where you begin to wonder if the director secretly harbors the desire to become an Abstract Expressionist. And isn't that what summer's really about? Using the bottom of a highly polished helicopter to create a disorienting fish-eye view of Los Angeles or the boxed-in light from a L.A. subway car, Mann holds tight on the turbulent surface of city life. The surfaces in Collateral take over the film and give the elements of light and color a frame to live and fight within. The only things collateral in this film are solid objects.

Rolf Belgum's films include The Wild Condition.




Traditionally the Western genre is a morality play of good and evil. A lone sheriff who is outnumbered by really bad gunslingers (High Noon) faces what he is afraid of because, well, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. (John Wayne is never afraid even when he is a gunfighter dying of cancer.) Then he rides off, having defeated the bad guys, to phone in trouble from somewhere else. ("Come back, Shane.") There are a few other stories, but that's basically it. Unforgiven changes the genre so the viewer cannot predict the story, unlike in most movies. There is a hip tension between gritty reality and the Western mythos. The casting and acting--essentials--are impeccable and set against a flawlessly original David Webb Peoples script. Clint Eastwood is an American giant--as actor (58 films), director (28 films), composer (10 films). Unforgiven is the jewel in his crown.

Billy Golfus's films include When Billy Broke His Head...and Other Tales of Wonder.




Summer in Minneapolis is the time for outdoor films: The parks of Loring, Stevens Square, Holland, and Bottineau have hosted many 16mm summers. There's also the drive-in: Vali-Hi and Cottage View still crank out triple features with classic intermission shorts. (Imagine a dancing hotdog bun tempting a wiener to jump inside.) In the summer of '99, the outdoor experience at Vali-Hi definitely had a way of heightening the horror of The Blair Witch Project. Near the end of the film, only one kid remains. She stares into her video camera, tears in her infrared eyes, the scratching and clawing of the unknown outside her tent. I begin to picture some redneck psychopath with a bloody knife prowling around the car. My wife is laughing; I hum and miss the climax as my hands cover my eyes and ears. Meanwhile, my three-year-old son sleeps peacefully in the back seat to the soundtrack of murder. Bring along a grill and a few hidden beers: At the drive-in, the quality of the film is secondary.

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