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Little Miss Sunshine

The Writer’s Room: Favorite Summer Movies

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It’s summertime! The skies are clear, and the heat is scorching. Lots of people love it, some people hate it, although there is nothing better than a cool movie theater seat away from the sun where you’re able to watch a movie. As the summer will only continue to get hotter, select writing team members have gathered to share our favorite summer movies, from movies embracing the atmosphere of summer to movies that we fondly associate with summertime.


Anthony McKelroy, Writing Team Member

Summertime

Summertime (1955):

Have you ever needed a break? Not a three-day weekend but a BREAK. A leave-all-your-troubles-behind-and-become-another-person sort of break. Detach reality from the ecstatic truths of Fantasy, if only for a little while. What would happen if we followed that impulse into the unknown? Where might it take us?

This desire lays at the center of David Lean’s magisterial three-strip Technicolor feature, Summertime.  All one word like that – “summertime” – one incident. Not quite Summer and not quite Time as we understand it to be. It’s summertime – an experience unto itself.

After years of saving, Akron secretary Jane Hudson (Katherine Hepburn) embarks on a voyage to Venice, Italy. It’s nearly ten years post-war in Europe, and liberation is in the air. Armed with an 8mm movie camera, Jane is set on preserving her trip in nitrate as proof of her own liberation. Where that passionate inertia takes her is a delicious mystery, punctuated by chance encounters and ancient myths in an ancient city.

Shot on location in the canals, Lean and cinematographer Jack Hildyard create a transportive city symphony out of Venice that feels as close to time travel as cinema can get. In panoramas of St. Mark’s Basilica or verité footage of the Piazza San Marco, Summertime crackles with the excitement of things happening and beauty witnessed. But as with any good David Lean film, it also aches with the acknowledgement of impermanence within these moments, the pain of what gets lost and the joy of what gets found.


Dani Shi, Writing Team Member

's Door

Cowboy Bebop: Heaven’s Door (2001):

The summer after I quit my first job at a boba shop (read: “boba frat”), I did my looking back by pairing a nightly cuppa with the anime Cowboy Bebop — a tapioca pearl tea ceremony complemented by jazzy Yoko Kanno riffs and the promise of interstellar mischief. Set in tomorrow’s tomorrow, Shinichiro Watanabe’s cult classic follows a riotous gang of bounty hunters as they traverse the far reaches of the galaxy aboard their janky old ship, the Bebop. It was easy for me, missing the casual camaraderie on the job, to insert myself among Spike Spiegel, brooding ex-Syndicate hitman; Jet Black, former Inter-Solar System Police officer; Faye Valentine, femme fatale con artist; Edward, hacker prodigy; and Ein, genetically-engineered Welsh corgi. Though anime was a pale substitute for the real thing, a bounty hunter’s lawless land is one where police and crime syndicate are both to be distrusted, and the crew embraces the spirit of play to survive, devising their own rules as they go along – in some respects not unlike the wild terrain I’d left behind for new meadows.

The “adult” series consistently revisits belonging, whether to the logic of a former narrative, such as Spike’s secretive mobster past, or to a larger entity, a constant team of compatriots by one’s side. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which serves as a longer standalone episode for the initiated and newcomer alike, sees Jet voicing this sentiment as his teammates go rogue: “I wonder what you call this kind of relationship,” he grumbles at the renegades’ turned backs. “There isn’t really a bond here at all. Everyone just does what they want to do. They come back whenever they feel like it, and then they take off again.” The very instability of their team, however, seems to be what paradoxically holds it together in the end: its push-and-pulling tug between absence and presence produces an unexpected desire to return to friendship and togetherness, a state of coming-together that penetrates the characters’ practiced posturing, their disaffected cool.


Marleen Apodaca, Writing Team Member

Aquamarine

Aquamarine (2006):

It was hard narrowing down my favorite summer movies since there are so many, but if I had to decide on one, it would have to be Aquamarine. I never watched it in theaters when it came out, but I did receive the DVD as a Christmas gift from my brother’s ex-girlfriend. I still have the DVD to this day because Aquamarine is a summer classic. If you want to mentally escape to the early 2000s with an upbeat soundtrack and chill beach vibes, then this is the movie for you.

This movie features Sara Paxton, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, and Emma Roberts. The movie was loosely based on the young adult novel written by Alice Hoffman. Sara Paxton stars as the mermaid named Aquamarine and meets two teenage girls after she washes up in a pool after a storm. Aquamarine becomes friends with Claire (Roberts) and Hailey (Levesque), then makes a bargain with them. Her goal is to prove to her father that true love exists.

The mermaid promises to grant the girls one wish if she completes this feat in three days.

It is a cute and wholesome movie that involves love, friendship, and having a good time. One thing I have always envied is the beach house that Claire lives in and the amazing beach-styled room she has. This movie inspired me to have my room painted blue and stick seashells on my walls. I love the overall aesthetic of the movie, and it always motivated me to want to travel to Australia, since that is where the parts of the movie were filmed.


Penny Folger, Writing Team Member

Rear Window

Rear Window (1954) & Summer School (1987):

At the risk of cheating, two very different films spring to mind:

Rear Window takes place during a heatwave in NYC where James Stewart’s photographer character famously gazes at his neighbors in their apartments that all face the same courtyard. Because it’s New York in summertime, windows are open and the audio, the ambiance, and the feel of the city in summer can be heard throughout, which is what makes this a great summer movie. (Though come to think of it, when I lived in NY and there was a heatwave, you kept your windows closed and ran your AC window unit in the one room you had it in, but maybe these were different times.) Also, it’s Alfred Hitchcock, so how can you go wrong?

In Summer School, Mark Harmon is an underachieving slacker (inexplicably living on beachfront property despite being a gym teacher) who’s forced to spend the summer with a classroom full of belligerent teenage misfits, outcasts, and flunkies. Will he be able to wrangle them away from societal failure and learn how to teach in the process? 

This movie was a vehicle for both Harmon and Kirstie Alley, but its real stars are two characters called “Chainsaw” (Dean Cameron) and “Dave” (Gary Riley): special FX makeup whizzes who worship The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and encapsulate the comedic heart and soul of the film. Very much of its era, with lots of cute moments and quotable lines, this movie was a comfort movie for me growing up and is a sort of Stand and Deliver at the beach. Directed by Carl Reiner with music by Danny Elfman.


Liam Kilby, Writing Team Member

Isolation

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) & Isolation (1974):

I picked two movies for our summertime blog, but one is a six-minute short, to be fair. Little Miss Sunshine holds a special place in my heart; it’s dark, silly, sunny, and a movie that reminds me of summer traveling with family. Although traveling is not always a fully positive experience. When you’re younger, the familial issues not directed at you feel so secondary to the joy of traveling, of being in a car with a benign love for the people and items around you. I think Little Miss Sunshine captures the truth in this very bluntly, the nonsensicality in the last quarter of the film (no spoilers) is something so obviously rash, although Olive (Abigail Breslin) creates her own personal joy through this drab situation. Growing up, you understand this harm as evident, and the growth of realization is something understated in living through traumas. Summer brings out the best in things, but frankly it can bring out the worst too. Embracing that is what makes summer, summertime; and maybe a nice chilled Modelo with lime too if you’re into that (or green tea for our straight edge readers).

Isolation by Abbott Meader, an experimental short film from the mid-’70s, shows the beauty in nature, the stillness we try to capture, only to be peacefully ruptured by the tide of naturality. While these shots of life roam through the screen, we see someone young on a rowboat, as if we are capturing the memories and images this person is cataloging. I first saw this film earlier this year, and I fell in love with how gorgeous it is! It instantly hit my nostalgia bone of the summertime, especially that summer cusp where the heat still beats but the wind begins to breeze the warmth. It’s peaceful and accommodating of the new season to come, like an ivy’s growth along a building.


Austin Jaye, Administrative Assistant

A Scene At The Sea

A Scene at the Sea (1991):

For almost 35 years, the cinema of director “Beat” Takeshi Kitano has somehow remained ever-evolving yet firmly grounded in a slacker-like, deadpan sensibility. His beloved take on the yakuza, 1993’s Sonatine, reveals itself not necessarily just through its often-brutal violence and gunplay, but rather the surprising well of humor mined from the psychological well of its disillusioned characters. However, it’s the film he did before – A Scene at the Sea – that uncovered Kitano’s ability to mine the most unique of summertime gloom.

The story of a d/Deaf garbage collector named Shigeru (Claude Maki) who finds a discarded surfboard called Blue Bunny and is encouraged by his also-d/Deaf girlfriend, Takako (Hiroko Ôshima), to pursue surfing as a means of self-expression, A Scene at the Sea maintains a gorgeous atmosphere that is made all the more special by Kitano’s ability to reap reserved and incredibly bittersweet ideals through two characters who have no choice but to communicate in their own specific way. The score by Hayao Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi further strikes this balance of humor and melancholy, with dreamy synth undertones and a sonic atmosphere that just sounds like the color blue. Finally, the film’s painterly compositions of sandy, oceanic horizons reveal a film that carries its quiet sense of tragedy through a world of, in the words of Brian Wilson, an endless summer, made incomparable by the approach of its creator.


 

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