What’s this? How did this browser window end up open on my computer? I should close this, seeing as how I’m vacationing. But here… let me put a few of these e-mails in this window for safe-keeping. Since I’m closing the window out and not working at all.
I cast a wide net with this question, and again… part of the fun is just how diverse the interpretations of the question have been. I queried a pair of my favorite working novelists and got very different answers back from them.
First up is the great Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats The Devil, a summer movie in book form if I’ve ever read one. Here’s what he had to say:
Glen David Gold (author of the novels Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside) says:
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. Like smoking a cigarette, hearing Kind of Blue, reading The Stranger, there are experiences that are so much like kissing a French girl (without, you know, the actual kissing part) that to forego them is unacceptable. M. Hulot is a French comedy from the early ’50s, made after the first shivers of economic recovery from the War, and before Truffaut, Godard et al dynamited the screen, and it probably has more in common with pre-war Pagnol and Buster Keaton than its successors. It’s almost silent, it’s almost plotless, beautiful, nostalgic, and above all, it’s jazz. I mean, if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean already and you’re not only nodding your head, you’re thanking me for having put my finger on the very slippery notion of why this film is so incredibly endearing.
Here’s the plot: the bumbling M. Hulot goes to the seaside to try to get some rest. It works, sort of. The end.
There are two reasons I can’t describe how effective this is. The first is that all the comedic strokes are lighter than air, gentler than someone clodhopping in muddy rhetorical boots can easily encapsulate; the sheer physicality of Jacques Tati is, like Stephen Chow or Jim Carrey, made for the visual rather than the verbal.
The other reason? It’s jazz. Pure, sweet, funny, jazz.
Love it. That’s not a “summer movie” in the sense most people would use it, but I absolutely can see how it would be a summer treat you want to revisit each year when the season rolls around.
Paul Malmont, author of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London In Paradise, opined on something a little more current:
The greatest summer movie of all time? Ever? In the history of cinema? I might have had to think about that for a moment or so in any other summer. But, hey, this summer is a summer like no other and it’s a no-brainer. Best summer movie ever?
And I haven’t even seen it yet.
That’s right. The movie’s been out for just over a month and I haven’t been able to get to it for one reason (a trip to the Hawaii Book and Music Festival) or another (my father-in-law’s motorcycle broke down and he needed rescuing). I keep trying. I keep making plans to go – to sneak out of work, maybe, or go after the kids are asleep – but I keep missing my window of opportunity. I was even going to drag my 7-year old to it at one point and pay for the therapy afterward. I’m dying to see it but can’t and because of that it’s growing large in my imagination, through hyperbole and reputation, until it’s taken on all the best aspects of all my favorite summer movies to become the greatest summer movie of all time. Call it the power of potential.
Right now, Star Trek has the potential to carry me back to Ohio, 1977, and the school night that Dad took us all to go see Star Wars. It might open up my head and introduce me to a love for spectacle like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It might make me choke back the tears that welled up in my when the real Spock died in Star Trek 2. It might make me laugh as hard and astonish me by going way so far over the top like Ghostbusters did (currently, I’m happy to say, my son’s favorite summer movie). It might completely take my breath away so much so that I had to see it again right away as I did with Back to the Future. It might be a movie I have to sneak into to see like Blazing Saddles or Dawn of the Dead. Or it might even change my conception of what a movie can be like Blue Velvet did one summer night.
There’s also the option that it just might be so much fun that I think of it fondly like all those movies I saw more than once on lazy summer days such as Superman 2, Big Trouble in Little China, Raiders, Lethal Weapon 2, The Untouchables, The Matrix – y’know the list and I’m sure they’re being well covered here. It could be one of those cheesy guilty pleasures I feel like I discovered alone in the days before the internets: Herbert West: Re-Animator, Cemetery Man, Mall Rats, or Dead Alive.
If I’m really lucky, Star Trek could be an unforgettable punchline of a movie, like the great, maligned Howard the Duck or Ishtar (both movies I quite enjoyed, can quote from, but was shamed in public for supporting when being flamed meant people pointed at you and snickered while questioning your taste). However, on the far end of the same scale Star Trek might be, could be, one could hope is, a movie that is as perfectly as much about summer as it is a summer movie like the only other movie that could possibly still challenge it for the title.
And that would be, of course, Jaws.
I know I’ll see Star Trek sooner or later. And it will live up to some of its potential. How much? I don’t care. Because I’m loving it already.
See? This is why I love the community of people I’ve gotten to know over the last 14 years of doing this. You can ask one simple question and get such a wide range of reactions.
Matthew Robinson and Ricky Gervais were both incredibly gracious hosts when I visited the Boston set of “This Side Of The Truth” last year. Since then, the film has changed titles and is now known as “The Invention Of Lying,” and it’ll be out a little later in the year. Both of them were good enough to respond to my question. Matthew acknowledged just how slippery the question was and answered it several ways to cover all bases:
I see your question could be answered in four ways, and as such I will give you an answer for each, just in case.
1.) What is your favorite film to watch in the summer?
McCabe and Mrs. Miller, because I’m not a big fan of intense heat all that much and McCabe makes me feel like I’m freezing my balls off in the dead of winter.
2.) What is your favorite Summer blockbuster of all time?
Aliens. My favorite bang-for-your-buck thrill ride ever released in the Summer.
3.) What is your favorite Summer film of 2009?
So far for me the film to beat is Star Trek.
4.) What is your favorite movie that is about the summer?
Hmmm… let’s see. There’s One Crazy Summer. Endless Summer. Summer School. Summertime. I’ll go with One Crazy Summer just for Bobcat Goldthwait in the Dinosaur costume. Or wait… was that Summer Rental?
And now, here’s Matthew’s co-conspirator, the one and only Ricky Gervais:
My favourite summer movie is The Jungle Book.
My mum took me during my first ever school holiday. I’d never been to a cinema before. I can still remember the place to this day. Everything seemed carpeted. The floors, the walls everything. I had sweets and pepsi and the biggest screen in the world, I thought. I was blown away. I lived a life in a couple of hours. When I thought Balloo was dead I was sobbing uncontrollably but trying to hide it. My mum was consolling me but didn’t seem as distressed as me. Then when it turned out that Balloo was still alive I was fucking euphoric.
But it made me think. On the way home I asked my mum how old I’d be when she died. “Old” She said. “Will I care?” I asked worried about my far off future feelings. She wasn’t sure what to say. She knew I wanted the answer “no” in some ways but as usual she chose honesty. “Yes’ She said. “But it wont happen for a very long time”. That was good enough for me.
When I returned to school a few weeks later we had to do a little presentation about our holidays. I proceeded to act out the entire movie using the other kids in the class. I told them where to stand and what to say, filling in the action with narration. Eventually the teacher had to stop me because I was taking up the whole day. Now I’m a real director I never make that same mistake. I’m home by 4 O’clock on any movie I do.
I haven’t seen the film for 40 years so I’m not sure how good it is but it’s still one of my fondest memories because it was a gift from my mum. My mum died when I was 40. She was right by the way. I did care. But luckily 35 five years ago I’d learnt the bear necessities to get me through. Just like Balloo, she’s still with me.
As always, I deeply appreciate everyone who’s responded so far, and I’ve got more coming. Tomorrow, Bill Hader joins in, along with a few other special friends.
Now I’ll just close this window, and it’s as if I was never here…
The Morning Read appears here every day, Monday through Friday. Except when it doesn’t.
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