By Maria Schulz
It’s been so hot in my small corner of the world for the last couple of weeks that many of us around here have been spending a lot of time indoors. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to run from your car to your house, or into the department stores, or to my favorite place to of all cool off: the movies.
Growing up, there was no central air conditioning of any kind in the main part of our house. I was by far the luckiest inhabitant, because the family that lived there before us left the window unit behind in my room, and it only fit in that window.
My brothers spent many nights draped across the floor of my bedroom, trying to get in on the cold air and comfort. Otherwise, they had to sleep upstairs in the attic, where you were as likely to get a good night’s sleep as you were if you decided to go sleep in the oven.
Unfortunately, my father had adopted a strict “No Air Conditioner” policy during the day, and at night, the temperature could not fall below 80 degrees. I can remember sitting with my brothers at 9 pm, thermometer in hand, praying it would not fall below 81 (80 left too much room for error, ie: “that says 79! No A/C!”).
Humidity was never factored in, so even if it was 78 degrees and 80% humidity, you were assured a long night of tossing, turning, and having heat-induced daydreams about snowball fights in July.
My desire to avoid the heat and go somewhere as cold as Antarctica led me to the local movie houses. Yes, it sometimes took 2 connecting bus rides squished against other sweaty, smelly Queens natives, but by the time I arrived, it was all worth it.
Good, bad, or indifferent, the movies were a fun, two or more hour diversion (sometimes we’d see the double or triple feature) in a blissfully cold theater. I really had to restrain myself if I overheard an old lady saying something heretical to the manager like: “Can you turn down the Air Conditioning?”
Some of my favorite movies from way back long ago are still good to rent now, especially when it feels like you could fry an egg on your forehead. Watch them with a cold drink in your hand and the A/C vents blowing in your direction.
I know no one asked, but I thought I’d give you a list of some classics and some off-beat movies that I really enjoyed. Here are some that always give me a thrill, a rush, some romance, or just some laughs.
I wrote about this in my blog post, Summer Movies, a couple of years ago. The theme music still gets my heart pounding 35 years later, and I am not above singing DA DUM DA DUM DA DUM dum dum dum dum dum as I approach my husband while he lounges on the raft in our pool. He instantly knows that I intend to topple the raft, just like that poor kid Alex…oh never mind. Just watch this one. It’s the perfect movie to watch with your kids on a hot summer day, especially if you need to give them a reason to avoid the beach.
THE MUPPET MOVIE (the original…from 1979)
Oh Kermie! Why ARE there so many songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side? Corny jokes that still make me laugh, star cameos, rousing songs and the Muppets (including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal) make this one a fun time, even if you’re not 12 anymore.
STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK & THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
Well, as long as you’re stuck inside, you might as well rent all three. Yes, I know they are now labeled something else entirely (Episodes IV, V, & VI) because they’ve released some movies since, but these are the three that bring me right back to those days hanging out at the movies.
I can remember sitting in a packed theater all three times, with the A/C blasting and the music blaring. I saw Star Wars in the Fresh Meadows Theater (before it was a twin theater), The Empire Strikes Back at the RKO Keiths and The Return of the Jedi at the Bayside Twin.
To this day, I wrap a kerchief around my head and say things like “Help me Obi Wan. You’re my only hope!” And “Luke! Luke!” My children had no idea what I was doing until I watched these movies with them, and then they said, “these special effects are boring.” Which I guess they are, compared to what my kids see in movies today. But back then…WOW!
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, C3P0, R2D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jabba The Hut, Ewoks, Lando Calrissian and more Intergalactic weirdos came together to make this trilogy a winner. I even remember doing the Ewok dance whenever the hit theme song came on back in 1983. Sad, but true.
Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Joan Cusack, Ruth Gordon and Martin Mull star in this movie that still appeals to the little kid in me.
It came out the Summer before I started High School and had a storyline I could really identify with: Clifford Peache is about to start a new school; there’s a bully who is making everyone’s life miserable and is only too happy to make Clifford’s life miserable too; and there’s a big, strange kid in Clifford’s class who terrifies everyone.
Of course, along the way, Clifford learns a thing or two about the kid who everyone thinks is a ruthless killer, after he hires him to be his bodyguard.
It’s kind of funny to see a very young Matt Dillon and Joan Cusack in this movie. Of course, Ruth Gordon was wonderful as Clifford’s grandmother.
Rent it and watch it with your kids so they can see how bullies acted… and how the bullied coped with it.
A LITTLE ROMANCE
A young French boy (Thelonius Bernard) meets a young American girl (Diane Lane) living in Paris for the Summer. They meet, fall in love, and befriend a retired pickpocket who can really tell a story (Sir Lawrence Olivier). The elderly man encourages their romance and never belittles the intensity of their feelings, even though they are just teenagers.
This was a sweet, charming movie that featured two very smart kids who were bright but never annoying or precocious. Their “little romance” was filled with adventure and gave hope to little old me that yes, even geeks could meet and fall in love.
Diane Lane made her screen debut in this film. She so impressed Olivier that he told a journalist that one day, Lane would be “the next Grace Kelly.”
Watch this one for beautiful acting, gorgeous settings, and a story of hope and love that will leave you smiling.
Chevy Chase stars in this last film directed by George Roy Hill (who also directed The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and yes, A Little Romance). It’s not one of the best movies you will ever see, but it did make me laugh and is one of my favorite comedies.
When Andy Farmer and his wife, Elizabeth, leave the hustle and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of the country, they get a lot more than just a beautiful home in a pastoral setting. In fact, they soon discover that:
- Their neighbors are as congenial as they are congenitally insane.
- Their mailman drives 100+ miles an hour every single day, and throws their mail out his car window.
- The Chief of Police doesn’t know how to drive at all, and although he keeps trying, he always crashes the car he’s driving or almost runs people over. He is no help whatsoever, and whenever Andy and Elizabeth have a problem and give him a call, he just laughs at them…and resolves nothing.
Andy left behind a great job as a sportswriter to work on his novel, and his writing habits are particularly amusing to me. Instead of being more productive in his quiet new home, he finds himself constantly distracted by the crazy locals, the wildlife, his wife, his dog, and his hilarious attempts to fit in.
This is a good movie to curl up on the couch and watch when you just need a laugh.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
My husband and I saw this one summer night when we actually had a babysitter. It was fun to be out amongst the living again. But the best part of all was that this movie was absolutely hysterical. We laughed so hard with the rest of the audience and had the happiest of date nights.
From the flashback to Prom Night to the wacky, orange neighbor named Magda, to Matt Dillon’s extremely un-PC take on Mary’s role in her disabled brother’s life, this movie from the Farrelly brothers still manages to crack me up.
Remember when Mel Gibson was popular? This is one of those very long action movies that didn’t sag in the middle for me. Yes, of course it’s historically inaccurate. So what? Look at Mel Gibson!!! There’s romance, heartbreak, outrage, rebellion, more romance, more heartbreak, more rebellion, tons of action scenes…what’s not to love?
Patrick McGoohan, the actor who plays King Edward I (Longshanks) is fantastic in this movie, and he pretty much steals every scene he’s in.
There are enough surprises and action to keep an action movie lover happy, but not so much that a baby like me gets totally freaked out. That’s right: I hate blood and guts and have been known to pass out during movies that displayed broken bones (The Fly) or feet that have been shot (Dances With Wolves).
When I saw this movie in the theaters, I had to go to the lobby for about 20 minutes so I could miss some of the more graphic scenes. But I’ve since watched the entire movie, I think a really hot day would be the perfect time to watch it again.
I may fast forward through some parts though, if I’m feeling woozy.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
You didn’t really think I was going to get through this list without mentioning James Garner, now did you?
How can you not admire Hendley, The Scrounger? The prisoners planning a break out need a camera to make phony IDs…he gets them one. They need to see real documents so they can make fake ones and travel through Nazi Germany…and he gets his hands on them. The Forger (Donald Pleasance) is losing his sight and might not be allowed to break out…so Hendley promises to help him escape.
Sure, some people like The Cooler King (Steve McQueen), The Tunnel King (Charles Bronson) or Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), and I do too. But nobody puts The Scrounger in the corner! Oh wait, sorry….wrong movie. (Dirty Dancing is also a great one to rent, for very different reasons).
I used to watch this one on Channel 7’s 4:30 movie. You really had to be dedicated to this movie, since between all the commercials and the 1 ½ hour time slot, you had to watch it over the course of a couple of days.
Yes, I own it on Blu Ray and I’ve seen it at least a million times. I always hope that this time, things will be different.
Rent it, buy it, or search for it on American Movie Classics. You won’t be sorry!
Now that we’re watching movies, we’ll need popcorn. Here are 6 Creative Popcorn Recipes for you to choose from:
So Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite Summer movie? What movie would you recommend? Why? Leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!