The Ringer, the new website from Bill Simmons, has so far not lived up to the expectations he created with the defunct Grantland site, but this week it featured a fun article on the best summer for movies. Since the site is run by kids, don't expect to find any summers from the Sixties on the list. One summer stood out to me, but before we get to that let's remember one film released in early July 1997, Men In Black.
THC and the then-12 year old THC Son (who today serves as Official Science Advisor to the blog), were anxiously awaiting the release of this film and planned to see the first show on the first day of its release. The hard-working THC had to sneak out of work early to pick up the Son in order to catch the matinee premiere at a local Boca Raton, Florida theater. About thirty minutes into the movie, the picture froze, then the screen went black and were informed that the film was broken and the showing would not continue. Fortunately, we had a copy of the local paper with us and quickly determined another showing would begin shortly at a theater in Deerfield Beach. We drove there in record time, just made the beginning of the movie and, this time, watched it all the way through. Men In Black lived up to the hype and THC will always remember the adventure that day with his son.
And THC has always appreciated the philosophical underpinnings of the movie:
And now on to 1998. Until seeing the list in The Ringer, THC had forgotten how many good movies were released this summer. These are the ones he saw, in order of their release:
He Got Game. Spike Lee can be one of the most irritating film makers, even when he's made a good one, and He Got Game was a good one. Starring Denzel Washington as Jake Shuttlesworth, an imprisoned convict, and Ray Allen, just off his rookie NBA season, as his son, Jesus Shuttlesworth, a high school senior being heavily recruited by several university basketball programs. Jake has been released to try to persuade Jesus to go to the state university. It's complicated since Jake is in jail for killing Jesus' mom. Spike made the odd, but brilliant choice, to use the music of Aaron Copeland for his soundtrack.
The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. We thought this was pretty good at the time, but it's aged badly.
The X-Files. Not a great movie, but the circumstances made it memorable. We were all fans of the X-Files TV show and our kids were devoted to it. We happened to be on a two-week family driving vacation from Las Vegas to Alliance, Nebraska during which the film was scheduled to premiere and it was very important, particularly for the THC Daughter, that we see the movie on the day of its release. After determining that we would be in Alliance on the day of its release, we contacted the one theater in town and found it would be playing. We sat in the balcony of the small theater in that town on the Great Plains and watched the movie.
Out Of Sight. The first time THC thought George Clooney could actually act and he and Jennifer Lopez are terrific. That's not all this movie had going for it. Based on a book by Elmore Leonard and also featuring Ving Rhames, Dennis Farina, Don Cheadler, Albert Brooks, Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson and a delightfully goofy performance by Steve Zahn, it's a movie that bears rewatching.
Armageddon. Described by The Ringer as "one of the best terrible movies ever". THC agrees. Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?
Lethal Weapon 4. Yeah, they were running out the string but you had Gibson, Glover, Russo and Pesci.
There's Something About Mary. Yes, indeed. Ben Stiller and many others felt that way about Cameron Diaz.
Saving Private Ryan. The first twenty minutes are absolutely shattering. So are the last twenty. And so are parts of it in between.
Snake Eyes. Entertaining trash from Brian De Palma, starring Nicholas Cage and Gary Sinise and filmed in De Palma's trademark flashy, hyper realistic, and sharp focused style.
Run Lola Run. An entertaining German film, in which Lola, played by Franka Potente, who went on to star in the first two Jason Bourne movies, has to deliver a 100,000 DM ransom in twenty minutes in order to save her boyfriend.
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, a story about London gangsters and a series of misadventures that are gruesome and funny, all at the same time. Introduced Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham to international audiences. Everyone speaks in incomprehensible Brit dialect but you'll enjoy it anyway.
Not bad for one summer, isn't it?