Any other year, I’d be fired up about the latest blockbuster opening in movie theaters today. The Memorial Day weekend has been prime real estate for debuting films since the 1970s.
No such luck this year, though, thanks to the novel coronavirus. Theaters have been shut down for 10 weeks by my count, and while there have been suggestions the many theaters will attempt to open in July, no one really knows when going to the movies will once again be a part of our lives.
That’s a depressing thought for me because I really enjoy going to the movies. To lift my spirits, I’ve decided to have my own little film festival this weekend at home to celebrate the unofficial start to summer. The weather forecast seems extremely soggy, so there won’t be many if any outside activities for the next few days.
A film festival needs a theme. Summer blockbusters seems appropriate. So here’s my lineup:
If you are going to celebrate summer blockbusters, then why not watch The Mother of All Summer Blockbusters — Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.”
Really, is there ever a bad time to watch “Jaws?” It’s just a great movie that still holds up really well today. Who doesn’t relate to Roy Scheider’s Martin Brody who is asked to confront his greatest fear — water — to stop a monstrous shark that is terrorizing a village dependent upon its beaches being full of tourists on the Fourth of July weekend.
And who hasn’t encountered a smart-aleck, know-it-all like Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper, a marine biologist, who loves lording his expertise over every situation.
Robert Shaw’s Quint is a highly capable bully whose almost as intimidating as the shark, and Murray Hamilton’s Mayor Larry Vaughn is the expedient fool who pours gasoline on the fire without even realizing he’s putting everyone in danger.
There are too many classic scenes and lines in the movie to rehash here, but watching the drunken Quint revisit the true story of the USS “Indianapolis” for Hooper and Brody is a chilling masterpiece. For my money, it’s as effective of a scene that has ever been committed to film.
2. The Empire Strikes Back
Yesterday (May 21) was actually the 40th anniversary of the opening of “The Empire Strikes Back,” and while I’ve probably seen the movie a dozen or more times, I never have a problem revisiting this film.
I just thought I liked “Star Wars” before I saw this movie. “Empire” is not only the heart of the Star Wars franchise, but it’s also the best of the 11 films with one of the biggest surprises in film history.
Again, it’s a movie with too many great scenes to mention them all, but when Leia (Carrie Fisher) confesses to Han Solo (Harrison Ford) that she loves him just before he is frozen in carbonite, and he responds “I know,” his character became cooler than Fonzie in my little 1981 mind.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
If you think Han Solo’s cool, just check out Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Sure, Indy was a throwback character to the movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s, but those heroes never had a budget like “Raiders” or filmmakers as talented as director Spielberg or producer George Lucas at their disposal. The whip-cracking, hard-drinking, pistol-toting, snake-fearing Indy was a man’s man who wouldn’t let a bunch of Nazis get away with raiding ancient powers and antiquities to use for nefarious ends.
The movie is a true thrill-ride that still puts the best super-hero movies made today to shame. Sorry Iron Man and Batman, Indy set the high mark for big-screen adventure that no other franchise has topped yet.
4. Point Break
“Point Break” is iffy as a blockbuster, and it’s probably the least beloved movie on the list, but for whatever reason I just liked the former-football-star-turned-FBI-agent angle of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah. Also, I haven’t seen the film in about a decade so it might be fun to see it through an older set of eyes.
The bromance that develops between undercover agent Utah and Patrick Swayze’s too-cool, surfer/bank robber Bodhi really worked for me. I really buy that they developed into friends despite the fact Utah is working to take Bodhi down. Plus, the movie has Gary Busey in a supporting role. That’s always fun.
So, those are the four movies I plan to watch over the extended weekend. Obviously the list is tailored to my tastes, but maybe you’d like to put together a mini film festival of your own.
TCM Memorial Day Marathon
If it does rain as much as the weather forecast says, I’ll probably tune into Turner Classic Movies a good bit this weekend, too.
Starting Saturday and running through Monday, TCM salutes those who have died in the service of their country with three days of movies about or centered around war. More than 30s films comprise the lineup. There’s sure to be several that will catch and keep my attention at least for a little while.