TV Party is a Friday feature in which Film Editors Dominick Mayer and Justin Gerber alongside Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman suggest one movie apiece to enjoy over the weekend. Joining them each week will be two rotating film staff writers to help round out the selections. Seek out any of the films via Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, Hulu, OnDemand, or abandoned Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores — however you crazy kids watch movies these days! Enjoy ’em for the first time, a second, or maybe a redemptive third.
Dazed & Confused
When I’m living through Chicago winters like the one in which we presently find ourselves, one of my absolute go-tos is Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, one of the all-time great films ever made about the wandering laziness of high school, as seen through Texas in 1976. Nothing of particular consequence happens in the film, and yet it’s rife with pangs of familiarity and nostalgia: the hossy jock who everybody knows will still be the same shitty person when he’s 40, the athlete who’s tired of having his decisions made for him by his surrounding world, that one kid every school had who’s just affable and baked all the time.
From the mean girls to the first loves, the clandestine keg parties in forests to the gut-wrenching terror that can only come from returning home late to your parent’s inquiring gaze, Dazed and Confused hits all the subtleties of being a suburban teenager in the kind of way that only a director with Linklater’s fine eye for human interactions could. Plus, as is appropriate for a film about long, purposeless drives through dark streets, the soundtrack is a killer. But you probably already knew that.
Stand By Me
The hot, hot heat. The leeches. Tales of kids barfing at fairs. Corey Feldman. I’d take it all right about now. If only there was a movie featuring- oh, right. Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “The Body,” which was retitled Stand By Me for its theatrical release. For those not in the know, Stand By Me takes place during the summer of 1959 in the small, fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine (home to other King nightmares such as Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Needful Things). Four boys hear tell of a boy whose dead body was recently discovered by one of their older brothers, and decide to seek it out for the publicity. On their journey, the boys (Feldman, Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell) bond in ways they never thought possible. Whether through fiction (the tale of “Lard Ass”) or true pain from their own lives, Stand By Me becomes something other than an adventure of four kids. It becomes a summer crossroads movie like no other.
To re-iterate, it is winter. A time of shoveling accidents, calling dibs on parking spots, and finding any excuse possible to avoid mushing through 10 feet of snow and freezing cold in the hopes of retaining one’s rapidly decreasing sanity. But there is a cure. No, it’s not taking a flamethrower to the streets. It’s having a little diversion, and taking a trip someplace nice and warm, and maybe even a little romantic. Can’t afford to go someplace warm? Looking for an escape? Then join Katherine Hepburn and David Lean for a scintillating summer getaway in Venice. Ah, the sweet summer love of a spinster in heat, I mean, the heat. The heat. Yes.
In her sixth Oscar-nominated role, Hepburn was Jane Hudson, a middle-aged school teacher from Akron, Ohio. She’s in Venice after scrimping and saving for years, finally taking her dream vacation. She embarks on a wonderfully warm and colorful experience, meeting fascinating characters, and finally getting a good chance to get to know herself. Heck, there’s even a little room for some summer lovin’.
Summertime is charming and full of emotional and geographical warmth. It showcases a woman discovering herself, finally able to feel free, like a classical, more wholesome version of Wild (or a less selfish Eat, Pray, Love). Summertime also boasts typically expansive and sumptuous imagery from David Lean. Venice and Hudson’s view of things is shot patiently in long views with the flourishes of Technicolor, employing a curious tourist’s eye to fullest benefit. It shows a breathtakingly romantic place, a human experience. Not a cold heart or calloused shovel hand in sight.
The Last Stand
Two things brought The Last Stand back to mind recently. As I walked my dog through 19 inches of snow, I wondered if Arizonans know the joy of pinching iceballs off your dog’s weenus. The next reminder was American Sniper. Now whether you’re a salt-of-the-earth defender of the picture, or you’re one of the candyass whiners whining about it, you have to agree that the CGI blows to high heaven. Not just the deer, the baby, and the shoddy explosions. I’m talking ‘bout squibs. Just a few of those beautiful packets of blood hooked up to a charge would have made every kill pop. But Eastwood settled for that sub-grade cartoon bullshit. For that cardinal action movie sin, may he be unforgiven.
Wanna shake off your S.A.D. and get a good dose of Vitamin D and Vitamin Squib? Take a trip to New Mexico substituting for Arizona, where the sidewalks are shoveled and people pick up their dogshit, and dig into The Last Stand. Criminally underseen and underappreciated, it’s a badass blast of bloody fun that would’ve killed at the box office if half of its target market wasn’t dead. Schwarzenegger, looking foxier in his old age, rules as a small town sheriff forced to take on a drug cartel trying to cross the Mexican border.
And director Kim Jee-woon (the impeccable I Saw The Devil) isn’t fuckin’ around when it comes to staging badass fights with urgency, clarity, and inventiveness. It’s not enough for Arnold to hurl himself off a building with a baddie: he shoots him in the head midair for full effect. And when he excavates heads with a shotgun, warm brains made of glorious latex and corn syrup explode from the skulls like crimson diarrhea in a way that’d would get Tom Savini hot and bothered. It has everything to warm your frozen heart: a trip to a warmer climate, your favorite libidinous Austrian kicking ass and having a ball doing it, and real (looking) goddamn blood.
Dominick’s Bonus Pick
D2: The Mighty Ducks
In brief, as an extra suggestion: if you’re attuned to ’90s family movie nostalgia (and since the admittedly much better The Sandlot seems to be absent from most reputable streaming services), have you revisited D2 recently? If you grew up around a certain period in American history, the opening “rally the crew” sequence, with its super-hip rollerblading through the Mall of America, was probably your dream for at least a little while. And when the intrepid Ducks make it to the Summer Youth Olympics, hijinks and lessons in how Emilio Estevez is a selfish dick until he isn’t anymore ensue. Come for the tie-dye fashions of the era, stay for the evil Icelandic hockey time, almost assuredly a choice necessitated by Disney’s realization that we could not, in fact, use evil Soviets anymore, the Cold War having finally ended at long last.