Few things go together as well as summertime and the movies. Once God created air conditioning – what year was that again? – it was only a matter of time before people began to appreciate the ritual of sitting in a dark, cool theater, perhaps with a bag of popcorn and some sugary liquid or other, and letting go of the real world for a couple of hours.
Of course, the usual suspects will be in town all summer long — the blowsy blockbusters at our local mega-multi cineplexes. Savannahians, however, have another option — classic films on the big screen in the comparatively lush and luxurious Lucas Theatre, and right around the corner, in the Trustees Theater.
Last weekend's Marilyn Monroe birthday tribute paired Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot — and for those of us who don't particularly like it hot, there are more celluloid classics ahead on downtown's summer movie schedule.
Next up is the British comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We probably all know someone who can quote this 1975 cult classic line-for-line — it's been a nerd staple for all these years. But if you've only seen Spamalot, the after-the-fact stage version, check out Holy Grail, for it's the Arthurian fountain from which all things Python floweth. It is, to be precise, one of Great Britain's funniest ever. Lucas, June 14.
Jaws (June 15, Trustees) happens to be one of this writer's all-time favorite films (and he's not alone, not by a long shot). Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark tale really needs to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. It's been stylistically ripped off thousands of times, but try to imagine experiencing all this incredible tension-and-release back in the day, when Spielberg was the very first director to put it on screen. Outstanding.
The Coen Brothers' black comedy The Big Lewbowski wasn't a massive hit in theaters in 1998, but its absurd story of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and his bowling buddies (John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and an unforgettable John Turturro) has become the cult favorite to beat. Factor in a weird and wobbly subplot about The Dude's lineage (hello, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and you've got one of the era's most satisfyingly strange howlers. June 21, Trustees Theater.
Screening June 22 at the Lucas, How to Train Your Dragon was one of the first computer-generated animated films (non-Shrek, that is) to dominate at the box office (2010). It's about a young Viking boy who befriends a "fierce" dragon, rather than slaying it, as is the custom of his village elders. It received two Academy Award nominations.
Top Hat (Lucas, June 28) is a classic Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers dance musical from 1935. Technically, it's a "screwball comedy," but Top Hat gave the world Fred and Ginger singing and dancing "Cheek to Cheek," which means that even if you've never seen it, you've seen it. An absolutely robust black and white classic.
The Steven Spielberg summer fest continues with E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (June 29 at the Trustees). You know the story: Young Elliot discovers and befriends a lost little alien, and defends him from a host of curious scientists and Drew Barrymore. It's from 1982 (here's a game for you college kids: Count how many passing Elvis Costello references Spielberg planted in the movie).
It just made the rounds as a 3D re-release, but Spielberg's 1993 Jurassic Park bears experiencing over and over again; it's that good (although Michael Crichton's book is better). Dinosaurs come to life! Newman gets eaten! July 13, Trustees.
Screening July 20 at the Lucas, Walt Disney's 1964 musical Mary Poppins is, as we all know, a joy on every level. Here you have Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke at the top of their game, a wonderful Sherman Brothers score, and a bizarre (but very British) moral about the responsibilities of being a good parent. "Let's Go Fly a Kite" gets me every time.
More Spielberg with the moving WWII drama Saving Private Ryan (Trustees, July 27). It came after Schindler's List and before Band of Brothers and The Pacific, but this 1998 drama with Tom Hanks as a conflicted platoon captain on the European front lines is among the director's finest works. The opening scene, on the beach at Normandy, is both riveting and horrifying.
You know him as Honest Abe in Lincoln and oilman Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, but Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis has been making movies for 30 years. James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans became a film in 1992, directed by Michael Mann, and starring the gangly Irishman as Nathaniel Hawkeye, a scrappy frontier fighter during the French and Indian War of 1757. At the Lucas Aug. 3.