Summer Movie Nostalgia

People of summer, welcome. July has been hot, sticky, and way too busy. And now that the heat wave has finally calmed down and the to-do list has shrunk considerably, I just want to be lazy. My vacation is lurking nearby and I’m having daydreams of those fantastic idle years between when I was too young to drive or have a job, and yet too old to waste any energy talking to my parents. All I did every day was hang out with my friends, walk around, go to the mall, talk about boys, and watch movies.

Dirty Dancing, I watched it million times.

Dirty Dancing, I watched it million times.

Sitting in one of my friends’ basements or at a cottage, eating Doritos (gasp! Powdered cheese products might as well not exist for me now), and deciding which movie to put in the VCR, I wish I’d known then how perfectly lackadaisical my life was. I can’t imagine being as responsibility-free ever again.

And so, follow me on this nostalgic little journey through some of the films I associate with summer…

Satisfaction (renamed: Girls of Summer) (1988): I think this might be a very bad movie, but it’s hard for me to tell because I absolutely love it. It’s about the adventures of a girl band (+ one boy, the keyboardist) that gets a summer gig in a seaside town. Justine Bateman plays the lead, not because she was a great singer but because she was way famous back then (this is hilariously ironic in hindsight — wait until you read who else is in this). The actual best singer in the band is the guitarist, played by Britta Phillips who was the voice of JEM (yes, of JEM and the Holograms!). She is the girl with a [drug] problem. Julia Roberts, glorious even in pre-fame, plays the pretty fun girl, the bassist. It’s interesting to note how not-aerobicized hot chicks’ bodies were back then. Liam Neeson is in this too. He plays the washed up music producer. Spoiler alert: the Justine Bateman character may or may not fall in love with him. My favourite was Mooch, the tough girl drummer who learns to open up her heart. The movie introduced me to classic songs like Iko Iko, Mr. Big Stuff, and Knock on Wood. And watch for a cameo by Debbie Harry.Why don’t more people know this film!?

Rosie Perez's neck and Spike Lee's hand in Do the Right Thing's sex with ice-cubes scene. It had an impact on me.

Rosie Perez’s neck and Spike Lee’s hand in Do the Right Thing’s sex with ice-cubes scene. The film’s mood and message weren’t the only things that had an impact on me.

Do the Right Thing (1989): Spike Lee’s influential film had a big impact on me. At the time, I was reading books like Roots and The Autobiography of Malcom X. It wasn’t my culture, it wasn’t my history, but I loved learning about any struggle for equality. Then I saw this movie and it blew my mind with its style and subject matter. Do the Right Thing grabs the viewer right away with Rosie Perez dancing to Fight the Power in the opening credits. It takes place on the hottest day of summer in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and the cinematography is outstanding; you can feel the heat and the slow build of pressure and tension. Spike Lee told a similar story years later with Summer of Sam, which I think is a superior, more nuanced film with better-drawn characters, but Do the Right Thing is a summer classic for me.

Seven Year Itch (1955): Ok, this isn’t exactly from my generation; nevertheless, I will forever associate Marilyn Monroe with one particularly rainy summer. I was probably 12 years-old and there was nothing to do. A local tv channel was running a Marilyn Monroe film festival on weekday afternoons so I ended up watching many of the films. Some were terrible, but I recall enjoying Bus Stop, as well as How to Marry a Millionaire… and Seven Year Itch with that iconic scene over the metro grid. Like Do the Right Thing, it takes place during a hot New York summer but this tension build-up is of a different kind. Marilyn was a revelation! She was not only sultry and gorgeous, but really funny too. And she performed the bombshell role with tongue firmly in cheek.

The Lost Boys -- How could this not be the inspiration for Twilight’s Volturi?

The Lost Boys — How could this not be the inspiration for Twilight’s Volturi?

The Lost Boys (1987): In makeup school, the makeup artist on the Buffy tv series, Todd McIntosh, told us that Joss Whedon had wanted the vampires to look like the ones in The Lost Boys. And it’s true that, before then, vampires too often looked like fancy waiters with pointy teeth. But the Lost Boys vampires are everything vampires should be: sexy, animalistic, and… fantastically coiffed. The movie was filmed in spooky Santa Cruz, California; I was there last year and there was something unsettling about it. I moved on quickly, though I do sort of wish I had stopped to visit the train bridge they jump off of. Anyways, the movie is about smart little boys Corey Haim and Corey Feldman on a vampire hunting adventure after Haim’s older brother, played by Jason Patric, gets bitten. Jason Patric had the dark smoldering looks that get my heart, plus I wanted to be Jami Gertz, the vampire femme fatale (named “Star”, of all things). Also, Kiefer Sutherland is superbly menacing as the lead vampire.

Dirty Dancing (1987): Teenaged girls have the ability to consume what they like over and over and over again. I must have watched Dirty Dancing at least 20 times the summer it came out on video. I’m sure I still remember chunks of dialogue, and not just “I carried a watermelon” or “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”. It took many viewings before I clued in that Penny was pregnant and that she’d gotten an abortion. But I definitely got that appearances can be misleading; the so-called “good” guy can turn out to be rotten and the sexy “bad” boy can be solid and caring. Dirty Dancing represents the timid, brainy girl’s dream: being transformed into an exciting, cha-cha dancing woman in cut-off jean shorts and seduced by the cool, older guy everyone lusts after. Sigh. And the music and dancing are very good too.

Which movies do you associate with summer?


  1. The Lost Boys was such a hilarious movie!! I know they were trying to be serious with the topic and everything, but when we watched it years later, the corniness was really evident … kinda like the Twilight series is today! Anyway, I still liked that movie a lot (The Lost Boys) and also ended up buying the soundtrack too 🙂 I don’t really have a favorite summer movie. When I was a kid, I played on my street outside until the sun went down. Movies were more for when the weather was bad.

  2. LibrarianJen says:

    I can’t say there are any movies I particularly associate with summer because I watched movies all year long, but I want to throw my love out there for Satisfaction and The Lost Boys! I too loved Mooch — I always was a sucker for a makeover :p I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Dirty Dancing, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Breakfast Club, Grease (the ‘Good Parts’ version as decided my sister, holder of the remote and the fast forward button)… I guess I didn’t get out much during my summers off!

    • Ha! I love the idea of Grease, only the good parts. It’s how I’d like to watch Bollywood films. Thank you for validating my love of Satisfaction!

  3. Ha! Ha! Me too!! lol

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