Though Hollywood begins its summer earlier and earlier each year, in general, Memorial Day weekend brings us the season's unofficial start and everything that goes along with it. Hell yeah, it's time to open up the pool, grease up the barbeque and talk big budget blockbusters baby!
Growing up, with no school to occupy my mind during those three months off, there was nothing to look more forward to than a classic summer moviegoing experience. Now, in order to have such an experience, certain elements were required to be in place. First off, there needed to be a certain amount of hype connected to the film (or films). Usually, a teaser trailer over the Christmas holiday was enough to get any kid pumped up. As its release nears, deciding where to see the film and who to go with was (and still is) a problematic situation. For the most satisfying overall moviegoing experience, I suggest attending its opening night with one, or two of your best mates. Keep in mind, you will need to get there real early, but the wait is worth it ... depending on the film, of course.
Seeing as I'm only 29-years-old, the following films were chosen because a) I was able to see them in the theater when they were first released and b) I specifically remember each one bringing me a classic and unforgettable summer moviegoing experience. Sure, they may not be the greatest films ever made, but I can connect each one to a different time in my life. So, what is the ultimate summer moviegoing experience? That's up to you. Here are mine ...
- E.T. - The best way to kick-start this list is to begin with my earliest memory of the movie theater. At 5-years old, Steven Spielberg's E.T. was the first film I ever watched with an audience. It was also the first film that made me cry. Made me mad. Made me truly happy. Till this day, I still remember the rush I felt when Elliott was escaping the evil government types, E.T. hid safely in a basket on the front of his bike. What followed was one of the most recognizable and memorable shots in the history of film.
- Adventures in Babysitting - I know, you're probably looking at the films I've chosen and thinking, "Where the hell does freaking Adventures in Babysitting fit into all this?" The film, released in 1987, tells of a distraught babysitter (Elisabeth Shue) who, in her attempt to calmly watch a couple kids for the evening, winds up in a whole mess of hilarious trouble. Why is it so special to me? Well, Adventures in Babysitting was the first PG-13 film I ever went to. Understand, at the time this film came out, I was only 10. So, for a 10-year old, seeing a PG-13 movie was not only rebellious and satisfying, but dangerous. Of course, my friend's Mom was with us, so I wasn't exactly a macho rule-breaker. Just an excited kid.
- Batman - Movie marketing and merchandising had been around for awhile when Tim Burton's Batman came out, however, there was something different about this film. Leading up to its release, you could not step out of your door without Batman-related crap staring you down, whispering, "Buy me. Love me. Take me home." At 12, Batman stole my summer blockbuster virginity. I had never experienced such an intense anticipation for a film before, counting down the days, while my friends and I chewed the topic to death. Did it live up to the hype? In my mind it did.
- Jurassic Park - Probably the most terrifying, yet awe-inspiring moviegoing experience of my youth came at the hands of Jurassic Park. I remember sitting in a packed house alongside my father, both of us floored by the jaw-dropping special effects we were witnessing. As I left the theater, I recall saying to Dad (in a thick New York accent on the verge of puberty), "That movie ... it was the perfect movie."
- Independence Day - As soon as they teased Independence Day over the Christmas holiday, I was sucked in. To a teenager simply searching for a satisfying summer popcorn flick, this film lived up to everything I expected it to be. Though I will forever mock its ending, I had the time of my life in that movie theater. It was the quintessential summer blockbuster experience: Unbelievable hype, long lines, sold out shows and complete audience participation. While I'm now at a point where, if a person sneezes, I'll suggest that an usher take the offender out back and shoot them, I do miss the fun audiences used to have with a film like Independence Day. Yeah, you get it at the geeked-up midnight screenings, but other than that it's your regular old uptight crowd. Can we fix that somehow?
- There's Something About Mary - My first thoughts after watching Mary were, "Wow, this film is going to change comedy as we know it." To call this flick simply a solid gross-out sex comedy is not doing it justice -- There's Something About Mary really is a comic masterpiece. Go ahead, say it: "But what about Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Woody Allen and Blake Edwards?" To which I would reply, "Yeah, what about them?" Mary was different. To me, the Farelly brothers re-defined and, in some respects, re-invented comedy with this picture. It was funny. It was human. It had heart. The Ben Stiller bathroom scene -- classic.
- Saving Private Ryan - I know what you're thinking: "Dude, three Spielberg films? Can you kiss any more ass?" Look, this list isn't about the filmmaker -- it's about the experience. A good part of the summer Ryan came out, I was working in Disney World as part of some college program. I lived with three guys who did nothing but drink cheap beer and punch walls. Realizing their company would do more harm than good, I ventured to see the film alone. I attended an afternoon showing, sat in a relatively empty theater and was hooked immediately. Afterward, needing time to digest the film, I remember sitting on a bench outside for at least an hour. I felt paralyzed, almost intoxicated. It was strange. That entire summer was a blur, with the exception of one trip to the movie theater. And I liked it that way. Still do.
Okay, now it's your turn: What are some of your more memorable summer moviegoing experiences?