I was 13 years old in the summer of 1997. I don't know if it's my favorite movie summer, but I do know that it was seminal -- at least in the sense that it was the first summer when I made a concerted effort to keep up with Hollywood's weekly output and see as much of it as I could. Already, I was jotting down my thoughts on everything I saw, fancying myself a budding film critic. The following year, I would start my own website on the now-defunct Geocities, and the rest would be history.
But, 1997. I didn't see everything (so I won't try to cover everything), and there's a lot I haven't caught up with. Still, looking back, I can see the beginnings of my current tastes and predilections. And amazingly, I can still remember the circumstances under which I saw some of these movies. Here are some of my memories.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park: I remember the talk about whether The Lost World would join the exclusive $200 million club, which just seems so darn quaint now. (It did, by the way.) I also remember the hype about it being the largest opening ever (3,281 screens). I saw the actual movie while visiting family friends in Tennessee. I loved it. Arguably, it began my love affair with Steven Spielberg (I had not, at the time, seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, though I believe I had seen E.T.)
Trial and Error: I remember two things. Roger Ebert liked it, and it was an all-but-in-name remake of My Cousin Vinny, which I hadn't seen – though that didn't stop me from flaunting my knowledge of the fact. I thought it was funny then, and never saw it a second time. I have since become a fan of director Jonathan Lynn, so maybe another viewing is in order.
Con Air. I was old enough to understand that a greasy, long-haired Nic Cage threatening people over a stuffed pink bunny was pretty hilarious. The movie seemed pretty lame then, and still does today.
Speed 2: Cruise Control. Bahaha! I loved Speed and was super-excited for this. I was apparently sufficiently discerning to be let down like everyone else, though I remember thinking that it wasn't quite awful enough to merit the apocalyptic reviews it got. I also remember EW's Owen Gleiberman quipping that Speed 2 "goes nowhere fast," a line I may or may not have stolen from him.
Ulee's Gold: I note this only because it was the first movie I ever saw at an arthouse: the Ritz 16 in Voorhees, NJ (now a regular multiplex). I was quite proud of myself, not least for grokking the film's immensely complex honey-gold metaphor.
Batman & Robin: I didn't actually watch Batman & Robin in 1997. Sorry. But I figured I shouldn't leave it off the list entirely. It's kind of notorious, after all.
My Best Friend's Wedding: Laughed my ass off at this. It's still one of my favorite romantic comedies, though probably for different reasons.
Face/Off: Remember the trailer for this one, with the camera doing a 360 around John Travolta, who becomes Nicolas Cage when we see his face again? My 13 year-old self thought this was the greatest thing ever. Then I saw the movie, which was kind of dumb. That's sort of the story of John Woo's career, no?
Men in Black: More disappointment, probably because I fell in love with Mars Attacks! the previous year, and this just wasn't as funny.
Contact: I was blown away by this, and for once I won't make fun of myself for it. It's monumental science-fiction, no matter how old you are.
George of the Jungle: I know I saw it. I remember seeing it. I just don't remember a damn thing about it.
Air Force One: I had not yet had my fill of Harrison Ford being a badass, so I sort of fell for this one. Kids tend to go ga-ga for high concepts – the President fights terrorists on an airplane! – and the execution doesn't much matter. This might have been one of those cases. I remember I liked Turbulence, too.
Spawn: I guess it tells you a lot about me that I went to see this with some friends when what I really wanted to see was the Samuel-L.-Jackson-as-a-badass-teacher drama 187.
Conspiracy Theory: Another movie that blew my 13-year-old self away with its coolness. Too bad Richard Donner hasn't made anything worthwhile since.
Free Willy 3: The Rescue: I mean, come on – what child of the 90s wasn't a fan of the Free Willy franchise? I was super-impressed with the somber environmental message of this one, which just seems lugubrious now.
Cop Land: Bored me to tears. Should probably watch it again, since I now admire James Mangold.
Event Horizon: This movie is stupid.
Mimic: Holy crap, they killed a little kid! A formative horror experience. Guillermo Del Toro is one of the few directors' names that was already on my map back then.