Tuesday, August 24, 2010

one crazy summer [1986]

the fall catalogs are here. big time. stuffed the mail box yesterday and today -- jammed full. fall catalogs, such as pottery barn, filled with autumnal, golden light, umber leaves, wine-cozy, sweater weather, halloween gee-gaws, i look at them like they are porn mags. fall is, i say it again, my favorite time of year.

but what happened to summer? the hot months, and boy today it was hot, triple digit weather, by the time i got home i was dripping with sweat that i peeled off my work clothes and headed straight for the shower, the hot months have a kind of carefree, languid feel that seemed to pass me by this go round.

summer is good for lounging and taking life slow. it's also good for swimming at the pool, cook-outs, cold beers, and drive-in movies. as for movies, the best summer films are silly, they are even kinda stupid. e.g. the '60s beach movies starring frankie and annette, produced by american international pictures, and directed by william asher. these are cartoons made for the drive-in circuit where your attention can roam from the screen to your girl to your beer to your ice cream cone and back to the screen without missing a beat of the story.

because summer movies are essentially plotless. the zany ones are. they are cartoons and the better examples of the summer film exploit there silliness to such a degree that humanity can be divided in to two camps: those who hate, say, beach movies because they are so silly, and the rest of us who love them because of their goofiness.

filmmaker savage steve holland, who made two john cusack features, the brilliant better off dead [1985] and this flick, one crazy summer. i suppose holland's style can be summerized by the phrase, kitchen surrealism. e.g. the mother, played by kim darby, in the former movie made meals that would crawl off cusack's dinner plate. but holland would frame this bit of weirdness as flat as he could. dead-pan. because in holland's movies sometimes your food would simply come alive and crawl off your plate. without you noticing your dinner just crawled away.

the latter film, summer, isn't as fleshed with gags as dead but holland, and cusack, carry the flick with just the right dead-pan humor that recalls the best of asher's beach pics. what little of the plot, cusack plays a cartoonist who falls for rocker demi moore at the beach during the eponymous summer, is just enough of an engine to propel the gags. there's a subplot of a mean developer wanting to kick the kids off the beach, a yacht race with cusack and his loser friends, bobcat goldthwait et al., and the kid of the mean developer with his equally lame and vapid friends -- jeremy piven is one of these vapid friends, which should give you an idea how incredibly lame these dudes are [i don't know, i just think there's just something incredibly lame about piven, how the fuck has he managed to have such a long career anyway?] which is played for the usual underdogs make good and keep the audience cheering.

that's about it. the soundtrack is '80s synth rock. i don't know if moore really does sing when her band performs for her big scene onstage. that's neither here nor there since the music is more like audio wall-paper in a cheap hotel. you barely register it. yet holland achieves a kind of goofiness that makes this pic perfect, for me at least, summer viewing. there's an attitude to it and a feel that is redolent to spending the day on the beach. the cast are game and play their roles with a kind of glee that reminds me of, again, jody mccrea and john ashley in the beach films of yore. with a summer film were like this one i don't mind waiting a little longer for autumn.


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