Written by: Catastrophe Waitress, Special to CC2K
This Memorial Day, CC2K looks back at a time when the onset of summer meant nothing more than cookouts, ice cream and sprinklers.
It’s summer. The air is thick, the tap water is tepid, the air conditioning unit is doing little more than circulating two weeks worth of dust; the children are out of school and the teenagers have permanently stationed themselves in all corners of the local mall. Ah, adulthood. That exhilarating moment when a young person realizes that he or she is no longer eligible for a “summer break.” Sometimes on the hottest, ugliest day of summer, when I wake up with perverted thoughts of filling giant balloons with ice water and periodically throwing them at myself, I remember how there was a time when summer was a synonym for fun. And fun was synonymous with “sleeping until noon” and “stuffing your face with processed meats followed by swimming until your fingers look like an old man’s neck.” What happened to us? Well, what happened to me? Am I no longer fun? Am I a grown-up? I like to spend my summer nights shredding bank statements and vacuuming. Occasionally, if I’m feeling particularly spirited I’ll make a mimosa and watch SoapNet. The other day I actually entertained the idea of constructing some kind of shelving unit for our toilet paper rolls. For the love of God, what happened to our youth?
For those of you who can relate, or who maybe suffer from the frightening urge to scold reckless groups of school kids, I’ve compiled a little list of movies to remind us that we’re still young at heart. Or at the very least, we’re still capable of enjoying films about characters that are young at heart.
1. Beetlejuice: Tim Burton + young, fit Alec Baldwin + tasteless albeit slightly dated death jokes + young, fit, pre-felony Winona Ryder + sinister seafood + ensemble dancing + the only trailer park ghoul in cinematic history = magic.
2. Batman: The Movie: This movie was obviously intended to make sad people happy. Who doesn’t appreciate ridiculously over-the-top dialogue from ridiculously over-the-top superheroes? Villains, that’s who. And maybe Ann Coulter. Adam West is spandextastic as the caped crusader and unlike Batman Forever, the film is a deliberate spoof of the superhero mythology, combining inflated dialogue with highly implausible scenarios and a really impressive shark prop that doesn’t even pretend to resemble anything more than a carnival puppet. Holy cherry pie, Batman, just watch the damn movie.
3. Amélie: When this adorable French cute-fest peek-a-booed in 2001 America heaved a collective sigh: at last, a response to the overwhelming demand for whimsical Parisian twee cinema. It’s almost as though France was reading our minds, which is simultaneously alarming and kind of awesome, right? (France, if you’re in my brain right now, please disregard any thoughts with the following headings: “1999,” “Justin Timberlake,” “Pancakes.” Okay? Thanks.) Amélie is a grown-up fairy tale for dreamers and hesitant romantics; the film glorifies unconventional love, stressing the idea that there is a little oddball out there for each and every one of us. While genuinely sweet, it maintains enough of an edge to keep the cynics from cocking their Bullshit! rifles and me from exercising full use of my gag reflex.
4. Breakfast on Pluto: This little gem was my favorite under-the-radar film of 2005. Combining a fluid visual narrative with an engaging protagonist, Pluto revitalizes the “coming of age” genre with a mischievous glint here and there. The story is essentially a journey—literally and symbolically—where our traveler is in search of love, truth and acceptance (aren’t we all, dear), along the way encountering a colorful tapestry of rockstars and musicians and rather dire circumstances. The film is far from bleak, however, and this can be credited entirely to the core character, whose pure heart and tenacity prevents him…er, her from succumbing to the improbabilities of life. Curious?
5. The Neverending Story: I sometimes find it disturbing to re-watch a classic film from my childhood because inevitably there is a small void that even nostalgia can’t fill. That is because children are horrible film critics. They disregard important dynamics like plot continuity and character development. How is “He’s a poopy face” constructive criticism? I rented The Neverending Story about a year ago after a particularly nasty case of the grumpies, and fully expected to be disappointed. And yes, the special effects were laughable by today’s CG standards, and yes, the Childlike Empress’s voice was shrill and awkward to my adult ears, and yes, Barrett Oliver (Bastian) went on to act in Cocoon: the Return, and yes, I still cried a little when the horse succumbed to the evil swamp, but boy, by the end of the movie it was as though I had transported myself backwards in time, sitting in front of the TV with a giant bowl of Slim Jims and grinning like a tiny fool even as the credits rolled.
So there you go. Five movies that (hopefully) remind us that there are still sweet moments to be had, dreams to be collected, and adventures to seek out. If this doesn’t do it for you, or if you’re quietly laughing/crying in existential pain, then I have nothing left to suggest. Except tequila.