Split Decision: Summer Blockbusters

Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!

This week’s question:

In honor of this week being the “traditional” start of summer movie season, what is your favorite experience watching a summer blockbuster?

Animal House, because it was my first R-Rated film. My mom took my twin and I. We just loved it, even if we didn’t get some of the humor at the time. It was naughty, it was funny, it gave us bragging rights. You never forget your first summer blockbuster.-Gary M. Kramer

For me it has to be Fast Five. At the time of its release I was not what you’d call a fan of the franchise. I had seen the first two films and pieces of the others and had firmly decided that I was above such “low” entertainment. But after seeing the trailer, my roommate at the time demanded that we gather a crew to see it. Not wanting too poo poo on a social event, I went along with it. Come opening night, we had gathered a group ten large and squeezed ourselves into the second row of a packed theater.

A chatty man in the front row almost got in a fight with a dude who politely asked him to stop talking to the movie screen. It was agreed that they’d meet in the bathroom after the film to throw down, but within the next few minutes the chatterbox had fallen asleep and remained that way until the movie ended. What I’m saying is that the crowd was pretty lively.

Against all expectations the movie was a blast. It was so good that it resulted in a reassessment of the series on my end. If you read this site, you know how special the Fast Fambly is to me, and it all began that night.

And that post-credits sting? Delicious. Dan Scully

I will double down on Fast Five- because I saw it at a Drive In movie theatre in Shelton, WA, a small town on the Olympic Penninsula. It was my first time ever going to a drive in movie theatre. I also had not seen the 2nd, 3rd or 4th films in the franchise so I went in quite confused as to why they were still making these movies. My friends and I had a great time though, and we had a pug in the car cuddling with everybody. I will also never forget as long as I live forget how Tyrese responds to the news that he might get $11 million out of their heist. “$11 million? Sounds like a whole lot of vaginal activity to me.”Andy Elijah

Men in Black, one of the only times both my parents and I went to the movies together. I realize that last part may require some background so here we go. Both of my parents genuinely dislike going to a movie theater. Not because they hate movies, but because they hate people. Usually I sympathize but my love of watching film on the big screen requires me to deal. In addition, my parents are also polar opposites when it comes to the types of entertainment they consume. My mom likes a little of everything, but my dad only likes films that give the illusion of reality (historical dramas, etc). Occasionally, if a family-friendly movie was hyped enough, my parents would put their love for me ahead of their own grievances and consider an outing to a theater, all three of us.

So, that’s how we all ended up sitting center-center in a packed theater in the height of summer to watch the much hyped sci-fi alien flick based on a comic book starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Maybe you need to know my parents to understand how amazing this event in our family history truly is. My father, a man who has since claimed the historical inaccuracies of Bridge of Spies soured him on an otherwise delightful viewing experience, went to the theater and watched Will Smith catch a newly delivered alien baby covered in goo. I should also mention that at this time, I had zero interest in seeing this movie. Yes friends, I was dragged to the theater that day by my own misanthropic parents. About five minutes in, I wanted to leave, and my dad, probably relieved in the moment, was ready to oblige. It was my mom who made us stay. And I’m glad she did, because by the end credits, I was loving every minute of it. I also loved that I was in a packed theater full of people also enjoying it. It’s a feeling that despite my being a curmudgeon, I still seek out by going to every Thursday opening screening of a Marvel or Star Wars movie. So thanks mom and dad, for seeing the need, at least that one time, for a family movie outing. It was waaaay better than our trip to see Titanic.–Jill Malcolm

I’ll spare you all the details, because I recently wrote about my experience seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming. Long story short, I saw it at a drive-in movie theatre in Vermont last July and got engaged later that night. Even taking out the incredible end of the evening, the actual film-going experience was wonderful. We were sitting in the bed of an old pick up truck, sipping on beer and wine (respectively—we’re not animals), and we had our two pugs with us. I’ve had other great experiences watching summer blockbusters, but somehow they seem so insignificant by comparison, and I’m okay with that. Catherine Haas

My favorite experience viewing a Summer Blockbuster also happens to coincide with a viewing of my all-time favorite Summer Blockbuster, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, a transcendent, mythic existential thriller and re-adaptation of Georges Arnaud’s “The Wages of Fear”, which had been previously filmed in 1953 by the French maestro, Henri-Georges Clouzot (Les Diaboliques). Despite Sorcerer’s initial failure relegating it to obscurity, partially due to an ill-timed release just weeks prior to the opening of Star Wars and lack of home video presence till 1990, it’s been reappraised as “a lost classic” in recent years, thanks to an immaculate 4K restoration by Warner Bros. following Friedkin’s much-publicized lawsuit against Universal and Paramount over the rights.

Since the late 90s, Sorcerer has remained a major touchstone for my cinephilia. Constantly in circulation on our VCR — the first copy’s spools eventually wore out — what at first seemed like a gritty adventure about men hauling truckloads of unstable nitroglycerin across the jungle quickly became a quintessential cinematic text, a movie whose gestures and ambiance appealed to me on such a basic, instinctual level that it seemed to exemplify cinema (populist or otherwise) at its purest and most primal.

On May 31st, 2014, after taking the long bus ride from Philly to Manhattan, a long-lasting pipe dream became realized at the Film Forum amid their week-long run of Friedkin’s film. In a darkened theater, Sorcerer is evocative to the point of being transportive: the journey chronicled was one that’d been traveled often prior, but the visual scheme (all those vegetative greens and rusty browns, occasionally punctuated by reddish hues from the oil-rig inferno) and aura of doom had rarely registered quite as tactile and elating, their effects no doubt augmented by the magnitude of the screen. And, of course, there’s that unforgettable Tangerine Dream score, a blend of moody drones and pulsating rhythms (the signature “Betrayal” track is an all-time earworm). By the time Sorcerer’s tone transitions from magic realism into a full-on, climactic phantasmagoria, the music’s increasing discordancy unnerves as much as the imagery and Scheider’s psycho-physical desperation. Having now seen Sorcerer on the big screen twice, I can undoubtedly confirm that this experience can indeed be repeated. If it’s playing near you, go see it. If it’s not, watch it at home. If you’ve already seen it, see it again.–

While I loved many movies before this, Jurassic Park is really where my love of film was cemented. It was the first time I was ever anticipating a film before going to see it, not only as the kind of dinosaur-obsessed precocious child that complained about errors to museum exhibits, but also thanks to Disney Adventures magazine, the “Junior Novelization” and the “studio-authorized” Jurassic Park Souvenir Magazine by Topps (which practically fell apart that summer). My mom took me and a friend after we got out of school on the last day of second grade. We went to the theater on Grant Ave in the Northeast and had the experience of a lifetime.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely entranced by a film since then. From the moment the film started to the final shot of them leaving the island, I was on board. I loved every moment of it. Due to some blood and cursing, it felt so mature while still having kids at the center of the narrative, but I loved all the characters, the dinosaurs, the story, the science. To an eight year old me, it felt like it had been made just for me. And I don’t think I’ve ever recovered.–Ryan Silberstein

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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