Films with Michael: Creating a summer mood

Liftfilm expert Michael Gendron gives some film recommendations to get you in the summer mood.

We're almost there; bright sunshine, warmer weather, live music heard from all over town. It's just summer. It doesn't take much to get me in the summer spirit, but a good movie never hurts. Below are some of my summer favorites.

Dazed and confused

The year is 1976 and a group of Texas teenagers are about to head out for the first night of summer vacation. Richard Linklater's nostalgic classic Dazed and confused is the ultimate summer hanging out movie. It has everything you need: baseball, new friends, a party, and the knowledge that next school year will be really different. Along with a road trip-ready soundtrack full of '70s classics from Fog Hat, Alice Cooper, Rick Derringer, and more, this film is also filled to the brim with faces seen before they were famous, like Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, and perhaps most famously, Matthew McConaughey, who just puts on one iconic performance after another. Confusion is available to rent on most digital platforms, is currently streaming on MGM+, Showtime, and the Criterion Channel, or you can purchase it on Blu-ray or UHD.


My next summer favorite is, well, Summer out of Lawrence of Arabia Director David Lean. A woman in her fifties, played by Katherine Hepburn, finally takes the Venice vacation she's always dreamed of, but finds it's not quite the life-fulfilling experience she'd hoped for – until she meets an Italian shopkeeper. There's a beautiful melancholy at play here, as Hepburn's lonely character grapples with whether she's embarking on an autumn romance in her life or if it's just a summer fling. Best of all, it's all set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice and, pardon the cliche, the city is as important here as any character. A great look at our expectations of experiences and the potentially transformative possibilities of a getaway. Summer is available to rent on most digital platforms, is currently streaming on Max and the Criterion Channel, and there is also an absolutely stunning Blu-ray from Criterion.

Love and mercy

For generations, the music of the Beach Boys has been a staple of summer and “fun, fun fun,” but the story of the band and its creative leader Brian Wilson is far more complex than songs about surfing and racing your dad’s car. If you recently watched the new documentary about the band on Disney+ and want to continue your Beach Boys immersion, then 2014’s Love and mercy is one of the best music biopics ever made. It tells the story of Brian Wilson at two pivotal moments in his life. First we have Wilson, played by Paul Dano, during his efforts in the 1960s to create the monolith that is the album Pet Sounds and its failed follow-up Smile. It contains the best scenes of music creation I have ever seen in a film. John Cusack then takes over Brian Wilson's duties in the 1980s, where we have another story of a blossoming middle-aged summer love rescuing a lost and in this case badly exploited person. The 60s summer vibe is impeccable and for me at least, love, music and summer are the perfect trifecta. Love and mercy is available to rent digitally, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Starz and Tubi, and is also available on Blu-ray.

Jaws 3D

Finally, we arrive at the best summer movie of all time and the film that started the summer blockbuster trend almost 50 years ago. The White shark. However, I do not have to tell you that you will see The White shark. Either you've already seen it, or people have been telling you your whole life to watch it. So, watch it. No, we're watching one of the sequels that was reviled for almost as long as the original was celebrated. I'm here to tell you Jaws 3D is actually good. Like the The horror of the Amazon Franchise before it, this sequel brings the action to a water park in Florida and also like the The horror of the Amazon franchise, this time in 3D. I think this film is hated for two reasons. First, the original is a perfectly timed and filmed masterpiece from perhaps the most famous Hollywood director, Steven Spielberg. Jaws 3D is certainly not a Steven Spielberg film. Second, most people haven't been able to see it in 3D for the last four decades. In 2D, all the gimmicky shots look more silly than funny. However, if you ever get a chance to see the film in its newly restored state, either at a special theatrical screening or on 3D Blu-ray with a 3D TV or VR headset, I highly recommend it. An incredibly entertaining disaster movie with effects that make it feel like an amusement park ride in every way. It's big and fun – just like a summer movie should be!