CWRU film buffs name their summer movie picks

As temperatures spike, it might be time to cool off with a good movie.

Some of Case Western Reserve University’s movie buffs—Robert Spadoni film professor in the English department, Bradley Ricca from the SAGES program, and Louis Giannetti, an emeritus professor of film—offered their top summer viewing picks, from new releases to old classics.


Spadoni Goes to the Movies
Let’s start with Spadoni, the author of Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre, who’s teaching Introduction to Film this fall. He recommends:

Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu, 1951): Ozu made many great films, but this is my favorite. His famously restrained, even austere style, lets the characters, and the desperate sadness of their situations, quietly seep in.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010): This film is a fascinating look at the contemporary art world. Many have asked if this is really the documentary it seems to be or an elaborately staged fiction. If the elusive artist and filmmaker Banksy is putting us on, this only adds another layer to his exposé.

Wild Boys of the Road (William Wellman, 1933): A Depression-era film in which the widespread fear, and courage, of people in the face of scarcity, especially of jobs, is palpable. Teenagers, knowing their families can no longer provide for them, strike out on their own, banding together as they encounter harsh social realities that the film does not shy away from presenting. It’s a small, moving film.

Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947): The atmosphere is wonderfully dark and seedy. Carnival geeks make for a disturbing and uncomfortable subject, and symbol, in any movie, and not just one from the more genteel days of the studio era. The oily charmer played by Tyrone Power gets exactly what’s coming to him, but this doesn’t make his hellish descent any easier to watch.

Ricca’s Picks:
Ricca, producer of the award-winning documentary The Last Son and forthcoming book Super Boys, about the creators of Superman, knows his superheroes that leap off the comic pages onto the big screen. His recommendations:

Super 8 traps itself into its own ending, but this wonderful homage to ’80s Spielberg is sad, nostalgic and has the best kids’ dialogue since The Goonies. If you grew up nerdy in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, it is a must-see.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon might have been mauled by critics (yet still making millions), but the last 50 minutes of this movie turn into a hybrid war/monster movie that  effectively erases the line between reality and special effects. It’s the very definition of a popcorn summer movie.

X-men: First Class has some very entertaining performances in a comic book movie based only remotely on the actual comics. It boasts ’60s set design at its finest. You will want to turn evil just to have a submarine with mirrors in it.

Thor is very funny, has lots of action and gets an A+ for making an extra-dimensional city of godlike beings make some sort of weird narrative sense. Perfect for non-comics geeks, see it (along with the upcoming, more dramatic-looking Captain America) to lead into The Avengers, which will be shooting in Cleveland soon.

I’ll use my fifth pick to tell about a movie NOT to see: Green Lantern. Just. don’t. Go see Kung-fu Panda 2, which is 1,000 times better.

Other picks this summer: Trollhunter and Beats, Rhymes, and Life.

Giannetti’s Choices
Giannetti, the best-selling author of the popular college film text Understanding Movies, offers his viewing choices.

The Tree of Life: If you want something challenging and intellectually stimulating, you can’t do better than Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. The film has flaws—mostly due to its enormous ambition—but it also contains some thrilling scenes. Very mythic, philosophical and visually stunning,

Midnight in Paris has garnered Woody Allen some excellent reviews. It’s not very deep or profound, but it’s fun and silly and enjoyable, with an excellent cast, headed by Owen Wilson.

Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, is another fun movie that would appeal to virtually everyone.

For the last two, head to the Cinematheque at the Cleveland Institute of Art, which is showing two excellent movies this summer that might appeal to more thoughtful moviegoers:

Certified Copy (Aug. 18) was written and directed by one of Iran’s greatest filmmakers, Abbas Kiarostami, who is often criticized, banned and vilified by the ayatollahs in charge, mostly because he thinks independently. He made the movie in Italy, where he’s had a much freer hand than he would have in his native country.

Yol (Aug. 28) by the late and great Turkish filmmaker, Yilmaz Güney, is an examination of how people in Turkey (especially women) are oppressed by the government there. This film won the top prize in the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.


Whether it’s a new release or a classic, summer is a great time to check out a good movie.