"(500) Days of Summer"
"(500) Days of Summer"

As far as movie studios are concerned, summer already started seven weeks ago when "Iron Man 3" opened. But technically, summer officially begins this Friday with summer solstice. So Indiewire decided to honor the real first weekend of the season by asking out trusty summer interns -- Casey Cipriani, Clint Holloway, Madeline Raynor, Julia Selinger and Ben Travers -- what their favorite summer-themed indie films were and why. Here's 8 of their choices:

"(500) Days of Summer" - directed by Marc Webb; written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webber
This unconventional romantic comedy focuses on Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a melancholy greeting card writer who falls hard for quirky co-worker Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The film non-linearly traces their 500 day relationship, so while there's plenty of summer sunshine, the dregs of winter also hit the screen as well as their relationship.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, still emerging from a semi-obscurity since the end of "3rd Rock from the Sun," introduced some adorable, swoon-worthy qualities that solidified him as a hipster dreamboat. Pre-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel gets her quirk on as that girl everyone knows who all the boys fall for because they're artistic, beautiful and, most importantly, don't believe in love. The prominent soundtrack of the film included many-a summery folk tune from the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and Hall & Oates, as well as Deschanel's own "She & Him" retro duo with M. Ward.

But the reason why "(500) Days of Summer" resonated with so many was its universal way of looking back at past relationships. Pretty much everyone has gone through a rough breakup--possibly with the person who you thought you'd end up with. And like Tom, we tend to look back at the best parts, wallow in yearning for what we lost, and neglect to recall any obvious signs that the relationship might not work. As Tom's little sister, Rachel says, "I think you're just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I really think you should look again."  [Casey Cipriani]

“Brokeback Mountain” - directed by Ang Lee; written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana
While many summer movies are filled with fun and folly, Ang Lee’s unjustly snubbed Best Picture nominee may be the most intense and substantive depiction of summer love ever put to celluloid. The heartbreaking 1960s-set story focuses on Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two ranchers hired to care for a herd of sheep over the summer in the mountains of Wyoming. Love overtakes our young couple, and the dogs end up babysitting the sheep while Jack and Ennis stem the rose.

A romance spanning many miles and many decades ensues with our summer lovers kept apart by societal pressure and romantic misunderstanding. Heath Ledger is simply astonishing as the tight-lipped Del Mar, a confused and scared roughian whose repressed feelings erupt in fiery fits of passion. He and Gyllenhaal establish a compelling chemistry, and it’s a testament to young Jake’s acting chops he could make the line, “I wish I knew how to quit you,” a cultural touchstone and not a national joke. Look elsewhere for lighthearted summer fare, but don’t pass on revisiting “Brokeback Mountain” this summer if you’re ready for it. [Ben Travers]

- directed by Spike Lee; written by Spike Lee, Cinqué Lee and Joie Lee
Released five years after "Do the Right Thing" (listed below on this article), "Crooklyn" sees Lee taking a lighter and overtly autobiographical approach in portraying his beloved Brooklyn borough, having collaborated on the script with his two real-life sisters. The film captures the summer of 1973 as seen through the hectic household of the Carmichael family, which consists of five children (sister Troy and four brothers Clinton, Wendell, Nate, and Joseph), their mother Carolyn (played by Alfre Woodard) and their father Woody (Delroy Lindo). While Woody's struggle to be a musician leaves Carolyn struggling to pay the bills with her substitute teaching, Troy is trying to make sense of herself and grow up amidst so much testosterone.

Like "Do the Right Thing," Lee injects every frame of the film with a raw and lived-in credibility. "Crooklyn" perfectly captures the nostalgic essence of what it feels like to be a kid during the summer; giddily exempt from the responsibilities of school, Troy and her brothers partake in the joyful aimlessness of sitting around and playing games on their stoop or staying up past their bedtime to watch "The Partridge Family." The film eventually sneaks up on the viewer and gets serious, while still managing to unfold with the haziness and ephemerality of a summertime daydream. [Clint Holloway]

“Dazed and Confused”

- directed and written by Richard Linklater
After almost 20 years as the quintessential non-”Grease” tale of summer love, summer nights, and rock n’ roll, it’s virtually impossible to get through June, July, and August without thinking of RIchard LInklater’s 1970s-set classic. Most people probably pop it in at home or, ideally, catch it at an outdoor screening as the sun sets, lightning bugs emerge, and stars sparkle high above. There are plenty of stars to be seen onscreen as well. Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson will live forever (and keep hitting on high school girls for just as long), but it’s particularly entertaining to watch Ben Affleck as the vengeance seeking bully O’Bannion. Never has the actor appeared more dynamic than when contrasting his roles as the tactful hero in “Argo” and the paddle-wielding tyrant in “Dazed and Confused.”

Still, a defining aspect of Linklater’s film -- especially in regard to the blissful summer months -- remains its impeccable soundtrack. It’s hard to imagine a better collection to have blasting as you cruise around your hometown in your 4:11 Positrac outback during summer break. From “Sweet Emotion” to “Free Ride,” “Dazed and Confused” captured an impressive number of classic rock songs as well as a few (formerly) underappreciated gems. More importantly, though, the film lives and breathes the music it celebrates. The music and film just keep livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N. [Ben Travers]