"Do the Right Thing" - written and directed by Spike Lee
One could argue that there is no other film that captures the season in such an urgent, ferocious way. Spike Lee's 1989 landmark film captures a single hot-as-hell day in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Mookie (Lee) lives and works as a pizza delivery man, making his way through a web of local characters, from his vivacious girlfriend Tina (Rosie Perez) to his boss' racist son Pino (John Turturro). As the afternoon comes to an end, tensions within the block quite literally reach a boiling point, ensuring that nothing will ever quite be the same from then on.
While the temporal setting serves as a direct manifestation of socio-political messages, "Do the Right Thing" also succeeds as an impressively authentic portrayal of what it feels like in the summertime. It seems as if Spike Lee knows every inch of the Stuyvesant Avenue where the film takes place, with him inviting into a world where you can practically smell the dough from the nearby pizzeria and feel the sweat on your skin and the mild, woozy agitation, which scorches the screen by the film's end. [Clint Holloway]
“Wet Hot American Summer” - Directed by David Wain; Written by David Wain and Michael Showalter
Everyone wants to go back to summer camp; the days are long, the barbeques are endless, and the campfires never go out. So that’s exactly what David Wain, Michael Showalter and company did in 2001. Taking place on the last day of camp in 1981, "Wet Hot American Summer" is a nod to the late-70s and early-80s camp movie cycles that came before, including such wonderfully schlocky gems as "Meatballs," "Little Darlings," and "Space Camp," not to mention a slew of camp-centered slasher flicks. As if the era-specific references weren’t enough, "Wet Hot"’s creators were well aware of what the average summer camp attendee looked like in 1981: nerdy trapper-keeper toting middle class Jewish kids. As such, the film achieves a very era and culture-specific cult status; references to Spacelab and Dungeons and Dragons abound, while the cast dons an impressive swath of early-80s trends, such as feathered hair, short shorts, and blazing white knee socks.
And what a cast it was. The film features common Wain/Showalter collaborators, such as Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio, all of whom had worked together on MTV sketch-comedy show “The State.” But Wet Hot also features performances by actors who have since been catapulted to fame: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks co-star, all playing, it should be mentioned, characters ten years their junior.
Replete with tongue-in-cheek references to trite camp movie tropes, "Wet Hot" is part absurdist, part wistful nostalgia, the perfect mix to sate your longing for summer camp. And for those of you looking to go back to Camp Firewood one more time, rumor has it there is a prequel in the works. [Julia Selinger]