Movies to Watch Over 4th of July
With the 4th of July arriving this week, Seattle Film Critics recommend some of the movies they think are best viewed over his patriotic American holiday.
Erik Samdahl – FilmJabber / @filmjabber
Sure, it’s a little long and some of the characters are a bit cheesy, but wow, I remember how mind-blowing the initial destruction sequence was on the big screen. Independence Day is still a blast to watch to this day and delivers some of the best destruction and alien invasion sequences put to film. Endless amounts of CGI and improved visual effects over the years haven’t changed Independence Day’s standing, which is pretty impressive given that the movie’s best known for explosions.
Independence Day also makes me long for the days when Will Smith was at the top of his game and churning out reliably entertaining action films. Oh well.
Aaron White – Feelin’ Film / @feelinfilmaaron
This is why I love movies. They can transport me to a place where I’m smiling, laughing, and crying all over the span of a couple of hours. Every time that I watch this film I am pulled into the story. I’m invested. I care. It’s a memorable experience. That is why Independence Day is an all-time great for me. Not because the acting is perfect or the plot is riveting and complex. But because I care when a child suffers a loss. I care when a couple, or father and son, struggle with relationship history and are reconciled. I care when I see a President lead by example and make the most inspiring patriotic speech in cinematic history, which brings me to tears every… single… time. It may not be an Oscar-worthy masterpiece, but Independence Day is a defining part of my personal history with film that reminds me of nights spent watching it on repeat with my Dad over the 4th of July holiday.
Sean Gilman – Seattle Screen Scene / @TheEndofCinema
Ruggles of Red Gap. I can’t think of a better 4th of July movie than Leo McCarey’s 1935 Ruggles of Red Gap, starring Charles Laughton as a very proper English butler who is won in a poker game by a cantankerous zillionaire and shipped off with him to the wilds of the state of Washington. Laughton eventually succumbs to America’s charms, its basic realness and small town virtues and all the ideals we like tell ourselves we stand for, right up to the point that, after no one else in the local tavern can recall what Lincoln said at Gettysburg (a battle fought from July 1-3), recites the full Address in a scene stirring enough to sway even the most self-critical American.
Sara Michelle Fetters – MovieFreak.com / @MovieFreakSara
Miss Firecracker. It’s hard not to go with the most obvious choice here, 1943’s classic biography of musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandee. Directed by Michael Curtiz and starring James Cagney in the role that won him an Academy Award, the movie is a justifiably celebrated energetic joy overflowing in exuberantly exhilarating charm. It lives up to its status as a classic, and without question is one of my all-time favorite musicals.
It’s equally difficult not to go in an entirely difficult direction and go with Steven Spielberg’s landmark 1975 classic Jaws. This movie has been making people afraid to dip their toe in the bathtub let alone think about swimming in the ocean for over four decades now, this monumentally influential Great White Shark of a thriller in no need of a bigger boat as far as 4th of July entertainment value is concerned.
But I’m going to go with 1989’s absolutely phenomenal Holly Hunter comedy Miss Firecracker as my film of choice for this particular holiday. Adapted from her own award-winning play by Beth Henley and directed by Thomas Schlamme, this wonderful, slightly forgotten gem is certifiably terrific. Hunter reprises the role she originated on the stage portraying a small town “hot tamale” Mississippi nobody who enters the annual Miss Firecracker Pageant convinced that, if she wins, her life will change forever. Also in the cast are Mary Steenburgen, Scott Glenn, Alfre Woodard and Tim Robbins, the Southern Gothic charms of this satirically observant comedy bringing out the best in all of them.
Henley’s script is marvelous, unafraid to go for the emotional jugular but does so with a playful gracefulness that treats all of her eccentric characters with a level of tenderness and respect that’s wonderful. It’s rare Glenn gets the opportunity to be this relaxed on-screen, let alone is cast as the laidback romantic lead, and he more than rises to the occasion. Steenburgen is also sensational, her crack comedic timing on full display throughout the story. Woodward and Robbins are also outstanding, the former bringing a particular unhurried warmth to the proceedings that’s divine.
But this is Hunter’s show, and she’s incredible. This performance, coming fast on the heels of her spellbinding turns in Raising Arizona andBroadcast News, is whirligig of emotional authenticity that’s startling in its magnitude and intensity. In a comedy that works overtime to poke and jab at the obvious supercilious excesses beauty pageants are built upon, not once does Hunter present her character as anything less than genuine. She is not an object of ridicule or pity, her search for acceptance and love against all odds one that’s impossible not to relate to. Miss Firecracker is a late ‘80s favorite deserving of being rediscovered by today’s audiences, the 4th of July holiday as good a time as any to light the fireworks in order for this to happen.
Matt Oakes – Silver Screen Riot / @SSRdotcom / SSR on Facebook
Jurassic Park. Ironic that as Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom (which I fully believe to be the worst movie I’ve seen in 2018) dominates the box office, I still look back in grand admiration at what Spielberg managed with his OG dino outing with 1993’s Jurassic Park. And what better way to celebrate the birthday of a crumbling empire than with a T-Rex tearing a shitting lawyer to pieces? Jurassic Park, like Jaws before it, is a movie made for watching under the stars, munching popcorn and slugging crisp summer ale, ogling an oversized outdoor screen (or an old fashion drive-in, were you to be extremely lucky); it’s the cinematic equivalent of fireworks and, despite its wretched sequels, remains one of the greatest summer blockbusters ever made.