All the best movies from the last few months hit the same kind of emotions. “Mud,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “This Is the End,” “Man of Steel,” “The Heat,” “The Way Way Back,” “The Spectacular Now” — these have been truly sentimental films that have in many ways forced us to look a little inward. Especially now, at the start of what is, for many of us, the last eight months of our Yale career.
This is probably because so many of them were “coming-of-age” tales, in some manner or another. “Mud” is the one most people forget, with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon teaming up with two kids named Ellis and Neckbone to drop a Southern slice of adolescent insecurity. “The Way Way Back” goes in a different direction, playing up the awkward kid/asshole stepfather dynamic to a tee. And “The Spectacular Now,” probably the best of the whole bunch, charts the journey of a lovable high school senior unwilling to take anything seriously.
Still though, it’s too easy talking about this particular subsection. (Becca Edelman ’14 already did a bang-up piece last week doing most of the heavy lifting.) But if you, like me, are caught now in that hazy funk just at the outset of what is your final year of college, you’re probably going to find something a little more profound in this bevy of self-proclaimed popcorn flicks.
These are films about youth and youthful passions. As everything starts to unravel around them, our two little boys from “Mud” begin to understand something truly important: the capacity to love. “The Way Way Back” and “The Spectacular Now,” both comedies, also deal with that young kind of love — the mushy puppy stuff that, whether you’re 14 or 21 or 35, is almost more real because of how much it can hurt when you’re not expecting the rug to get pulled out from under you.
Even the summer’s best movies that weren’t strictly “coming-of-age” somehow dealt with the concept. “The Great Gatsby” is a clear example: Jay’s doomed romance with Daisy is something of a cautionary tale about falling for someone whose mentality is starkly out of touch with your own. And I’d make the case that “Man of Steel” is about the same thing, just with superheroes.
Neither can we forget about the bromances. “This Is the End” is absurd and hilarious. Seth Rogan’s friendship with Jay Baruchel goes straight to the core of youthful idiocy, in effect warming the hearts of anyone who’s ever had a best friend who drove them absolutely bonkers. Same with “The Heat” — Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy might as well be schoolchildren.
What’s amazing is that childish wonder even manifested itself in the mainstream summer hits, with “Star Trek Into Darkness” without a doubt the most significant. Here, the 47-year-old director J.J. Abrams poured himself into the production of something firmly rooted in his past. His next project? “Star Wars: Episode VII.”
That’s the thing about Summer ’13: It has been a reflective period for the movies. It’s like when “Toy Story 3” came out right after my high school graduation. Two or three buddies and I sat in the back of the theater with the sides of our faces cradled against our hands so no one else could see how teary-eyed we were all getting. And why were we all getting so teary-eyed? Because cinema’s Summer ’10 just clicked for us.
Now, I’m a college senior. I’ve had this column for two years, hopefully going on three. I’ve seen a few cycles of editors. I’ve watched a ludicrous amount of movies. From May to now, we’ve been smacked over the head with a slew of great movies that all really get you thinking about the big WHAT’S NEXT. And if you’re a humanities major on financial aid, that can become a pretty terrifying question pretty quickly.
So why not turn to the movies for a little help? Mud, Ellis, Neckbone, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Captain Kirk, Superman, Sutter Keely and even James Franco — these are some of the characters to take with you as many of us move into our final Yale autumn.
And even if this summer didn’t provide the blockbuster punch that last year threw away like candy corns the day after Halloween, we still got a helluva crop — one that makes you think about how exactly you want to spend this next year. Toad’s or Science Hill? Box or East Rock? Old Campus or Wooster Square? These are the kinds of movies that say it doesn’t matter which one you pick. Just stand by, have fun and enjoy it for what it is while you still got the chance.