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Five American Movie Gems to Screen During Your Summer BBQ

Five stunning films perfectly tailored for outdoor viewing pleasure.

Boogie Nights (1997)

Obviously, the wondrous, white-powdered rise and crushing, strung-out fall of America's cinematic porn industry is the ideal way to celebrate this country's independence. Even with its darker impulses firmly intact, Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights remains a lavish, lightheaded experience with an unbeatable soundtrack and eye-popping visual entryways into a fleeting porno utopia of shag carpets, flame-orange Corvettes, neon night havens, and blissed-out poolside partygoers. Turn it off before the party dies, unless you're too seduced to press pause.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

You can watch Dazed and Confused with the sound on or off and still be totally taken in by the mere look and feel of Richard Linklater's spry, sly, and nostalgic summer-set homage to his Ford-era high school years. But even then, you run the risk of missing out on a sweeping soundtrack of irresistible seventies hits from the likes of Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Foghat. Dazed is still as snug as a pair of form-fitting jeans and as sentimental a portrait of period-specific Americana as American Graffiti, sans the sugary excesses of that earlier film. You'll laugh, you'll sigh, you'll smell the cannabis through the screen.

Easy Rider (1969)

Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider is a landmark piece of envelope-pushing countercultural cinema that often feels less like a film than it does an extended, vivid snapshot of America as a vast and glorious roadway. It's immediately clear in that instantly-iconic opening credits sequence, during which Hopper and co-star Peter Fonda mount their stars-and-stripes motorbikes to the tune of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” that Hopper is less interested in telling a fully-realized story than he is in mapping out a lush and visually-poignant journey. So, sit back, relax, and head out on that highway.

Funny Girl (1968)

I know, one of these films is not like the other. And, honestly, almost any musical would do the trick. But in my viewing history, Funny Girl, while not exactly a great movie, has nonetheless proven to be an unusually great uniter: just try to sit through "Don't Rain on My Parade" or "My Man" or "People" or "I'm the Greatest Star" without humming or head-bopping or flat-out, full-belt singing. The costumes are Technicolored dazzlers, the musical numbers are all showstoppers, and Barbra Streisand-as-Fanny Brice, an American icon playing a preceding American icon, is eternally beyond words. Bask in the awe-inspiring glare of Babs' star wattage, and celebrate any country that gives us a talent like her.

Spring Breakers (2013)

Sure, Harmony Korine's dirty, dazzling, bikini-clad odyssey is about four fun-seeking friends whose "innocent" spring break takes an illicit turn involving James Franco's witty, whacked-out Riff Raff copycat. But it's also an ingenious and remarkably-made meditation on the squalid costs of debauched American vapidity. Not that heavy thinking is a requirement, though. The sound design drowns out the dialogue and amps up the Skrillex and Britney tracks to transfixing levels of sonic perfection while Benoît Debie's expressive, sun-baked images, made of equal parts grittiness and Day-Glo, make for perfect summertime viewing. Spring break forever, even during the summer.



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