BY Jackson Cropper
A lot of things happened this summer. Powerful superhero families saved the world from a dangerous impending doom, space swindlers blasted their way to victory, and big dinosaurs wreaked havoc on innocent tourist to wrap up a large and hectic summer of movies. While there were plenty of big blockbusters to watch this summer, many smaller films that were well worth a watch might have been drowned out by all of the A-list actors and explosions. Here are four films recommended by Jenks students that may have slipped your radar during your summer vacation, and may just be some of the best movies of the year.
1: Eighth Grade
While you might know Bo Burnham from his acclaimed stand-up comedy specials what. and Make Happy, you might not know that his directorial debut coming of age comedy Eighth Grade was released during the busy summer months. This charming and true-to-life film is about a normal girl, named Kayla, going through the transitional period between middle school and high school in all of its excruciating awkwardness. Even though we’ve seen many coming-of-age stories in recent years (like Lady Bird, Sing Street, and Love, Simon) this film stands out from the rest by being the most realistic depiction of modern day teenagers we have perhaps ever seen on film. Jenks junior, Faith Christner, found the film very relatable.
“Usually, teenage films are too far-fetched,” says Christner. “As the movie progressed it made me think of times/memories I had that were like what Kayla was going through. I found myself laughing a lot, because of how real it was and how I could see myself doing the exact same things.”
While plenty of horror movies came out this summer (The First Purge, Slenderman, and The Meg) many found them to be by the books and pretty average, but one film stood out among the rest to be completely original and painstakingly horrifying. Hereditary is the directorial debut of the visionary newcomer Ari Aster. The film is about a family in the beginning stages of grief that is repeatedly haunted by disturbing and tragic events that slowly tear apart the family dynamics at its seams. Utterly suspenseful and masterfully crafted, Hereditary grabs your attention from the start and holds it in a place that feels unearthly. Samantha Cotterman, a Jenks senior, holds it near and dear to her heart.
“I was raised on action and suspense movies,” says Cotterman. “True suspense is kind of a dying art. Jump scares and murder mysteries can only be interesting for so long before the entire genre gets burnt out. Hereditary was incredibly refreshing to watch. It was unpredictable, unsettling, and set the bar super high for future films of the same genre.”
It’s no secret that we live in a country that is having to deal with some rough social and political issues, and in the turmoil of all the madness, sometimes it’s best to take a look at how we dealt with our past. That’s exactly what Spike Lee (director of Do The Right Thing and Inside Man) decided to do with his latest “joint”, BlacKkKlansman. The film is about a 1970’s African-American cop who successfully infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan and becomes head of their local chapter. Tongue-and-cheek in execution and shifting tonally throughout, BlacKkKlansman brings some of the craziest tension in a movie this year. Not only will the movie make you laugh, but it’ll make you think as well due to it’s zany and abrupt commentary.
“The film means a lot to me because it goes into how bad racism is,” says senior Halle Frieden, “and I really believe in equality and diversity. This movie is worth seeing because its story has a bigger meaning than other movies do. The very end of the film really made me think and feel for America.”
4: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
In a summer with action-packed blockbusters like Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Ant-Man and the Wasp it might seem kind of odd that my favorite film I saw this summer was a documentary. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a beautiful biography about the ordained minister, Fred Rogers, who revolutionized children’s educational entertainment by turning it into a ministry of his own. While I remember watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a child, I don’t remember a whole lot, so it’s okay if you see this film without any prior knowledge on who Mr. Rogers was. I went into the theatre expecting to see what I already knew- that Mr. Roger’s was a kind and loving man, but instead of seeing only a representation of his onscreen character, I saw a human being. You get to see Fred struggle first hand with his own self-doubt and anxiety in such an authentic way. It struck me that someone I look up to as a hero struggled so much, but could make such a difference in people’s lives just by loving them purely for who they are. The film is like a warm blanket of acceptance that swaddles you up and showers you with hope. What Mr. Roger’s spent his entire life teaching may seem simple, but it’s exactly what we need to hear right now- that there’s no reason for you to be perfect in order to receive love.
Even though Hereditary may be out of theatres by now, Eighth Grade, BlacKkKlansman, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? are still playing at Tulsa’s independently owned theatre Circle Cinema. If you are looking to catch future films that are on a smaller scale just like these make sure to look there too! Here’s a helpful link to get you started!