|Pass the Popcorn!|
With his new film 'Super 8,' JJ Abrams channels the summer movies of his youth. Here are our favorites from that bygone era
By Don Kaye
With his new film "Super 8," writer-director JJ Abrams -- director of 2009's "Star Trek," not to mention the creative force behind "Lost," "Fringe," "Cloverfield" and plenty more -- pays tribute to a certain kind of film that he grew up with: the summer popcorn movie. But not just any summer blockbuster: Abrams deliberately channels the feeling created by movies of the late '70s and most of the '80s, many of which happen to be either directed or produced by Steven Spielberg (who's also a producer on "Super 8"), but most of which shared some common elements.
What was it about the movies from that period of time? They were formative cinematic experiences for many young viewers (this writer included), and while they had their share of scares, thrills and sad moments, there was also a certain optimism and innocence that fueled them. Perhaps it was the superficial gloss of the Reagan era -- even though we all know now that the Reagan Administration kicked off a steady decline of American life over the last three decades, But that awareness had not yet filtered into the movies we were watching at the time, which were themselves a response to the turbulence and cynicism of the '60s and '70s.
"Super 8" has all the ingredients necessary for a summer movie from, say, 1985: a group of young protagonists on the cusp of their teen years, tentatively looking at romance and adulthood; a bucolic small-town setting; a mysterious menace on the loose; and a government agency that could be either friend or foe. Those elements were part of many of the movies that Spielberg and others created for eager young moviegoers like Abrams. Does "Super 8" recapture the feeling of those films successfully? That remains to be seen. But here's a guide to 14 of the movies that, in one way or another, were the parents of "Super 8."