Days of Summer #7: John Milius’ “Big Wednesday” (1978)

BW1In my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.

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Big Wednesday (1978, Dir: John Milius)

Big Wednesday follows the trials and tribulations of 60’s surfer bums Matt (Jan Michael Vincent), Jack (William Katt), and Leroy “The Masochist” Smith (Gary Busey of course) as their lives slowly drift into different directions in the wake of the Vietnam War and the steady march of time.  A flop during its original release and largely panned at the time for being grandiose and self-important in a way only director John Milius (Red Dawn) can manage, the years have been fairly kind to this beautiful and deeply flawed surfer epic.

Milius intended this to be kind of a novelistic coming-of-age tale, complete with a syrupy narration from Robert Englund and a sweeping orchestral score from Basil Poledouris, but a lot of this falls flat. When the film isn’t trying to win an Oscar or hit you over the head with its profound hammer, it’s actually a great deal of fun and rather poignant in places. The dizzying surf cinematography is stunning, the performances are memorable, and the episodic structure of the movie makes for some great standalone scenes, including our heroes’ wild (and beautifully non-PC) attempts to fake out the draft board.

Best Way to Watch: Rent a copy from Le Video and enjoy a stroll down Ocean Beach to get you in the mood.

Best Paired with:  Everybody chugs cans of Olympia in this movie, which can be found in bulk at your nearest Whole Foods, but Matt’s rampant and ugly alcoholism in this film may induce you to switch to Hawaiian Punch halfway through.

Further Viewing: As good as it is, Big Wednesday is just the second best surfer film co-starring Gary Busey. Go ahead, watch Point Break again. You know you want to.

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