What I saw this summer

Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

Over the summer, I made up for all the movies I didn’t see during the fall and spring semesters of my junior year and watched them all in a span of roughly six weeks.

I also didn’t just stick to movies: I watched documentary series, HBO specials, good old-fashion TV shows and read a decent amount. While I could go into all of those, I’m going to stick to movies, the medium I think about the most.

But allow me one quick side note to say that Ken Burn’s PBS documentary series “The Roosevelts” is an astonishing piece of work, and if you have around 12 hours to kill, it’s a worthy thing to keep you occupied.

The first movie I saw in the six week bonanza of films was “Rocketman,” a biopic that tells that tumultuous life story of rock star Elton John. Taron Edgerton and Richard Madden are superb, and while some of the song and dance didn’t land, it was magic when it did.

In particular, the scene where the title song is played was a stroke of artistic and visual excellence. Leaving the theater I just imagined if “Bohemian Rhapsody” had been made with that same kind of flare and honesty, because that would have made the haphazard film incredible.

But two days later, I saw a movie that beat “Rocketman” in the arbitrary rankings of movies I was planning to watch: “Toy Story 4.” I admit, I was skeptical heading into the theater. I was worried I was about to watch a rehash of “Finding Dory,” or worse, “Cars 2.” But instead, I was shown the movie I believe Pixar has been wanting to make since they came up with the idea of a talking-toy movie.

From the plot, to the design, to the detail and to the perfect ending, “Toy Story 4” was Pixar at its best, plucking the harp of emotion just right and not succumbing to the same flaws that deflated their past sequels.

After that week of cinematic wonder, I watched a batch of OK-to-good movies. “Drinking Buddies” was a fun movie that stayed in its comfort zone well. “The Big Sick” had emotional heft but at times dragged, and “Good Time” unfortunately did not live up to the hype that Pete Davidson and every other New Yorker had formed around it.

I rewatched “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” and again I am left searching for a film that deals better with the idea of loss, fear of growing up and death.

I stumbled through “The Lost City of Z,” the entire time wishing I had just watched “Cheers” for the hundredth time. But then I watched maybe one of the best films of the year, “Booksmart.”

I have always been a sucker for a high school movie. It’s a subsection of film full of potential that oftentimes fails to attain its ambitions. That being said, films like “Superbad,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “The Edge of Seventeen” capture the humor, anxiety and growth of high school to create entertaining and reminiscent time capsules of the strangest fours years in one’s life (at least in my case).

But “Booksmart” does more that that. It reminded me in some ways of “Lady Bird” and how refreshing that movie was. I didn’t feel like I was watching some fifty year-old’s idea of what high school is like for teens now — I felt like I was watching a reenactment of someone’s diary, a perfect retelling of someone’s finals moments of teenage ignorance.

In “Booksmart,” we follow the final weekend of high school for best friends Amy and Molly, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. We watch them come to realize that their relentless push to get into Ivy League schools has curtailed another part of high school that everyone else around them has relished in: being a teenager.

Throughout the movie the audience is able to see the most intimate and formative moments of these two wonderfully written characters. Director and co-writer Olivia Wilde captured a remarkable rendition of 21st-century high school, listening to the voice of a generation she isn’t a part of and, as a result, created one of the year’s best films. No part of the film felt superfluous, and I spent the car ride home trying to convince my father of the film’s brilliance (he wasn’t convinced).

I saw so many movies this summer, and while many stood out, I haven’t stopped thinking about “Booksmart.”

I still listen to the soundtrack and will be buying my tickets to Olivia Wilde’s next film months in advance. Above all, what “Booksmart” did for me was give me hope in Hollywood again, and a belief that there are directors, actresses and actors who care about making good movies and capturing the spontaneity and variety of life.

I hope everyone watched a movie like that this summer and if you didn’t, watch “Booksmart.” I guarantee it will make you smile.