Rise & Shine
Too Darned Hot:
10 Southern Films to Get You Through the Dog Days in Air-Conditioned Comfort
They’re here – the dog days of summer. The rest of the country goes hermetic in the dead of winter, but here, we hibernate in August and September, when Sunday afternoons spent poolside suddenly feel reminiscent of a day in the swamp, complete with mosquitoes. Salted, slick skin is an inevitability, and the summer sun radiates through our doorways like a hazard.
So we retreat to the calming breeze of the ceiling fans and the low hum of our air-conditioners. We daydream of autumn. And while we wait for the world to cool around us we lose ourselves in movies. Here in the South, lazy weekend afternoons spent watching a movie can prove to be the only viable escape when we’ve returned from our vacations and await the end of summer heat.
A glance at our little queue of 10 great films about the South may reveal some intentional omissions on our end. (We’re looking at you, “Gone With the Wind.”) And while we love Gump, Shelby and Ninny just as much as anyone, we feel it’s important to give some other stories time to shine. Here we’ve rallied some Southern movies that defy clichés and archetypes.
The truth of the matter is, the stubborn mercury won’t drop till October, as much as we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise. So we say, savor these last days of summer. Pop some popcorn, chop up some watermelon and get comfy on the couch. Lose yourself in these Southern stories, and don’t feel guilty about it for a second. The dog days, good friends, are about survival of the fittest.
— Laura Relyea, with assorted other BS movie nerds
This is Southern magical realism at its best. North Carolina writer Daniel Wallace’s story manages to enchant and woo us completely in a mere 125 minutes. Ripe with our favorite platitudes and devoid of stereotypes, this is a story about Southerners doing what we do best: spin yarns. (Note: If you missed it, Wallace contributed another of his whimsical stories, “Killings,” to The Bitter Southerner earlier this year.)
This shouldn’t be a tough sell, folks. We’re talking about Loretta. And we’ve got a very soft spot in our heart for the late, great Levon Helm’s portrayal of Ted Webb, Loretta’s daddy.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
A film teeming with humanity at its finest – something that we could use more of these days, quite frankly. It charms us with its fancy but commands us with its strength.
Here’s a true classic we can be proud of. Just the thought of the chain gang’s reflection in Captain’s cold, unfeeling aviators simultaneously puts sweat on our brows and gives us goose skin. (Just don’t offer us any deviled eggs while we’re watching – we suddenly have lost our appetites.)
We assure you: This ain’t a throwaway. What better escape than film’s most legendary car chase? And Burt Reynolds has never shied away from making his home state of Georgia shine. In fact, he was bringing film crews to Georgia decades before it became a regular occurrence.
Two rites of passage in the South: Get the tar kicked out of you a couple times, and flee to the woods. Memphis native director Jeff Nichols (whose brother, Ben, leads the amazing band Lucero) takes heartbreak by the horns in the delta of the Mississippi River. And with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the lead roles, you know you’re in good hands.
Lace up your roller skates. Antwone Fisher and Tina Gordon Chism’s coming-of-age story loosely tells the tale of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Dallas Austin, and stars some other Atlanta hip-hop icons: T.I. and Big Boi.
What’s more Southern than high school football? Five years before “Friday Night Lights” ever entered our living rooms, Jon Voight, James Vanderbeek and Paul Walker had us reliving our glory days.
If this movie had done nothing else, it deserved praise for bringing the haunting mountain voice of Ralph Stanley to the whole world’s attention, and we’ve had the soundtrack in rotation for 15 years now. But more importantly, it takes one of the world’s archetypal stories, “The Odyssey,” and places it firmly in the golden red dust of the South.