It's pretty easy to pick out Christmas movies and Halloween movies, and it's not too hard to find a New Year's movie, or even Arbor Day or Memorial Day movies. But how do you select a Fourth of July movie? Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) takes place during the Fourth of July, when the sheriff (the late, great Roy Scheider) tries to close the beach to protect the people from the killer shark and the greedy mayor wants to keep the beaches open to make lots of money. And who can forget Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991), with its image of a cackling, cigar-smoking Robert De Niro looming over the helpless, passive family, while fireworks explode overhead? These movies may not be entirely appropriate, or they may be all-too-appropriate symbols of America in 2008, but either way, they're both terrific movies.

The road movie is a uniquely American genre; unlike other parts of the world, Americans have the freedom to drive across 3000 miles of open land without getting hassled. It also involves cars, for which Americans have a singular passion. There are dozens of great road movies (not surprisingly), but let's go with three of the most unique examples. Tim Burton's cult classic Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) brings the title hero on the road to find his stolen bicycle; the film also has the best hitch-hiking sequences since It Happened One Night. Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) is the ultimate existential car movie, and David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) is the road movie transplanted to a power lawnmower (which is pretty American, too, when you think about it).

categories Columns, Cinematical