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I don't know if George Lucas really knew what he had in this picture--surely the script seemed funny enough, and the thought of the cars and the period music was enticing--but did he really know these "unknown" actors who bring these characters to life? It seems almost a fluke, shot in 29 days and on a tight budget, but "American Graffiti" is a four-star classic. It is perhaps pure nostalgia, mixing pathos and humor, sadness and craziness, hope and reflection, in quiet little bursts of excitement. After cruising with Milner all night, teenage Carol hates to say goodbye but does, waving from her porch with the light on; Toad survives one bad accident after another, but his real moment is in hearing praise from his date (fantastic, husky-voiced Candy Clark, dolled up like a speeding Sandra Dee) just before she says good night; after chasing his dream date all night, Kurt (Richard Dreyfuss, green and anxious, and appealingly bemused) finally gets to talk to the stunning blonde wonder on the telephone, where she whispers a wrenching goodbye. The whole movie is steeped in reflection. It has great, great humor, yet it leaves one with a bittersweet melancholia. For yesterday is in the past, with our music, our memories, and our hesitant farewells.
The summer of 1962, for these four Youths, it's the closest they will ever get to the Garden of Eden. The music, the cars, the drinking, the dancing, and the innocence, American Graffiti is a harder film to make than Star Wars. To identify with the generation and to create truth from the characters, George Lucas's masterpiece is American Graffiti. From the town Big shot, the future Race car Driver, the Perfect Couple, and the local Nerd, it is amazing how the audience identifies with all these characters from out past. Like a page out of the high school year book, this movie jumps back into the early 60's, before the war, before the lines were drawn, the age of innocence in America would soon be coming to an end. This is the last party of the summer before the dream finally ends.
"I just love it when guys peel out." -Debbie Dunham
American Graffiti is the best film about teenagers. It actually has a point, unlike the other teenage films where all that they do is get drunk and party. American Graffiti is about different types of teenagers doing different things on the last night that they all have together in 1962 after graduating. They all actually learn about themselves and what they want to do with their lives. One of the older
teenagers, Curt, is planning on leaving the next day. Steve is trying to work out his relationship with Curt's sister, while John and Terry have their own dates for the night. American Graffiti is a wonderful film on many levels. It is both funny and serious. A great direction by George Lucas and a fine cast with Ron
Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Paul LeMat, Charles Martin Smith,
Candy Clark (Oscar-nominated), MacKenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford. One of the
best films of the 70's and the only teen film in my memory that has had the
pleasure of being nominated for Oscar- Best Picture. 10/10 stars.
American Graffiti, voted in 1998 to the American Film Institute's list of 100 superlative films, is as good today as it was upon its release in 1973. Countless films (such as Linklater's excellent Dazed and Confused) have borrowed heavily from Lucas' blueprint of multiple characters and storylines punctuated by wall to wall rock music. If possible, you should try to see the 1998 documentary that accompanies the DVD release, as it provides a wealth of information directly from Lucas, Coppola, LeMat, Ford, Clark, Dreyfuss, Howard, and many others about the creation of the film from concept to box-office phenomenon.
I remember watching this movie on May 31, 2002, the night before my
high school graduation and when I watch this film, it reminded me of
the things that happened with me throughout my senior year: from a guy
I knew, who cheated on his girlfriend with a cheerleader, to the
terrorist attack that tore America apart; causing Americans to go
against one another, from the crushes, the heartbreaks, prom night, to
Spider-Man being the movie of the year, graduation rehearsal, and
technology becoming the new aspect in my life and when I watched
American Graffiti, it reminded me of when the good times meant
something with those around me.
The film takes place in 1962 California, a pre JFK assassination which showed the innocence of youth crusin' the streets and talking to buddies outside of their windows as they drive; now, in today's world it's a bloodbath. Even the music played a part of innocence back in the 60's where artist such as Fats Domino, Beach Boys, Bill Haley and the Comets, The Platters, even Chuck Berry were a pain in the butt to most of the adults of that time, but a joy. Now? Songs about sex, drugs, and murder have become the new waves to today's youth of America.
American Graffiti has four teenage boys who cruise in different directions in their hometown where some question their own faith. The main character in the story is Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) who is about to leave east for college where he is dubious on whether or not he should leave town in order to start a new life. Yet his friend Steve (Ron Howard) encourages him to leave and tells him not to crawl back into his little nest. All night, Curt cruises the streets with his sister Laurie (Cindy Williams) and Steve, where he sees a blonde woman driving a white T-Bird who mouths "I love you." Now Curt is on the hunt to find this blonde woman as he encounters a gang called The Pharaohs who want to pound him after he scratches the gang's car.
The next character is Steve whose Curt's best friend and happens to be dating Laurie and wants to rush things as quickly as possible. He wants to break up so they can see other people; but later when they are named King and Queen at the homecoming dance, they are together again where he tries to have sex with her. Yet, things don't work out well between them, and Steve questions his own destiny on whether he should stay or not, leaving Curt to be right as usual.
John Milner (Paul LeMat) is the hotshot of the state who doesn't want to leave town because he is afraid that everything will change. After the beginning of the film he talks to Curt about "The Pickin's are really getting' slim" that everything is changing in terms of music, girls, crusin' the street even from his friends departing. He cruises the streets where he accidentally picks up an underage girl (MacKenzie Phillips) who becomes more of a pal to John as they listen to Wolfman Jack and hear good old time music. Yet, John is up for a little competition, as a new drag racer by the name of Bob Falfa, (Harrison Ford) wants to race him.
The other character of the gang is Terry "The Toad," Fields (Charles Martin Smith) the nerd who drives a mophead, gets to take Steve's car for a ride in the town. Yet, as he tries to impress people, he meets one girl Debbie (Candy Clark) who decides to go with Terry after she hears about him talking about his "new" car. Terry who thinks he is a reject is now proved that he is a man as he cruises the streets with the girl on his arms, and just trying to prove that even nerds have their moments as well.
American Graffiti in my opinion is a retrospect of the good times that people had when everything was innocent, in an era where crusin' was important, especially rock n' roll. But as time changes on, people will always remember the good times.
As many people know, George Lucas is most famous for the fact that he
wrote a certain series of fantasy films. Most of those films certainly
were a great achievement, but one thing that many Star Wars fans
overlook is the other entries in Lucas' list of directorial credits;
one of which is this film, American Graffiti. The movie tells the story
of the last night in town for a bunch of school kids about to leave to
go to college. Now, this might not seem like a great base for a classic
movie to work from; and it isn't, it's the handling that makes it
great. In spite of his latest batch of movies, Lucas has shown with
this movie that he has the talent to create an innovative and
groundbreaking movie in spite of the plot. It's this fact that made
Star Wars work so well, and it's nice to see the same effort
transplanted into an earlier film that doesn't have the special effects
and grandiose that Star Wars had. The energy and vitality that Lucas
gives his multiple stories makes for a great ride, and American
Graffiti is a lot of fun throughout.
The film is most notable for the way that it captures the American youth of the sixties. It benefits from a great soundtrack that adequately helps to achieve this, and includes the likes of Buddy Holly and The Beach Boys. The film takes place in one night, and makes use of a number of different characters and story lines; all of which are interesting and unique. A lot of which are also really funny, and this is where my favourite part of American Graffiti comes in. The film works because it's such a good time, and the way that Lucas shows us that ensures that we have just as good a time as the characters on screen are having. The events that befall the characters in the movie will no doubt touch a nerve with anyone that has gone through childhood - things such as splitting up with your girlfriend, to being forced into doing things that could get you into trouble...all the way to asking an adult to go into a store to buy alcohol for you are shown with great care, and show that Lucas obviously knew what he was doing when he took on this movie. On the whole...it's very good stuff indeed.
This multi-layered DVD version of "American Graffiti" is the best trip
back to the summer of 1962 Hollywood ever had to offer! The eventful
night when freshly graduated high school friends contemplated their
futures while immersed in small town America's car-hops, drive-in
movies & doo-wop music (the soundtrack is one of the best featured in
ANY film!), is shown in "real time".
Richard Dreyfuss is perfect as the smart kid, ready to drive off to college the next morning, but wondering if he's doing the right thing. Ron Howard and Cindy Williams get some practice for their soon to follow "Happy Days", while Charles Martin Smith and Candy Clark are wonderful as the goofus who wants to show a pretty girl a good time.
Wolfman Jack plays himself (and cupid) when he plays a very special request going out from Richard Dreyfuss to his dream girl Suzanne Sommers. Look for a pre-teen McKenzie Phillips and a young Harrison Ford in minor roles. This film is a big winner in my book!
Nostalgic look at one night/morning of a small California town and some
of its teenagers. Story-wise this is nothing new--all the stereotypes
are in place--the loving/bickering couple (Ron Howard and Cindy
Williams); the rebel (Paul Le Mal) stuck with a 13 year old (Mackenzie
Phuillips); the nerd (Charles Martin Smith) having a disastrous date
with a blonde (Candy Clark); the hood (Bo Hopkins) showing the good boy
(Richard Dreyfuss) a night out and Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers in
What makes this movie better than average is the great direction by George Lucas--he fills the Cinemascope screen masterfully; the non-stop soundtrack of 50s/60s hits; a great script and the cast of then-unknowns. It's incredible to see some of these actors so young (especially Ford and Dreyfuss) and full of life. Without this cast, this movie would probably have long-since been forgotten.
So, no great shakes, but very sweet and nostalgic with some good acting. Worth catching. Try to see it letter-boxed or on a big screen.
American Graffiti was a compilation of pop culture pique, a harbinger of political changes, and the birth of an era that explodes the "Leave it to Beaver America" simply by saying farewell to it!!!...Set in a small town in Southern California, with a bunch of people who's existence in 1962 means the 13th and final year of the fifties, it correlates a cosmic awareness with an innocent societal disagreement.... People are happy, but not happy enough to want to stay the same.... The constant bond throughout the film is Wolfman Jack, the "supercool" disc jockey who creates a thousand different images of himself just by virtue of what he says on the radio...He is illuminating as well as socially influential to a bunch of naive teenagers....The music in this movie is extremely entertaining, as it signifies the end of an Eisenhower style Utopia.. The couples that are paired off in this movie homogenize the attitudes and aspirations of these precocious 1962 teenagers, who are on the verge of growing up!! All of the characters in this film have an imperviousness to the objections related to a perceived totalitarianism brought on in the sixties, not just because the radical aspect of the decade has yet to be, but also, because locking horns with the authority figures is not second nature to them ...(Even Big John Milner)... The bevy of Radicalism which besieges our nation over the remainder of this decade, (the 1960's) created a metamorphosis in social behavior that would change all Americans, even the people living in the town of Graffit, California!!! This movie superbly exemplifies the phrase "The calm before the storm" It gives the entire movie audience a crystal ball concept analysis report that sparks a bittersweet realization and empathy for everyone who plays a significant role in this George Lucas masterpiece!! Director George Lucas has never been better...The cast is sensational!!and the film's unassuming demeanor surprisingly captures the honor of being one of America's greatest films on record!!! Five stars!! No question!!
I was born at the beginning of the next decade--1970--yet "American
Graffiti" was a chord that rippled throughout my life.
My father, who, like George Lucas, grew up in California's Central Valley, said this movie perfectly captured what it was like to grow up there--street cruising, hot rodding, picking up chicks, pulling pranks. Though this movie necessarily sidesteps the boredom inherent in growing up in the pesticide-choked San Joaquin Valley, the place itself is not as important the time it explores. It was a time just before the 1960s descended into the beginning of the end of American culture--the prototypical middle America that existed in almost all its small towns and now has substantively disappeared thanks to the urbanization and suburbanization of much of this country.
The ensemble cast, including so many that went on to become hugely successful in Hollywood--Ron Howard, Cindy Williams (well, with Laverne & Shirley at least), Richard Dreyfuss, and of course Harrison Ford (not to mention Lucas himself)--is handled with great skill from such a young director and reinforces the mystery why Lucas has so horribly mishandled Star Wars Eps. I and II. Lucas simply has been at the Ranch too long and his brilliant career has arrived parked in the garage at a large, entirely perfunctory business and media empire.
Anyway, regardless of Lucas' drift far away from the cutting edge, "American Graffiti" still stands as a kind of monument to his precocity. It is the kind of movie that hits every note with effortless precision, which I think is less the effort of great editing as it is a combination of youthful exuberance and actors and a director at essentially the beginning of their ascent as some of the best in the business.
This movie also withstands the test of time simply because it works magically both for those who have no particular emotional connection to the '60s and for those who were there on nearly equal levels. There is tremendous humor and naturalistic character play and dialog that few can help but be drawn into. Anyone with any sense of history will acknowledge that all the characters are standing at the edge of the deflowering and self-destruction of America in the '60s. It is a time of tremendous innocence, change, and harrowing decisions. The Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam haven't happened yet.
With Iraq and terrorism chewing at our consciousness every day, it's pretty easy for modern youth to identify and yearn for the nostalgia of such innocence.
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