Sunday, November 19, 2006

American Grafitti ****

"Jesus, what a night!" -Terry "The Toad" Fields

The first song played in American Graffiti goes as follows: When the clock strikes 2 and 3 and 4 if the band slows down we'll yell for more we're gonna rock around the clock tonight we're gonna rock rock rock till broad daylight we're gonna rock we're gonna rock around the clock tonight

and around the clock we go. The film starts at sunset and ends as the sun rises the next morning. Our characters: 4 teenagers, 2 of them on the verge of going off to college. Richard Dreyfuss is in turmoil and doesn't want to go. little Opie Ron Howard (about to release a new film, The Da Vinci Code, in May) is the class president and boyfriend of the head cheerleader and is obsessed with getting away from this Midwest "turkey town" but Cindy Williams, the cheerleader, isn't so eager for him to go. Then you have Paul Le Mat as a James Dean wannabe drag racer who accidentally ends up with a bratty 13 year old in his car. And Charles Martin Smith plays Lucas' autobiographical role as the dorky kid who ends up the luckiest, trying to lie his way through a date with the only Oscar nominated cast member in this film, Candy Clark, who plays s Shirley MacLaine type adorable-but-not-too-bright girl. And we have cameos by Wolfman Jack and Harrison Ford, who didn't want to give up his carpenter job for this film (he was paid more as a carpenter.

The setting is 1962, a year that was still mostly grounded in the innocence of the 50's but beginning to show the first signs of rebellion. The writer director is George Lucas, before his name could have ever been attributed to the phrase "Star Wars." The film broke and still sets the record for biggest budget/box office margin. It was nominated for Oscars for best picture, director, and screenplay. The music is completely unoriginal, featuring what must be a record for least amount of film time without music playing (that record may have been beaten by Koyaanisqatsi). The 45 songs used are by Booker T. Jones, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, David Allison, David Bartholemew, The Beach Boys, Max Freedman, Fats Domino, Frankie Lymon, Sherman Edwards, Jimmy Bowen, and more. The film is delirious, hilarious and fun, and may just leave you a little dazed as the sun begins to rise. You can't see this film and not think about it. I was never impressed by Star Wars, but if Lucas makes another film, I would gladly see it if it comes even close to the sheer genius of "American Graffiti."

The trivia to this film is quite interesting. see IMDb's page for it, especially the "disasters" bullet.

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