Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "American Graffiti" (1973)

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Movie"America Graffiti"
Year Nominated: 1974
Director: George Lucas
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

It's summer 1962 and the recent high school graduates cruise their small California town for one last night of summer fun before starting college. 

Before George Lucas was wowing audiences with "Star Wars," he directed the much more intimate slice of life, coming-of-age dramedy called "American Graffiti." This film encapsulates American small town life in 1962. It was a time when the teens of the era spent their summer nights cruising the main drive in their American-made V-8s, hanging out at the local drive-in burger joint. Despite the studio being unsure of Lucas and the film, a pattern in his life, "American Graffiti" was able to turn its modest $777,777 budget into a whopping $115 million dollar domestic box office gross, a huge amount of money for the time and even somewhat by today's standards.

There are some great young actors in the film that would go on to do so much more, venturing into bigger and better things in their careers. These names include the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Harrison Ford. The story primarily focuses on four different characters: Curt, played by Richard Dreyfuss, who is uncertain about his future and going off to college. Curt spends the night in pursuit of a mysterious blonde in a Ford Thunderbird, getting himself into situations he never thought he'd wind up in. Then, there's Steve, played by Ron Howard, who seems determined to leave home for college, so much so that he wants to make his current relationship with girlfriend Laurie, played by Cindy Williams, a non-exclusive one, even though they had been going together for quite some time. He loans his car to another character of the film's focus Terry, played by Charles Martin Smith. Terry is the typical awkward nerdy type who doesn't own a car and isn't great with the ladies. After Terry is handed the keys to Steven's car, he immediately goes out cruising for "chicks." He convinces a girl named Debbie, played by Candy Clark, to spend the evening with him and he spends the entire time awkwardly trying to show her how cool he can be. The final character focus is on John, played by Paul Le Met, who drives the fastest car in town. John gets tricked by a group of girls and gets stuck driving around with a junior high aged girl all night, to his dismay. All the while, he is being pursued by an out of towner named Bob Falfa, played by Harrison Ford, who wants to test his '55 Ford against John's hot rod. Paul Le Met won a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer for his portrayal of John, but ironically, had one of the least notable careers of all the film's principle actors. Beside these characters, the other stars of the film are the beautiful cars and an amazing soundtrack consisting of about 45 now-classic songs that run continually through the film. Once one song ends, another begins, and there is never a stretch of time where music is not playing.

This simple slice of life story garnered four Golden Globe nominations and two wins, including the aforementioned Globe for Paul Le Met, and the Golden Globe for best Comedy or Musical. It was also nominated for five academy awards, including best picture, best director, and best original screenplay. Though it doesn't have a gripping plot or story, it does do a very good job of displaying what life used to be like for teenagers in the restless summer before college, before "life" begins. We have come a long way since this film, and if you are ever feeling nostalgic for a simpler time, "American Graffiti" is worth a look.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Piranha"

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