356. American Graffiti

Movie: American Graffiti

Release Date: August 11, 1973

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack.

Tag Lines: “Where were you in ’62?”

Relevance: I wouldn’t say I was forced to watch this movie as a kid, but when your parents are excited about watching something, you get a little nervous. If they like it, you definitely won’t like it. It was probably late 1970’s or possibly early 1980’s when I first saw it based on my father’s selling of the movie, “It’s like ‘Happy Days’ with Han Solo.” He knew his target audience. So we watched as a family. He was right. It was kind of like a long episode of ‘Happy Days’ and Han Solo was in it, although there were less battle scenes. I actually quite enjoyed the movie but more so because of the joy and nostalgia it seemed to bring out of my parents. This was their generation. And they loved watching a movie about their youth.

Watching ‘American Graffiti’ with my parents sparked a lot of conversation about their days as teenagers – what they did, who they hung out with, what music they listened to and what kind of trouble or mischief they would get in on a regular basis. According to them, the movie got it as close to their reality as possible. So every time I would watch this movie over the years, I always watched it thinking about what characters my parents were and it made me enjoy the movie a little bit more each time.

The other most memorable thing to me about the movie was the music. It is almost like a character itself in the film. My mom’s feet would tap throughout the movie, my dad would do his impression of Wolfman Jack and they would talk about the songs with a certain glee and admiration that took them back in time as if they were seventeen again and going to a sock hop. The soundtrack was played a lot around our house on vinyl, 8-track and eventually cassette. Those songs, even when I hear them now, take me back to the time of cruising around town listening to the radio and stopping at Mel’s for a burger, shake and fries. Of course, not my youth, but thanks to George Lucas’ vision, it made it seem like it was.

Today’s Thoughts: Watching it today, ‘American Graffiti’ still plays like a long episode of ‘Happy Days,’ but only because I watched that show before I saw the movie. It’s still a very enjoyable film. It continues to make me smile thinking about my parents and how it made them nostalgic for their youth. There are few movies that I can think of that capture a certain time, in this case 1962, and replicate it so well on screen with sights, sounds and characters combined.

The music is still such a standout in this film. It was also fun to watch Richard Dreyfuss again, as he was one of my favorite actors from my youth and whose name will definitely appear quite a bit this year during this challenge. The characters he plays in most movies, including this one, are very ‘every man’ and relatable to the viewer.

Now I thought since my parents introduced me to this movie, I could in turn introduce it to my son. I used to love hearing my parents talk about their youth and stories about what it was like when they were growing up, so my liking the movie wasn’t too much of a stretch. My son is not like that. Every time I talk about the 1980’s movies, music, fashion or what I used to do as a kid, he just rolls his eyes and walks away. So I knew trying to get him to watch a movie about an even younger generation would be more difficult. I was right. I didn’t even get an eye roll, just a blank stare. Kids today.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Candy Clark (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, George Lucas (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced, George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Verna Fields, Marcia Lucas (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male, Paul Le Mat (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Richard Dreyfuss (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director, George Lucas (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, Cindy Williams (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, George Lucas (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay, George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, Cindy Williams (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay, George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck (nomination), National Film Registry (1995).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Sling TV, DVD Availability.

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