Monday, November 8, 2010

Review of American Graffiti

American Graffiti is a coming-of-age flick set in Modesto, California in 1962. It put director George Lucas in the Hollywood spotlight, made him a millionaire, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It inspired the creation of Happy Days. It is also number 62 on AFI's list, hence my watching.

Despite the praise this film has garnered, I found it to be lame. I recognized it instantly as the inspiration for another film I found lame, Dazed and Confused. Both of these films are slice-of-life, nostalgic, plotless, limp and self-indulgent. They both expect that if they feature some vehicles, showcase some stereotypical characters and make you listen to period music, you'll feel so overcome with nostalgia that you'll forget that there's no story. Some nice kid loses his innocence and his world changes forever. Next.

What is interesting about this film is that it is bad in a way much different than George Lucas' later bad work, before he got obsessed with the Hero's Journey, images moving so fast the viewer can barely see what's going on, and computer animation replacing actors. American Graffiti is very personal, not detached like his later work. There is no absurd urge to entertain the shit out of the audience so much that it's grating. Yet American Graffiti is still lame. It's boring in a very un-Lucas-like way.

Here's a question for you all. We are all aware that if a character expresses concern for the well-being of his car in a movie, something bad is going to happen to it before the end of the picture, usually several bad things. Did American Graffiti start this cliche, or was it well-known even by the time of filming?

Part of the problem is that I wasn't alive in 1962. This movie would be much more interesting to somebody who was. This review sounds like I really hated American Graffiti. That's not the case. This movie isn't terrible, it's just meh with a touch of banal. For me, movies are enjoyable if they're so terrible that they're funny. Being meh, banal and wimpy is just completely uninteresting.
2 attempts to pull booze out of 5