Monday, July 1, 2013

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: American Graffiti


So this is only my second time participating in Nathaniel Rogers ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ series, but I’m so excited about this that I am seriously contemplating doing this every time!  I actually sought out ‘American Graffiti’ for the sole purpose of participating in this series since I had yet to see it and had very little desire to.  Yes, I understand that it is seen as a cinematic staple by many critics and it spurned the careers of Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfus, but I often look at George Lucas as a hack who got lucky and find him to be the poor man’s equivalent to Steven Spielberg, and Steven Spielberg isn’t really anything to aspire to if we’re going to be completely honest.  Having recently watched and semi-loathed ‘Dazed and Confused’ and then reading that ‘American Graffiti’ was in the same wheelhouse, I was almost hesitant to jump in, but my desire to hit Nathaniel with my best shot overwhelmed me to the point where I couldn’t resist.

I just had to watch it.

I have to say, maybe it is the nostalgic fact that I grew up on ‘Happy Days’ reruns but the minute I saw Opie I was kind of smitten with this movie.  I know that his Oscar win is despised by so many, but whatever.  The man has honed his craft and perfected his take on schmaltzy drama and so why fault him for it? 

But this isn’t about him, at least not entirely.

‘American Graffiti’ is one of those coming of age films that attempts to do a whole lot more than merely focus on the coming of age of a solitary individual.  It doesn’t even focus on the mere ‘growing up’ of a group of people.  ‘American Graffiti’ sets its sights on an era and uses the lens to expose the passions, joys, pains and ultimate maturing of a time and space and all the people caught within it.  I never grew up in the 60’s.  I wasn’t even a thought in the 60’s.  Still, I felt like I was there every moment of this film.  I could feel the heat from the engines and the sticky leather seats and the musk in the air and Cindy Williams breath and tears on my neck as we slow danced in the dark.  It’s hard to pin point the film’s best ‘image’ because so much of the film itself depends on the glorious soundtrack that accompanies each frame. 

I’m going to apologize right now for the quality of these snapshots.  I wound up watching this on my DVR over the weekend and I immediately tried to Google some images that I absolutely loved and wound up finding none, so I had to resort to snapping pictures with my iPhone.  The quality isn’t great, but now it’s like you’re snuggling up in bed, watching this movie with me so…

I want to say that first off, I was kind of in love with Richard Dreyfuss’s face here.  I’ll confess that I really haven’t seen him in a lot.  I am one of the few who absolutely LOVED him in ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and find him to be the clear standout in ‘Jaws’, but I’m more familiar with his work past his prime and so I was taken aback with how young and endearing he was here.  He just dripped charm and charisma all over the place, and his performance really anchors this film.  You can watch him stumble through his own internal conflictions from the very start to the very end, when he finally comes into his own.  This one wonton night of careless wandering gives him the final push, that needed reassurance, that all is going to be ok.  Watching him ponder what he is leaving behind, ponder what he’s missing out on and eventually ponder what his future will bring brought endless smiles to my face.






The central themes and life lessons contained in the film are beautifully captured by a few moments of subtle obviousness, two of which are very close to being my favorite shot in the film.  Early in the film we see Curt trying to unlock his locker, and the image itself implants the message that one cannot go back, and then as the sun comes up and the film dwindles to a close we see Steve and Laurie walking towards the camera, the sun glaring in the backdrop and we are reminded that we can move forward.


My 'Best Shot' runner-up
But for me, and maybe this is the cynic in me, but the best shot comes during the dance scene, where Laurie hides her broken emotions from Steve as she nestles into his neck and we watch her eyes simply MELT.  Seriously, how did Candy Clark wrestle that Oscar nomination away from Cindy Williams?  Anyways, I snapped the hell out of this particular shot because it just moves with such fluidity and really is so effecting from every angle, but it wound up being the second shot, as her head turns down ever so gently, that haunted me the most. 

The Best Shot!

I had fun with this one.  I can’t wait for the next one.  Lucky for me I’ve already seen ‘Dead Ringers’ and ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Poppins’ being a film my daughters adore and thus one I have the pleasure of watching from a distance every other day almost.

6 comments:

  1. Great shot choices! I was just thinking about this film a few days ago. I've always loved it, and Dreyfuss is a standout, for sure. Williams is great, but even I overlook her. I should rewatch this.

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    1. I loved Dreyfuss. I feel shamed that I still have not seen his Oscar Winning performance. I really need to see that soon.

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    2. Yes! I LOVE that performance. It takes a lot of heat for winning, but he's my current winner that year.

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    3. I really need to get on that.

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  2. Nice writeup, even though your dislike for Spielberg and Dazed and Confused (the better film imho) makes me sad. :(

    I like how you pointed out the atmospheric feel of the film. That really stood out to me when I watched it. It's also interesting how this film is so nostalgic for many people, yet I actually find it very depressing.

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    1. I'm harsh on Spielberg, and I like him to a degree, but he's one of the more overpraised directors of his generation. IMHO, of course.

      I simply found Dazed and Confused void of all meaning and purpose, but that time period never appealed to me and so I found no connection to it at all.

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