Thursday, February 8, 2007

Movie Chat: American Graffiti and The Hollywood Knights

So, there are a couple of things I do, that, uncharitably, annoy me when other people do them.

It drives me crazy when someone is talking about a well-known book/movie/etc. and someone else just has to bring up a related but (relatively) more obscure book/movie/etc. and tries to pass it off as "better" than the better known work in some way - more authentic, more complex, more direct, more accomplished, etc. "Who has the more obscure taste?" is a game that gets played with unfortunate frequency within pop-crit circles. Like: you're trying to talk about Pet Sounds but I can't shut up about Surf's Up.

I bring this up because I am about to do just that and I want to let you know that I know how irritating this can be.

I first saw American Graffiti over 12 years ago. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't blown away by it and I remembered it as being limp: George Lucas's nostalgia was a little too sticky and his characters a little too nice.

But I never really gave the movie much more thought, until I (much later) saw The Hollywood Knights, which I fell in love with in that special way I reserve for thoroughly disreputable movies. I mean, for most movie buffs, Hollywood Knights would be, at best, a kind of guilty pleasure. For me, though, Hollywood Knights is a desert island movie.


Hollywood Knights is - pretty shamelessly - an American Graffiti rip-off. But (and here it is) from the first time I saw it, I couldn't help but feel that this movie was American Graffiti done right. The whole early 60s, SoCal teenage scene in Hollywood Knights seemed more lively and more specifically observed and drawn - more true-to-life - than the way Lucas mythologized it in American Graffiti.

But as time passed, I started wondering if my memory was trustworthy on this movie. I mean, although my admiration and appreciation of Hollywood Knights was genuine, I didn't know if I was making out American Graffiti to be worse then it really was in order to prop up an obscurity I clicked with at the expense of a popular near-classic.

Was my mind playing tricks on me?

Well - I decided to record American Graffiti on my DVR a few weeks ago because (1) my girlfriend had never seen it and I thought it was something she might like and (2) I had grown suspicious of my memory of the movie. Maybe I had just started telling people I thought it was "overrated" as part of the contrarian pose I often like to take to stir up argument, er, discussion.

The verdict:

If anything, I remembered a better movie than what I saw.

(I think) Hollywood Knights really is a livelier movie and one that has a stronger sense of time and place, without pandering (all that much) to its audience's nostalgia. Knights is raunchier and funnier, too.

I was unimpressed by the performances in American Graffiti. Paul Le Mat would later play the same role better in another Mutrux flick, Aloha, Bobby and Rose, and Dreyfuss, electric playing the unlikeable lead in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, is just cute and smug here.

But here's the Big Thing That Bugged Me:

Now, I know George Lucas is a car nut (the one and only conversation I ever had with him was about race cars), but he shoots the cars in this movie like they're parading down Main Street on the way to a classic car show. None of the driving - except (maybe) for the final showdown between Le Mat and Harrison Ford - seems real.

So, I'm tempted to draw a comparison to Lucas's later Star Wars efforts: he sets up all these pretty toys that he seems to care about a lot, but he struggles when he tries to do anything interesting with them. Or maybe: he doesn't even care if he does anything interesting with them - for him showing the cars/spaceships/aliens/etc. might just be enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

American Graffiti - The Largest Reunion Ever to be Held in London, Ontario, this June at the Country Cruize-In Show

Toronto, Ontario: May, 2010: Rev up your engines! Coming-of-age film “American Graffiti” is the theme of the 7th annual Fleetwood Country Cruize-In that returns to London, Ontario on June 4th and 5th, 2010. Between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM on Saturday June 5th, cruise on in to Mel’s Diner with Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, Cindy Williams, Lynne Stewart, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, and possibly a surprise addition or two. Drive up and be whisked back decades in time at a 40-foot drive-in movie screen that will be showing – you guessed it! American Graffiti, which first arrived in theaters in 1973.

This year's going to be a blast! Country Cruize-In kicks off on Friday, June 4th with a dance under the big top, followed by the drive-in movie featuring American Graffiti. Finish off the evening back in the big top for more music with Brad Rose and Spirit and the Jim Chapman Band.
Tickets are only $15.00 per person for both events.

On Saturday, an ongoing highlight of the car show is an appearance by George Barris – the prolific ”King of Kustomizers” and inventor of “star cars” such as the Batmobile, the Munsters coach, the Monkee-mobile and many others.

In addition to the planned festivities on Saturday, you can tour the new Fleetwood Auto Salon, a 31-car garage, as well as over 3000 classic cars, hotrods, trucks, amphi-cars and more all on the show field. You will never see more lovingly maintained vintage Cadillacs in your life!

There’s even more to this party! Top off the day on Saturday with a casual dinner show catered by Bingeman's featuring 60’s sensation Lou Christie, followed by Brooklyn Bridge.

A successful charity fund raiser, 2009’s Country Cruize-In event featured some 3000 great show cars, trucks and also 2451 spectator cars parked nearby, with the event raising an outstanding $305,000 for 26 charities. This year promises to be even better.

Come to London, just over an hour’s drive from Toronto, for the cars, for the fun, and for charity, to celebrate the “good ‘ol days” and be a part of the largest American Graffiti reunion ever!

Tickets for Friday and Saturday at Centennial Hall: 1-888-999-8980
Car Show only: $10.00 per person at the gate.
Saturday Night Dinner and Dance under the Big Top: $120.00 per person.

For more information and details regarding The Fleetwood Country Cruize In or The Plunkett Foundation please contact:
Steve Plunkett

9282 Elviage Drive
London, Ontario N6K 4N5

Phone: (519) 657-9040

Inquiries about event details, car show eligibility, celebrity appearances, music guests, etc. can also be done through Steve.