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American Graffiti

American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)

When I feel like watching something which enables me to just sit back with what amounts to about two dozen old friends and admire film in an almost pure form, this is always one of my Go-To films. From the opening titles, it's clear that Lucas is in complete control of the camera and sound, and in fact, it's partly the way he actually lights and shoots (with plenty of expert help) the film (95% of which takes place at night) which turns something which can be seen as a silly high school comedy into something much more meaningful. However, with that rock solid script, a collection of great performances and one of the greatest uses of pop songs in motion picture history (each song seems to comment on the exact actions of the characters at the time), it would be difficult to confuse American Graffiti with something like Porky's. There are so many memorable episodes and incidents, and they all flow so smoothly, that anyone who has never watched this yet or didn't get it the first time should take another look ASAP. Be sure to watch the Special Features where Lucas discusses that nobody wanted to film the original script, the original cut was over three hours and that if he didn't get a name attached to the film (Francis Ford Coppola), it would have never been financed and filmed in the first place, even though the budget was only $700,000. Of course, when you're watching this on DVD now, it looks like the budget was closer to $40 million with the state-of-the-art visual updating and ultimate sound recording and effects.