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Building my Movie Posters Puzzle: American Graffiti

In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Funny how powerful nostalgia can be, even when it’s not for something that’s directly your own. In the case of George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the characters themselves are pretty darned sentimental to begin with. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are recent high school graduates on their last night at home before they’re supposed to fly away to college and the film as a whole serves as an inspection of transitions personally and societally. Set in 1962, this is a movie full of people who have not yet heard of The Beatles and are still playing out the routines and styles that had been established in the late 1950s. Enough so, that if you ask a bunch of people who haven’t seen the movie for a while, they probably think it’s set earlier than it is. Let’s investigate the unique sentimentality and nostalgia of a movie that was actually pretty revolutionary for its time.
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May 14: Happy Birthday Cate Blanchett and George Lucas


Our two headliners were both involved in a 2008 movie.  One played a villain, the other co-wrote the story.  So naturally they were photographed together at the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett is turning 48 today.  After graduating from Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts in 1992, she began working on stage; her roles include the title role in Sophocles’ Electra and Ophelia in Hamlet.  She made her feature film debut in 1997, co-starring in Paradise Road and starring in Oscar and Lucinda.  Just a year later, she won Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards, and received an Oscar nomination, for playing the title role in Elizabeth.  Her first Oscar win came six years later, for Best Supporting Actress, playing none other than Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.

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Betrayed by George Lucas

Lucas - SW Trading Card

George Lucas was the first filmmaker I had ever heard of.  I was six years old when Star Wars was released in 1977.  The movie became a year-long quest for my young self.  While every kid I knew was seeing Star Wars over and over again, I had to make due with the reflected glory of the merchandise.  Everything I knew about Star Wars came from cheap packs of trading cards.  The kind that used to come with pink, cardboard like “gum”.  The cards included behind the scenes pictures and stories which were my introduction to the making of movies.

When I finally saw the movie at a drive-in movie theater in 1978, well, it blew my mind.  Despite the fact I already knew the entire story in various other forms, finally seeing Star Wars made a huge impression on me.  It was then that I became a movie fan.  Without Star Wars, who knows, this blog may not even exist.

Between creating Star Wars and Indiana Jones, George Lucas had a tremendous influence on my childhood.  Those characters and movies were incredibly personal to me.  So I was understandably excited when Lucas decided to revisit those stories decades later.  Like a lot of people my age, I saw that excitement turn to disappointment when the new offerings didn’t live up to my childhood memories.

I’m not going to say that George Lucas destroyed my childhood or anything so melodramatic.  But I’m not going to lie.  I have felt betrayed by George Lucas more than once.

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Readers Rank the Indiana Jones Movies

Indiana Jones movies

I recently ranked the Indiana Jones movies from worst to first.  At the end of the article, I gave you the chance to do your own rankings.  Here’s what readers came up with.

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Worst to First: Ranking the Indiana Jones Movies

Indiana Jones movies

Very few movie heroes are as iconic as Indiana Jones.  Many movie fans will quickly name the Indy movies as one of their favorite film series of all times.  And yet, most of the Indiana Jones movies aren’t very good.  Let’s rank them and see how things shake out.

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The Fever Dream of Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is less a war movie than the greatest fever dream ever put on film. It doesn’t back away from showing how awful war is. But unlike Oliver Stone’s Platoon, it’s not a realistic depiction of Vietnam. It uses the war as a metaphorical comment on human nature much like the previous years The Deer Hunter. But in some ways it’s more effective than Cimino’s film.

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’70s Movies Bracket Game: The Godfather Vs. Star Wars

The Godfather Vs. Star Wars

This is it.  We’re down to two iconic movies from the 70’s.  Time to pick a winner.

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George Lucas Strikes Back

If you’ve ever wondered if the wunderkind creator of Star War and Indiana Jones may have been kidknapped in the early 80s and replaced by a hack who was trying to destroy his good name, you have just been proven right!

If only this were true…

Shia LaBeouf: We Botched Indiana Jones

Allen - Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull 2

It’s rare for someone in Hollywood (or even in life) to own up to a mistake.  That’s why I find it somewhat refreshing to read Shia LaBeouf’s candid remarks at Cannes last week regarding the fourth Indiana Jones film.

Fans waited almost 20 years for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  And in spite of a 77% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, it’s safe to say that a lot of fans and critics felt disappointed by the latest chapter in the franchise.

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