A Few Words About A few words about...™ American Graffiti -- in Blu-ray

Douglas Monce

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To be fair, AG looks the way it does, because of the way it was shot. They were often in low light situation, pushing the exposures in the lab, causing the film to be grainy and in some cases a little milky. I don't think the transfer, or lack of restoration, can be blamed for that. Doug
 

ahollis

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Originally Posted by Douglas Monce

To be fair, AG looks the way it does, because of the way it was shot. They were often in low light situation, pushing the exposures in the lab, causing the film to be grainy and in some cases a little milky. I don't think the transfer, or lack of restoration, can be blamed for that.

Doug

It was that way in the theatres. I remember the opening shots on the screen and thinking how grainy they looked. Thank goodness when the film cane out the theatre I first saw it in was still using carbon arc projectors which gave it the brightness the presentation needed. The re-release found me seeing it that had a xenon lamp projector and it was a lot darker in many of the late night shots. The blu-ray reminds me of the first viewing.
 

Carlo Medina

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Listen to the commentary and extras. The dark scenes were flawed from the way it was shot (2-perf and also shot at night in less than ideal conditions). No matter how much additional restoration they did, you can't "get something from nothing". There were limitations inherent to the process.


Really, think of how Lucasfilm has really done a number on the OOT and THX-1138. If this weren't the way Lucas wanted it to look, or if there was a way it could have been prettied up by Lucasfilm, it would have been done. Lucas has never shied away from altering his work.
 

Sam Favate

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Originally Posted by Joe Karlosi

Can someone correct me? Were there any songs in the film released in 1963?

Just off the top of my head, "All Summer Long," the song at the end of the film, came out in 1964.
 

Hollywoodaholic

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Understood. I guess I just assumed with newer technologies and Lucas' penchant to tinker, he could turn a dark, murky, milky scene into a better image then the original element. But perhaps it's refreshing to hear he cannot.

Originally Posted by Douglas Monce

To be fair, AG looks the way it does, because of the way it was shot. They were often in low light situation, pushing the exposures in the lab, causing the film to be grainy and in some cases a little milky. I don't think the transfer, or lack of restoration, can be blamed for that.

Doug
 

Douglas Monce

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Sam Favate said:
Just off the top of my head, "All Summer Long," the song at the end of the film, came out in 1964.

 

 

 
I think someone already said that All Summer Long is the one anachronistic song in the film, perhaps suggesting the future that the titles have already told us about. Doug
 

Carlo Medina

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Oh he certainly could, but I for one am glad he did not. For those familiar with photography, most noise reduction software (which is what would need to be used here to "improve" the dark and noisy picture) would also serve to rob the image of detail. This would lead to an undesirable tradeoff, IMO, for American Graffiti.

Originally Posted by Hollywoodaholic


Understood. I guess I just assumed with newer technologies and Lucas' penchant to tinker, he could turn a dark, murky, milky scene into a better image then the original element. But perhaps it's refreshing to hear he cannot.
 

Douglas Monce

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According to the Wiki entry about him. Wolfman Jack aka Robert Smith, got his first gig in radio at WYOU-AM in Newport News, Virginia in 1960. A station that featured "beautiful music", where he was known as "Roger Gordon and Music in Good Taste." In 1963 he was hired to work at XERF-AM at Ciudad Acuña in Mexico, a station whose high-powered border blaster signal could be picked up across much of the United States. Apparently with 250,000 watts, you could drive from New York to LA and never lose the signal. On clear nights it could be heard as far away as the Soviet Union. It also states he was born on January 21, 1938, so around 34 in 1973 sounds about right. Doug
 

Cary P

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I was only 7 years old when this film came out, and probably didn't see it until it was re-released in theaters a couple of years later when I was about 9-10 years old.


It had a big effect on me, and I've viewed it about once every 10 years ever since. It always amazes me as something that feels like an authentic, almost documentary-style slice of life from a period roughly 10 years before it was made, and also as a touchstone that illustrates how drastically our culture had changed during that relatively short time.


With American Graffiti and TV shows like 'Happy Days' hitting it big in the mid-70s, it was probably the first time I subconsciously became aware of the power of nostalgia and how it can trigger retro revival movements that reinvigorate pop culture.


Does anyone feel nostalgia for the year 2001 these days? I very much doubt it, unless you lost a loved one or something like that. If you view a film made in 2001-2002 today - other than the mobile phone and video display technology visible, it is very hard to pinpoint much if any difference between that time and today. It seems as if many elements of our culture have stagnated.


However, all of these years later, when viewing a film made in the 60s or 70s I can usually make an accurate guess to within 1-2 years as to what year it was made. That's how specific the period changes were over a relatively short time.


I think most of the cultural changes over the past 10-15 years have been technology-related, whereas from the early-60s to mid-80s they were primarily sociological, musical, and fashion-oriented - and moving at a breakneck pace.


For these reasons, I've always enjoyed American Graffiti not only on it's own merits - but also for the way it provokes analysis of the pace of time and the evolution of pop culture history. It always feels fresh, and I really look forward to viewing this new Blu Ray disc.
 

Joe Karlosi

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Absolutely correct. I'd even go back 10 years further to 1991. Nothing significant has changed at all in the past 20 years, and we're stuck in one long mass of nothingness.







Originally Posted by Cary P


Does anyone feel nostalgia for the year 2001 these days? I very much doubt it, unless you lost a loved one or something like that. If you view a film made in 2001-2002 today - other than the mobile phone and video display technology visible, it is very hard to pinpoint much if any difference between that time and today. It seems as if many elements of our culture have stagnated.
 

Sam Favate

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Originally Posted by Joe Karlosi

Absolutely correct. I'd even go back 10 years further to 1991. Nothing significant has changed at all in the past 20 years, and we're stuck in one long mass of nothingness.

There are many people who feel that there was a cultural renaissance in the 50s and 60s, particularly relating to art forms like music and film (at which American Graffiti is at the nexus), so if you are inclined to believe that this period was a special time in history, it's easy to see why one would have an interest in revisiting it, as opposed to the other time periods you mention like the early 90s or early 2000s.
 

Gary Miller

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I watched American Graffiti on blu-ray last night, and wondered if I witnessed the same transfer that's been savaged on sites like Hi-Def Digest. I thought it looked great, and a substantial upgrade from the murky DVD. American Graffiti was never pretty, but I found this presentation very satisfying. I agree with Robert Harris. It looks very much the way I remember seeing it in the 70's, although the opening credits and early scenes at the drive-in look brighter then I recall. I also seem to remember a active surround track. Was it ever released that way?


As for the movie, it's every bit as fun as I remember. It's also clear, from many online comments, that not everyone "gets" American Graffiti, which is understandable given that it takes place half a century ago. Watching it again though, I was reminded how deftly this movie condenses the time and place with terrifically complex characters.

In 1962:

1) I was a little kid, but I understood this truism: Cars made the man. Now, that wasn't strictly true for most adults, but for a young guy, nothing said "I've arrived" better then a bitchin' set of wheels. Toad's tears of joy nailed it.

2) I suspect most every sizeable town or region had a Mel's Drive-in counterpart. In my neighborhood, the drive-in was called Harvey's, and Harvey's Drive-in was also staffed by a all-girl squad of uniformed car hops.


3) Radio played a integral part in kids lives, and with a limited range of signals, listening was a collective experience. Chances are, your friends were listening to the same thing you were, at the same time. (AM only. FM existed, but with a few exceptions, simulcasted AM radio broadcasts). New York didn't have a Wolfman, but it did have a Mad Daddy (who, unlike The Wolfman, was actually on the air in the summer of 62, on 1010 WINS).


4) Young people had a general infatuation with President Kennedy. The movie cleverly alludes to this in one bit of business.


5) I don't know exactly what went on between the aptly named Mr. Wolfe and Jane, but in the contemporary world, Mr.Wolfe's carnal thoughts about Jane would not be tolerated with bemused detachment, as it is here. From today's perspective, Mr. Wolfe looks like the teacher-most-likely-to-be-escorted from school in handcuffs.

6) As John Milner notes, Rock n' Roll did go downhill after Buddy Holly died, but would rebound bigger then ever by the middle of the decade.
However, all of these years later, when viewing a film made in the 60s or 70s I can usually make an accurate guess to within 1-2 years as to what year it was made. That's how specific the period changes were over a relatively short time.
...and never more dramatically then the cultural tsunami of the mid 60's.


I'll shamelessly plug my vlog here, as I spend some time discussing those cultural changes in this movie review I posted several months ago:


 

Douglas Monce

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I think a major cultural shift happened in 1953/54. Some major things happened in that 12 to 24 month period. 1. The year of the first mass exhibited wide screen CinemaScope film The Robe. With in 5 years no more films would be made in the 4x3 ratio. 2. The first year where more films were made in color than in black and white. 3. 53 was the last year that music acts like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como dominated the top 10 music charts. The next year more than half of the top 10 songs were rock and roll. 4. The F.C.C. approves color television, and 20 million households now have a TV set, up 30% from the year before. 5, The Academy Awards were televised for the first time - (on March 19, 1953), on black and white NBC-TV. 6. Warner Brothers ran an expensive $200,000 publicity campaign for The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, aimed at teens, including heavily advertising it on TV and radio. It was the first film to be so promoted on TV. The film was a huge hit. 7. The first Hydrogen bomb was tested at bikini atoll. I really think this year represents the major shift to what we know as our modern culture. Doug
 

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I think this one is pretty timeless, regardless of what age you are or were when you first saw it. I wrote a full review of it if you want to read what a 27 year old thinks about it these days. :)
 

Gary Miller

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Excellent review, Brett! I'm not sure American Graffiti literally takes place in the George Lucas hometown of Modesto, though. (This is what happens when you spend too much time dissecting fiction). On the one hand, there's a reference to nearby Turlock. Also, unlike the big cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, kids in smaller towns like this would likely be tuned into megawatt radio stations from distant cities (no eight tracks, cassettes, or even car radio FM yet). As Lucas indicates in the American Graffiti documentary, the Mexican "border blasters" were part of the evening soundscape.


On the other hand, Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) drives back and forth to the studio of XERB in the course of one evening. (It doesn't mean he had to cross the Mexican border, but the studio for a Mexican border radio station couldn't possibly be as far away as North-Central California). For that reason, I had just assumed American Graffiti took place somewhere in suburban Southern California.


This exercise in geographical literal-mindedness is admittedly pretty worthless, but spending waaaay too much time thinking about it, only underscores how well American Graffiti captures the final days of the "fifties".
 

Carlo Medina

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There aren't many "Modesto-landmarks" in the film so one could argue it doesn't literally take place in Modesto (I grew up there and went to the same school as Lucas but many years later). But the cruising phenomenon in the 50s and 60s was very strong on McHenry Ave, the main drag of Modesto, CA, which was clearly the inspiration for the film. Also "Paradise Road" where the finale takes place is an actual long strip of deserted road outside of Modesto which would have been a perfect place to do exactly what they did at the end of the film. Again, it may not have been filmed there, but is a noticeable landmark that is just outside of the city. So my take is: it probably is not set in Modesto (clearly it wasn't filmed there) because the characters never refer to it by name and none of the diners, drags and other landmarks match exactly what is in Modesto, but clearly it was written based on his experiences there. Kind of like how Gotham and Metropolis aren't NYC...but they are.
 

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