American Graffiti ★★★★½

In the aftermath of his iconic masterpiece, I think we take George Lucas for granted as a filmmaker. Star Wars is a beautiful directed film, and yet his skill as an artist is often forgotten in the mess of the culture and discourse around his most popular work.

Need to see Lucas at work? See American Graffiti.

Now, saying just that is not really fair. American Graffiti isn't only good in the context of the broader pop culture narrative of another film, it also manages to be good entirely on it's own merits. Despite having a complicated structure, it's edited beautifully. It keeps track of every facet of this night without leaving any behind or being confusing. This cast is fantastic, without a dud in sight, and the general atmosphere is stellar.

The film plays as an ode not only to Lucas' nostalgia around the cars of his youth, but to the whole culture around those cars. The friends. The girls. The late night cruising and racing. And most importantly, the radio programming that provided the proper atmosphere to this culture. The film would not be the same without Wolfman Jack's voice, or the massive catalogue of music he plays, perpetually playing in the background. And the moment we meet Wolfman, the lone quiet guy who sits behind a desk all night playing music for these kids, it the perfect moment to highlight this.

American Graffiti feels like the perfect film to watch if you really want to understand Lucas, as an artist and a person, outside of his empire. Really just spectacular, cannot recommend enough. (Although I can't help but take away half a star for some poor audio recording at parts. Some dialogue was mixed just too quiet. A shame)