There would be no “Star Wars” without “American Graffiti”. The behind-the-scenes stories about what George Lucas did to get “American Graffiti” made is a plot within itself and a deeper storyline than the movie had.
I sometimes get into an argument with myself if this is a Norman Jewison film or Al Pacino film. It’s not a Barry Levinson film, although he shared an Oscar nomination for the screenplay.
Jaws is generally recognized as an amazing film that basically created the summer blockbuster movie model. Summertime was not traditionally the time for audiences to stay indoors to watch movies, and Jaws changed that.
The Jaws sequels don’t have any positive reputation at all. Jaws 3 was in 3d, a fad that died a pretty horrible death in the 80s, and Jaws 4 was reviewed as one of the worst movies in memory. But that leaves Jaws 2 as kind of a middle child that got lost in a shuffle. Not fair.
Dustin Hoffman isn’t just an actor. When he works, the film becomes all encompassing, and in the 1970s he was on a roll. He wouldn’t just play a part. He studies the part. He fights over scenes. He rewrites scripts. He does everything they tell actors not to do. Check out Tootsie to see the all too real scene between Hoffman and Albert Brooks about how hard his character is to work with. That was reality for Hoffman.
“Dirty Harry” was one of those movies that was almost never made. Actors turned down the part. Studios turned down the script. It morphed from a story about a New York cop chasing a serial killer who is eventually shot by Marines, not by Dirty Harry. Then it was moved to Seattle.
In the seventies, mainstream horror movies were more supernatural than slasher movies. From “The Exorcist” to “The Omen” to “Carrie”, it too devils and demons to be scary enough for Hollywood to invest serious money into the genre. The “escaped lunatic” with a knife wasn’t enough. Films like that were relegated to the independent, low-budget filmmakers to spend a few hundred thousand dollars and hope to make it back in drive-ins and such.
If there was a time when the world was turning upside down, it was the 60s and 70s. The turmoil from Vietnam to Watergate made many question the things Americans relied on for decades. That anti-establishment arc found its way into many films. Sometimes it was overt, like in films like “Dirty Harry” and “Death Wish.” Charles Bronson could do what the entire police force couldn’t – confront crime and defeat it. Clint Eastwood had to defy police orders to get the bad guy, and he threw his badge into the river to put an exclamation point on it.
Really good science fiction answers a really cool question that begins with “What If.”
Sadly, since Star Wars, science fiction his been thought to be spaceships flying through the galaxy or if we go back as far as the fifties, spaceships landing or attacking Earth.
Some really good science fiction doesn’t involve space, aliens or ray guns.
Time After Time takes off on two really great “What if” questions.
The first: What if H. G. Wells, instead of just writing “The Time Machine,” actually built one?
Norman Wexler, the reason I love Saturday Night Fever. He suffered from mental illness most of his life and was rumored to be the inspiration for Tony Clifton, Andy Kaufman’s stage alter ego.
But he turned a movie about nightclub dancing into a social commentary.
He was a screenwriter who twice was nominated for the Oscar for “Joe” and “Serpico”, two films dealing with the darker side of social commentary. Then Wexler was tasked with turning a magazine article about Saturday night disco dancing into something more than a dance movie.