This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.
American Graffiti was one of those films I would see all the time appear on many best-of lists, but I never really had any desire to see it or even find out what it was about. I'm glad I was finally able to see it for this series though, because at the very least I was able to appreciate a young Richard Dreyfuss who was essentially the heart of the film. Before getting to him and thus my favorite shot, I do want to point out that before I had seen this film, I'd never heard of the the term "cruising" other than its modern usage of looking for a sexual partner. Perhaps it's the non-driver in me, but regardless this activity was quite popular a few decades ago and this film really highlighted that cultural aspect I didn't know.
Set in the summer of 1962, the film follows a group of friends and their misadventures on the last night they're all together before Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) leave town for college. At the beginning of the film, Steve is gung-ho about getting the hell out of town while Curt is a bit more contemplative and reluctant. As I said above, Curt is essentially the heart of the film echoing many of us who have been afraid to leave the familiar trappings of home for a world unknown. Yet it is during his last night in town where he was given a taste of the unknown first by going on a wild goose chase to track down his dream girl in the white T-bird, then by getting involved in some trouble with a local gang, and finally meeting the elusive radio personality Wolfman Jack. It's his first glimpse of Wolfman Jack in the radio station which I picked as my favorite shot:
Curt still can't see Wolfman Jack here (a detail I love) and in fact the man actually lies to him about his identity when they finally meet face to face, but Curt was able to overcome all of those unknowns to reach his ultimate goal of getting his dedication on the air. Curt's reflection being doubled up on the glass also speaks to the great decision he has to make by the end of the film: will he stay or will he go? In the end, he decides to venture out of town, radio in tow and the white T-bird far below.
Didn't have room to talk about the following runner-up shots, but for the most part it speaks well to the slightly surreal and oftentimes hilarious segments containing Charles Martin Smith and Candy Clark:
I just love the look on Clark's face as she threw the match at the rude boy bothering them and Smith combing his hair outside the liquor store made me laugh. That final shot nearly was my "best shot" choice since it pretty much sums up the experience of an unforgettable night like they all experienced.