American Graffiti

American Graffiti ★★★★½

There is an alternate reality in which George Lucas evolved into Robert Altman, Star Wars was directed by Martin Scorsese, and R. Crumb became world-famous for his concept art for Francis Ford Coppola's Alien (the alien is portrayed by Brian De Palma). Although this is quite different in every respect from the media empire that sheared Lucas away from true cinematic craft, it does somehow underscore just how different the first Star Wars movie is from the two that immediately succeeded it; you can feel somebody trying to be a filmmaker here, and for me, at least, it really works. One long night lit by the flames of youth; grey streets and blurry lights smeared into shadows by endless drag races; the foibles and follies and mishaps of teenage life in a time and place long dead, capped off by the perfect postscript. I do love Star Wars - so much that I hate it and everybody else who likes it - but I really wish we could see what would have become of George Lucas had he remained on the straight and narrow and ditched the space cowboys after Return of the Jedi.

And don't think I didn't see that THX license plate.