Will Steve and Laurie really break up before he leaves for college in the morning?
Will Curt ever meet the mysterious blonde in the white T Bird?
Will John Milner accept the challenge of the stranger in the black Chevy?
These were the questions that burned in our consciousness 40 years ago when the George Lucas film "American Graffiti" opened in theaters.
We already knew the actor who played Steve, the class president. It was Opie. But we had no idea that the street racer in the '56 Chevy would grow up to be Indiana Jones. We couldn't conceive that the blonde in the T Bird would one day star on a popular TV series called "Three's Company." And we were stunned to learn that Paul Le Mat, who played Milner, was just about the only member of that cast whose career did not take off after the film's release. He was the next James Dean. How could he miss?
Four decades later, however, I'm still talking about Paul Le Mat, so maybe he achieved some sort of Hollywood immortality after all.
The movie, which was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture and best director.
It was set in 1962 in a car-crazy California town on the last night of summer before high school resumed and recent graduates headed off the college. But it really wasn't about the last night of summer. It was about a significant time of transition in our cultural history when the docile 1950s gave way to the turbulent 1960s.
Yes, there was a fun soundtrack with more than 40 tunes of that era, and there were plenty of easy laughs, teen angst and cool cars. But the movie spoke to an entire generation, which makes me wonder what is in store for kids of that same age in 2013. Which film will they look fondly back upon 40 years from now?
I worry that it will have a robot in it. "American Graffiti" did not have a robot in it.
I worry that it will have a caped superhero in it. "American Graffiti" had no caped superheroes in it.
I worry that Johnny Depp will play Tonto in it.
I've been looking at a list of 2013 movies in an attempt to predict which might speak to a generation for the next four decades.
There are new two movies that attempt to speak to teens, but I doubt that one of them has any chance of being remembered in the year 2053. That film is "We're the Millers." I will leave it to our able movie critic Michael Sragow to critique the film (trust me; "Citizen Kane" is safe), but let's just say that the innocent teen romance in it is buried in a swamp of strippers, drug dealing and full frontal nudity.
The second film that opened over the weekend is "The Spectacular Now." One of its stars, Shailene Woodley, told me that she believes her film will be talked about 50 years from now.
"Years from now," the 21-year-old actress said, "people will remember that I was in this movie."
Skeptics will chalk up her optimism to youthful delusion, but it really is an excellent movie. I question how much it truly reflects high school life. The actress insisted that it is an accurate portrait of what high school is like these days, and I have trouble arguing with her since she was in high school just a few years ago, and I haven't been in high school since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Regardless, it has a better chance of being remembered than "The Hangover Part III," which is categorized as a "teen comedy," although it is about creepy old guys in Vegas.
I'd rather concentrate on the 40th anniversary of "American Graffiti," and let teens lose sleep over their cinematic legacy.
In the spirit of high school, here is a pop quiz. Test your knowledge of "American Graffiti," and I'll include the answers in next week's column.
1. What kind of liquor did Debbie ask Toad to buy for her?
2. What was the name of the gang that threatened Curt?
3. Who was in the car with Bob Falfa when he rolled his car in a ditch?
4. What did John Milner give Carol to remember their adventure together?
5. What kind of a car did Milner drive?
6. Besides being Steve's girlfriend and Curt's sister, what was Laurie's claim to fame?
7. What organization awarded Curt a college scholarship?
8. What song was playing for Steve and Laurie's slow dance at the sock hop?
9. On what road did the climactic drag race take place?
10. As revealed by ex-girlfriend Bobbie, what was Curt's dream in life?
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