Posts Tagged ‘Big Wednesday’

Where were you in ‘62? This is the question George Lucas asked of us on the poster for American Graffiti in 1973. As previously mentioned American Graffiti is possibly George Lucas’ best film, but more importantly it’s the best example of a filmmakers nostalgic look at his teenage years. A decade later Kevin Reynolds had similar idea looking back to 1971 in Fandango (1985). But, a decade after that, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) looked back nearly two decades to 1976. But if we go back to the 60’s and 70’s we may see the reason; John Milius’ classic surf movie Big Wednesday (1978) chronicles the lives of a group of friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War (one day people will come to realise it is better than The Deer Hunter from the same year). And that may be the crux of it, the Vietnam War loomed large in the lives and minds of film makers in the 70’s.American-Graffiti-poster

But then there is another issue. New Hollywood or the American New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s saw the ideas and ideals of the independent, European and Asian cinema. Possibly by the 90’s and certainly the 00’s the spirit of the New Wave was dead (thanks Michael Cimino!) and we had to look to burgeoning independent cinema to give us what we had seen from the studios in the past. But does it go deeper than that? In the time from when American Graffiti was set and when it was made, the world looked very different. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam and the ceasefire was signed. The Beatles released their first single conquered the world and split up. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The Summer of Love was followed by Woodstock and culminated in The Altamont Speedway Free Festival. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had overseen a peaceful end to the Cuban missile crisis and possibly averted world war III, and was assassinated. The Apollo 11 program had put the first man on the moon.fandango

How has the world changed since 2003? The same wars are still going on that were a decade ago. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, then started getting bigger and bigger. The airways are filled by boy bands manufactured by crappy TV shows. To quote Pete Townshend: “But the world looks just the same, And history ain’t changed” . to put it simply the world really hasn’t changed. We are seeing movies about the wars and conflicts in the middle east, and the infantile crisis, but these are contemporary social commentaries not nostalgic movies. It just leaves the question, will filmmakers in the 2020’s be making nostalgic movies about this decade?


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Mixtape Movies Image 2

As promised I am posting a Mixtape Movies each week to give you an idea of what I have planned. For this first one as well as the final post I am going to quickly run through the process as it may help anyone unsure of what I was thinking.

I thought it would be fun to start with the movie that gave my blog its title: Fandango. Set over a single day during a time of transition for the young characters, Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti were obvious choices. I quickly added Stand By Me involving a younger group of friends. The journey they were on seemed appropriate to fandango and with Richard Dreyfuss it shares an interesting link to American Graffiti where he plays a similar character at a different time in his life.

For my final pick I was going to go for the quintessential high school movie; The Breakfast Club. I discounted it as a contemporary film and not a nostalgic one. It is also set indoors in winter where all the others are set outdoors in summer. I then considered: Animal House, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Rebel Without A Cause, The Last Picture Show, Rushmore and Risky Business. Discounting all of these for one reason or another I went back to The Breakfast Club because it just fits, and that’s what matters in a mixtape. As we are translating an idea from music to movies, I have also lent towards movies with memorable music.

Finally my wildcard movie: Big Wednesday. Where all the other movies are set over a day or two Big Wednesday is set over a period of years and shows the transition not just the turning point in the life of the characters. So here is my first Movie Mixtape:

Mixtapes Movies - Fandango

Stand By Me (1996) directed by Rob Reiner – Labor Day weekend, September 1959, four friends set off on a journey to find the body of a missing boy.

The Breakfast Club (1985) directed by John Hughes – A diverse group of kids attend a Saturday detention. What at first appears to be a simple tale of teenage rebellion against authority figures actually turns into a movie about acceptance and understanding.

Dazed and Confused (1993) directed by Richard Linklater – May 1976, It’s the last day of school in an Austin, Texas suburb. The following years seniors split their time between planning for a party that night and hazing the incoming freshman.

American Graffiti (1973) directed by George Lucas – August 1962, two high school graduates spend their last night cruising the strip in their small California town before they are due to fly off to collage.

Fandango (1985) directed by Kevin Reynolds – May 1971, a group of students set out on a final road trip from their fraternity house in Austin, Texas to the Mexican border on southwest Texas

Wildcard movie:

Big Wednesday (1978) directed by John Milius – Set over twelve years from 1962 to 1974, the life of a group of surfing friends is told against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.Stand By Me - The Breakfast Club - Dazed and Confused - American Graffiti - Fandango - Big Wednesday

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A few years ago I set out to write a list of my top ten sports movies. I rapidly came to the conclusion that my list was full of Baseball and Boxing movies and little else. I gave up on the idea and published lists of my favourite Baseball and Boxing movies. Returning to the same idea from a different direction, my favourite sports movies limited to one movie per sport:

Rugby (league): This Sporting Life (1963): A grim and often brutal tale of Rugby in northern England. I has its problems and hasn’t aged that well in places but is still a powerful film with some great moments.

Ice Hockey: Slap Shot (1977): To the uninitiated (like me) ice hock is a sport that breaks out occasionally when the fighting subsides. It is therefore fitting that the most iconic movie to depicts the sport portrays a team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity.

Surfing: Big Wednesday (1978): From the early 60’s through to the mid 70’s Big Wednesday chronicles the lives of three friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Its also a great surf movie.

Cycling: Breaking Away (1979): Like so many other sports movies, Breaking Away is as much about growing up as it is about sport. It sits as well with Fandango or American Graffiti as it does with a sports movie and is all the better for it.

Boxing: Raging Bull (1980): Martin Scorsese’s tale of Boxer Jake LaMotta is so much more than a sports movie but along the way it manages to be the best sports movie ever made. The American Film Institute voted it the best film of the 80’s, its hard to argue with them.

Golf: Caddyshack (1980): originally well received and like so many 80’s comedies Caddyshack gained a cult status. It has more recently had a bit of a backlash as people suggest it isn’t as funny as they remember. Whatever your thoughts, its worth seeing for Bill Murray’s performance alone.

Athletics: Chariots of Fire (1981): I saw the reissue of this movie at the cinema earlier this year. Telling the true story of two athletes and what they did to get to the 1924 Paris Olympics, it has lost none of its impact in the thirty years since its release.

Horse Racing: Champions (1984): The true story of jockey Bob Champion who survived testicular cancer and went on to win the Grand National. His horse Aldaniti plays himself in the movie.

Pool: The Color of Money (1986): The Hustler (1961) is the obvious choice but I prefer Martin Scorsese’s sequel to the original. The greatest triumph and the reason the movie works so well is the brilliant way Newman and Cruise play off each other.

Skiing: The Blizzard of AAHHH’s (1988): Speed skiers often reach speeds in excess of 125mph, early in this seminal documentary we are told that Glen Plake gave it up because he found it boring. This movie tells of what he and others did instead and thus began the extreme skiing movement.

Baseball: Bull Durham (1988): There is something about baseball that makes it work particularly well in movies. My favourite of Kevin Costner’s three baseball movies is the sublime Bull Durham.

Basketball: White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Forget the NBA, basketball in movies is all about the streets and this story of a pair of hustlers is as good as it gets.

Football: Fever Pitch (1997): Football is near impossible to get right in movies, Fever Pitch gets it right by not actually showing football. Based around real events and telling what it is to be a fan.

Bowling: The Big Lebowski (1998): A film that contains bowling rather than a film about bowling but it is too good to leave off the list.

Skateboarding: Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001): Catherine Hardwicke’s 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown was told the story of the Zephyr skateboard team and was a pretty good movie. This documentary directed by original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta is even better.

Climbing/mountaineering: Touching the Void (2003): Two climbers successfully reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru, things don’t go as smoothly on the way down. Using a lot of re-enactment the movie falls somewhere between a feature film and a traditional documentary.

American Football: Friday Night Lights (2004): High school and college sport means so much more in America than in England, that is one of the reasons it is the subject of so many movies. This one is so good, that I would place it above any movie about the NFL.

Tennis: Wimbledon (2004): The story of a journeyman English tennis player who SPOILER ALERT wins Wimbledon contains all the themes of underdog you would expect from a sports movie. A likable leading man help make this lightweight rom-com more enjoyable than it should be.

Wheelchair Rugby: Murderball (2005): Murderball is the name given to the brutal sport of wheelchair rugby. Told from the point of view of Team USA and Team Canada in the two years leading up to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens this documentary of the sport is gripping, exciting and rewarding.

Wrestling: The Wrestler (2008): Is professional wrestling a sport? Probably not, but with a movie this good I can’t leave it off the list. Darren Aronofsky has a way of making any subject interesting, he is aided by a great cast including the ever dependable Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei who are both at their best.

Mixed-Martial Arts: Redbelt (2008): Warrior (2011) is a better known movie about Mixed-Martial Arts, I prefer David Mamet’s film Redbelt. With all the complexity and nuance you would expect from Mamet but with an unfamiliar setting. 

Roller Derby: Whip It (2009): Going into this movie I had no idea what Roller Derby was, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is an enjoyable film in its own right but is also a great advert for the sport. 

Motor racing: Senna (2010): A fantastic and moving doc telling the story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it. It featured in my top five movies from 2011.

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