Preface Movie making and movie-going are perhaps two quintessential activities shared by Americans today. We love our audiovisual media, cannot get enough of it, carry it in our pockets, and stream it rather than sleep. We film ourselves, each other, our cats, our food, our travels, pretty sunsets, and leaves. In one sense, we have learned from Hollywood, that great metonym for filmmaking, that the real is not quite real until it has been filmed and watched. See the proud parents holding high their phones at concerts or sports matches: “I was there, I filmed it see?” Some of us take filming to another level and perhaps attend one of the many film schools cropping up all over the country. Hoping to be the next Spielberg or Cop- pola, many quickly realize how difficult it is and opt for studying films instead of making them. This is where a resource like this text comes in. It provides accessible summary and analysis of some of the greatest films of the last four decades. But unlike other reference works, it attempts to see these films with the twin lenses of “America” and “generation.” How are these films products of their time and place? How do they transcend their particular cultural moment? How do they themselves become a part of what constitutes those moments and the ones that come “downstream,” as it were? How do they help contest and construct American generational identity from one to the next? In short, what do they mean beyond their plots and sophisti- cated spectacles? Clearly, movies are more than an escape from the mundane world they are art that reminds us and sometimes tells us who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. Of course, a volume like this says as much about what it leaves out as what is included. The films included are blockbusters, that is, they are the highest-earning films within the years selected for each section. Such information is readily avail- able on the internet. There are many beloved classics that did not break into the top 10 or even the top 20 in their respective time frames their greatness was only discovered or rediscovered by later audiences. It is also true that “blockbuster” does not equate to quality. Just because a film earns a lot of money by cashing in on bored parents during summer vacation does not make it a master class in directing, acting, scriptwriting, or cinematography. But they are cultural artifacts that have flooded our collective unconscious, permeating it in ways too profound to fully articulate in many volumes much less a single one. To adapt one of Kurt Vonnegut’s lines about his protagonist’s mother in Slaughterhouse Five, “Like so
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