The many sides of Richard Linklater

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1990

With Everybody Wants Some, Linklater’s latest film just out in America this week we thought now is a good enough time as any to take a look at the versatile work of one of the greatest directors from this modern era. An auteur who should be uttered in the same breath as Wes Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Paul Thomas Anderson, but isn’t…admittedly it would be a long breath. Having gotten his start in the late 80s/90s, over the last almost three decades and almost twenty films, Linklater has touched upon almost every genre, outside straight horror and action, and I’m here to celebrate just a few of his best and most varied works.

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Reeeeeally can’t wait till this makes it to our side of the pond!

Dazed and Confused (1993): Stoner comedy

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After his bizarre montage of a film Slacker brought Linklater into the conversation, this is the film that made him. A much more straight forward stoner comedy that follows an eclectic group of high schoolers on the first night of Summer in the mid-70s, as they drive around drinking and smoking pot, just looking for a good place to smoke pot and drink. Now on the surface this is a par for the course teen comedy, but as Linklater is now known for, his writing brings startling insight and a nuance to its fun characters and setting, alone elevating it to a complex character piece. But it’s the quieter moments in between the partying, when the haze clears and the characters look off into the distance and can’t help but worry about what comes next, that if these really will be the best years of their life, that really stay with you.

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well alright, alright, alright, the origins

Those moments don’t last long, and are usually answered with a shrug, but that the film admits that the party will end, so you better enjoy it, puts it high above almost any other stoner film. Oh and it also launched the careers of Ben Affleck, Mathew Mcconaughey, as well as a butt tone of other recognisable faces, so it’s got that going for it too.

 

A Scanner Darkly (2006): Animated Sci-Fi thriller

A_Scanner_Darkly_PosterRichard Linklater and animated dystopian science-fiction; not a combination even the stoners from Dazed and Confused would think of, let alone guess it would be one of the highlights of the genre; but this list is titled thus for a reason. Adapted from Phillip K Dicks novel, it depicts a group of drug addicts, formed of Robert Downy Jr, Woody Harrelson, and led db6by undercover cop Keanu Reeves in a totalitarian America, where the only thing they have more of than drugs is cameras: Big Brother is always watching. Linklater sticks very close to the text, adapting the films dark themes of drug abuse just as effectively as its constant bursts of dark and surreal humour. But what really makes this film something else, is that its rotoscoped (animation done over live-action footage), a style that not only makes it timeless, but adds a toxic physicality to the labyrinth of confusion and paranoia the story revels in; capturing imagery from the material like no live-action film ever could.

Me and Orson Welles (2008): Period drama comedy

me_and_orson_welles03A 30’s set period dramedy, a love letter to the stage (which clearly inspires Linklater’s writing, though ironically he didn’t write this), and a personal favourite of mine: I find this film is unfairly overlooked as a Zac Effron vehicle (who fits the period like an old glove), as at the time he was in the heights of his High School Musical fame. But in actuality it’s a genuine showcase of his talents, as it is a delightfully charming and fascinating film that looks at the friendship between a young man with theatre dreams and a pre-Citizen Cane Orson Welles, as he and his famous Mercury troop put on their career making performance of Shakespear’s Julius Caesar.

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I’m quite disappointed he never played Welles again

Filled to the brim with recognizable faces, buckets of wit, and a stage full of heart and break; it’s Christian McKay’s portrayal of the man himself that makes this film tick. As uncanny as he is entertaining, this is the definitive portrayal of Orson Welles; painted with depth and care, he is equally the brash genius and timid artist; and his friendship with Effron dives surprisingly deep into the methodology of acting, and are need to transform and disconnect from ourselves.

Boyhood (2014): Coming of age drama

tumblr_ni27i0mrUS1rce5tlo1_1280Filmed over twelve years, from May 2002 to October 2013 (almost my own exact adolescence), using the same cast, Boyhood follows a boy and his broken family through his life, on their journeys to adulthood and everything else.

I’m not sure I can call it Linklater’s best film, but it’s definitely his magnum-opus (so far), and defines his sensitive and nuanced style.
Though in saying that, the first time I saw it in the cinema, I only liked it fine. It was fine. It wasn’t until I saw it again at home, on the small screen with my family, that I realized how special it was; and I recommend everyone else to watch it in much the same way. As though the film is huge in scope, it’s tiny in scale, making a more intimate, personal viewing much more effective.

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It’s a gimmick, but a damn powerful one.

Because this film gets it, it gets growing up, getting older, changing. And not just for a kid, but for everyone and anyone, from the boy, to his sister, to their parents. Everyone is always changing; for better, for worse, and in ways they can’t quite understand, and Linklater captures it beautifully not by focusing on the mile stones of life (school, sex, ext) but the moments in-between, the smaller things that haphazardly drift from your memory but build who you become.

This film isn’t for everyone, its long, and its talky (like most of his films), and there arn’t many clear goals or messages to take from it. But it’s a film that truly sculpted time, the time over which it was filmed and its run length, and is a near three hour shot of condensed life.School_of_Rock_Poster

Though these are more or less my favorites of Linklater’s (Before Sunset would round the list off nicely), but just to emphasise further how versatile his work has been, here’s a full list of all of his films. And yes, he really did direct School of Rock.

Everybody Wants Some!! – Teen Comedy

Boyhood – Coming of age Drama

Before Midnight – Romantic Drama

Bernie – Dark Comedy mystery

Me and Orson Welles – Period Drama

A Scanner Darkly – Sci-fi Thriller

Fast Food Nation – Comedy Drama

Bad News Bears – Children’s Comedy

Before Sunset – Romantic Drama

School of Rock – Family Comedy

Tape – Drama

Waking Life – Surreal Drama…thing

The Newton Boys – Crime Drama

SubUrbia – Coming of age Drama

Before Sunrise – Romantic Drama

Dazed and Confused – Stoner Comedy

Slacker – Comedy

American Beauty: the secret stoner classic

For a film that won five Oscars (and five big ones too) American Beauty has become surprisingly underrated over the last few years. Now seen (and hated) as an outdated product of the nineties, people look at the dark-comedy classic the same as Forest Gump, or Crash: over done and over sold (I disagree of course).….and though I can’t argue that it is definitely of it’s time, I’ve never seen being able to tell when a film was made as a negative.

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But whether American Beauty is still a great film is not what I’m here to talk about, I’m here to talk about why along with the likes of Friday and Dazed and Confused, American Beauty is a classic stoner film, only made better by the smoking of our little green friend.

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And I don’t just say that because it has pot in it, because it is smoked on screen, but because of how it’s used in the film and relates to its themes and story. It represents freedom (of course): almost every character in the film is seen smoking at some point and it’s always at moments of great discovery or triumph, when they manage, in big or small ways, to break out of the prisons they live in. It’s a liberating force.

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Lester smokes a joint, then that night stands up to his wife for the first time in years. Jane smokes, and she begins to see beyond Ricky’s demeanor leading to their romance. Carolyn fucks the real estate king then has a big’ol spliff. They finally do something about their problems. And doesn’t that bag monologue (which I legitimately find poignant (though the amazing score helps) make a whole load more sense when you realize Ricky is blazed off his ass? Sometimes you need to see things at an angle to really see them…

It’s a very progressive message for a 90s film of its kind, to paint the plant not just as the childish pastime of kids and wastoids, but as a welcome tool to survive the conformity of the suburban day to day, and escape it.

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But it’s not just its use in the movie that makes it a great stoner film; it’s a surprising blast to watch too! Being the closest thing to a comedy to win Best Picture, you really feel the humor in the film when high. In the dark satirical wit a lot of the characters speak in, but especially Spacey’s incredibly deadpan and schmucky delivery which always brings the chuckles, except when he gets dark and you see the layers of Frank Underwood already take root.

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But it’s not just the humor you get into. As fun as it is to smoke and just zoink out on life, using it to open yourself up, to be fully engaged by something is even more satisfying, and the drama and darkness that bubbles beneath American Beauty like boiling tar is made even more potent and relatable.

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From every drippingly dry line, to every sentimental word and look, your pulled into the tragedy of it all, all the lies and broken dreams that have constructed themselves into an idea of a good life. You see so much closer… through the mystic green haze.

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People seem to hate American Beauty as by today’s sensibilities it’s just another film about white guys having white guy problems, like we need any more of those. And it is; that is what American Beauty is about, the secret horrors of the suburban middle class, and it’s one of the best ones at it.

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It’s the film that perfected what so many of the countless other middle aged white men problem films, like Fight Club and The Ice Storm, were trying to say and do. And just because it kind of set the trend of those films off doesn’t mean it should be hated for it; people don’t hate Harry Potter for starting this whole YA novel craze (well not yet they don’t).

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Fan of American Beauty? You should also check out…(stoner quality will vary)

People forget the context the film was made in: it feels and deals with dated issues because that’s what was timely seventeen years ago (though I think it still holds some relevance today), these where the issues and problems in the back of everyone’s mind, and this film brought them to the surface, like a more friendly Blue Velvet.  Is is a subtle film? Not always. But is America always subtle?

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almost every scene has…

Give it another ten years and I bet everyone will have come round again, and like Rebel Without a Cause, Apocalypse Now, and many before it, it will be looked upon as a staple of that era of American history, and a large block in the up-hill fight for weed legalisation.

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“Spectacular”

So next time you feel like time traveling to an era where adults acted like kids, kids like adults, and no one knew what they wanted anymore; light up a blunt and be ready to laugh, cry, and be moved at the funny little tragedy that is American Beauty.

Films to look Forward to in 2016

Batman V Superman: March 25

PHDHoUG4AUNdHI_1_lBecause despite the last trailer giving WAY too much away, who isn’t going to see this film? It’s Batman fighting Superman…for at least a third of the film anyway. And despite that trailer there’s still hope. The idea that Batman is turned against Superman because of the chaos he caused in Man of Steel is good screenwriting; it makes sense from a character point and helps bring the films together. The casting is also very solid, with Batfleck actually looking to be one of the best iterations of the Dark Knight yet. But we all still need to take a step back to wait and see whether Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is the trainwreck everyone is HOPING it will be, or whether like Keaton and Ledger before him he will turn in a great performance despite the naysayers. I have no idea, but I at least love how much fun he seems to be having.

 

Deadpool: February 10

I limited this list to only Deadpool_postertwo superhero films because I didn’t want it to be inundated with them, and I wanted this to be a cut away from a lot of most anticipated lists by not just focusing on the big blockbusters coming our way (but saying that I am looking forward to Civil War and Dr Strange).
Now Deadpool; the reason I chose this over the many superhero flicks of 2016 is because this is by far the riskiest. R rated, fourth wall breaking, X-Men Movie universe expanding, and Ryan Reynolds’ starring; it’s had the best advertising campaign of any superhero film that manages to introduce the character while staying true to his roots, and is being made by people who clearly care deeply about making it an authentic adaptation. So let’s hope all those good intentions don’t pave the way to hell this time.

 

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Hail, Caesar!: February 26

Because it’s the Coen brothers (who I’m not the biggest fan of so not just dick sucking), doing a satire of the golden age of Hollywood with an all-star cast of old (Clooney and Brolin) and new talent (Hill and Tatum), with a the truly Coeny plot about a Charlton Heston type movie star being kidnapped, and the hapless Hollywood fixer who has to find him. It should be a very gaudy picture, with its only hurdle to clear is the early February release date, which could be a) a sign that the Coen’s just don’t give a shit, or b) the studio wants to drop it where no one will see it. We will see.

 

 

 

Everybody Wants Some: May 13

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His first film since his cinematic milestone and masterpiece Boyhood, Linklater returns to his stoner roots, with the spiritual sequel to possibly the best hangout film ever, Dazed and Confused; the 70s set stoner comedy that always found the chuckles, but never lost the poignancy of leaving your teenhood behind. This latest outing is set in the 80s and picks up exactly where Boyhood left off (if a few decades earlier) with a group of teens (played by refreshingly unknown actors) integration into their first year of college life and their college baseball team. Now this doesn’t sound that different from your typical stoner/gross out comedy of today, but with Linklater’s sensitive directing and thoughtful mind for youth and character, what sounds like a typical set up will (hopefully) be another timelessly funny and heartfelt film that captures that moment between teenhood, everything else, and who knows what.

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: November 18

I like the Harry Potter films about as much as the next guy, I grew up with them. But honestly I might be looking forward to this more than any of those films, because I always found the most fascinating part of them to be the world itself. And now we have a film set in that world, Seventy years before the original films (so in the 20s), set in New York, led by one of the best young British actors working today Eddie Redmayne, and was penned by J.K Rowling herself…I’m shocking myself how game I am for this film, and you all should be too! It’s Harry Potter without Harry Potter!

 

The Disaster Artist: TBA

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The adaption from the unsurprisingly hilarious but surprisingly poignant novel about the making of The Room, the infamously best worst movie ever made, but is really about the friendship between its crazy maker Tommy Wiseau and his co-star Greg Sestero. Produced by Seth Rogan and directed by James Franco (who with his directing record doesn’t scream hope), but with a screenplay adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the screenwriters behind The Fault in Our Stars, The Spectacular Now, and 500 Days of Summer, I became far less worried. And that was before the all-star cast started flocking to it like moths to an eccentric flame. James Franco of course is taking the role of Mr Wiseau himself, and his little brother Dave is Greg, but as well as them; Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, Josh Hutcherson, and Bryan fucking Cranston, are also co-starring. With such a shockingly A-list cast, we can only hope they’ve all gathered because of the strength of the script and talent involved, and nothing less. If Franco can make this even half as good as the novel, this could be one of the best films of 2016.

 

The Nice Guys: May 20

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If my look at Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang didn’t give it away, I love Shane Black when he does buddy movies. So it’s great to see him return with what looks like a spiritual sequel (or prequel) to that, with this 70s set dark comedy crime thriller that brings us the inspired pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling; an enforcer and hapless private eye who team up to find a missing girl and solve the murder of a porn star…how can you not be stoked for that! So let the guilty violence and laughs commence!

 

 

 

 

Moana: November 23

moana-poster-conceitual-camundongoDisney’s next animated film after the disappointing Big Hero 6 (and fuck you it wasn’t that good) brought to us by the directing duo behind some of Disney’s greatest films (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Treasure Planet) and will follow an ancient Oceania tribal girl as she searches the South Pacific for a fabled island, helped by a demi-god voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Don’t know much beyond that, but with the talent involved we can but hope for another Disney classic, or at least something up there with Tangled and Frozen.

 

 

 

kuboKubo and the two strings: August 19

 

But this is the animated film I’m looking forward to most in 2016! Brought to us by the same team and studio behind the stop-motion masterpieces Coraline and ParaNorman, comes this action fantasy set in ancient Japan about a teenager fighting demons and searching for the magic armor his legendary samurai father once wore….it’s a STOP MOTION ANIME! I MEAN…how can you not be wetting yourself at the awesomeness of that! And with an all-star cast, the talent behind the scenes, and the recent trailer for it, all we can do now is wait and hope.

La La Land: July 15

Stars On The Set Of 'La La Land'

 

A musical dramedy about the romance between a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling, and an actress played by Emma Stone, and J.K. Simmons is in it too. Really the only reason this has made the list is that its writer and director Damien Chazelle’s follow up to his jaw-breakingly great Whiplash. Whether he’ll be able to live up to that will have to be seen, but I find it a good sign he appears to be going for a very different vibe for this film.

 

 

High-Rise: March 18High_Rise_2014_Film_Poster

The new and probably highest profile film from the bizarre director of Sightseers, A Field in England, and Kill List (the only of his films I have seen), Ben Wheatley; and stars Tom Hiddleston as the newest resident in a self-contained block of highrise apartments with a vicious classiest system, in this dark comedy Sci-fi thriller…or something like that. Co-starring Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss, there is still a bit of mystery about this film, for all those who haven’t read the books it’s adapted from, as the advertisement has done a good job in being vague on plot but specific on tone and style. And with early release reviews beginning to come in I’m seeing almost equal people calling it a failed attempt at something grand, or hailing it as a masterpiece. So I’m glad its release date isn’t too far into this year, before we get a chance to judge for ourselves whether Mr Hiddleston has been using his Marvel down time on worthy projects.

Live by Night: October 7

2E0BBB1A00000578-3300941-image-a-62_1446500565850Ben Affleck finally took a break from acting to get back to his much more interesting career as a director, with this follow up to Argo. Adapted from another Dennis Lehane novel like his first and best film Gone Baby Gone, it’s a period crime thriller that follows the prodigal son of a police captain as he becomes a bootlegger and later a gangster legend. Again here because of the director and writer’s track record, he’s currently three for three on great thrillers, and I doubt Affleck’s in a hurry to break the streak; especially with his next directorial project being the first solo Batman film in the new DCCU. And that’s before mentioning that Mr Leonardo Dicaprio has taken on a producer hat for it.

Of course these are only vague predictions on what will be some of the best films in the coming year, as we all know that best films tent to come out of nowhere with a sharp left hook, not let us see it coming from months away.