Bernie

Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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Richard Linklater and Jack Black

The first time director Richard Linklater used Jack Black as the star of one of his films, the result was the much-loved School of Rock. The second time the duo collaborated, it was on last year’s quirky Bernie, a film that didn’t have the mainstream appeal of School of Rock, but that earned Black quite a bit of critical acclaim for his showing off more range than audiences were used to seeing from him. Not ones to let a good thing end prematurely, Linklater and Black are reportedly planning on working together on a third film, a biopic about a real life professional bowler. At a recent awards season event for Bernie, Black let news of the new film slip when he told the L.A. Times that their new project would be, “about a guy who gives up everything to be a professional bowler.” While Black refused to confirm who exactly this bowler who gave everything away is, The Times has theorized that he’s probably talking about PBA Champion Pete Weber, a figure who – for the bowling world at least – is considered to be pretty controversial.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Shuffle Every time Lovell falls asleep he awakens at a different point of his life. His thirty year old mind and memories remain intact as a ten year old, a ninety year old, and anywhere in between. Things get even more complicated when he discovers his wife has died under potentially mysterious circumstances, but can he use his uncontrollable life-hopping ability to make things right? It’s tough making science fiction films on an indie budget, but writer/director Kurt Kuenne (Dear Zachary: A Letter To a Son About His Father) takes a sci-fi concept and uses it to tell a very human story. Loss, redemption, and forgiveness are just a few of the themes shown to transcend time, and the film explores them with beauty, humor and vitality. [Extras: Trailer, festival video diaries, making-of, black & white version]

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Writer/director Richard Linkater is a filmmaker who can never be accused of making one thing. Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, School of Rock, Tape, The Newton Boys, A Scanner Darkly, Waking Life, and his latest film Bernie, about the nicest murderer you’ll ever meet, all make for an eclectic filmography. If there’s one noticeable connection in Linklater’s works, it that he’s always mixed comedy and tragedy. As the director puts it, that’s just how he sees the world, and he generally shows that view in different structures. Unlike, say, A Scanner Darkly, Bernie is a plain and simple story, with zero tangents to speak of. Although Linklater isn’t a fan of the normal three-act structure, a fact you can see in his films, Bernie mostly fits into that box. This, along with his writing process and where he draws inspiration from, is one of the few things I discussed with Mr. Linklater in an all-too-brief conversation.

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It’s no secret that we love Constellation round these parts – we’ve already hosted one screening through the online movie-viewing platform (a barn-burner of a Rashomon screening) and we’ve got a terrifyingly appropriate one teed up for later this week (that would be our 4/20 screening of The Big Lebowski) – but for all the fun it provides, the site is admirable because of its unique ability to allow film fans access to great movies and filmmakers without having to actually do something nuts, like leave the house to go to a movie theater (I kid). This week, Constellation is hosting a free special sneak peek of Richard Linklater‘s Bernie, along with a live online Q&A session with the filmmaker. This Thursday, April 19th, at 8:00 PM EST, Constellation will play a series of exclusive clips from the upcoming film, including behind-the-scenes looks and true-story featurettes, with Linklater hosting the post-screening Q&A. The conversation will take place in Constellation’s virtual movie theater platform, with Linklater live via webcam. Even better? It’s free!

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Last month was eclectic. We got Disney‘s like-it-or-hate-it box-office bomb, a sweet and violent comedy following the goons of hockey, one ass-kicking and nonstop action picture, an 80s TV show adaptation that was better than it originally had any right to be, and a Tarsem kids’ film that defied most expectations based on that horror story of a trailer. A pretty strong March, and that’s not even counting The Hunger Games. Before we head into the unpredictable summer movie season, we got 30 days filled with a plenty of excellent and probably not-so-excellent releases coming out. Here are 8 1/2 movies worth seeing this month.

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Bernie is director Richard Linklater‘s most accessible film in years. It falls somewhere in the middle between his commercial features and his more experimental works as a splendid mix of both sensibilities. Bernie is hilarious, clever, sweet, thought-provoking, and a fine example of the most interesting type of comedy. Set in Carthage, East Texas, the true-life story follows Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede (Jack Black), a happy-go-lucky member of the community. He’s about as well-liked as they come and the type of guy who would never hurt a fly. Bernie, a local mortician, is also a mystery. The only people he has any known relationships with are the old widows he comforts. Are his intentions sexual? The film doesn’t say. When the most disliked member of his community, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), loses her husband, Bernie tries to prove she isn’t the horrid person everyone makes her out to be.

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South by Southwest is our favorite film festival not just because it’s in our own backyard (relatively speaking) or because it affords us a chance to eat BBQ on daily basis or even because it means we can sit in the Drafthouse all day but because – wait, no, it’s our favorite film festival for precisely those reasons. What else could you possibly want from a film festival? Good films? Fair enough. Luckily, finding good films at SXSW isn’t hard, not even remotely, which explains why our list of Our 16 Most Anticipated Films came together with no overlap – there’s truly something for everyone. For Rob Hunter, that means a lot of guns and violence, for Dear Leader Neil Miller, he just wants to stop being the last person in America who hasn’t seen The Raid. We even let Jack pick some films too. Sixteen in total, these films encapsulate the variety that makes SXSW so great – stick with this list and you probably can’t go (too)  wrong. Why sixteen films? Because we’re sweet. Or just suffering from anticipatory exhaustion from our favorite film festival. Check out all the movies we’re aching to see after the jump.

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Richard Linklater‘s latest film, Bernie, features Jack Black as a mustachioed mortician who all the townsfolk admire. His character is a people person, which is probably why he tries to make nice with the snarly widow played by Shirley MacLaine. A romance blossoms, but there’s still plenty of dirt in the woman’s heart, and from the looks of the new trailer, she doesn’t get to see the end credits. And apparently Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer convinced dear old Bernie is a killer. Jack Black ratcheting it down a notch? Maybe without even scatting? MacLaine essentially reprising her Guarding Tess role? McConaughey with a shirt on? Looks great:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the only nightly movie news column to be cast in both The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. It will play the same character in both: a movie news column that, after delivering the news unto the people, rides off into the sunset on a badass motorcycle. It will make sense in context in both films, we promise. We begin tonight with an image of Jack Black in Richard Linklater’s black comedy Bernie, about a small-town mortician who makes friends with an elderly woman (played by Shirley MacLaine). The mustache looks creepy, but the last time Black and Linklater teamed up (School of Rock), Black was at his best. Here’s hoping that happens again when the film opens next month’s LA Film Festival.

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