Richard Linklater

Matthew McConaughey in 21 Years

“The truth will only be told over a career.” This quote by Richard Linklater opens a new documentary on the filmmaker and also could be applied to another that just hit Netflix Watch Instantly this week. The first is called 21 Years: Richard Linklater and follows a career spanning more than two decades, beginning with 1991’s Slacker and ending with Before Midnight — there’s no mention of this year’s Boyhood. The second is Altman, about Robert Altman, whose long career ended eight years ago as he was scouting for locations for his next feature, at age 81. Linklater’s statement isn’t saying a life story is told over a career (you can see the context in the Reverse Shot interview it comes from), but with both films it’s hard not to expect some sort of biographical portrait of their subjects through their work. The lives of artists, Linklater and Altman included, are always defined by the art. Their jobs are who are they, the product of these jobs all pieces of themselves. 21 Years doesn’t really seem interested in getting to know Linklater as a person, though. The doc, directed by Michael Dunaway (whose day job is film editor at Paste magazine) and Tara Wood (whose IMDb acting listings include an uncredited extra role in Linklater’s The Newton Boys), does not feature the man in any form other than quotes taken from interviews and some older footage, mostly just his appearance in Slacker and clips regarding his involvement with the Austin film community. Instead it’s like a feature-length version […]

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We Are What We Are (2013) Blu-ray Screenshot

For the last 12 years, you could say that Richard Linklater has been just a little bit busy developing Boyhood, his triumph of a film concerning the growth and life of a boy from childhood through adolescence — in real time. And while that ate up a dozen actual years, Linklater didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. As with his Boyhood cast, he allowed himself to work on other projects and tinker with new ideas for future films. One such project is the long-awaited follow-up to his 1993 masterpiece Dazed and Confused. The Playlist reports that Linklater has begun casting this “spiritual sequel” (as Linklater has called it), which is titled That’s What I’m Talking About. He sent offers for three of the lead roles to the following up-and-coming young actors: Blake Jenner (Ryder from Glee — you know, the one that got catfished by another Glee club member), Tyler Hoechlin (the Teen Wolf from Teen Wolf) and Wyatt Russell (Zook from 22 Jump Street and the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn).

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Boyhood

For the past four years, I’ve been in a long distance relationship. As of two weeks ago, the distance component of that relationship has thankfully come to a close, with my heart and my wallet eternally grateful. But the change is bittersweet, as I’ve also been in something of a long-distance relationship with a city that my person inhabited, having now arrived at the end of my routine round trip travels from my current home in southern Indiana to Austin, Texas. I only officially lived in Austin for slightly over a year, from 2009-2010. But in four subsequent years of visits ranging from a brief weekend to an entire summer, I developed something of a strange relationship with the city: I saw it through elliptical fractions of time. Each visit to this rapidly growing city required reorientation, as I was forced to understand the differences big and small that have taken place since my last visit. One day Rainey Street was a mostly empty lot with a few great food trailers. The next visit it became a caravan of bars. A few visits later, dreaded condos were being developed. For nearly anyone who has experienced the city of Austin through time, there is an Austin Then and an Austin Now, with Austin Then forever casting a shadow over the always inferior Austin Now. If any filmmaker has a claim to Austin Then, it’s Slacker director Richard Linklater. But as his recent output has shown – most evidently in the magnus […]

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Jack Black in School of Rock

If there are three things that Richard Linklater‘s School of Rock taught us about the fine art of hard rocking and getting good grades in elementary school, it’s that rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme and you better get to school on time. Those timeless lessons, drilled into audiences’ heads by the grand master of rock n’ roll Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, would be immortal by themselves, but now Linklater and Scott Rudin are bringing School of Rock to Nickelodeon as a TV show so the children of the world never have to go without that sweet, sweet hard rocking. The live-action series has an immediate order for 13 episodes with production begining this fall, and it will follow the same premise of the movie: Finn, a rocker who has seen better days (he will totally have his rent by the end of the week, dudes, okay? — remember that the Legend of the Rent was way hardcore) takes an opportunity to make some fast cash and possibly turn his life around by posing as his roommate at a substitute teaching gig at a prestigious prep school. Instead of following the lesson plan, Dewey forms a class band and gets the kids rocking as fast as possible, because who really needs math anyway?

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American Promise still

The raves are flying thick around Boyhood, the long-time-in-the-making new film from director Richard Linklater which finally opens in theaters this weekend. Linklater and his crew shot the movie over the course of 12 years, so that they could capture the main character age in real time, from a young boy to a high school graduate. I can vouch for pretty much every good thing you’ve heard about the movie. It’s a fantastically moving, incredibly true-to-life piece of work, and an impressive accomplishment. It is not, however, a unique accomplishment, no matter how many critics may think it is. While the scope of Boyhood‘s production period may rival any completed fiction film, there are numerous documentary projects of equal or greater scale. An easy example is the Paradise Lost trilogy, which revisited the same legal case over a 17-year period. An even easier example is the Up series, which has been revisiting the same set of subjects every seven years for the last half century. But this week’s Doc Option is a film whose structure hews remarkably close to that of Boyhood. In fact, these two movies were trying to do almost the same thing — and with a significant overlap in the time during which they shot — but on opposite sides of the fiction/nonfiction coin. American Promise was shot over the course of 13 years instead of 12. It has two protagonists, not one (though with both movies, you can argue that the parents are just as important as the main characters are). And while Boyhood is concerned with a variety of subjects that have to do […]

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IFC Films

There’s a conceit at the center of Richard Linklater‘s new film Boyhood that imbues it with a unique and wonderful power absolutely absent from any other movie. It’s usually hyperbole to say a film is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but in this case it’s very true. In order to tell the story of a boy’s life from age six to eighteen, the writer/director assembled a cast willing to film for a week or so each year… for twelve years. The result is a coming-of-age tale where the usually accepted norm — child actors being replaced with older child actors as the character ages — is itself replaced with the smoothly subtle and unexpectedly touching effect of actually watching a boy (and his family) age before our eyes. We drop into Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) life at six years old to find him in a small bit of trouble at school. His mom (Patricia Arquette) shares his teacher’s concerns on the drive home with the predominant one being Mason’s penchant for letting his mind wander to the world beyond the classroom. His curious and warm eyes — his only features to remain constant as his face and body age and mature around them over the years to come — carry that same casual inquisitiveness up into his eighteenth year when we leave him and his life just as unceremoniously as we arrived. There’s no doubt or debate that Boyhood is an unparalleled achievement, and if you grew up in America (or possibly other Western countries) […]

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Insert Fish Here

Listen, I know we’ve all been waiting with bated breath for that The Incredible Mr. Limpet remake to finally get out the door and into theaters. Details have been scarce ever since the project was first announced in the late 90s- first, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist mastermind Steve Oedekerk was ready to direct, with Jim Carrey as the astounding man-fish. Oedekerk stepped down, but the troops were rallied and Brad Bird was offered the gig. Then, Bird caught a glimpse of Mr. Limpet’s new look: a CGI fish with Carrey’s human face transplanted on via mo-cap. He described it thusly: “If you saw this in the water, you would get out of the water and run screaming and tell everyone the world was ending.” Plans for the film fell apart shortly afterward. Then, they fell back together when Enchanted director Kevin Lima boarded the project. Zach Galifianakis was in talks to play a presumably less horrifying Mr. Limpet, and then Richard Linklater later found himself in talks to replace Lima. Yet neither man was officially sworn in; the best we got was a single source from the LA Times claiming that “Warner Bros. is set to make it official and hire Linklater.” Save for that one bit of potential confirmation, every other Limpet-related headline on Earth still ended with a pesky question mark.

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Sundance

And thus ends another Sundance Film Festival. This year’s festival provided us with plenty of feature fodder to examine for the next eleven or so months, despite the lack of any big breakout a la Fruitvale Station or Beasts of the Southern Wild. As ever, though, the festival featured some recurring trope and tricks (a few of which we identified early), but not all of them seemed rote or repetitive. In fact, there are more than a few themes and players that popped up throughout the festival that we would like to see more of – either at Sundance or out in the wide release world. So what kept showing up in this year’s Sundance selections that deserves a bigger stage? Read on, and make some notes.

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Filmmaker Richard Linklater’s relationship with the Sundance Film Festival has so far proven to be a very fruitful one – Linklater memorably premiered both his Before Sunrise and Before Midnight at the festival (Before Sunset, the middle film in the current trilogy, bowed at Berlin), his Slacker won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival back in 1991, and the festival even honored the film with a special anniversary screening back in 2010 (similarly, this year’s “From the Collection” screening will honor the twentieth anniversary of Hoop Dreams) – so it’s not surprising that the festival will be the one to debut one of Linklater’s most talked about features. It is, however, (pleasantly, to be sure) surprising that it will be his long-promised (and long-filmed) Boyhood. Honestly, we sort of didn’t think it was real.

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jack_black_17651

It’s hard to image that it’s already been a decade since Jack Black stormed into our hearts and that classroom in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock as Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who steals a substitute teaching gig meant for his roommate when he gets booted from his band and threatened with eviction in the same day. And though he may not have known a single damn thing about teaching “the boring subjects,” he certainly knew a thing or two about the important things in life: rock music and sticking it to anyone who thinks they’re better than you. Though ten years have passed, and those children are all about 20 years old now, the best songs and moments from the film still hold up as strong as ever. For those about to rock, we salute you.

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Richard Linklater

John Pierson, the producer of Slacker and several other early features by notable directors of the American independent filmmaking renaissance of the ‘80s and ‘90s, once described Richard Linklater as the voice of a generation that wasn’t part of it: an art film brat who found himself at the center of a microbudget filmmaking movement who would “much rather talk about Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac than either Jaws or The Brady Bunch.” Yet Linklater’s filmography suggests that he’s just as comfortable with ascetic French minimalism as he is with American broadcast television. His career covers everything from no-budget chamber dramas like Tape to studio-backed kids’ movies like School of Rock to cult classics like Dazed and Confused and animated experiments like Waking Life. While Linklater is notably comfortable making movies in his native Texas (he arguably defined Austin’s filmmaking and twentysomething scene without overtly seeking to instigate or capture either), as evidenced by the enthusiastic reception surrounding the third entry in his much beloved Before trilogy, he’s just as comfortable working on the continent that housed Bresson as he is the one that birthed Matthew McConaughey. Time and again, Linklater has proven that all he needs to make a film is a camera, a setting, and some interesting conversation. So here’s a bit of free film school from the creative mind behind Before Midnight and general slackerdom.

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Before Midnight

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran as a part of our insanely extensive Sundance 2013 coverage. Before Midnight is in theaters as of May 24th. It’s no easy feat to review one of Richard Linklater’s Before films – including Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Sundance premiere Before Midnight – because to attempt to chronicle and summarize films that primarily feature two characters walking and talking would likely prove boring and definitely end up reducing the experience of watching one of the Ethan Hawke- and Julie Delpy-starring films. Here it is straight – do you love Before Sunrise and Before Sunset? You will love Before Midnight. Do you just like the previous two films? You’ll probably still love Before Midnight. Do you hate the film’s predecessors? Well, perhaps you’re best advised to stay away from this one. Have you never even seen one of the Before films? Well, you’ll probably do pretty okay with Before Midnight, thanks to its impressively well-crafted flow, its increasingly more relatable characters, and its less-starry-eyed but much more satisfying approach to what it means to actually love someone.

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Before Midnight

Seeing as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are movies that basically consist of two characters walking and talking for their entire run times, they’re the niche sort of films that aren’t going to appeal to everyone. Those that fell in love with Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine in that first film fell hard though, and most continued to love what they got in the sequel 9 years later. Well, here we are, 9 years after that, and the third film in the trilogy has a trailer. What does it tell us to expect from the film? Of course, it gets Jesse and Celine together in a gorgeous European location (this time Greece), and it gets them walking around, taking in the sights, and debating life, love, and human nature. But there are some differences here, as well. They’re older now, parents, and their talk seems to be less about the possibilities of love and romance and more about the reality of what it is to love and be loved. Also, instead of keeping them isolated somewhere on their own, this film seems to see them spending much more time together while interacting in groups. Has too much time passed for Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy to rekindle the magic a third time? Has too much changed about these characters and the setup for this to really feel like a Before movie? By all accounts, no. Everyone who has seen the film has responded to it very strongly, […]

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Dazed high school girls

  It won’t officially be the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused until this fall, but last Thursday the film was honored at the annual Texas Hall of Fame Awards, where it received the Star of Texas Award from presenter Quentin Tarantino. In person to accept were writer-director Richard Linklater and members of the cast, including Wiley Wiggins, Anthony Rapp and Joey Lauren Adams. To continue the film’s recognition, it seemed fitting to devote this week’s Scenes We Love to the 1993 high school movie classic. Dazed is not the sort of feature that is easily broken up by scenes. There are many memorable moments, a lot of quotable lines, but as far as individual scenes are concerned there aren’t many that can be bracketed and labeled so cleanly. There are definable acts marked by location, such as the school act, the Emporium act and the beer bust/moon tower act. Are the many distinct pieces of each of these sections qualifiable as scenes? Obviously I’m thinking too much about it. I feel like this is a conversation for Tony, Mike and Cynthia to have while cruising around. Clearly those geeks were the ones I most identified with when the movie came out during my junior year. As usual feel free to name your own favorite scenes or those you think are the “best.” You can find six scenes I love and the personal reasons why after the jump.

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Before Midnight

Perhaps the days of waiting months (and sometimes years) to see Sundance films are finally on the wane, as Exhibitor Relations reports (via /Film) that Sony Pictures Classics has set a limited release date for festival favorite Before Midnight on May 24th, when it will open in both New York and Los Angeles. The film was a true darling at last month’s festival (it even earned an A- from this critic) and is widely considered to be a wonderful end to Richard Linklater‘s globe-trotting romantic trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Fans of the trilogy have been anticipating this one for years and, we daresay, they will not be disappointed with this final entry. We mentioned the film in our wrap-up of purchased features from the festival that we posted last week, and while we didn’t have an exact opening date then, we did guarantee that it would be a 2013 release. We’re certainly pleased that our prediction proved true, and you’ll probably share the sentiment when you get to see the film this spring. Before Midnight will also play at SXSW, which kicks off on March 8.

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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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Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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Richard Linklater has been tight-lipped about the possibility of there being a third installment in his Julie Delpy-and-Ethan Hawke-walking-around-a-city-and-talking series of films that so far include 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. But, unfortunately for him, one of his stars and collaborators can’t stop spilling the beans everywhere he goes, that star being Ethan Hawke. The last time Hawke was talking about the potential project, he remarked, “I don’t know what we’re going to do but I know the three of us have been talking a lot in the last six months. All three of us have been having similar feelings that we’re ready to revisit those characters. There’s nine years between the first two movies and, if we made the film next summer, it would be nine years again, so we’ve really started thinking that would be a good thing to do. We’re going to try write it this year.” Well, it seems like the writing went well, because in an interview with IndieWire that was supposed to be about his upcoming project The Woman in the Fifth, talk turned to the new Before Whatever project again, and Hawke confirmed that the third film was indeed on its way. Of his future collaborations with Linklater (which also include a still-untitled series of short films) Hawke said, “we’re also doing a follow-up to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, so that will be fun. We’re going to shoot that this summer.”

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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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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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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