List by-Jarrett Leahy
In honor of his newest celebrated film Boyhood, my most anticipated movie of 2014, this week’s Top 6 List is dedicated to the gifted and diverse efforts of director/auteur Richard Linklater. Though like most filmmakers, Linklater has had a dud or two (I’m looking at you Fast Food Nation), overall his resume is so strong that I couldn’t find room in his top 6 for the dark and impressively disturbing animated dystopian A Scanner Darkly or his hilarious, feel good comedy School of Rock. Whenever I finally get the chance to see Boyhood, it will be interesting to see if it winds up cracking this list…
6. Bernie (2011) Set in the small East Texas town of Carthage, Bernie is a black comedy that uses both screen acting and interviews with real Carthage citizens to tell the true story of local mortician Bernie Tiede and his scandalous involvement in the death of wealthy widow and town shrew Majorie Nugent. Jack Black gives what might be his best performance to date as the loving and a bit effeminate Bernie and Shirley MacLaine completely embodies the cantankerous personality of Mrs. Nugent. Adding to the talented cast is fellow East Texas native Matthew McConaughey who brings his unique bravado and humor to his character of brash local district attorney Danny Buck.
5. Me And Orson Welles (2008) Right before famed actor/filmmaker Orson Welles set the world on fire with his now legendary directorial debut Citizen Kane, he was the brazen and extremely gifted young leader of the Mercury Theatre in New York City. Me And Orson Welles is a fictional retelling of the stage production of Julius Caesar and the high school student and aspiring actor who manages to impress with an impromptu audition to land a part in the play. Thanks in large part to Christian McKay’s perfectly spot-on braggadocio portrayal of Orson Welles and a surprisingly adept performance by Zac Efron as the young high schooler Richard Samuels, Linklater was able to so delightfully capture the chaotic and fascinating behind the scenes action of a theater company .
4. Slacker (1991) The low-budget indie hit that started it all, Linklater’s directorial debut is not a movie in the traditional sense of a plot driven story, but a multi-character experimental film filled with random dialogue and observational humor as the camera follows around dozens of uniquely peculiar “Austinites” as they walk and talk around the city of Austin, TX. A movie that captures how entertainingly weird Austin is before it became cool to admit, Slacker is a film you’ll enjoy if you can pick up on the unconventional offbeat vibe.
3. Waking Life (2001) While in a type of lucid dream state, a man meets an assorted array of people and has wonderfully intellective discussions about the meanings and purposes of the universe. Another avant-garde film from Linklater, Waking Life utilized the animation technique of rotoscoping or animating over live action footage. But instead of doing it by hand, Linklater’s team of artists used computer graphic software, a process that reportedly took up to 250 hours to make one minute of animation. But it was worth the time spent when you see the amazingly kaleidoscopic and hallucinatory visual depictions of this lucid dream world. Waking Life is a thought provoking piece of cinema that focuses on heady topics like dreams, consciousness, and existentialism, which I know sounds a bit depressing, but is in fact wildly fascinating and stimulating. I wish more people would see this great film.
2. Dazed and Confused (1993) On the last day at a small Texas high school in May of 1976 the new seniors celebrate the end of another school year while continuing the town’s tradition of hazing the new crop of incoming freshmen. Chock-full of young future stars including Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey who was making his first screen appearance, Dazed and Confused adeptly captures the boredom, fears, and crazy antics that most teenagers experience as they try to survive their formative years. Dazed is a type of comedy that gets better with each viewing, and that’s all you can ask for in a great movie.
1. The Before Trilogy (1995, ’04, ’13) Could there be another number 1 on this list? I’ve gushed over these films enough on this site, so what I’ll simply say is Richard, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy have created one of the most exceptional and unprecedented love stories ever captured on screen.-JL