Sunday, July 31, 2016
Films That I Saw: July 2016
The second half of 2016 has begun and it is still really fucking bad. I often wonder what year was worse, this or 1968? I think 1968 still takes the cake in terms of all of the shit that has happened. More people getting killed, more famous people die, and all sorts of crazy shit. The party conventions for the election was definitely a circus despite that one notable moment in which the father of a slain Muslim-American soldier spoke at the Democratic National Convention and pretty much gave the best speech of the year. It’s a moment that really crystallizes what an American really is and all that we need to cherish no matter how fucked up things are. Unfortunately, there are those this in this country that will fuck it all up for their own bullshit.
In the month of July, I saw a total of 37 films in 24 first-timers 13 re-watches. Definitely surprising as I think some of it is attributed to my bouts with insomnia as it a major step-up from last month as well. One of the highlights of the month has definitely been my Blind Spot choice in John Ford’s Cavalry trilogy in Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande. Here are the ten best first-timers I saw for July 2016:
2. Red River
3. Everybody Want Some!!
4. 3 Godfathers
5. Smokey and the Bandit
7. Magic Mike XXL
8. American Sniper
9. Smokey and the Bandit II
10. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau
The Final Deletion
TNA is not in my radar as I still think it’s a bush-league wrestling promotion that is becoming a sinking ship as I’ve never watched an episode of Impact nor will I as I’m just indifferent about it. However, the saga that relates to the Hardy Boys in Matt and Jeff Hardy is truly one of the most ridiculous and insane feuds out there as the trilogy of matches has culminated in an over-the-top and extremely hilarious match known as the Final Deletion. Broken Matt Hardy battles Brother Nero in a match that just defies description. It’s got flying drones. Holograms. A dilapidated boat. Fireworks. Fire. Willow. Senor Benjamin. Brother Nero’s stupid Willow gimmick. An extraordinary xylophone. And most of all…. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE!!!!!!!! Once seen, it can’t be unseen. It is something that is going to be watched again and again and again and again and again and again…. It’s so bad it’s good but goddamn, it is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in a very long time in the world of professional wrestling.
I do like boxing films though I wasn’t sure about seeing this one despite its cast as I do like Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams. This film was just mediocre as it’s filled with a lot of clichés despite the performances of three that I mentioned. It revolves around Gyllenhaal as this top boxer who is a champion but tragedy forces him to lose everything as he turns to Whitaker for help and get his title back as well as custody of his daughter. The boxing is alright but it’s just that the story lacks any real punch.
I liked the first film as I kind of knew the sequel wasn’t going to be as good but it was still pretty funny. Especially for the inclusion of Amanda Seyfried as a civil rights lawyer trying to get Ted his human rights despite the fact that he’s just a teddy bear that came to life. It does a lot of things that is a rehash of the first film while it also maintains its sense of fun. Even as Ted, Seyfried, and Mark Wahlberg have to deal with the creepy Giovanni Ribisi who wants revenge. It’s just a silly comedy that is just a lot of fun with a great opening credits sequence.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
I had been seeing this in scattered viewings but now having finally seen in its entirety. Yeah, this was definitely a major disappointment considering that so much is expected from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. What happened is that neither of them do anything new visually while some of the stories they tell are total let downs. Mickey Rourke has a great opening sequence that is fun while still being the most interesting in the film as Marv while Eva Green gives one of the best performances in the film as Ava Lord in the titular story. It’s just a shame that everyone else such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, and Rosario Dawson are unable to rise above the many shortcomings while the segment about Jessica Alba’s Nancy character is truly one of the weakest and most uninteresting as Alba’s performance is just horrible as it indicates that she’s just a pretty cock-tease who won’t show anything and has nothing to offer as an actress.
Top 10 Re-Watches:
1. From Russia with Love
2. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
3. Heaven's Gate
4. The U
5. My Blue Heaven
6. The Two Escobars
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
8. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
9. Cloud Atlas
Well, that is all for July 2016. I’m not sure if I’m going to see any theatrical releases as there’s been a lot of art films that just come and go after a week and the timing is wrong or I don’t have money at the moment. Other than a few films by Sam Peckinpah, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the next subject of the Auteurs series in Jeff Nichols. Most of the films I’ll see will be based on my DVR list as well as a couple of DVDs that I recently purchased from the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. As for the world of music, I don’t know anymore at this point as I might go into another hiatus as my list on Prince remains unfinished for the time being as I don’t know if I’ll complete it. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and hope that 2016 will be…. DELETED!!!!!
© thevoid99 2016
Saturday, July 30, 2016
The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater (Part 2)
(Part 2: 2004-2016)
After achieving his most commercially-successful to date with School of Rock, Linklater decided to take a major risk on a project that he had been working on sporadically in a sequel to Before Sunrise. With Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy both agreeing to doing the project as well as take part in writing the script, the process took years before all three were satisfied on the final script. The story would be set nine years later where Jesse is in Paris on a book tour where he bumps into Celine as the two spend the afternoon talking to each other and reminiscing about the last time they met. With a $2 million budget and to be shot on location in Paris, the film would endure a 15-day shoot during one of the hottest summers in Paris.
Linklater wouldn’t just allow a sense of improvisation for the film but also have the entire film be set in real time which made it much more different from its predecessor. At the same time, Linklater and cinematographer Lee Daniel would use a lot of steadicams to follow Hawke and Delpy for the duration as they walk around Paris. Delpy would have her parents in the film for a day during a scene as they would make a cameo as Celine’s neighbors while Delpy would also contribute some original music for the film as well as perform one for the film. Another moment that Hawke and Delpy put into the script that was eventually filmed was its ending as the two and Linklater liked it but the film’s production company Castle Rock didn’t like it and want a re-shoot. Linklater fortunately stood his ground and left the ending as it is.
The film made its premiere at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival in February of that year where it was well-received as it led to a limited U.S. release in the summer where it managed to gross more than $15 million against its $2 million budget. The film’s commercial success was surprising yet it was the critical response that was overwhelming as the film was filled with several positive reviews as well as give Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay that also included Before Sunrise co-writer Kim Krizan for story.
Bad News Bears
Having achieved some clout with studios over two back-to-back commercially-successful films that also were hits with critics and audiences. Linklater was approached by Paramount to do a remake of the 1976 film The Bad News Bears as Linklater agreed where he would work get the services of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa of Bad Santa to write the script. The film would also get Billy Bob Thornton in the lead role of Morris Buttermaker as well as Greg Kinnear as a rival coach and Marcia Gay Harden as a parent. Though the production was set in Los Angeles, Linklater still wanted to create something that was down-home as well as get kids who can play baseball rather than have actors who don’t know how to play.
The production would occur in the summer of 2004 as Linklater and Thornton would help the young actors practice between set-ups just for fun. While Thornton knew he was playing a variation of the character he had played in Bad Santa, it was done in a more restrained way as he also used his time to work with the kids. Though the film had a $35 million budget, the production was relaxed as Linklater also wanted to make a few changes that differentiated itself from the 1976 film while also paying homage to it.
The film made its premiere in late July of 2005 where it received mixed reviews from critics as some felt it was too faithful and didn’t have the bite of the original. Commercially, the film was a disappointment only making $34 million just one million dollar shy of its budget. Still, the film did prove to be a worthwhile experience for Linklater who enjoyed working with the kids as well as with the adult cast who had fun making the film.
A Scanner Darkly
While working on multiple projects, Linklater had been wanting to make a sci-fi film as he had been a fan of the works of Philip K. Dick. One of Dick’s story that he loved in A Scanner Darkly that revolved around a futuristic dystopian world where humans are under surveillance during an epidemic involving drugs. Linklater knew that the film would be ambitious but realized that it would be very expensive to shoot the film in a conventional manner as he sought the help from filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and actor George Clooney for funding as it would give Linklater an idea in making the film. The film would eventually become an animated feature but in an unconventional way.
With a cast that would include Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, and Rory Cochrane, Linklater and cinematographer Shane F. Kelly decided to shoot much of the film digitally during the spring of 2004 just before Linklater was to do work on Bad News Bears. The six-week shoot would be easy as Linklater would once again hire Bob Sabiston to do the rotoscope animation as the process took more than a year. Much of the editing and post-production work on the animation was delayed due to Linklater’s work on Bad News Bears as the film’s original release in the fall of 2005 was pushed for a 2006 release.
The film eventually premiered in May of 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival in its Un Certain Regarde section where the film was given a limited theatrical release later that summer. While it would only gross $7.7 million in the box office, it was a million dollars short against its budget but it still defied some expectations while also being well-received with critics. Notably as some felt it is the most daring work of any film based on Dick’s novels as well as being original in its approach to animation.
Fast Food Nation
Having lived much of his life as a vegetarian, Linklater had a fascination with the world of the fast food industry as he had shot a pilot in 2003 for HBO called $5.15/hr that never aired. Still, the project had Linklater wanting to do more research as he read Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction book on the industry as the two collaborated on a script that is based on Schlosser’s book. The story would be multi-layered as it revolve many different characters and storylines such as Mexican immigrants arriving to this fictional Colorado town to work in a meat plant while a marketing director makes a horrifying discovery at the meat plant. The project got the attention of the renowned British film producer Jeremy Thomas who agreed to produce the film with the legendary music impresario Malcolm McLaren.
With Linklater collaborators Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Greg Kinnear taking on roles, the cast would include Catalina Sandino Moreno, Luis Guzman, Wilmer Valderrama, Ana Claudia Talancon, Bobby Cannavale, Ashley Johnson, Lou Taylor Pucci, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Willis. Linklater would shoot the film partially in Austin and in Mexico though much of the production would be set in Colorado where Hawke and Arquette both took a break from another Linklater project to appear in the film. Linklater wanted to explore much of the dark realities as well as play into elements of realism as it relates to Kinnear’s character who could’ve been a whistleblower but has to contend with the bigger picture as it relates to his job and livelihood.
Like A Scanner Darkly, the film would also make its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2006 where it played in competition for the Palme d’Or. The film divided critics as some felt the film was heavy-handed in its message while some praised the film for raising questions on the industry. While the film only did modestly well commercially in its limited release, the film did at least give Linklater the chance to do something different as well as help raise questions about the food industry.
Me and Orson Welles
Following a break from big projects while continuing work on the 12-year project as well as making a documentary on Augie Garrido of the University of Texas who was known for making the college win two College World Series titles in baseball while being philosophical in his methods of the game. Linklater decided to work on a project he had been dreaming about for years as he was a fan of the works of Orson Welles. Having read an adapted script by Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. that was based on Robert Kaplow’s novel about Welles’ stage play of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theater in 1937. Linklater came on board for the project. Having seen the play version of the story that featured Christian McKay as Welles, Linklater wanted McKay to reprise the role for the film much against the advice of the producers who had already funded the film for a $25 million budget. With McKay on board, Linklater took another major risk in casting in then-teen film idol Zac Efron for the role of Richard Samuels who would the young actor joining Welles’ production. For Efron who was a lifelong fan of Linklater’s work, it was a completely different project as he immediately came on board.
With Claire Danes playing Welles’ assistant and an ensemble that would include Ben Chaplin, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, and Zoe Kazan. Production began in early 2008 at the Isles of Man where much of the film would be shot as it featured a theater similar to the old Mercury theater while additional shooting would be set in London. Linklater wanted to maintain that air of authenticity as well as capture every attention to detail about how things were. Even as many of the actors took the time to recite Welles’ adaptation of Julius Caesar as well as create that air of spontaneity that Linklater had been known for in his films. After filming completed in late March, Linklater went back to Austin with editor Sandra Adair on cutting the film where they would screen some footage of the film for Cannes Film Festival that May in order to find distribution as the film was funded by the independent CinemaNX company.
The film made its premiere at September of 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival where it was well-received with critics yet finding distribution for the film proved to be very tough. Despite the critical support and a great reception from audiences at festival screenings including one in early 2009 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. CinemaNX eventually decided to distribute the film itself in a very limited release where it only made $2 million following its release in the U.S. and U.K. in late 2009. Despite its poor showing at the box office, the film did achieve several accolades as it was selected by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best independently-released films of 2009 while Christian McKay would receive a British Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Like many who live in Texas, Linklater was aware of the infamous story about the murder of millionaire Marjorie Nugent in the hands of companion Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede as he read Skip Hollingsworth’s article on the Texas Monthly magazine. The story intrigued Linklater as he would team with Hollingsworth for years in writing a script that would be set in the actual town where the characters lived in as it was set in East Texas. After years of creating a script, Linklater realized that the film should be a mixture of a black comedy with elements of documentary where many of the locals would gossip or tell stories about what had happened in the small town of Carthage, Texas. Linklater decided to shoot the film in Carthage as well as other parts of Texas as it would be set somewhere at his home state as well as create something that is authentic.
For the main cast, Jack Black was chosen to play Tiede where he would meet the real Tiede with Linklater filming the meeting as Black would adopt many of Tiede’s effeminate mannerisms for the film. For the role of Nugent, Shirley MacLaine was cast though it took some time for her to get used to the sense of spontaneity that Linklater was known for once filming began in September of 2010 for a 22 day shoot. For the role of the attorney Danny Buck Davidson, Matthew McConaughey was cast marking a long reunion between him and Linklater as McConaughey would bring his mother to play a role as one of the locals in Carthage. Linklater wanted that mix of non-actors, non-professional actors, and such to play the people of the town as it played to all sorts of legends and such as well as create many possibilities into what Tiede did what he did.
The film made its premiere at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival in June of that year where it was a major hit though it would take time for the film to find distribution. When Millennium Entertainment picked it up for distribution for its limited release, the film would eventually become a box office hit making $10 million worldwide against its $6 million budget as well as receive rave reviews from critics. The film would give Jack Black a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical while the film would also be the start of a career renaissance for Matthew McConaughey following a period of high-profiled but poorly-received studio features giving McConaughey renewed acclaim from critics and audiences.
While working with Ethan Hawke on the 12-year project, the two discussed making a third film of Before series with Julie Delpy as the three began work on writing a new film. This time around, it would revolve the decision that Jesse and Celine made nine years before and where they’re at now with twin daughters and Jesse’s step-son while vacationing at the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. The project would also play into Jesse and Celine both coming at a crossroads in their lives as well as question their own relationship and desires in life. After a year working and writing the script, production eventually began in the summer of 2012 with a $3 million budget.
With Greek actress Ariane Labed playing a small role as well as Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Jesse’s son from a previous marriage, the film would be a more straightforward but also playful approach for much of the film’s first half as it relates to Jesse and Celine’s time with their family. Then the film would follow Jesse and Celine in their own as well as a third act in a hotel room as it plays into something that is like a marriage breaking down. All of which play into Jesse and Celine both in different directions but also wanting to stay together as it was considered one of the most honest moments in the film.
The film made its premiere in January of 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival where it was given a rousing reception that was followed by a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival a month later as it drew massive acclaim. The film would be given a limited release in late May of that year before going wide less than a month later as the film was a box office hit grossing more than $23 million against its $3 million budget while garnering rave reviews and another Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay to Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy. The critical and commercial success was quite surprising for some though many wonder if another film will be made as Linklater remains mum on the subject.
Having been interested in the idea of what it is like to grow up from adolescent to the early stages of adulthood, Linklater conceived a project that would be about a boy’s life in the course of 12 years. The concept itself would be an ambitious as well as a daring project that would require a lot of time and a lot of work yet Linklater knew that it would take a lot of his time. With Ethan Hawke on board to play the father Mason Evans Sr., Patricia Arquette was cast as the mother Olivia Evans as she would do some of the work on the weekends due to her work on the TV show Medium. While Linklater would cast his own daughter Lorelei as Mason and Olivia’s daughter while the search for the protagonist of Mason Jr. was hard as it would eventually go to Ellar Coltrane. The project would cost $200,000 a year as Linklater also knew he had no script as much of it would be on the fly.
Since none of the four actors signed contracts as they would work independently and on a small salary, they would appear whenever they’re available as well as hire other actors Marco Perella as Olivia’s second husband and Bill Wise as Mason Sr.’s brother as well as musician Charlie Sexton as a friend of Mason Sr. Over the course of the twelve-year production, Linklater would find new stories to tell as some of it is based on real-life experiences from both Hawke and Arquette who played variations of their own parents in the film while Hawke offered to be a stand-in director in case Linklater somehow dies during production. Even as it plays into some of the realistic aspects of the way growing up occurs as well as the challenges adults face as parents. Linklater would shoot the film on 35mm from its inception as well as keep doing despite the fact that many filmmakers had changed to the digital format as Linklater called on his old cinematographer Lee Daniel as well as Shane Kelly to shoot the film during the course of the production.
The film finally made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2014 as the much-anticipated film lived up to its hype and more as it was a big hit at the festival. The film would get a limited release in the U.S. through IFC Films while Universal did the film’s international release in July of that year. With its final budget of $4 million, the film did become a major box office hit making more than $44 million while receiving great reviews from critics as it won several critic’s prizes as well as receiving six nominations including Best Picture, Best Director for Linklater, Best Supporting Actor for Hawke, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing to Sandra Adair while Patricia Arquette would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The scores of accolades that also included big prizes from critics in New York, Los Angeles, as well as a few BAFTAs that included a Best Director prize for Linklater was huge as it gave him the biggest artistic success of his career.
Everybody Want Some!!
Linklater’s most recent film is a completely different project from his recent work as he described as a spiritual sequel of sorts to Dazed and Confused as his 18th feature film would mark a return to comedy. The film would revolve around a weekend in the life of a young freshman baseball pitcher attending a college in Texas as he socializes with his teammates into a wild party where they would venture into many of its social circles. The film was partially based on Linklater’s own college experience but also in the way a lot of different scenes were emerging during the 1980s in Texas as there was a lot of different cultural scenes such as the world of punk, disco, hip-hop, and country music.
With the aid of producer Megan Ellison and her AnnaPurna Pictures company, Linklater would $10 million for the budget while he would also cast actors who weren’t known as well as some unknowns as it would include Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Tyler Hoechlin, and Ryan Guzman in key parts. Much of the production was shot in Austin, Texas as Linklater wanted to maintain something that was loose but also carefree while using its studio facilities to create different clubs from a disco club and a country music club the guys would hang out at as much of the production was shot in the fall of 2014. For the climatic costume party scene, Linklater got many locals to appear in costumes for the party as it created that air of spontaneity and authenticity into the film.
Though it was originally going to be called That’s What I’m Talking About, he eventually changed the title after a Van Halen song as the film made its premiere at the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival in March of that year where it was given a rousing reception. Following its limited release through Paramount later that month, the film would garner rave reviews from critics but its box office take at over $3 million was disappointing. Still, the film’s success with critics and art-house audiences did help cement Linklater’s status as one of the best American filmmakers working today.
Having been in the business for 30 years with 18 feature films, some shorts, and various projects as well as create a viable community for the city of Austin, Texas. Richard Linklater has a special place for the world of cinema as well as being someone that is willing to make movies that Hollywood wouldn’t do where audiences can find a story or characters they can connect with. Even as the films will talk about many things but always find a way to make it engaging and accessible as it’s all part of what Linklater does as a filmmaker. In many respects, Richard Linklater is pretty much the best American filmmaker working today not just in the stories he tells but also in being this very unlikely and engaging philosopher on life.
© thevoid99 2016
The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater (Part 1)
Among of the figures that played a key part in the emergence of 1990s American independent cinema, Richard Linklater is a filmmaker who didn’t play by the rules nor was he a stylist that often defined most filmmakers. Instead, Linklater followed the beat of his own drum in making films that are about people dealing with their surroundings and situations and make the best out of it. While he would often work with Hollywood, it would be on his own terms as he would maintain that sense of independent spirit that would make him one of the best American filmmakers working today.
Born in Houston, Texas on July 30, 1960, Richard Stuart Linklater was the son of a college professor mother as he would later attend the Sam Houston State University that his mother worked at. During that time growing up, Linklater had a love for books, film, and baseball as he would play for his college during that time until dropping out to work at an offshore oil rig. While living in Houston with family, Linklater found himself spending a lot of time going to the cinema as he discovered the works of many different filmmakers from Europe such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Robert Bresson as well as the Japanese films of Yasujiro Ozu. In the early 1980s, Linklater moved to Austin, Texas where he saved up to by a Super 8mm camera and other equipment while attending the Austin Community College to study films.
It was around that time he met a young cameraman in Lee Daniel who would become one of Linklater’s recurring collaborators. In 1985, he and Daniel along with future South by Southwest founder Louis Black would form the Austin Film Society as an outlet to support independent filmmaking in Texas. The film society would eventually become an important part in Texas’ local film industry where not only did studio films from Hollywood were made but also provided the state a place that can have its own film community.
Woodshock (short film)
During that time where he and Daniel founded the AFS, the two collaborated on a seven-minute short film that was shot on 16mm about a local music festival near Austin. Shot as a spoof of sorts of the 1970 film Woodstock, Linklater and Daniel would get a look of what was becoming a burgeoning cultural scene in the city as it would include art, film, and music as the short also featured an appearance from the cult musician Daniel Johnston. The short would make its premiere at local film festivals in 1985 as it would help play part into the city’s growing film scene.
It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading
A year after making his first short, Linklater conceived a project that would explore not just alienation but also experimenting with unconventional narrative. Inspired by some of the filmmaking techniques of Yasujiro Ozu as well as road films, Linklater’s first feature film would revolve around a traveler wandering around the country as he does mundane things and meet various people during his travels. The project would be shot in the span of an entire year on a Super 8mm camera posted on a tripod as Linklater would shoot everything guerilla style while playing the protagonist. With the aid of family and friends as well as people he would meet during the course of the film. Linklater would create something that felt loose as well as explore the ideas of social alienation in the age of Reagan as he would spend another year editing the film while working for a public TV station as he would edit the film himself in the station.
The film would make its premiere in Austin, Texas in 1988 as it was only shown locally through festivals around the city as Linklater knew he wouldn’t get some kind of distribution for the film to be given a wide release. In 2004, Linklater would revisit the film as he remastered it as part of a bonus release for the Criterion DVD release of what would be his next film in Slacker.
The experience in making his first film gave Linklater the realization that he could do it on his own as it was clear that studios or investors wouldn’t be able to take part into any kind of projects that he wanted to make. For what would be his breakthrough feature film, the project would revolve around the day in the life of various people in Austin, Texas as they would talk about all sorts of things in the course of an entire day. It’s an unusual idea for a film yet Linklater would seek the help from friend Lee Daniel to shoot the film as the two would also make an appearance in the film along with some friends, non-actors, and some locals for the film. Rather relying on a conventional script, Linklater would go for something that is very loose and just create an outline to create something that feels real.
Shot in the summer of 1989 in Austin on a 16mm Arriflex camera, the film would have a very miniscule budget of $23,000 as it seemed impossible that film with a small budget would be made. Nevertheless, Linklater would shoot the film as he would go into various locations and capture numerous events and people throughout the course of the film. Linklater would sort of reprise his role from his previous film as that character would begin the film arriving in Austin and talking to a cab driver about a dream he had. The film would then have that character meet another and then that person would encounter another and so on. Much of it had to do with people not just showing their disdain for conformity but also deal with the many expectations they have in life. Characters from an aging anarchist, a woman trying to sell Madonna’s pap smear, a TV collector, and all sorts of people would be the basis of what Linklater wanted to create.
The film would spend nearly a year in post-production as it would premiere in late July of 1990 in Austin in its 16mm presentation where it created a buzz. When the film was selected to play at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival that January, the film was a major hit as Orion’s Orion Classics specialty production would buy the film and distribute it for a limited release in the summer of 1991. In a slightly-modified 35mm release for the film that was supervised by Linklater, the film would gross more than $1.2 million while receiving lots of critical praise. Following its home video release in June of 1992 on VHS, the film would be very successful as many would consider it a major touchstone of the burgeoning American Independent movement inspiring filmmakers to make their films no matter how small the budgets were.
Dazed & Confused
Despite being a hero of sorts for aspiring filmmakers, Linklater knew he didn’t want to repeat himself as he was also getting offers from studios. Linklater was reluctant about working with Hollywood yet there were those that wanted to support his vision as the specialty studio Gramercy would help fund Linklater’s third feature film that is based on his experience in high school. The film would revolve around a day in the life of various students at a Texan high school on the last day of school where a group of kids would become seniors at the end of the summer while another group of kids would become freshmen. The former would take part in a hazing on the latter as tradition as it plays into what young kids would encounter in high school while seniors would cope with what is ahead.
With Lee Daniel helping out as cinematographer, Linklater knew he would need help in assembling the cast as he received the services of Don Phillips to do the casting. Phillips’ contribution would be crucial as he would make several discoveries in the casting process as the ensemble would include Jason London, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, Nicky Katt, Rory Cochrane, model Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Adam Goldberg, Marissa Ribisi, Anthony Rapp, and Matthew McConaughey. Along with Wiley Wiggins and Christin Hinojosa playing a couple of freshmen, shooting began in 1992 as Linklater not only took advantage of the modest $7 million budget but would use much of it to get some of the music he needed for the film as well as give up whatever royalties he would get for the soundtrack just to get usage for the Bob Dylan song The Hurricane.
In 1993 when Linklater went into post-production, he gained a new collaborator in editor Sandra Adair who would become a key fixture in Linklater’s career as she would become his regular editor from then on. The film would make its premiere in September of 1993 where, despite being marketed as a teen comedy, the film would actually do modestly well making back its budget while receiving lots of critical praise. The film would eventually become a hit on video in its March 1994 release as buzz grew around the film where it would help several actors from the film to become stars in their own right. The film’s success not only gave Linklater clout but also affirm his status as a unique voice for American independent cinema.
Having achieved two films that have been well-received critically as well as doing quite well commercially, Linklater knew he wanted to do something different as he recalls an experience he had in meeting a young woman in 1989 and spent an entire day with her. Calling upon Kim Krizan who had acted in his previous films, the two would create ideas and a script that would revolve around two young people who meet on a train to Vienna as they would spend the entire day in the city and talk about love and such in the course of 24 hours. It was a unique idea yet Linklater knew he needed the right people as he considered using Ethan Hawke for the role of Jesse who would ultimately be chosen after Linklater saw him at a play.
For the role of Celine, Linklater met French actress Julie Delpy who agreed to take part as she and Hawke would do some un-credited re-writes on the script with Linklater and Krizan to make it more romantic. Shooting would commence in 1994 with Lee Daniel serving as cinematographer as they would shoot the film on location in Vienna. Linklater wanted to challenge the conventions of romantic films as Jesse is presented as a cynic and Celine as the romantic idealist where the two would talk in the course of the day and venture throughout the city. The looseness in the direction and the openness to improvise would be give Hawke and Delpy a lot to do as well as raise questions on the idea of love.
The film would make its premiere in January of 1995 at the Sundance Film Festival where it would later get its U.S. theatrical release weeks later just as the film would make its European premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. At that festival, Linklater won the Best Director prize as the film would receive rave reviews as well as making nearly $5.5 million in the box office against its $2.5 million budget. The film’s success was a surprise for Columbia Pictures as the film would later be considered as one of the finest romantic films ever made.
Three successful films and already a major name for American independent cinema, Linklater decided to return to more familiar territory in his exploration of people who are dealing with conformity. Having seen Eric Bogosian’s play about a group of 20-somethings dealing with failure and uncertainty as they learn one of their old friends is returning to town as a success. The play definitely carried a lot of the themes that Linklater had been exploring as he met up with Bogosian to make a film version of the play as Bogosian decided to write his own script with Linklater’s input. The film would be more low-budget affair as Linklater decided to shoot the film in Austin, Texas to be closer to home.
The film’s cast wouldn’t just feature previous collaborators in Nicky Katt and Parker Posey but also Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Jayce Bartok, Amie Carey, Dina Spybey, and Ajay Naidu as a convenience store owner who is annoyed the presence of these young people. Much of the shooting occurred in late 1995/early 1996 as it would be a sparse production as Linklater also wanted to maintain Bogosian’s sense of improvisation. Both Linklater and Bogosian wanted to explore what people are trying to do to succeed but also those who aren’t able to succeed despite the fact that they’re smart and can do something yet don’t do anything but complain. In some ways, Linklater who had been the voice of the slacker generation finally puts a mirror on that culture and see it for what it really is.
The film made its premiere at the New York Film Festival in October of 1996 where it received excellent reviews. Following a limited release in early 1997 where despite its praise from critics, the film didn’t do as well commercially as Linklater’s previous films. Still, the film maintained Linklater’s status as a unique voice in American independent cinema even though the movement itself was starting to wane as it would morph into something else.
The Newton Boys
Wanting to move away from his comfort zone and take on new challenges, Linklater knew he couldn’t just be known as the indie film guy where he got the chance to make a big-budget studio as it would be his first Hollywood feature. While some in the indie circles said he sold out, Linklater felt it was time to take a risk and make his first Hollywood feature based on the Newton Gang who were notorious bank robbers in the early 1920s. Linklater was fascinated by the story as he called upon Clark Lee Walker to help write the script as much of the film would be based in Texas which Linklater felt was appropriate for the story. For the cast, Linklater called in collaborators Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey to play two of the Newton brothers with Skeet Ulrich and Vincent D’Onofrio also cast as the other two brothers with Julianna Margulies and Dwight Yoakham in supporting roles.
The film’s $27 million budget would be the biggest that Linklater would mount as he would also have to take in a different cinematographer in Peter James as Lee Daniel was unavailable due to the demands of his work with other filmmakers. Nevertheless, Linklater wanted to create something that was commercial but also had something different as it relates to the exploits of the Newton gang where they would challenge the authorities and the world of banks during that time. Yet, they would be undone by greed and events that they couldn’t foresee where the film would eventually get dark in its third act as it relates to a botched train robbery in Chicago. Linklater was able to get access to the story of the Newton brothers as he would use a footage of the real-life Willis Newton in his 1980 appearance at The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson which would appear in the film’s final credits.
The film was released in late March of 1998 as anticipation was high for Linklater’s first studio picture for 20th Century Fox. Yet, the film received mixed reviews where some praised it for its cast and sense of adventure while others felt the film had tonal issues as well as feel that Linklater was overwhelmed by the production. The film was poorly-received commercially where it only made nearly $10 million in the box office as it was considered a major failure for Linklater. Following its dismal reception, Linklater took a step back from the world of film and retreated to Austin with his family.
After some time away from film as well as appearing in a few small projects including a cameo role in Robert Rodriguez’s 2001 film Spy Kids, Linklater became fascinated by the world of digital filmmaking. Seeing its potential, Linklater decided to make his next feature on digital video but also infuse it with animation. The film, like his earlier features, wouldn’t revolve much on plot as it would bear many elements of Slacker but in a more dream-like fashion as Linklater wanted to create something that is loose but also raise a lot of questions on existentialism and dreams. With Wiley Wiggins of Dazed and Confused playing the film’s protagonist, the film’s cast would also include other recurring collaborators in Adam Goldberg, Kim Krizan, and Nicky Katt while Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy would reprise their roles from Before Sunrise. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as well as the cult voice actor/tour guide Timothy “Speed” Levitch would make appearances for the film.
Much of the production was shot in 2000 with Linklater shooting the film with co-cinematographer Tommy Pallotta as it would then be taken to animation director Bob Sabiston and a team of animators including Wiley Wiggins to create rotoscoping drawings on the images. It would be a process that would take a long time with editor Sandra Adair trying to assemble whatever images would be used for the final product. Many of the images that were transformed into animation were drawn in many different styles to create something that was dream-like as it gave the film a very unique look and feel.
The film made its premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival in January of that year where it was received with a lot of praise as it would eventually be picked up by 20th Century Fox’s new specialty brand in Fox Searchlight. The film would later get a fall 2001 release where it did modestly well in the box office yet the reviews would be enormous in its praise. The film would win an award from the National Society of Film Critics for Best Experimental Film as well as Best Animated Film prize from the New York Film Critics Circle. The film marked a comeback of sorts from Linklater as it marked a new phase for the filmmaker.
During the production of Waking Life and seeing the potential of what digital video could do, Linklater was interested in making a more traditional film in the format as he had recently seen Stephen Belber’s play Tape that revolved around two friends discussing whether or not they raped a woman years ago as they invited her in the discussion as it all takes place in a motel room. Linklater asked Belber to film the project as Belber said yes as he would write his own script while Linklater called in collaborator Ethan Hawke to be in the film as Hawke brought in his then-wife Uma Thurman and friend Robert Sean Leonard to star in the film as they would be the cast. With Maryse Alberti serving as the film’s cinematographer, much of the production would be shot in a small soundstage serving as a motel room.
The entire production would cost $100,000 as it was relatively small yet Linklater took advantage of his limitations. Especially as he saw what digital could do where he and Alberti maintained a look that was grainy but also give something that feels real. Linklater also wanted to maintain that sense of theatricality while giving the actors the freedom to play loose in their performances. Another aspect of the film that Linklater wanted was to present the film in real time as the film’s eventual running time would be 86 minutes.
The film, like Waking Life, would premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival that January as it was also well-received where it would be picked up by Lionsgate who would release the film in a limited release that November. Still, the film managed to make more than half a million dollars in the box office recouping more than its $100,000 budget while also receiving critical praise for its presentation and cast. Its success as well as the success of Waking Life definitely put Linklater in a special position in the industry as a filmmaker who can deliver the goods while remaining independent.
School of Rock
While taking a small break and preparing work on a project that would eventually become Boyhood, Linklater was once again courted by studios about helming other projects where Linklater met up with producer Scott Rudin who wanted Linklater to work on a project from a script written by Mike White. White was a top screenwriter who had wrote films such as Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl where Linklater said yes to the project that was based on a real-life Langley Schools Music Project in the 1970s where kids sang contemporary pop songs. White and Linklater decided that the project would revolve around a musician who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prep school where he forms a band with students at the school for an upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.
With White also acting in a supporting role, Jack Black was cast in the lead role of Dewey Finn while Joan Cusack and Sarah Silverman were cast in prominent supporting parts. With the aid of casting director Ilene Starger, Linklater would get a chance to work with several kids for the film including Miranda Cosgrove as shooting would commence in late 2002 in upstate New York. While the film’s budget of $35 million was the biggest that Linklater had taken upon, he would still find ways to use what he had as well as getting some of the music needed for the film. Most notably trying to get the permission to use Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song where Linklater, Black, and Rudin knew the band are reluctant to have their music used for film or television. Linklater would film a plea from Black and extras playing the crowd to get permission as the stunt was successful where the band said yes.
The film made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2003 as it was well-received as it would later be released theatrically a month later. The film would receive not just rave reviews from critics but also give Linklater his most commercially-successful to date as it would gross more than $131 million. Its success with critics and audiences would give Jack Black a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy as the film was also very popular with kids that eventually led to a Broadway musical version in 2013 and a kids TV series in 2016 for Nickelodeon.
(End of Part 1) - Pt. 2
© thevoid99 2016
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