Louis Black and Karen Bernstein’s Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny is a remarkable documentary and biography of one of the most acclaimed and innovative filmmakers working today. More of a tribute by Austinites to a hero from Austin Texas who made good and managed to claim success without sacrificing too much of his own artistic vision, Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny takes an interesting and new look at the work of one of my favorite directors working in film today. I’ve made no secret that Linklater is one of my personal film heroes and easily my favorite writer working in cinema right now, and I’ve found most of the documentaries and work surrounding his legacy and career to be absolutely entertaining and often times stimulating.
This is one of the first time in years I’ve had such a difficult period deciding which movies had to be cut from my top ten and which deserved to stay on. Of course I didn’t catch every thing I wanted to, as probably Manchester by the Sea and Edge of Seventeen may have been on the list, if I saw them. So while there are some omissions out of my control, this is the ten I ultimately stuck to. This is the ten best movies I saw in 2016, along with a big list of potential place holders I quite loved, just the same.
Movies in 2016 that almost made the list includes the moving science fiction thriller Midnight Special, the touching sequel Finding Dory, the elaborate and beautiful The Handmaiden, the fun Ti West western In a Valley of Violence, the superb and very scary sequel The Conjuring 2, the fun and moving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the hilarious and raucous antithesis to the superhero movie Deadpool, the sweeping fantasy thriller Doctor Strange, the incredible crime drama Hell or High Water, the very fun Adam Wingard reboot Blair Witch, the moving and fun teen drama Sing Street, the teeth grindingly compelling 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the chaotic survival thriller Green Room. Kudos to everyone behind these top notch movies I plan to revisit again and again in the coming years.
Now on the Top 10…
Richard Linklater is of the philosophy that life isn’t planned out or a sequence of fates colliding, and bad luck giving us misery. For him, life is a series of random events, major and minute that result in pure happiness or pure sadness. “Everybody Wants Some!!” is every bit the drama and comedy masterpiece that its predecessor “Dazed and Confused” was. Not only is it an amazing companion piece to his nineties comedy, but it’s also an examination at the turbulence of youth and how being young has a lot of surprising structure and pressures behind it that can often be so much worse than adults.
Its 1980, Texas, and three days before college. Freshman Jake arrives in his new dorm, preparing to share a house with a group of very rowdy guys. Like them, Jake is a baseball player intent on proving himself on the team. Before the school year begins, and daily practices start in an effort to mold the school’s only winning sports team, Jake is taken along with his team on a three day journey of parties, drinking, and beautiful women. Linklater, much like he did in “Dazed and Confused” follows around a group of young people as they navigate through life and use music and humor to connect with one another and find kindred spirits. Music is the life blood of Linklater’s movies.
If there is such a thing as a soul, music is as close as it gets to Linklater conveying what a soul is, and how crucial music can be to igniting it. Rather than focus on a group of teens at the beginning of the summer, Linklater now follows a group of young adults in their final days of the summer, before they have to accept adult responsibility and give up the carefree days of their teens. The future isn’t as bleak as it was in the finale of “Dazed of Confused,” but the film does act as a requiem to immaturity and just being young, before it all fades away in to careers, obligations, and old age. “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a subtle look at enjoying youth and bidding it a fond farewell, all set to a very random and chaotic comedy that unfolds in to one excellent piece of cinema.
Linklater doesn’t commit to plot twists, cheap deaths, goofy romance, or melodrama, and instead zeroes in on drawing a slew of truly engaging characters, all of whom are blind to race and class, and find a means of bonding three days before school. Like everyone in a Linklater film, they use music to keep each other at eye level, and Linklater celebrates the magic of music. Not only does the film have an incredible soundtrack, but the characters live and breath through whatever music is on in the background, from singing along to “Rapper’s Delight” in a crowded car (a scene that rivals the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene in “Wayne’s World,” easily), to the group of baseball players seducing young women at a local club with disco music and pop.
Though many will argue that “Everybody Wants Some!!” has no narrative, Linklater’s wizardry is in the seemingly random events that devise bits and chunks of plot, narrative and themes about male bonding, competition, and the thrills summer can offer to anyone open to a new adventure. Like Linklater’s previous films, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is simple, and down to Earth in scope and vision, but brings with it an incredible series of rich and complex characters, wonderful conflict, and yet another bang up soundtrack. I really hope Linklater offers up another follow up to “Dazed and Confused,” completing an unofficial trilogy. Linklater is a mastermind of storytelling who understands youth, nostalgia, as well as seeing the world through a filter where music is the universal language.
With the revolving door of filmmaker working in today’s movie industry, Hollywood is thankfully being more and more open to the works of independent filmmakers. They’re welcoming self made directors more and more, offering them bigger projects and the chance to prove themselves. While sometimes they can stumble, often times they prove they can access any audience, and stand alongside the cinematic titans of yesteryear. Every year there’s a new success story, and these are only five of my favorite filmmakers working today, all of whom have broken through on their own terms.
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers working today?
Richard Linklater is a master at handling multiple storylines as well as various characters, allowing them to gel in to one very cohesive cinematic experience. Other directors would have a hard tie balancing out so many storylines, but “Dazed and Confused” manages to not only unfold in to a fun narrative, but also builds a myriad fascinating characters you’ll either love or hate by the time “Dazed and Confused” is over. A virtual successor to “American Graffiti,” this time Linklater follows a slew of characters over the course of one hectic night in the late seventies, as summer begins and school finally lets out. Director Linklater doesn’t have a singular thread bonding his characters, save for his ensemble’s core desire to find one last adventure before the summer comes around demanding some new form of responsibility outside of school.
Director Richard Linklater is the kind of filmmaker I admire. He takes risks, and is still willing to experiment in a movie world where very few of his contemporaries are anymore. You can make the argument that “Boyhood” is gimmicky, but I prefer to think of it as ambititious and an absolutely excellent endeavor. Director Linklater followed his cast of four for twelve years, filming them through various stages of adolescnnce in order to completely fulfill his tale of growth and coming of age with a boy who blossoms in to adulthood.
Director Richard Linklater explores the rarely touched upon trope of the romance. What happens after “They lived happily ever after”? When the dust has settled and Jessie and Celine have built a life together, what happens when reality interferes in the romantic fantasy. Surely for two films, Jessie and Celine had a wonderful whirlwind romance, then an amazing reunion, but will Jessie’s love for his child and his obligations ultimately destroy the true love he yearned for years?
It’s a bit selfish to test my luck in that regard, only because you’re only granted so many wishes in life before the well runs dry, but I mean it, if I could, I’d pick that man’s brain for at least an hour.