Linklater. Linklater is no visual master and only has two films in the top 500 of all-time. However, has an unbelievably (had to double-check) high 8 films that land in the top 100 of their respective decade. Linklater is incredibly prolific (12 archiveable films) and some dry spells (the period between Before Sunset and Before Midnight from 2004 to 2013 was really weak) but the body of work cannot be denied. As we look forward when the 10-year moratorium lifts on the top 500 clearly films like Before Midnight and Boyhood in back to back years will also change an auteurs trajectory.  I’ve also found that his recent films themes (meditations on time, introspective/philosophical dialogue) have brought early work into a clearer, fuller bloom. I can’t call him a style-plus director like a Malick, WKW or Lynch but he’s a formidable auteur, productive, and clearly appears to be still at, or near, the height of his powers despite being one of the founding fathers of the American Indie New Wave along with Spike Lee, Tarantino, and Soderbergh.

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Linklater’s best work is connected to each other— Dazed and Confused takes high school in the late 70’s
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Everybody Wants Some!! does the same with college in the early 80’s– both in Texas, both featuring a baseball player, a sprawling ensemble, jam-packed with soundtracks, parties, plotless,

Best film:  Before Sunset. Like most of Linklater’s work it’s not flashy from a visual standpoint—but it’s an ambitious formal presentation (close to real time), a distinctive film– and most importantly– a Linklater film. The ending still haunts me years and many viewings later.

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the grand final scene of Before Sunset

total archiveable films: 12

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films: 2 (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused)

wall-art mise-en-scene here– not exactly Linklater’s forte– but worth catching here in Dazed and Confused

top 100 films of the decade: 8 (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset, Boyhood, Before Midnight, Everybody Wants Some!!)

Sunrise may lack the immediacy and grand final act of Sunset, and the realism and authenticity of the marital struggle of Sunset, but it is nonetheless a pivotal film for Linklater and a film that gets stronger as years pass. Even if the other films in the trilogy are better– this is important referential cinematic text– walking and talking through a city like Lean’s Brief Encounter, Varda’s La Pointe Courte, Malle’s My Dinner With Andre

most overrated: I don’t really have one- if forced to pick I think Boyhood would be my choice since it’s the #1 film of 2014 on TSPDT and I’ve got it as #3. Tough to bitch about that too much though- it’s a fabulous film.

most underrated:   I’ll pick Slacker as his most underrated as it should be on the TSPDT top 1000 and it isn’t. Before Midnight has fallen to 11th from 2013 on the 21st century TSPDT, too. I’m sorry—this is a marital sparring film that looks very favorably next to Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage and deserves to be recognized as such.

those who know Linklater from School or Rock may doubt his storytelling or cinematic ambition– but his debut has plenty of both

gem I want to spotlight:    Waking Life. I prefer this to Scanner Darkly as it has so much of Slacker’s spirit. It’s a film that has grown on me and I find myself longing to see again much more often than supposedly superior (even in my own mind) films.

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a new visual mode for Linklater here in Waking Life— but certainly the creative cousin of his debut– 1990’s Slacker

stylistic innovations/traits:      Linklater is the easy-going mainstay of the American 1990’s indie movement—an era that I’ve said before is getting more and more love from cinema lovers as we get more distance from it. Most of his films spoke for Generation X (I guess Boyhood still does through Arquette and Hawke in some ways) but more so are meditations on time and adolescence. Slacker has ambitious structure, Dazed and Confused was a superior version of American Graffiti for the late 70’s, Boyhood is the perfect 100 on metacritic film that took wisdom, a bit of bravey, and foresight to achieve, and the “Before” trilogy has surely cemented it’s cinematic legacy. Again, he lacks the visual bravado of Spike or Tarantino but his films do not lack for authorship. Also, I hesitate to call him a full-fledged realist but the procedural and desaturated dramatic intentions of some of his best work (Boyhood) put him closer to the Dardenne’s than say Tarantino or Wes Anderson. His best films are all connected to each other. Slacker pairs with Waking Life, the Before trilogy—well of course, Dazed and Confused has a 2016 companion piece (very worthy) in Everybody Wants Some!! Linklater also uses the formal aspect of time in most of his works (and essentially all of his top 8). Before Sunset works in real time, Slacker is 24 hours, Dazed is the last day of high school and well—Boyhood tells the story of a boy’s life, through individual splices, over 13 years.

a dauntingly ambitious project

top 10

  1. Before Sunset
  2. Before Midnight
  3. Boyhood
  4. Dazed and Confused
  5. Slacker
  6. Before Sunrise
  7. Waking Life
  8. Everybody Wants Some!!
  9. A Scanner Darkly
  10. School of Rock
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this is from Before Sunrise’s incredible sequence of Ozu-like pillow shots that follow the film– a montage of the empty streets just walked where Jesse and Celine met and fell in love

By year and grades

1990- Slacker HR
1993- Dazed and Confused MS
1995- Before Sunrise HR
2001- Waking Life HR
2003- School of Rock R
2004- Before Sunset MP
2006- A Scanner Darkly R
2008- Me and Orson Welles R
2011- Bernie R
2013- Before Midnight MP
2014- Boyhood MP
2016- Everybody Wants Some!! HR

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives