by Aaron Peck
Richard Linklater's 'Bernie' starring Jack Black has made the festival rounds and is about to expand to a wide opening. It'll be competing with 'The Avengers' which won't be easy, but early reviews for 'Bernie' are good.
With 'Bernie' opening, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at Richard Linklater's illustrious career to chronicle his best and worst films.
Personally, I found it hard fitting his movies into best and worst categories, because many of the movies in the worst section are still fairly well done. Especially, 'A Scanner Darkly' which I both enjoyed and was frustrated by.
With that said, let's take a look at the list and see if you agree.
'Before Sunrise' remains as one of the few movies with a perfect 100 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com. There's something to be said for a movie that relies completely on the art of conversation and little else. 'Before Sunrise' has no contrived ideas or clichéd storytelling devices. That's what felt so refreshing about the movie. Now, I've heard some people describe it as "boring." True, for some viewers it can be a little difficult to watch two people converse for over an hour and a half. I think the key is knowing what you're getting into when you sit down to watch it. If you're hoping for a sappy love story then you've come to the wrong place, if you're in a philosophical mood, this is just the film for you.
Truthfully, I don't think it should've worked. 'Before Sunrise' seemed like a one-off. Even though it didn't feature any of the normal gimmicks we've become used to in movies, having two people talk to each other for the entire movie is certainly a gimmick in itself. Maybe it was because he waited nine years to do the sequel (which is the exact amount of time that has passed in the movie since Jesse and Celine last saw each other). Or maybe it's because 'Before Sunset' returns with the same wonderful spirit and art of conversation that made 'Before Sunrise' so good. Either way, this film is a Linklater classic, and the ending, it's simple perfection.
If only the high school comedies of today could be as witty and as loveable as 'Dazed and Confused.' Sure, we have movies like 'Mean Girls' and 'Easy A' which seemed to buck the trend of thoughtless, soulless high school comedies, but I think we're all still waiting for something like 'Dazed and Confused' to rise once again. Maybe Linklater is the guy to make it.
'School of Rock'
'School of Rock' is just a whole lot of fun. A movie that perfectly understands what makes Jack Black loveable. If he's given the right material and the right character he can be as charming as anyone else. Playing a music teacher to an eclectic bunch of kids was the role he was born to play. It may not be as classic as 'Dazed and Confused' or as cerebral as the 'Before' films, but there's something to be said for a movie that inspires genuine laughter no matter how many times you watch it.
Like the 'Before' movies, 'Tape' has a simple premise: three people in a motel room and all they do is talk. This would be excruciatingly if it wasn't for Linklater's masterful direction and a sharp screenplay written by Stephen Belber. You could certainly group 'Tape' together with 'Sunset' and 'Sunrise' in Linklater's All-Dialogue All the Time Trilogy.
I really admired all the work that went into this movie. First they had to shoot the movie. then they had to rotoscope over every single frame in order to achieve the desired look and effect. It's an astounding amount of work, but in the end I had to ask myself was it all worth it? Did the animation really add all that much to the story as a whole? For long stretches of the movie I felt bored and unengaged. I marveled at the animation, but that's about it. Even with the talent that was involved.
'Bad News Bears' (2005)
The original 'Bad News Bears' had the same kind of kid spirit that films like 'The Sandlot' have. The remake? Not so much. It's basically "Bad Santa and the Bad News Bears,' a tepid comedy at best. Most of the film contained lowest-common-denominator humor. It simply came across as a remake that never needed to be made in the first place.
'Fast Food Nation'
Despite its star-studded cast I could never get into Linklater's fictional version of Eric Schlosser's non-fiction best-seller. I don't know. It felt too crowded, like it was trying too hard. Instead of taking you along for a simple journey like 'Tape,' it thrust you into the middle of the action. Still, there are a few very memorable moments in this movie, including a tragic accident at a meat packing facility, a look inside a working slaughterhouse, and Bruce Willis eating a burger we only wish had pink slime in it...
'The Newton Boys'
There's actually a lot to like about 'The Newton Boys.' I enjoyed Linklater departing from his norm and taking on a big-budget heist movie. But, Matthew McConaughey gives a grating performance. So much so that it cause me to end up disliking the movie by the end.
Another one of Linklater's movies that I didn't really enjoy putting in the Bottom 5, but when compared to the movies above I didn't like 'Suburbia' as much. Still, it's an enjoyable , clever tale about a group of kids coming of age. There are some great performances from Steve Zahn and Parker Posey too. Eh, maybe we should've made this one Top 6 / Bottom 4.
What do you think? Where would you rank Linklater's filmography regarding your personal tastes? Do you think 'A Scanner Darkly' is great science fiction? Head on over to the forums by clicking on the link below and let us know how you feel about his films.
I think that we can all agree on one thing though.: Not nearly enough Linklater movies have found their way to Blu-ray!