Richard Linklater

Since the release of his Texas-centric film “Boyhood,” director Richard Linklater has become much more famous. When The Daily Texan reporter Leah Welborn spoke with him in 1994, he was riding on the success of his first two films, “Slacker” and “Dazed and Confused.”

“Austin’s right on the verge of being the big film town,” Linklater said. “There are a lot of people shooting a lot of high-profile films here because people like Austin, they like filming here.”

The idea that Austin is anything but a film town is hard to believe for most residents in 2014. It seems that there is a festival devoted to a different sect of the film watching community every other weekend. When South By Southwest added film to its schedule in 1994, the capital city drew attention from film industry professionals from around the world. 

Welborn discussed the extent to which audience members connect with Linklater’s films. 

“Last week’s Austin-American Statesman ran a story on youth in Austin, and the conclusion the writer seemed to come to was that every young person in Austin has seen Slacker at least once, and it very well may have enticed a lot of people to move here,” Welborn said.

While he now has 23 director credits and two Oscar nominations under his belt, the 1994 Linklater, a college dropout from Houston, was giddy over the time he
met Aerosmith. 

“Steven Tyler’s the nicest star I’ve met,” Linklater said. “He’s the nicest guy.”

Linklater takes pride in the audience response to his films. He enjoys that “people in Chicago dress in ‘70s clothes and go to the film. They smoke pot in the theater and sneak in beers. It’s turned into a little concert.” 

One of the hallmarks of Linklater’s films is his tendency to ignore the typical Hollywood format. His films feature small casts followed over a short period of time. This trend first appeared in his film “Before Sunrise,” released shortly after his interview with the Texan. 

“The two previous films I did tied in a lot to society and culture,” Linklater said. “But this story is really outside of everything. It’s two people just lost in the night, just passing through.” 

Linklater said it came together quickly, taking only 11 days to write, 25 to film and three weeks to edit. This film went on to prompt two sequels, both of which were also well-received critically.

After the recent release of his film “Boyhood,” filmed over 12 years with the same cast, it is clear that Richard Linklater loves Austin in film. The city features heavily in many of his famous flicks, and he advocates for the city’s relevance to the film industry. Linklater jokes about the effect he’s had on the Austin art scene, saying, “I guess I’ve done my small little part to help ruin Austin.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

South By Southwest Film is the connective tissue of SXSW. While the Interactive portion takes up the first half of the nine-day festival, and Music renders Sixth Street a bastion of pot smoke and Doritos sweat for the back half, Film spans the entire festival and offers an uncompromising test to the endurance of every attendee. 

While some of the best films at the festival were carryovers from the Sundance Film Festival, highlights like “Housebound,” “Long Distance” and “Exists” had their first screenings at SXSW. The combination of proven titles from other festivals and strong world premieres resulted in a wide range of exceptional films that kept fans lining up long after crowds have thinned in previous years.

Some of the best films at this year’s festival were also among its hottest tickets. After its first screening was canceled, “The Raid 2” screened to a packed house in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The film assaulted the audience at Paramount Theatre with a barrage of broken bones and knife wounds, go along with an imploding head. The film quickly established itself as an instant action classic.

Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” was also among the best of the festival, and Linklater’s unusual approach to the film could be a genuine game-changer. He filmed his coming-of-age epic over 12 years, tracking the growth of stars Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater from pint-sized kids to borderline adults. It’s a tremendously effective method, and Linklater deserves endless commendation for his creative, achingly honest storytelling achievement.

The most fun a festival attendee can have at SXSW Film is the midnight movies, which are generally a great, bloody palette cleanser for the day. Audience Award winner “Exists” had the honor of being the sole film screened in the final midnight slot of SXSW and was a great way to close out the week. “The Blair Witch Project” co-director Eduardo Sanchez returns to familiar territory with his story of a handful of kids headed to a cabin in the woods, only to encounter a violent Bigfoot once night falls. While “Exists” has paper-thin characters and falls into many of the tropes of the horror film, it can boast a few memorable and surprising jump scares and shows an encouraging amount of enthusiasm in showing its fairly terrifying monster.

Even better in the Midnighters lineup was Adam Wingard’s “The Guest.” Featuring former “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens in a star-making performance, Wingard’s follow-up to “You’re Next” felt like a top-notch version of a cable-ready ’90s thriller, mixing the vibes of “Halloween” and “The Terminator” with the festival’s best soundtrack. 

The best genre film at SXSW this year wasn’t even in the midnighters category: the New Zealand haunted house story “Housebound,” starring Morgana O’Reilly as a miscreant sentenced to eight months under house arrest in her mother’s home. One of the great surprises of this year’s line-up, “Housebound” is a dryly comedic bit of pulpy fun, with its scares unfolding as organically as its twisty but naturally escalating plot.

Whether a film was a new work by an acclaimed director or a surprising debut from a fresh new voice, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as settling into one of the 1200 seats at the Paramount Theatre with a crowd buzzing with anticipation, tuning out the free booze and dull roar of the rest of the festival, and letting yourself be swept away by the rush of discovering a great new film.

Read the complete recap at Among the festival’s impressive documentary line-up, standouts were “Harmontown,” a brutally observed portrait of “Community” creator Dan Harmon and Grand Jury Winner “The Great Invisible.” The former follows Harmon on a national podcasting tour in the aftermath of his firing from “Community,” and portrays its subject as a drunken boor, but also allows him enough self-reflection to acknowledge his own flaws. It’s ultimately a sympathetic but unsparing film, and anyone who’s ever gotten swept up in their own creative process may be shaken by how much they see themselves in Harmon.

“The Great Invisible,” on the other hand, portrays those affected by the BP oil spill of April 2010 with a magnifying glass, showing how their lives have been swept up in the black muck that still remains in the Gulf of Mexico. The film struggles to decide between being an indictment or a warning to future oil companies, and flirts with ending for a half-hour longer than it should, but it’s a moving, upsetting look at grotesque corporate incompetence and the innocents thrown into despair because of it.

There are plenty of other films at this year’s festival worth spotlighting, like Audience Award Winner “Before I Disappear” or the quietly devastating “Long Distance.” On the whole, this year’s SXSW Film Festival was a nine-day immersion into cinema from all over the world, and while not every film was a home run, there weren’t many duds.

Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' is a SXSW masterpiece

Richard Linklater’s crowning achievement is the “Before” series, a trilogy of snapshots of a couple at different points in their life, taken roughly every nine years. “Boyhood” is a project of similar scope, filmed over 12 years as it follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood to his first day of college. Watching Mason grow up allows for the small details of his life to accumulate, and as Linklater’s sprawling chronicle of adolescence reaches its end, it makes a powerful impact through its quietly masterful wisdom and authenticity.

The film doesn’t follow the arc of any traditional plot, and it steers free of the traditional signposts that populate most coming-of-age films. We don’t see Mason’s first kiss, and he happily skips prom. Nonetheless, there are sequences built into Linklater’s epic tale, like the harrowing dissolution of his mother’s (Patricia Arquette) second marriage, or a weekend trip to Austin with a girlfriend. The film doesn’t just follow Mason, either – Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s divorced parents and Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, plays Samantha, Mason’s sister.

Hawke is a frequent Linklater collaborator, and while his character initially seems to be a riff on the lovable loser role he’s perfected, Hawke brings a dimensionality and compassion to the role. Patricia Arquette shines as Mason’s mother, who has a more consistent presence in her children’s lives, and watching the slow reality of her impending empty nest settle in over the last few years of the film gives “Boyhood” its most devastating moments.

Ellar Coltrane starts off hitting the occasional false note, but the power of watching him grow up over the years, shooting up like a weed between scenes or suddenly sporting a thin line of peach fuzz on his upper lip, is undeniable. Coltrane grows into an understated, skilled performer with time, and in the later stretches of the film, he ably delivers Linklater’s trademark philosophical musings, speaking with the equally confident and awkward lilt of a teen trying to comprehend the implications of his words as they spill from him. Lorelei Linklater, on the other hand, is a natural screen presence from the start, and there’s a welcome wit to Samantha that makes Mason’s teen angst years go down a little smoother.

Linklater builds some smart time markers into the narrative, often signaling that we’ve changed years with “modern” pop songs, carefully selected to both ground us in a year and evoke nostalgia. “Boyhood” is full of small, effective details like that, honestly observed and combining to present a moving scrapbook of a childhood. It’s Linklater’s measured, authentic approach that makes the film’s low-key climactic moments, a loaded conversation between Mason and his father and his mother’s reaction to Mason’s departure for college, land with meaningful impact.

Innovative may be the most overused word at all of SXSW, but it’s also the absolute best word to describe “Boyhood.” Linklater tries something that’s never been attempted on film before, and succeeds with flying colors. “Boyhood” tells the story of its young hero with an attention to detail that makes Mason’s life ring with familiarity, and there’s such authenticity and power to Linklater’s approach. Maybe there is another word to describe “Boyhood:” Masterpiece.

Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics | Daily Texan Staff

For film lovers, SXSW is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. 133 films of all types will be playing at various locations around Austin. The Daily Texan created a mini-preview of some of the bigger profile screenings to watch.

Boyhood (164 minutes)

Sunday, March 9, 10:30 a.m. at Paramount

Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke were in town last year to premiere “Before Midnight.” The duo has another film at this year’s festival, this time a dramatic chronicle of a family. Filmed over more than a decade from 2002 to 2013, the 164 minute long “Boyhood” looks at the challenges of raising a family and the experiences of growing up. It’s an ambitious project, but Linklater is in familiar territory here. He brought us back to the same couple over three movies spanning almost 20 years, and “Boyhood” attempts something similar — except all in one film.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (99 minutes)

Monday, March 10, 9 p.m. at Paramount

UT alumnus Wes Anderson’s latest film will have an Austin release on March 14, but on March 10, SXSW-goers will have a chance to catch a screening of the film and an extended Q-and-A with the director at the Paramount. Anderson has compiled one of his most impressive casts to date, including Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan and Tilda Swinton. Ralph Fiennes stars as Gustav H, the concierge of a famous hotel in Europe between the two World Wars who is unwittingly caught in a battle for a priceless heirloom. In true Anderson style, it all looks gorgeous. For fans of the eccentric director, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” should not be missed. 

Joe (117 minutes)

Sunday, March 9, 2:45 p.m. at Paramount

David Gordon Green’s new film stars Nicolas Cage as Joe, an ex-con who forms an unlikely bond with a local kid (Tye Sheridan). Similar to last year’s “Mud,” which also featured Sheridan and played at SXSW, “Joe” is a violent, Southern-fried coming-of-age story with impressive performances from both of its stars.  

Only Lovers Left Alive (123 minutes)

Saturday, March 8, 6:15 p.m. at Stateside

Jim Jarmusch’s film, starring Tom Hiddelston and Tilda Swinton, is a vampire story that examines how immortality can affect an emotional bond. Though the supernatural couple has repeatedly reunited over the years, their bond is truly tested with the collapse of modern society. The film co-stars Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin and was raved about at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

The Raid 2 (148 minutes)

Sunday, March 9, 9:15 p.m. at Paramount

Two years ago, Gareth Evans’ insane marital-arts flick, “The Raid: Redemption,” had the SXSW audience cheering in its seats. This year, the director reunites with star Iko Uwais for another Jakarta-set crime story. This time around, Rama goes undercover to take down the syndicate that has targeted his family.

Photo Credit: Colin Zelinski | Daily Texan Staff

Matthew McConaughey’s career was laughable two years ago. The image of a shirtless, stoned McConaughey playing the bongos became etched in the national consciousness after his brush with marijuana possession in 1999. After a string of critical and commercial disappointments like “Sahara” and “Fool’s Gold,” McConaughey became the butt of numerous jokes. 

But since 2011, McConaughey has enjoyed a slow, unstoppable turnaround in both the quality of his work and the public’s reception to it. McConaughey was not always a romantic-comedy mainstay, but began his career working for well-known directors like Steven Spielberg, Richard Linklater and Joel Schumacher and turning in performances worthy of a serious leading man.

His first significant role was the Austin-centered comedy “Dazed and Confused.” But after achieving recognition, McConaughey moved quickly toward dramatic parts in films like “A Time to Kill,” “Contact” and Spielberg’s “Amistad.” These were all well-received leading roles alongside ‘A’-list co-stars and directors, but were followed by increasingly fluffy romantic comedies like “The Wedding Planner” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” By “Failure to Launch,” it seemed official: McConaughey was a laughing stock. “Sahara,” his first attempt at carrying a studio tent pole in eight years, did not recoup its budget and sounded the death knell for his career. 

After a few more lightweight romantic comedies, McConaughey surprised audiences with 2011’s “The Lincoln Lawyer.” While the critical consensus was “good but not great,” McConaughey received praise across the board and the film was financially successful. A year later, McConaughey came roaring back with roles in Richard Linklater’s “Bernie,” William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.” All three played to McConaughey’s strengths, allowing him to utilize the Texas drawl and southern charm he is so famous for. 

The pitch-black comedy “Bernie” reunited McConaughey with Linklater, the director who made him a star with “Dazed and Confused.” Watching McConaughey spit out the words “Les Miserables” like they were poison was comedy gold, but that was just the beginning of the actor’s incredible comeback. “Killer Joe” was another dark comedy involving murder, mayhem and fried chicken, and McConaughey walked the line between charming and chilling so effortlessly it feels like watching Robert Mitchum in “Night of the Hunter.” 

“Magic Mike” proved to be the clincher. As veteran stripper Dallas, McConaughey owned the best parts of the image he spent the past decade accidentally cultivating, displaying genuine range while subtly acknowledging his past as a frequently shirtless sex icon. 

“Bernie” and “Killer Joe” were small, independent films that made modest returns, but “Magic Mike” netted $167 million on a budget of just $7 million. All three garnered attenntion for McConaughey. Combining all three performances, he won Best Supporting Actor awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics and Independent Spirit Awards. Before that, his last major award was an MTV Movie Award from 1997 for Best Breakthrough Performance in “A Time to Kill.”  

Twenty years after “Dazed and Confused,” McConaughey has engineered something most people in entertainment only dream about: a second chance. In 2013, he starred in “Mud,” another gritty, southern-fried thriller with shades of Tom Sawyer that earned him scores of praise and comparisons to Paul Newman. He ends the year with two Oscar contenders, “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The former is a role for which he is expected to receive an Oscar nomination, and the latter is a film by one of cinema’s highest regarded filmmakers, Martin Scorsese. 

Critics have dubbed this period from 2011 to the present the “McConaissance,” and it’s hard to argue with that. Over the past two years, McConaughey switched effortlessly from thriller to comedy to biopic. He’s reasserted his bank-ability as a leading man and turned in award-winning supporting performances. 

Next year, McConaughey will star in Christopher Nolan’s latest film, “Interstellar,” and co-star with Woody Harrelson in “True Detective,” a miniseries for HBO. American celebrity culture does not give many second chances, but it’s clear that McConaughey isn’t wasting his. 

Photo courtesy of Castle Rock Entertainment.

When one looks back on the work of Jack Black, there’s a tendency for Black to come across as irritating. After all, his work is often one-note, loud and abrasive, and even when Black manages to tame his act into something recognizably human, it can still get stale quickly. However, “Bernie” represents something entirely different for Black, his first portrayal of a real-life figure, and it makes for the best performance of his career.

Inspired by an article in Texas Monthly, “Bernie” tells the story of Carthage, Texas’ most beloved resident, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black). Bernie has a habit of befriending local widows, but his relationship with the notoriously acidic Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) becomes something much more parasitic and needy than simple friendship, until Bernie finally snaps under the weight of Nugent’s demands and murders her. It’s here that District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson (Matthew McConaughey) gets involved, determined to convict Bernie for a crime that all of Carthage refuses to admit he committed.

“Bernie” director Richard Linklater has worked in almost every genre at this point in his eclectic career, but “Bernie” is one of his finest films, an unapologetically black-hearted examination of what drives a gentle man like Bernie to murder. The film moves at a quick, easy pace, but what makes it stand out is how Linklater completely understands how small-town Texas really works — the social ebbs and flows, the barrage of colloquialisms and the deeply entrenched beliefs about how things should be. It’s the authenticity of the small details that gives “Bernie” its unique sense of humor. Linklater layers in interviews with Carthage residents, portrayed flawlessly by the actors of the film.

With the titular role, Jack Black has a very hard line to walk, keeping his character sympathetic without neglecting to acknowledge the gravity of his mistakes. Black’s performance lacks his usual abrasive nature, and he portrays Bernie with a gentle charisma and hilarious falsetto voice that makes it very clear why the entire town of Carthage is drawn to him. It’s a strong, unusual performance from Black, especially as Bernie is ravaged by the anguish stemming from his crime.

Matthew McConaughey leads a strong supporting cast with his playful, bewildered performance, and Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as the stubborn, crotchety Mrs. Nugent.

At this point, Richard Linklater could make just about any film he wanted, and it would probably be entertaining. His strength for capturing an infectious, nostalgic sense of time and place is undeniable, and his actors are never wasted or underused. “Bernie” is a film that showcases Linklater at his best and a truly hilarious slice of Texas life, one that every native Texan will undoubtedly enjoy.

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Small town murder takes on big screen

Jack Black stars in Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” as the real-life Texas murderer Bernie Tiede. (Photo courtesy of Millenium Entertainment)

In “Bernie,” Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater’s newest film, Jack Black plays real-life Texas criminal Bernie Tiede, a mortician who strikes up an unlikely friendship with millionaire Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). When the friendly, unassuming Bernie is driven to murder the curmudgeonly Marjorie, District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) swoops in to pick up the pieces.

The Daily Texan participated in a roundtable interview with Richard Linklater and Matthew McConaughey during last month’s South By Southwest Film Festival.

The Daily Texan: How long ago did you find the Texas Monthly article that inspired the film?
Richard Linklater:
I read it when it came out. I think it was December ’98? I immediately called the writer, Skip Hollandsworth, started talking about the story and, at that point, there hadn’t been a trial. At that point, it looked like Bernie was going to get off, and that was kind of a joke. That was the angle of that article. They weren’t going to be able to get a prosecution. I went to the trial and went through the whole process, that’s all very personal to me. I was at that courthouse, I saw what the jury looked like. A lot of the dialogue, what Matthew’s character says in the trial, that’s all firsthand.

DT: Did the material from the townspeople come from actual interviews?
So much of it. Skip, in his journalistic work, had a big file full of interviews. The people in the movie are a hopefully flowing mix of actors, people from the area who knew of the story, and some people who were next-door neighbors or knew Bernie.

DT: There are so many quotable moments.
A lot of those jokes were in the actual transcripts of interviews Skip had done. I got that idea of town gossips reading all that because, if you think about it, Mrs. Nugent’s not around and Bernie can’t defend himself, so it’s a gossip chain that the story is absorbed through. I thought, “I’ve never seen a movie that told its story through town gossips,” because that’s really strong in a small town. It’s a huge social element and I thought it was appropriate for the storytelling.

DT: Matthew, your character is kind of the voice of reason in the movie. What’s the importance of having that guy who tells everybody else, “You people are nuts?”
Matthew McConaughey:
Voice of reason? That’s what is really interesting about the whole story. Cases are moved all the time because they don’t think they can get an acquittal. This one was moved to try and get a guilty verdict. In research, you’re not finding many other cases like that. You talk about where you’ve got the info from. You’re getting it from the people. And then, Danny gets in there and, as a good prosecutor would, paints a different picture that may or may not be true. They work to get the verdict that they’re after, so he kind of exaggerated, really. Bernie wasn’t a serial killer, but it worked! This was my first time to prosecute [in a film].
Linklater: He was like, “I’m always getting these guys off that I think are really guilty. Finally, I can nail somebody.”

DT: With this character and your character in “Killer Joe” [another SXSW film], it really feels like a departure from the kind of roles that people associate you with.
McConaughey: I’ve tried to stay fluid with my career choices. I was looking for some things that were different, offbeat, not straight down the line comedies. “Killer Joe” was a great script that came off the page for me. I could taste it. It was something different. Independents are better stories, more interesting stories for me right now, and that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do more studio pictures. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to do more romantic comedies down the line.

DT: You guys worked together before on “Dazed and Confused.” What’s it like working together again on this film?
We’ve got real trust in each other. I really feel like he brings out the best in me. I like to listen to him. We like to play verbal ping-pong. We have a real shorthand, and it’s fluid. From the beginning, in “Dazed,” there’s not a demarcation line between behind the camera and in front of the camera. There’s just an easy flow. It’s very fun for an actor and creative.
Linklater: I like getting those calls from Matthew, too, as he’s building up that character. It’s fun. We can talk forever if he wants to. Wherever he’s at in his development, I’m glad to be there any way I can be.

“Bernie” releases April 27. Check back next week for an interview with Jack Black and a review of the film.


Printed on Friday, April 20, 2012 as: Linklater, McConaughey discuss background behind 'Bernie' film

Photo Courtesy of Lionsgate

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

South By Southwest has assembled an intimidating roster of films this year, including star-studded premieres and a wonderful midnight film program. Here are a few of the big tickets at this year’s festival you should seek out.

“21 Jump Street”
(March 12, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre)
There is absolutely no reason that a “21 Jump Street” movie should work, but directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have somehow made a film that both pays homage to and completely desecrates the memory of its predecessor while also telling a distinctive, consistently funny story of its own. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill make for a great comedic team, and both will be in attendance at SXSW’s centerpiece screening.

(March 14, 6:30 p.m, Paramount Theatre)
Throughout his career, Richard Linklater keeps returning to explore the different sides of Texas, and “Bernie” is perhaps Linklater’s finest film to date. Based on a true story that took place in Carthage, “Bernie” stars Jack Black as the titular character, a kind and well-loved man. Black gives a wonderfully human, gentle performance that’s completely absent of any of his typical schtick. Linklater sets up much of the film through documentary-style interviews with the townspeople who lived the story, and it lends the film an authenticity and texture that makes it stand out, both in Linklater’s catalog and in the SXSW lineup.

“Cabin in the Woods”
(March 9, 7 p.m., Paramount Theatre)
When “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon and former “Lost” writer Drew Goddard team up to make a horror film, you pay attention. And fans have been waiting for “Cabin in the Woods” since 2009. I’ve managed to go nearly three years without seeing a single second of footage from the film, and the enthusiastic early word has me extremely excited to get packed into the Paramount and experience this one with a huge crowd.

“Casa de mi Padre”
(March 13, 5:00 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)
It would have been easy for “Casa de mi Padre” to simply be a movie where Will Ferrell tells jokes in Spanish. But the film goes for a distinct, slightly twisted tone and Ferrell gives the most energized performance we’ve seen from him in years. The film’s commitment to the excessively ridiculous is admirable, and “Casa de mi Padre” proves to be much better than its lackluster trailer would suggest.

(March 10, 10 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar; March 11, 10 p.m., Violet Crown Cinema; March 13, 4:30 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse Ritz; March 15, 9:45 p.m., Violet Crown Cinema)
Extracted” doesn’t have an obvious hook; there are no stars on the marquee and director Nil Paniry is making his feature debut here. Nonetheless, its premise of a man (Sasha Roiz) trapped inside a drug addict’s memories is a compelling one. The film’s trailer is filled with promising visuals that easily earn “Extracted” a spot on the must-see list this year.

“The Raid: Redemption”
(March 11, 9:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre)
There’s not a film I’m more excited for at SXSW than “The Raid: Redemption.” Given the rapturous reception the film has gotten from almost everyone who’s seen, it only adds to my anticipation. The film, which tells the story of an ill-fated police raid on a crime-infested apartment complex, blew everyone’s minds back at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been steadily building buzz since. If this one lives up to expectations, it’ll be something very
special indeed.

“[REC] 3: Genesis”
(March 9, 11:59 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar; March 14, 11:59 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)
The Spanish “[REC]” franchise has proven to be one of the most reliably terrifying zombie series in recent history, and even “Quarantine,” the watered-down American remake, managed to score a few scares of its own. “[REC] 3: Genesis” takes the franchise to the beginnings of the zombie outbreak and promises to be a highlight of a midnighter’s program packed with hotly
anticipated titles.

Physical media may be dying, but it’ll be a tragedy for the collector if it ever does. Sure, one could go to Amazon and download a digital copy of Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused,” or stream it via Netflix, but true fans would probably rather have a hard copy, especially if it’s the Criterion Collection Blu-ray, which features a superb transfer of the movie as well as a slew of extras. Offered in a slick cardboard case with a booklet containing information about the movie and essays by Chuck Klosterman — among others — it’s well worth seeking out.

“Dazed,” filmed in and around Austin, takes place on the last day of school in a small Texas town in 1976 and really evokes the period as well as its location. We see the new seniors carry out initiation rituals on the incoming freshman, which involve brutal beatings for the boys and bizarre psychological dominance for the girls. Meanwhile we follow several characters in this town as they look for a party and ponder the future of their lives.

In short, it’s a sort of “American Graffiti” for the 1970s, but writer-director Linklater brings his own style to the movie. Much like his break-out hit “Slacker,” he fills his movie with characters who are either very thoughtful or very strange, but at the same time, seem genuine. Unlike “Slacker” however, “Dazed” has enough of a plot to keep things moving along, though that may have been Linklater’s compromise to get studio financing.

Criterion has always been exceptional at producing special edition releases of movies, and “Dazed” continues that trend. With a very detailed presentation of the movie, albeit one with slightly muted colors, this is the best that “Dazed” has looked since its original theatrical release, no question.

The sound has been remixed into a 5.1 DTS track, which aside from providing clear dialogue, also ensures that the music used throughout the movie sounds fantastic. And while the presentation is the most important aspect for preserving a cult favorite like “Dazed,” fans will likely get most excited about the extras. Included on the disc is an insightful commentary by Linklater, along with several deleted scenes that flesh out some of the characters.

There’s also a 50-minute documentary on the making of the movie, a ton of interviews, some conducted in character and a collection of many of the auditions that the cast gave for the movie.

Though there’s a lot here, none of it is worth skipping.

And while this content is all duplicated from the Criterion DVD release of a few years ago, it’s been updated to Blu-ray quality video and honestly, there’s not much more that a fan could ask for.

Perhaps Blu-Ray and other physical media are going the way of the dodo, but this release is a reminder of why we don’t need to rush to an all-digital future. The only real downside to the release is that there’s nothing new here that wasn’t on the DVD release from a few years ago.

However, for fans of the movie who want it looking and sounding great, upgrading to the Criterion Blu-ray release of “Dazed” is a no-brainer. 

Printed on Thursday, October 27, 2011 as: Criterion releases Linklater's 'Dazed and Confused' in Blu-ray

Funny man Jack Black and Austin director Richard Linklater visited the Paramount Theater to show a benefit screening of the new film “Bernie.” All proceeds went to aid the Bastrop fire relief effort.

“Bernie,” starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, details the life of a beloved funeral director in Carthage, Texas who forms an unlikely friendship with the town’s richest widow.

Real-life funeral home owner Carlton Shamburger said he came to the premier to see his business on the big screen.

“I actually own the funeral home that the true story is based upon,” Shamburger said. “They used the outside of our funeral home for filming. Not the inside of course. We didn’t give out names because we are everyday people and this [is] Hollywood, but our family is just happy to help out such a great cause.”

He said the film is largely dry humor from a different angle.

Linklater said he decided to open up the screening, originally intended for the crew, to the public immediately after hearing the news of the fires.

Linklater said that parts of Bastrop have been destroyed, but there is still hope for recovery. He said he hopes to help the recovery effort with this philanthropic measure and that he would love to film in Bastrop again in the future.

“The film is kind of this really weird memorial in a way. A memorial to Bernie,” Linklater said. “The mysterious power of film can do anything. We only hope that we can help enough to rebuild Bastrop.”

Linklater answered the majority of questions during the question and answer session following the screening. Black said he was sympathetic for the victims and their families.

“It really is no problem for us to do this to help Bastrop out. It was just the right thing to do,” Black said. “I feel so bad for the victims and the families and hope that this helped enough to make a difference.”

Many people at the event expressed sincere appreciation for the efforts of Linklater and Black. One hundred percent of proceeds from the event went to Bastrop Emergency Food Pantry, Heart of Pines Volunteer Fire Department and Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks.

“It’s great to have them do this for Bastrop. Being from there, it really is a sentimental thing for me,” said Bastrop resident Roger Basquette. “I mean it makes sense. It is [Linklater’s] hometown, and I guess we all support our own.”