Of all filmmakers in the world, few – if any – can do slice-of-life as well as Richard Linklater. Never weighed down by plot structure or the rigid expectations of modern cinema, Linklater’s the master of fluid, easygoing, day-in-the-life filmmaking. His latest exercise in the craft, Everybody Wants Some, is a charmer.
You’re invited to a 3-day bender in the late summer of 1980 – the long weekend before the first day of classes – and Linklater’s meandering camera makes you feel like you’re just wandering through the party.
Everybody Wants Some is, without question, too forgiving. A South Texas university baseball team settles into the new year by scoping out the female action on and off campus. They’re adaptive – disco one night, urban cowboys the next, punk rockers on a random Sunday. Linklater not only nails 1980, but pinpoints the almost invisible moments of import in a person’s life.
This is a consequence-free zone that smells a bit of nostalgia and self-congratulations. And yet, thanks to a slew of utterly charming performances, the film still works exceptionally well.
Linklater has assembled an outstanding ensemble – not a false note in the lot, from the quiet everyman Jake (Blake Jenner) to the hypercompetitive McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) to the philosophical ladies’ man Finnegan (Glen Powell) to the ranting wacko Jay (Juston Street) – and basically the entire team. The first thing Linklater does is establish each ballplayer’s type, just to quietly destroy your preconceived notions of character.
Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to 1993’s coming of age classic Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some is even more laid back, decidedly more masculine, and quite a bit more existential. Linklater’s more existential films tend toward the bittersweet – some more bitter, this one more sweet.
Like Dazed, the new film litters its fluid storyline with hijinks and casually perceptive dialog.
“It’s all so damn tribal.”
“Embrace your inner strange.”
It’s a film about competition and identity, the battle between self-discovery and authenticity, but with Linklater’s light, affectionate touch, nothing ever feels heavy. The writing is as good as anything Linklater has produced, positively glowing with “unsolicited wisdom and fuckwithery.” And all of it leads to an absolutely perfect ending.
As we sat and watched Jaws for the 400th time last weekend, we laughed about all the movies that – when we find them on TV, no matter where in the film we switch on – we are compelled to watch to the end. It’s 11:30 pm and we stumble upon the opening diner sequence from Pulp Fiction? It looks like we’ll be up til 1:30 today. We’ve pulled together the list of films we cannot turn off when we find them on TV. What’d we miss?
This is the top one for us. George, in particular, has seen this movie dozens and dozens of times. It’s an absolute marvel, and while every watching of course brings back memories, there truly is something new to notice every time you see Jaws. Spielberg’s raw talent, for example. Or John Williams’s pitch-perfect score. Jaws is always thrilling, always scary, always amazing.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
It’s a masterpiece that sucks you in no matter when you turn it on because every scene is a work of utter genius. Every character is as cool as can be, every exchange is more fun to watch than anything else you’re going to find on TV, and it’s the kind of movie absolutely no one ever really made before or since. There is nothing quite like Pulp Fiction, which is why you should watch it at every opportunity.
Die Hard (1988)
This is George’s favorite movie of all time, so it kind of goes without saying that it stays on if we come across it. And why not? The iconic Eighties game changer altered the course of action movies with its wiseass underdog, confined terror and magnificent Euro-trash villains. Not enough can be said for the smarmy brilliance of Alan Rickman, and watching Bruce Willis at the top of his game is always fun, too.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This is Hope’s favorite movie of all time. There are no flaws in this movie. The fact that a movie wherein a man who eats human flesh helps the FBI track a man who wears human flesh could go on to win every major Oscar says about as much for the craftsmanship behind this movie as anything could. It’s Jonathan Demme’s greatest achievement and one of the greatest films ever made.
When you can say every line along with the film you are watching, you’ve seen the film too many times. And yet, is it possible to watch Caddyshack too often? Ted Knight! Rodney Dangerfield! Bill F. Murray! No, it is not. Somehow this weird accumulation of spontaneous insanity remains fresh 35 years on.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Another one that’s funny no matter how often you see it, Lebowski benefits from magnificent writing and superb direction (as is always the case with The Brothers Coen), but more than anything, the film demands rapt attention because of Jeff Bridges’s magical lead turn. Well, demand is kind of a fascist word. It’s just a really, really hard movie to turn off, man.
From the moment Nostromo lands – allegedly drawn by a distress signal – Ridley Scott’s horror/SciFi hybrid starts building horrific tension. Nobody wants to be awakened unexpectedly. This crew seems weary of their mission and tired of each other. Scott’s drained all the color from the crew and the set – it’s like being trapped in a bad dream that’s only going to get worse. And yet, we just can’t turn away.
You can’t have one without the other. Where Ridley Scott’s original was a slow build horror show, James Cameron’s is a badass action flick and Sigourney Weaver is equally at home in either genre. Cameron abandons claustrophobia, opening the film up with death trap labyrinths and expanding the terror with an army of acid-blood monsters. This is the very best kind of high octane fun.
The Conjuring (2013)
Thank God for HBO because The Conjuring is on almost daily now. The thirtieth time you jump at the same damn ghost, you know a movie has got something, and we’re telling you, every time little Cindy Perron starts sleep walking into that bureau, we tense up. Yes, there are silly moments in this nuts and bolts haunted house flick, but director James Wan understands pacing and knows when flesh and blood are scarier than FX. The result is a fun, jumpy night with one stinky, foot grabbing ghost.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Richard Linklater’s wonderful, rambling ode to coming of age in the Seventies pops up a lot, lately. We usually come in right about the time a handful of freshmen are conning Ben Affleck’s delightfully dickish Fred O’Bannion that there’s a cherry ass to beat. Whether it’s Matthew McConaughey’s most iconic character or the way Linklater and cast languidly capture both a time period and a universal right of passage – or maybe it’s just wanting in on that party – we are always hooked.
Aside from the very rare exception, Matthew McConaughey spent the first twenty years of his career proving to us that he looked nice without a shirt. Talent shmalent. Then suddenly, the king of the romantic comedy finally gave up his throne and began acting, and here’s the nutty thing: he’s damn good. Need proof? Read on, as we list the evidence.
10. Frailty (2001)
Spooky, languid, eerily observant, McConaughey’s performance in this underseen horror gem sets a great tone for the surprises in store.
9. The Paperboy (2012)
In a film this over-the-top, McConaughey anchors the insanity with an understated turn as a conflicted, good man.
8. Bernie (2011)
Jack Black is the reason to see this incredible film, but McConaughey’s turn as the baffled lawman and the film’s voice of reason is a winner as well.
7. Lone Star (1996)
Not yet Hollywood’s go-to for rom-com, McConaughey impressed everyone as Buddy Deeds, the legendary lawman-in-flashback in John Sayles’s Texan mystery.
6. Tropic Thunder (2008)
Here was our first reminder in more than a decade that McConaughey could act, not to mention poke fun at himself. With that insane hair and a little lip gloss, his Hollywood agent was the stuff of dreams. “Tivo!”
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
No matter how much you hated Matthew McConaughey by, say, 2005, you had to admit that you loved him in his early-career turnin Dazed and Confused. That performance as Wooderson, the sleazy older dude still hitting on high school girls, was just about perfect.
4. Mud (2012)
By the time Mud came out, we’d grown used to the new and improved McConaughey, a flexible talent who still managed to put his own stamp on every new and fascinating role. Here he blends childlike wildness with wily survival instincts for a piece of beautiful storytelling.
3. Magic Mike (2012)
Yes, this movie blows, but it is so worth watching because of McConaughey’s positively unhinged and magnificent performance as the aging stripper-turned-entrepreneur.
2. Killer Joe (2011)
Holy shit. This movie – a kick-ass comeback for director William Friedkin – is so nuts, so dark, so Texan, that no one could possible shoulder the title role but McConaughey. Huge props to the entire balance of the cast, but just try to take your eyes off McConaughey.
1. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
McConaughey may finally get the Oscar nomination he deserved at least twice in the last two years for his turn as the hard living Texan who finds himself victim of HIV and the medical industrial complex. A searingly human portrait, the performance is the best of what is becoming – at long last – a monster career.