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21 Years: Richard Linklater

21 Years: Richard Linklater (2014)

November. 07,2014
| Documentary

A journey through the professional life of innovative film director Richard Linklater: 21 years creating films, carving his signature in pop culture; an analysis of his style and motivations, through the funny and moving testimonies of close friends and collaborators, actors and other filmmakers.


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I just watched this terrific documentary off Showtime about the filmmaking career of director, Richard Linklater, who has helmed such now-classics as "Dazed and Confused", "Before Sunrise", "Slacker", "Suburbia", etc.. The film interviews Linklater regulars like Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Jack Black, etc.. and not only goes into the methods of Linklater's filmmaking style, but also into the philosophies of the man himself. I especially liked the extended bits on his film debut "Slacker", a teeny little indie movie with no stars, no storyline, that just kinda went about the people and streets of Austin, TX, using just about every filmmaking style (and camera!) you can imagine. My favorites of his are probably D&C, "Suburbia", and only saw it for the first time a few years ago, the aforementioned "Slacker", which had me chuckling at times for no reason-?? I also really liked his remake of "Bad News Bears", which I actually thought was better than the original. It was just perfect Billy Bob Thornton at his most asshole-iest! LOL Not a big fan of the "Before..." trilogy, however I thought it was interesting that they pointed out it was perhaps the lowest grossing trilogy in film history- in another words, the first film had to have made the absolute least amount of money than ANY other movie they went ahead with the sequel-?? LOL Well, anyway, absolutely loved this doc.- one of those that for me could've gone on even longer! Big thumbs up!Please check out all my reviews, plus lots of good interaction and group discussion about anything/everything movies/TV/entertainment at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/movie.holiks/Email us at:[email protected] don't settle for second best!- lots of copy-cat and imitation groups out there, but "the REAL movie-holiks" is THEE original one!

Steve Pulaski

"Boom! We go to set, I get my '70s Chevelle," Matthew McConaughey says, recalling his experience on the set of Richard Linklater's film Dazed and Confused in 21 Years: Richard Linklater. "It's gonna be my first scene in the movie, and I'm going, 'F***, here we go!,' and I'm really nervous," he continues. "I'm going, 'Who am I? What am I about? What's my man, what's my man?,' and I remember in my head hearing Wooderson's voice going: 'All right, I'm about pot, rock 'n' roll, my car, and p****.' Well, I'm high, I'm in my Chevelle, I'm listening to Nugent, and I heard 'action.' And I got all of those things but one," he finishes.Such moments of reflection and analysis on the career of Linklater are prominent in 21 Years: Richard Linklater, an unapologetic love-letter to the director from a large group of people who have worked with him since his beginning. At seventy-five minutes, the film plays more like a bonus feature on a Linklater DVD set, or a welcomed addition at a wrap-party for the director, rather than a stand-alone documentary feature. Unlike Mike Myers' film Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, where the documentary concerns a subject and is fueled with just as much energy and charisma as its subject, 21 Years is more about congratulatory analysis over some sort of stylistic structure. With this particular documentary being robbed of that key feature, we get a film more centered on complementary analysis and bullet-pointed observations than anything of thought-provoking substance.The documentary isn't a total loss, though. It's an interesting analysis of some of Linklater's more perplexing directorial choices, such as The Bad News Bears and A Scanner Darkly within two years of one another, and the impact and production process of the Before trilogy. Interviewees such as Jack Black, Joey Lauren Adams, Billy Bob Thornton, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delphy all elaborate on the experience they had working with the man himself and demystify his process, affirming my assumption through interviews and assumptions of the man that his style is lax and largely up to the capabilities and the willingness of the audience. It is true, in fact, that Linklater leaves a lot of the naturalism and possibilities of his films up to the improvisation skills of his actors, while in other cases, making scenes heavily scripted so the actors can follow them to a tee.The actors all give their impressions of working with Linklater, in addition to chronicling the impact his films have had. Filmmakers like Kevin Smith and the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, discuss the far-reaching and groundbreaking effects Linklater's official directorial debut Slacker had on the independent cinema movement of the 1990's. Rather than scapegoating or giving an elaborate list of excuses as to why he was prohibited or limited in making a film the way he wanted, Linklater silently told all of the inner-filmmakers in us "just do it, no excuses." People like Smith saw his film Slacker and were motivated to turn the cameras on their neighborhoods and give them a breath of cinematic life. With the rise in technology and the ubiquity of cameras, editing software, and a means to release ones' creation, Linklater effectively established a policy built on no excuses - just the pursuit of filmmaking.21 Years: Richard Linklater, throughout all its congratulating and hailing of its titular subject, leaves out perhaps Linklater's most important contribution to the arts, which was restoring Austin, Texas's arts and entertainment field by developing a film festival for independent talent following a huge monetary cut in the funding of the arts for the town. Linklater's philanthropy is left for the tailend of the documentary, given a pamphlet's worth of exposition while the entire bout of end credits are devoted to thanking Linklater for all he has done for them. Linklater, himself, is sadly absent to his own party, either for reasons attributed to being reclusive or he'd prefer his films lacking in direct interpretation from the source (the latter is likely the case, judging by the often cryptic quotes from him that punctuate each chapter in this documentary). 21 Years, due to its length and the positivity of its content, is hardly a task to watch, but its surface exploration and congratulatory aura ultimately provide for frustration, especially for fans who likely know a great deal of this information already and didn't need common knowledge treated as groundbreaking revelations by the people grateful enough to get an up close look at the man.Directed by: Matthew Dunaway and Tara Wood.


Do you remember the scene in Jerry Maguire where the Tom Cruise character is at his bachelor party and a TV set is playing a video montage of all his female pals talking about him? I do and 2014's 21 Years: Richard Linklater (my latest review) sort of brought me back to that candid, cinematic moment in 1996. "21 Years" being a Breaking Glass Pictures release, also reminded me of an unintentional AFI tribute complete with plenty of veritable, actor-to-director brown nosing. Ah, how great it feels to be loved.So OK, this is a goofy, overly playful documentary about a famed director who's been making movies ever since 1991. His name is Richard Linklater. He's an innovator, a man of varied ideals, and it seems like he's never really helmed the same flick twice (unless you count 2006's A Scanner Darkly and 2001's Waking Life as both being rotoscoped which is a unique animation technique). With his critically acclaimed Boyhood currently starting to gain Oscar momentum, it seems kind of fitting that 78 minutes would be devoted to his life as an oil rig worker turned indie legend. Sadly, 21 Years: Richard Linklater was not the right way to honor this guy nor does it do Rick any justice (at least that's what all his actor friends are calling him these days).Now by and large, Linklater's Altmanesque Dazed and Confused and Tape made me a huge fan. They are both talked about via this documentary but in a totally one-sided way. A lot is mentioned about "Dazed" where almost no insight is given into Tape, a wholly original exercise told frighteningly in real time. And therein lies the problem with "21 Years". Not only does this thing not get any interviews from the great Linklater himself, it jumps around without talking about his films chronologically. Just recently, I watched something about the late Steve McQueen titled Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool. That vehicle (ha ha, get it) went over all of the actor's work in order and in detail. On the flip side, this loose, pasted-together doc leaves a lot of Richard's stuff out. It keeps reverting back to his auspicious debut which would be Slacker. Sure, that thing was revolutionary and probably inspired a lot of dudes to go out and get 16 mm cameras. But the guy has done about 25 films in his career and I think "21 Years" forgets to fully mention half of them (Fast Food Nation, Tape, Suburbia, the previously mentioned Waking Life, and $5.15/Hr. don't get so much as a blurb). It also doesn't help that a lot of "21's" scenes are interspersed with mounds of unnecessary animation explaining the origin of how his endeavors came together. It just seems so out of place and probably not what Linklater would have wanted, only what the directors of "21 Years" wanted (I kept asking myself if Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood actually knew Linklater personally. It's as if they were too scared to get advisement from him and instead just talked to everyone around him). Truth be told, I think that all the people who worked on 21 Years: Richard Linklater probably enjoyed making it a lot more than the audience who had to sit through it.Oh and don't get me started on some of the interviews from actors that have worked with Richard in the past. They come off as embarrassing with the normally refreshing Matthew McConaughey projecting himself as a complete tool (enough with the "alright, alright, alright" already) and Keanu Reeves making virtually no sense while calling Linklater a f***ing a**hole (gee, what a nice guy). Only Ethan Hawke, his friend, collaborator, and true confident adds a deeper meaning to the proceedings. However, his honest presence when talking about his relationship with Rick only feels like it belongs in another mosaic about someone's life, a better one at that.All in all, 21 Years: Richard Linklater plays like a documentary in which no one involved ever thought it would actually be greenlighted or for lack of a better word, be distributed to various film festivals. It's obvious that Linklater had virtually no involvement in the making of "21 Years". We hear from everyone but the man himself. And although I'm sure he feels grateful for all his cohorts praising him, if he had any creative control, there is no way he'd approved 90-95% of what was on screen.I as a critic, wanted more background on the guy in general, his childhood for instance and the films or oddities at which he decided to pursue his passion (or again, maybe an interview involving the actual man). Oh well, at least some of "21 Years" is mildly entertaining (this thing however, has outtakes during the closing credits. Please no more of this! This is a plea to everyone who makes movies). In the end, it's ultimately a drag man. Result: 2 Stars and that's being generous.Of note: As much as 21 Years: Richard Linklater irked me, I was enthralled by Kevin Smith's admission in it that Slacker was the film that inspired him to be a director. I also forgot about how many dolly shots Slacker was comprised of (this is explained in "21 Years" by fans who've made it cult-worthy). Man, I just have to see that micro budget drama again stat!