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Three must-see Richard Linklater films: 'Dazed and Confused'

"Dazed and Confused" (1993)
"Dazed and Confused" (1993)
Gramercy Pictures

Richard Linklater is drumming up plenty of Oscar buzz - in July - for his new film, “Boyhood”.

Incredibly, Linklater filmed the 2 hour 45 minute movie over 12 years to tell the story of a Texas kid named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), and his journey from boyhood to adulthood from age six to 18.

“Boyhood” is truly a must-see, one-of-a-kind experience, but Linklater - one of my favorite storytellers - is no stranger to directing terrific films.

Over the next week, let’s look at three of his must-see movies.

“Dazed and Confused” (1993) 4.5 / 5 stars – I always hear the saying “remember the good old days.”

Sans technology, the collective “they” usually apply this saying to any situation: relationships, marriage, kids, work, college, and, of course, high school.

I, on the other hand, don’t necessarily ascribe to that thought process, and in this particular case, I’d rather turn to the words of Billy Joel from his 1983 song, “Keeping the Faith”:

“Cause the good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems.”

We tend to look back at our history with rainbow lenses, but in reality, Mr. Joel is absolutely right.

Now, in “Dazed and Confused”, the exceedingly talented writer/director Richard Linklater doesn’t look back at the past through light-refracted glasses, but instead, he absolutely places his finger on the pulse of life in the 1970s.

Specifically, this wildly entertaining film turns to the last day of high school in May 1976 and offers a funny nostalgia trip in which bell-bottoms, pot-smoking and the pitfalls of hazing and dating rule the day.

An energetic young cast of Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, and others help tell Linklater’s tale about this particular day when the current junior class - by default - becomes the incoming senior class (of ’77) of an Austin, Texas high school.

Affleck’s and Posey’s characters, in particular, take the joys of imminent seniordom very seriously.

O'Bannion (Affleck) takes matters into his hands.

Actually, O'Bannion places a wooden paddle in his hands and expresses way too much joy over striking the behinds of as many incoming freshman boys as he can.

On the other hand, Darla (Posey) barks orders at the girls and repeated screams insults at her "freshman b*tches" like a drill sergeant on eight cups of coffee.

Of course, all of this is in “good fun”.

(Fun the seniors, of course.)

Keep in mind, there is a lot more to Linklater’s film than just physical and verbal assaults.

He takes us - front and center - to the sights and sounds of 1976, and this journey reminded me of “American Graffiti” (1973), but with an updated and more edgy spin.

Since we only spend one day in these characters’ lives, it’s impossible to see them develop and grow.

Instead “Dazed and Confused” offers the rich textures of rampant hormones and narrow logic.

Nonetheless, under a backdrop of demanding football coaches and a massive outdoor keg party, these kids do own real problems.

Although, you don’t have to be in high school to enjoy a night in this town, because early 20-something David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) makes a noteworthy appearance.

Supporting a mustache and blonde locks, Wooderson still pals around high schoolers Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd (Jason London) and Don Dawson (Sasha Jenson).

While mentioning he works for the city and doesn’t wish to listen to dipsh*t professors in junior college, Wooderson utters the most famous (or infamous) line in the film, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, Man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

I’ve seen “Dazed and Confused” a number of times, and Parker Posey’s Darla is the most memorable, but McConaughey’s Wooderson is a close second.

While Darla is all about (or one afternoon, anyway) making freshmen lives a nightmare, McConaughey’s Wooderson has a different outlook on life.

A couple years ago, on George Stroumboulopoulos’s show on CBC, McConaughey explains, “What is Wooderson about? What’s he about? And I go, ‘Man, he’s about four things. He’s about his car, he’s been getting high, he’s about rock ‘n roll, and picking up chicks.’” (link to the clip)

Although we don’t necessarily know much about the characters’ overall journey, it's fun to observe their actions on a typical day in 1976.

The good old days may not always be good, but sometimes they are.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic

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