10 milestones in richard linklater's career, from 'slacker' to 'school of rock'

A movie-by-movie celebration of Austin, Texas’s finest filmmaker.

by Colin Crummy
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04 November 2016, 1:35pm

The new documentary Richard Linklater - Dream Is Destiny traces the development of one of America's finest independent filmmakers from early 90s scrappy outsider to award season favorite. Directed by long time Linklater cohort Louis Black, the film chalks up the milestones and the lessons learned in over 25 years of filmmaking. Here are the most significant Linklater moments.

1. Slacker, 1991
Linklater's scrappy take on misfit lives in Austin, Texas set a template that's marked his most successful work. It's an exploration of time and wasting it, following various bohos and drop-outs across a single day. It's also funny, outrageous, and was shot on a shoestring. Slacker launched Linklater as a filmmaker with vision, who was clearly not slacking at all.

2. Dazed and Confused, 1993
Another day-in-the-life in which nothing much appears to happen, Dazed and Confused is Linklater in anthropologist mode, capturing the last day of high school for the kids at Austin's Lee High School in 1976. It's easily one of the best teen films ever; everything happens in the space in-between parties, and driving around trying to find parties. It also demonstrated Linklater's knack for discovering new talent, showcasing (among others) Matthew McConaughey's acting chops.

3. Before Sunrise, 1995
Gen X gets its era-defining romance in which an American man (Ethan Hawke) and French woman (Julie Delpy) in their 20s meet on a train to Vienna. They sense a spark, and spend the next 14 hours in the city ambling around, shooting the breeze, and, inevitably, facing up to sunrise and departure. The undertow of sadness that nudges the edges of Dazed tugs at the heartstrings of Before Sunrise as the young lovers separate, vowing to meet again in six months.

4. The Newton Boys, 1998
This biopic of real life bank robbers marked a change in direction for Linklater; it was a relatively big budget production and had a more traditional movie narrative. If this is something Linklater felt uncomfortable with, it shows in a film that doesn't quite enjoy the easy storytelling of his previous work. It is also a milestone because it taught Linklater to trust his instincts and make films independently of anyone else.

5. Waking Life, 2001
Created entirely by rotoscoping (animating over motion picture footage) Waking Life appears a reaction to the stiff, straightforward filmmaking of The Newton Boys and in its radical style and content. A young man enjoys dream-like encounters in which he explores philosophical possibilities in this tour-de-force of cinema. As Linklater explains in the documentary Dream Is Destiny, Waking Life was about "making that crazy film you've been thinking about for a long time."

6. School of Rock, 2003
School of Rock is a warm-hearted, inclusive celebration of creativity and proof that Linklater could handle major studio productions, given the right material. He still didn't move to Hollywood.

7. Before Midnight, 2013
In Dream Is Destiny, Linklater jokes that Before Sunrise was the lowest grossing film ever to get a sequel, which it did in 1995's Before Sunset. There, the two young lovers meet accidentally again, this time in Paris to talk out life's disillusions and disappointments. In Before Midnight — which takes up with Jesse and Celine a further nine years on — marriage, kids, and long-term relationships are the topics of conversation. It's the most satisfying of the Before series, and proof that age has only deepened Linklater's artistry.

8. Boyhood, 2014
From 2002 to 2013, in between all his other commitments, Linklater and a team would return to shoot scenes for Boyhood, the story of one boy's life from first grade to graduation. Year after year, the actors aged just as their characters did. Time passes and before you know it, little Mason is all grown up and off to college. Linklater called it 'an epic undertaking but a very simple movie.' It is simple, and devastatingly good — his crowning achievement.

9. Everybody Wants Some!!!, 2016
Linklater's spiritual sequel to Dazed was a chance for the director to let his hair down after all those years of pulling Boyhood together. It also — winningly — turned the male gaze on a gaggle of hornball baseball playing freshers in 1980. Dream Is Destiny was shot during the making of Everybody…, where Linklater confides his modus operandi remains as hazy as it ever was. He doesn't want to make films that when you watch them you know exactly where it's going. "I still don't know," he says, "but am more confident we'll get there."

10. Richard Linklater - Dream Is Destiny, 2016
Not strictly a Linklater film but a timely insight into how he continues to operate on his own steam, largely independent of the Hollywood machine. Long may he stay hazy.

Richard Linklater - Dream Is Destiny is in cinemas November 4.

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Text Colin Crummy

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