In my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this new feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.
Dazed and Confused (1993, Dir: Richard Linklater)
Richard Linklater, one of the greatest living American filmmakers, has made a career out of telling slice-of-life stories with enormous insights into the human condition. Part auteur and part anthropologist, Linklater is not only responsible for cinema’s definitive love story with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, but also has given us a string of strong character-driven work with Slacker, Waking Life, Bernie, Tape, plus enjoyable mainstream fare like School of Rock. I haven’t seen it yet as of this writing, but Filmbalaya’s own Tom Ellis suggests Linklater has reached a new benchmark with Boyhood.
It should be of no surprise then, that Linklater is also responsible for one of the greatest and funniest coming-of-age movies of all time, the immortal Dazed and Confused. All right, all right, all right.
What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said a hundred times over? The soundtrack. The quotes. The sense of a time and place so detailed and perfect that it borders on novelistic. Matthew McConaughey‘s Wooderson is so ingrained in our culture that last weekend, at my friend’s wedding, I quoted the character in my best man speech and everybody in attendance was hip to it, even those who may have never seen the movie.
Set in the summer of ’73 on the last day of school in suburban Austin, we follow a band of teens through a night of cruising, hazing, chatting, imbibing various controlled substances, and most importantly, figuring out just who the hell they are. With a cast of future stars including McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, and Parker Posey reciting classic dialogue from Linklater’s own original script, this may be the perfect summer movie.
Haven’t seen Dazed and Confused this summer? It’d be a lot cooler if you did.
Best Way to Watch: My article on Summer School pretty much covered this.
Best Paired with: Cold domestic beer, burgers from the drive-in, and anything Martha Washington wants to provide.
Further Viewing: If 1993's Dazed and Confused is an early coming-of-age effort from a celebrated filmmaker depicting a hot summer night in 1973 through the nostalgic lenses of the 1990s, then it's worth noting that 1973's American Graffiti is an early coming-of-age effort from a celebrated filmmaker depicting a hot summer night in 1962 through the nostalgic lenses of the 1970s.
While some major generational roadblocks prevent me personally from enjoying George Lucas' iconic Graffiti as much as Linklater's Dazed, it's still astonishing to see this level of humanity, humor, and heart from a director who would never again make a film that wasn't about things blowing up in space. Also, we Bay Area folk still get a kick out of the extensive use of locations in Petaluma, San Francisco, Sonoma, Concord, Richmond, and Novato.