Come on and take a free ride

The Criterion Collection have recently given their customary deluxe treatment of DVD re-issues to Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. Lavish booklet (booklets should always be lavish), loads of mini-features and extras and, this sounds really good, a re-production of Frank Kozik's original poster. Hey Criterion, any chance of freebie?

The appearance of this new edition also comes with the revelation that Linklater had to fight with his producer for the inclusion of the scene where the players of a Little League baseball game form a line and shake hands, prefunctionally muttering "good game, good game" to each other as they pass. Apparently, the producer thought this scene slowed down the action. Aside from confirming the generally dismal nature of movie producers, the question arises, what action?

It's the last day of high school, 1976, small Texas town, and the priority of the summer- scoring front row tickets for Aerosmith, but first, get loaded and hit the party at someone's house whose parents are stupidly going away for the weekend. But shit, the old man has twigged, the parents aren't going anywhere, the party's off and there's nothing for it but to get loaded and drive around all night. Then score those Aerosmith tickets. And that's it basically.

The "good game" scene isn't the only one with resonace for some of us of a certain age. The difficult skill of flipping beer bottle caps, flared jeans so tight at the top you've got to lie down and do up the fly with pliers, lots of puffy sleeves (halter tops?), whit knee-socks, overalls and the music of course.

Here's what they listen to in their cars and bedrooms (no iPods or even Walkmans yet) on the last day of school/first day of summer: "School's Out" and "No More Mr Nice Guy" by Alice Cooper, "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith, "Jim Dandy" by Black Oak Arkansas, "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and "Low-Rider" by War, "Free Ride" by Edgar Winter, "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, "Fox On the Run" by Sweet, "Tush" by ZZ Top, "Right Place Wrong Time" by Dr John, "Slow Ride" by Foghat. The golden age of stadium rock.

If I start referring to these as the best years of my life remind me to kill myself.

American Graffiti was a similar movie for a previous generation. George Lucas's movie had a knowing, elegiac, end of one kind of innocence feel to it and so does Dazed and Confused but as for the times they are a changin', shatter your windows and rattle your walls, that sort of thing isn't going to happen to these kids.

The sixties rocked. We know the seventies suck but maybe the eighties are gonna be radical.

Hmmm. Shit happens.

Just remember kids, while all this Bicentennial brouhaha is going on this summer, what we're celebrating is the fact that some white, male, slave-owners didn't want to pay their taxes.

If this sort of flashy, provacative rhetoric was coming from Texas high-school teachers in 1976, you couldn't help but identify maybe Ben Affleck's O'Bannion and Nicky Katt's Clint (a man who dispels the notion that marijuana makes you mellow) going on to work for the Bush family in some capacity.

The movie is more sympathetic to the trio of nerds, Anthony, Mike and Cynthia, who aren't having the time of their lives. But that's OK, later on they'll have great careers in the creative arts or IT and all the jocks and stoners will work for them. They might even go on to make movies.

Some future stars make an early appearance here. Affleck plays a big, burly lad who takes the bizarre hazing ritual of paddling younger boys on the bum far too seriously. Like many a movie baddie, he comes to a sticky end. Parker Posey plays Darla, the school Queen Bitch and Matthew McConaughey is Wooderson, slightly older than everyone else but he can't find anything more fun than hanging with the kids

Those teenage girls. I get older, they stay the same age.

Well, yes.

Everyone gives good performances but the movie is carried by Wiley Wigans who plays Mitch, a junior high kid, younger brother of one of the senior babes. He looks a bit like Sofia Coppola and most of his day is spent trying to avoid the hazing ass-whupping, but he spends the night running around with the big boys and ends it chatting up a big girl. Way to go, Mitch. Good game.


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