Director/screenwriter Richard Linklater has been a Tomatometer darling over the years. And this week, he hits 100 percent Certified Fresh for the second time with his new film Boyhood (the first time was Before Sunrise in 1995). Shooting his film over the span of a dozen years, Linklater captures the coming-of-age story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a boy who literally grows up before your eyes.
To celebrate Linklater’s cinematic achievement, we asked him about the films that he loves. Tasking Linklater to list his five favorites is like asking him to describe his mood: the list will likely change in a day, or even in five minutes. “I once made a list of my 250 favorites — and that was just scratching the surface,” Linklater laughed. Still, as you go through the list of Linklater’s five favorite films (as they struck him at 1:30 p.m. EST on a Thursday in July), you will see how well they represent a filmmaker whose art is funny, sprawling, romantic, and radical — a body of work that captures a certain realness about the human condition, no matter what the genre.
Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1959; 78% Tomatometer)
It’s one of the great ’50s melodramas, and it’s kind of like a musical without the music, but it has a great score, of course. I saw it in my early- to mid-20s, and it just really affected me. It’s about a guy who goes back to his hometown where his brother is a prominent citizen. He’s a stalled-out, blocked writer, and he’s been a soldier, and a worker, and a would-be novelist, and he’s kind of a gambler and a drinker — this is Sinatra, of course, the conflicted one — and he lives in two worlds. Because he’s a published writer, he has the respect of the local English teacher and her brother — the respectable world of literature — but he really has a soft spot for bars and gambling and floozies and the Shirley MacLaine character. And then you’ve got Gwen French, who’s played by Martha Hyer, who’s the uptight school teacher. So it’s all these opposites colliding — respectability, debauchery… It’s wonderfully melodramatic and beautifully made… It’s about male friendship too. I consider it kind of the first Rat Pack movie, although it’s just Dean and Frank with Shirley around too. It doesn’t have a lot of the other people, but it’s the first one to capture these guys gambling and hanging out and that camaraderie. They become roommates and go on, like, a trip to Terre Haute, IN, to go gambling. It’s just wonderful.
If… (Lindsay Anderson, 1968; 97% Tomatometer)
The great British director Lindsay Anderson died 20 years ago and he only made five or six films, but they’re all very interesting, and I think his most famous is called If… It’s the film Malcolm McDowell did before A Clockwork Orange, and it’s kind of the ultimate teenage movie. It’s beautiful and very radical. It won Cannes that year, and it’s very much of its time, the ’60s, and Malcolm McDowell is brilliant in it. It’s the ultimate teen rebellion movie — and I like that genre — but it’s also very poetic, almost Brechtian, and there’s almost fantasy elements to it. Like, there’s this woman in the movie who might not even be real. It’s filmed in color and there are sections that are black-and-white and it’s kind of amazing. It’s the first film of a trilogy too. Malcolm McDowell’s character’s name is Mick Travis, and so a few years later, they did a film called O Lucky Man! and then ten years later they did Britannia Hospital together, Lindsay Anderson and Malcolm McDowell. So it’s one of the greater film trilogies in my opinion… It’s definitely worth watching. It used to be a bigger cult film in the ’70s and the ’80s, but I see it’s falling off. I don’t know if young people are watching it the way they used to.
They’re watching Dazed and Confused.
If… is much better. Trust me.
The 400 Blows by Truffaut is a real canonical film that everyone’s seen — and yet, there are still a lot of people who haven’t seen it! It’s Truffaut’s first film. He did it in his 20s, and it’s about a few days in the life of his young, 13-year-old hero, Antoine Doinel, who went on to do four more films in character. Truffaut, of all the great the directors, I think, had the most sensitivity toward children ultimately. He made this film, which is widely considered to be the best film about a kid, and went on to do The Wild Child and Small Change. He was just a good director of kids and this is one of the great kids movies — a young hero and his family life. It’s incredible.
It’s the ultimate, sprawling ensemble Altman film — the way each character has their own story to such a degree, and he pulls it all together. It has these thrilling moments, these funny moments. The music is both very moving and satirical, funny and beautiful too. Keith Carradine’s song, “I’m Easy,” is a beautiful song, and some of the other songs like “200 Years” by Henry Gibson is hilarious. It’s just ridiculous. So, that you could have all of this go into one big collage where you have realism, satire, romance — it’s all there — is quite a feat. And I actually saw this when I was a teenager — fourteen or fifteen — and I was bored. I didn’t really understand what I was watching, but I saw it a little bit later, and it kicked off something else in me.
Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941; 100% Tomatometer)
Let’s do Preston Sturges and the greatest comedy of all. This film hasn’t aged a day from 1941 when it came out; it’s amazing — especially with Hollywood in mind. It’s the ultimate inside Hollywood movie. It’s about a guy searching for meaning in his art who’s had all this success in Hollywood… The human dynamics of it are very true to life. I mean, it’s a comedy and it’s all pitched at that point, but Preston Sturges was such the master of dialogue and delivery that the whole tone and pitch of it is totally unique. It’s amazingly contemporary. This character’s desires and the timeless subject of, say, art versus commerce is one of the best film depictions of that you could ever find — and in a very comedic way. He has a project that the studio doesn’t want him to make about homelessness — this is coming out of the Depression — and he’s a spoiled rich guy and he has a project he wants to make. Of course, the Coens made a film with that name, O Brother, Where Art Thou? That’s where that comes from. And it’s kind of a ridiculous desire to say something that has social significance and meaning about suffering and all that stuff, but he’s really kind of desperate to make a comedy. He ends up on a chain gang by a series of misadventures… So he really is suffering. It’s just a brilliant movie and surprisingly contemporary.
Boyhood opens in limited release this weekend, and it’s currently Certified Fresh at 100 percent on the Tomatometer.