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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVD: Everybody Wants Some!!

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Richard Linklater, 2016

Youth is wasted on the young. Maybe. But it definitely wasn‘t squandered on Richard Linklater, that wondrously humane American filmmaker (Austin, Texas-raised auteur of the “Before” Trilogy and Boyhood), who, in his best work, uses his own youth to potently amuse us and brilliantly illuminate the worlds we share. In 1993, Linklater made one of the all-time killer high school comedies with the sublimely goofball Dazed and Confused, and now, in his latest movie, he cooks up an absolutely terrific college sex comedy – with a damned near perfect cast and dialogue to die for. The title, Everybody Wants Some!!, is a little dopey and clunky-sounding (blame Van Halen, who recorded the song that the title comes from). But the picture itself is so gracefully and hilariously executed, exclamation points shouldn’t keep you away.

Does the entire idea of an “absolutely terrific college sex comedy,” also strike you as unlikely and unappealing — especially if the cast is mostly male and mostly jock (with the actors playing the so-called varsity baseball team of fictitious South Texas State University) and if the scenes, in broad outline, are mostly what we tend to see in nearly very other gamey, sex-crazed college high jinx farce from Animal House on. But Linklater has defied expectations and twisted up genres before , and probably will again, and this movie is one that he obviously had a lot of fun making, that I had a lot of fun watching, and that — unless you refuse to give it a chance — you may, despite your better judgment, like too.

The movie takes place in the autumn of 1980 during the three days before classes start at South Texas State. It focuses on the South Texas baseball team in ensemble: a rowdy and fun-loving bunch in 80s duds and hair, and more especially on the newly recruited, somewhat more intellectual freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), whom we tend to see as the story‘s Linklater surrogate. Jake, like most of his new teammates was a high school star and is now fighting for a spot with other stars — and he arrives on campus with a box full of vinyl records, meets his roommate (a rascal in cowboy boots and underwear) and his other teammates and housemates, and then joins them for half a week of unsupervised revelry.

The fall term is about to start. And after being warned by their unsmiling, killjoy Coach Gordan (Jonathan Breck) not to imbibe anything remotely alcoholic, and not to take young lady guests up to the second floor, for a little S.T.S. R. & R. where the bedrooms are — and therefore not to do the things we absolutely know they will do — the dozen or so players are left coachless and unmonitored to play and misbehave what e’er they will.

For three days, these guys roam and drive around the campus, while Linklater and company spin a tasty play list of prime ‘80‘s rockers (starting off with The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which was also a kick-off fave in Ben Stiller’s youth comedy Reality Bites). They play games, including occasionally, baseball. They imbibe libations with plenty of alcohol content. They escort young lady guests up to the dreaded second floor. While trying a lot of boorish pickup lines (some of which work), and while bar-hopping and crashing various parties on campus, they manage to break every admonition of their tight-ass coach, and a few more besides, including taking a puff or two of the wicked weed.

SPOILER ALERT (roll over to read)

Eventually, one of them finds a neat girl (Zooey Deutch, as a brainy knockout) from the drama department. Eventually, they get around to a little baseball. Eventually, classes start. Eventually, you will not be surprised to learn (spoiler alert or no), that South Texas State is unlikely to win the college world series, or any series of any kind, and that the team roster will probably produce no pros — not even their big battling star McReynolds (Tyler Houchlin), who looks like a cross between a younger Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck, can split a thrown baseball with an axe, and is the house‘s Alpha Dog of Dogs.

END OF SPOILER

Well, it’s not exactly “The Brothers Karamazov.” It’s not even exactly Animal House (though Linklater himself describes his creation as the “chill Animal House”). But it made me laugh and feel good, as Link‘s shows usually do. Listen, there’s a reason that so many sub-Animal House comedies have been made, even though a lot of them are so demonstrably lousy — a reason why this particular male wish-fulfillment fantasy (which I’ll grant is bro-heavy and in some ways, irresponsibly testosterone-drenched and a little jerky), keeps popping up again and again, providing employment and diversion for all the Will Ferrells and wannabe Will Ferrells of the world.

The basic daydream plot — all about guys and sometimes girls (as in Neighbors 2) running wild on campus — is more appealing than movie people like to admit, unless it’s its dressed up as farce, The reason is that there’s sometimes a grain of truth in these daffy, goofy, sex-crazed college kid movies. And, in the case of Everybody Wants Some!!, there’s more than a grain. Or a tic. Or a toke.

This is the movie all those other half-funny but smash hit groaners, from Revenge of the Nerds to Old School to the recent Seth-Rogen/Zac Ephron Neighbors semi-trilogy, could have been but weren’t. This one is genuinely funny, and unsappy, and human, even occasionally heartfelt, and it’s full of engaging characters and real emotion. And, to repeat the main point, it’s funny! Laughs! Love! The Great American Pastime! The Wicked Weed! Ball Four! Do the Hanky-Panky on the Second Floor! Everybody Wants Some! Excuse me, I meant to say “Some!!”

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Wilmington

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin