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Edgar Wright (#110 of 7)

An Essential Entry in the Up-All-Night Canon: Dazed and Confused Turns 20

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An Essential Entry in the Up-All-Night Canon: <em>Dazed and Confused</em> Turns 20
An Essential Entry in the Up-All-Night Canon: <em>Dazed and Confused</em> Turns 20

Few directors are as enamored with the passage of time and the preservation of memory as Richard Linklater. From the episodic chronicling of a relationship in the Before trilogy and the real-time unfolding of the chamber play Tape to his upcoming Boyhood, which was filmed in vignettes over the last 12 years to reflect the aging of its protagonist, Linklater is primarily concerned with capturing specific moments of significance and preserving them like celluloid time capsules. To that end, Linklater’s teenage opus Dazed and Confused, a 1970s high-school snapshot that, on Oct. 10, celebrated its 20th birthday at the New York Film Festival, ideally and uniquely lends itself to an anniversary screening. And even if Linklater, who was present at the screening, joked in his intro that the film “never would’ve gotten into” NYFF when it was first released, it also doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the most beloved and influential movies of the 1990s.

A Movie a Day, Day 91: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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A Movie a Day, Day 91: <em>Scott Pilgrim vs. the World</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 91: <em>Scott Pilgrim vs. the World</em>

If Inception is a video game that becomes interactive only after it’s over, when you compare notes with other fans, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a video game you watch someone else play. That might not sound like much fun, but this movie is an upper, thanks to its inventive video game/cartoon visuals, crisp editing and constant stream of wry observational barbs.

Director Edgar Wright found his own way to animate the black-and-white graphic novels his movie is based on, adding bright colors but keeping a comic-book look. Figures are frequently silhouetted or shot in very bright or dark lighting, and cartoonish graphics often pop up on the screen, like the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” and lightning bolts that emanate from Scott’s band when they play; the pink hearts that float up from their lips as he kisses Ramona, the girl of his dreams; and the way the snow melts in Ramona’s wake as she rollerblades down Toronto sidewalks. The dreamlike editing helps too, as characters move from one setting to another without comment or cuts, the conversation or background music simply continuing as the background changes.

Tipsy on Cleverness: Hot Fuzz

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Tipsy on Cleverness: Hot Fuzz
Tipsy on Cleverness: Hot Fuzz

When Patrick Troughton’s Father Brennan runs afoul of the Devil in The Omen (1976), he seeks refuge in his Church and gets impaled by a supernaturally dislodged iron spire. This iconic bit of gruesomeness (one of several in Richard Donner’s glumly earnest yet oddly enduring Exorcist retread) gets replayed in Hot Fuzz, except this time, the victim isn’t neatly perforated but rudely crushed. And then he flails around for a bit with a giant piece of stone where his head, neck and upper body should be, like an Easter Island statue whose features have weathered away. The scene serves as a neat encapsulation of Hot Fuzz’s basic comic strategy: the reupholstering of pop detritus into something even tackier.

The film is an inventory of movie and music references as relentless and explicit as Grindhouse, its city-cop-goes-country plotline, which sees a London policeman transferred to a sleepy hamlet rocked by a series of murders most foul, is merely a pretense for the team behind 2004’s similarly pitched (if more focused) Shaun of the Dead—writer-director Edgar Wright and his cowriter and star, Simon Pegg—to revel in their proudly dubious taste. And while it might sound like heresy to suggest it, Hot Fuzz is quite simply a more enjoyable (and less grueling) experience than Grindhouse. Its trashy affections come unencumbered by sky-scraping pretensions. Put simply, the two films demonstrate the difference between being tipsy on your own cleverness and irretrievably shitfaced.