Category Archives: Mockumentary

#295 Slacker

(1991, Richard Linklater)

“I may live badly, but at least I don’t have to work to do it”

Richard Linklater is a bit of an odd director. Famed for his Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy, and considered the only director to adapt a Phillip K. Dick novel (A Scanner Darkly) without completely changing everything (like Blade Runner and Total Recall did).

He’s also fond of making quirky little movies where vaguely connected people reel off monologues, as evidenced by the dream-based weird-fest that was Waking Life. But before that came Slacker, an account of Generation X through the lens of various bizarre characters.

Slacker has no real plot. The camera swoops from scene to scene, where we witness someone delivering a monologue about their world view or doing something society deems unusual. We never stay long with individual characters and there’s no overarching plot thread. Sound terrible? Well, we’ll see.

I was aware of Linklater’s work, and highly enjoyed A Scanner Darkly and…uh…School Of Rock, but, more relevantly, I also enjoyed Waking Life. Kind of. As such, I was curious to see this, which was one of his first movies, and shared a similar concept.

It’s difficult to talk about Slacker. It’s a movie about pseudo-intellectuals, who take what they’re saying seriously, but with an element that maybe deep down they know that what they’re talking about is absolute nonsense. It’s a movie that demands that you pay attention and listen to these rambling stoners and decide whether or not what they’re saying makes any kind of sense to you.

It doesn’t help that all the acting is fairly bland for the most part, as clearly untrained actors reel off long lines of text that they probably don’t care about. But it works. It fits the slacker them rather nicely and sets the tone of the movie, giving us a collection of disinterested people who like to talk a lot but ultimately say nothing. Well, apart from Louis Mackey, who gave a theatrical rant about anarchism and was highly entertaining.

Yes, this sounds terrible, I know, but Slacker is oddly fascinating. The movie clearly knows that much of the dialogue is pretentious and is expecting us to agree. But it doesn’t judge its cast, it merely observes them and moves on, leaving the viewer to their own conclusions. It’s mildly amusing without being laugh-out-loud funny, it’s intellectual and simultaneously pretentious, and it’s absolutely awkward throughout.

But it’s so fascinating. I can’t explain why, but it is. There’s something kind of hypnotic about being this casual observer wandering through the neighbourhoods and university campuses of Austin watching all these twentysomethings debate and complain and theorise for no discernible purpose. It’s interesting to watch crazy conspiracy theorists talk so casually about JFK assassination coverups or terrorism via t-shirts. This is a town of oddballs and you never know what strange person you’ll encounter next.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. The lack of plot and the stoned, expressionless acting can get very tedious at times and the production values are incredibly minimal. Many people who watch this will simply think “what’s the point?” and “where’s the plot?” and “how many drugs was Richard Linklater smoking and how can we make him stop?”

But I kind of enjoyed Slacker, in the same way I kind of enjoyed Waking Life. It’s an interesting little film that’s worth watching again and analysing, and it’s an interesting glimpse into Generation X and their ramblings, but it requires a lot of effort on the viewer’s part and therefore isn’t going to rank high on my favourite movies list.

Starring Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Mark James, Stella Weir, John Slate, Louis Mackey & Teresa Taylor
Written by Richard Linklater
Produced by Richard Linklater
Cinematography by Lee Daniel
Edited by Scott Rhodes

Favourite Scene: The aging anarchist is played a lot more theatrically and enthusiastically than anybody else in the movie, and he’s fantastic.
Scene That Bugged Me: That business with Madonna’s pap smear. What’s all that about?

Watch it if: You like watching stoners
Avoid it if: You’re confused by the lack of obvious plot

#230 The Blair Witch Project

(1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez)

“We’re gonna die out here!”

It’s Halloween, which means that yet again I am here to review a horror movie. I already reviewed Halloween itself last year, so I feel that this year I should take a look at another flavour of horror movie, away from the slasher flick. After reviewing Paranormal Activity ages ago, I feel it’s a good time to look at the movie that helped really bring the found footage genre into the mainstream – The Blair Witch Project.

The movie presents itself as the lost footage of a group of student filmmakers who went missing in the woods in October 1994. The students, Heather, Mike and Josh (guess which actors played which character!) were investigating the legend of the Blair Witch, a ghost story in the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland. The movie tracks their progress as they lose their way in the woods and increasingly weird things begin to happen to them.

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#201 District 9

(2009, Neill Blomkamp)

A while back, I reviewed Monsters, an alien invasion movie that acted as a clear allegory for US immigration policy. Well, it wasn’t the first movie of its kind, because only a year before, District 9 was released, and this time an alien invasion acted as an allegory for apartheid in South Africa.

In 1982, a gigantic spaceship descended over Johannesburg and suddenly stopped. An investigation team was sent in, discovering a large group of sick and malnourished aliens, who were immediately detained in a government camp known as District 9. After numerous conflicts between the aliens, derisively known as “prawns”, and the human population, the South African government sends in a private military contractor, led by bureaucrat Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), to move the prawns to an internment camp.

However, a prawn named Christopher (mo-cap by Jason Cope) has been working on something by collecting fluid from the spaceship’s debris. When Wikus comes in contact with this fluid, it has adverse effects on him, and he begins to see things from the prawns’ perspective.

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#173 Dear Diary

Caro diario
(1994, Nanni Moretti)

Not that long ago, I reviewed a movie called Sans Soleil, a pretentious documentary film about…something that ultimately boiled down to being really about director Chris Marker’s summer holiday in Japan. I thought it was a rare exception in filmmaking until my film list threw up Nanni Moretti’s Dear Diary, another film where a European director walked around with a camera talking about his own life.

You can imagine my sheer joy, I’m sure.

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#84 This Is Spinal Tap

(1984, Rob Reiner)

“These go to 11”

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#82 Borat

(2006, Larry Charles)

“Jak sie masz?”

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#77 A Hard Day’s Night

(1964, Richard Lester)

“And I’ve been working like a dog”

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