Richard Linklater

The Film Playlist: School of Rock

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a solid 7th period Algebra class. My teacher was in his 20’s and an alumni of my high school, so he made at least one class in our transition to a new school pretty relaxed. I learned a few things in his class, all unrelated to math. I found out what it was like to live in NYC and work on Wall Street (his former profession before he became our Algebra teacher), that Pat’s makes the best cheesesteak in Philly (this was a lie because they don’t), and that School of Rock was a great movie (based on his and a fellow classmate’s recommendation). Out of those few things the most useful to me was that School of Rock was indeed a great movie and a must-see for any music lover.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood and Dazed and Confused), School of Rock was released October 3, 2003. It was the highest grossing musical comedy of all time until recently when Pitch Perfect 2 surpassed it this year. The movie stars Jack Black as rock singer/guitarist Dewey Finn, who gets kicked out of his band, No Vacancy. With no job and no way to afford rent for the apartment he shares with his friend and former band mate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White, also writer of the film), and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), Dewey poses as a 4th grade substitute teacher at a prep school to make some money. The school’s principal, Rosaline Mullins, who Dewey befriends to earn the job, is played by Joan Cusack. After Dewey hears his class during their music lesson, he concocts a plan to transform the class into a band to compete at Battle of the Bands and win against No Vacancy, who is also competing. He assigns the class (starring a young Miranda Cosgrove as one of the students) various roles either in the band or as stylists, roadies, groupies, production team members, security, or managers, and preparation for the event takes over normal class time. Obviously his plan is destined for struggles along the way, but through everything, he teaches the students some important life lessons.

The film features a stellar classic rock soundtrack with an original song and AC/DC cover (“It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll)”) played by the cast. Linklater actually searched for and cast young, talented musicians to play the roles of the kids in the band. The soundtrack also features songs by Led Zeppelin (who rarely distribute the rights to their songs for use in film or television), Stevie Nicks, The Who, The Doors, Cream, The Black Keys, and The Ramones. Many other classic rock songs by bands like AC/DC, Deep Purple, and The Clash are featured in the film as well.

After seeing School of Rock, I purchased the movie to add to my collection, since I enjoyed it so much. It became a movie night film I would turn to time after time (whether that be by myself or with friends). I even downloaded the original song “School of Rock” or “Zach’s Song” as they say in the movie. It’s still on my iTunes to this day. The film was a great ode to music, specifically rock n’ roll, and taught us all how to “stick it to the man”. The Film Playlist series wouldn’t be complete without it, despite it being just an average, funny, music oriented film. For any music fan, it’s worth checking out though, even if you only want to learn Dewey’s rock n’ roll handshake. Let’s rock, let’s rock. Today.

(** If you have seen the film, check out this amazing 10 year reunion performance of “School of Rock” from the cast.**)

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Boyhood

About a month ago, I was watching an episode of Live! With Kelly and Michael and Ethan Hawke was a guest promoting his new film. I first caught the film’s name when they were about to cut to a commercial (originally I wasn’t even paying attention whatsoever). It was called Boyhood. On the talk show, Hawke spoke about how neat it was to see the kids grow up, but himself and co-star Patricia Arquette just got old looking. I wasn’t sure what he meant by this. That’s when I heard the movie was actually filmed over a 12 year time frame. It blew my mind. I had to see it because I had never heard of that being done before and I figured it was something special.

So a few days later I saw the film. I initially worried that it wouldn’t keep my interest since it was almost 3 hours long. I had nothing to be worried about though. Not only did it keep me entertained for its entirety but I also left the theater feeling unexplainably positive. I love when movies give me that feeling and I loved this movie.

I would classify it as one of those “coming-of-age” type films, yet it was not over done. It covered some major life events, but not to the point that it got too cliche or too cheesy. Through the events in the movie the audience is able to see how life shapes the main character, Mason, from point A of being an active 6 year old to point B of being 18, in college, and trying to figure out the world. (Hawke plays Mason’s father in case you were wondering.)

Because filming did take place over 12 years, I think this movie had an advantage over others that have occurred through time. It was so culturally relevant through the clothes, music, and interests of the kids/parents in it. It was as if the writers/producers/director/etc. took current events from the year they filmed and incorporated them into the feature such as the 2004 presidential election and the pop culture craze of Harry Potter. This attentiveness to detail of each time period added to Boyhood’s specialness. Of course, watching the characters grow and age was pretty special too.

I know this film came out a month ago. Its time in theaters is probably coming to a close soon enough if it hasn’t already. But still, go see it. If its not in your local theater, keep a look out for the dvd release. I promise you’ll want to say you say this film. I promise you’ll be captivated. Mostly, I promise this journey through time is worth it.