Plot: What’s it about?
”That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
Every so often a movie comes around with a somewhat unknown cast and then…something happens. A star is born! And then two! And before you know it, this movie is known as “the one” which was a veritable launching pad for a new slew of Hollywood stars and starlets. “American Graffiti” was that movie for the 70’s, featuring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was that movie for the 80’s with Forrest Whittacker, Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz and Phoebe Cates. And wouldn’t you know it, “Dazed and Confused” was that movie for the 90’s. “Dazed and Confused” featured a cast of then fairly unknowns and the two biggest stars: Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck had some fairly big parts. Jason London, Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey and Milla Jovovich also have supporting roles and have all found a degree of success since this movie came out. Director Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay and it plays a lot like his earlier “Slacker”, albeit with a more liner plot. So what’s so great about this movie which made it land on critics’ Top Ten lists (back in 1993)? Read on and find out…
It’s the last day of school in 1976 and we follow the lives of several students as they get ready for their Summer before their Senior year. Parties are planned and the ritualistic hazing of the Freshman is about to begin. Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) is the school’s All-Star quarterback who has found a new group of friends. He’s torn between being a jock and being a stoner. As we meet the group of people that compose the movie we see that they range between the nerdy (Mike and Tony) to the utterly useless (Slater). Now earlier I mentioned that this had a more linear plot than “Slacker”, but it’s not a liner story per se. We essentially follow about twenty different people during one night of the year. Like “Slacker”, the movie will often go off on a tangent and concentrate on a new group of people. The “Emporium” is the central focus of the story; it’s the main place for everyone to hang out and for the freshman to recuperate after being beaten by the seniors. It’s also the place where we see perhaps the greatest character in modern film: David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), words simply can’t do this man justice and I’ll leave it at that.
“Dazed and Confused” is one of those movies that’s really hard to put into words (as you’ve no doubt noticed), it’s an ensemble piece that has held up very well through the last dozen years. The cast is stellar and it’s a real testament to Richard Linklater, who is still producing some of the more interesting and creative movies out there (we’ll discount “The Newton Boys”). Linklater is a native Texan and was right at home here and I’d have to say that this features one of the best assortments of 70’s songs out there. If you’re one of the few that haven’t seen this movie, make it a point to do so. Universal came out with a bare bones edition some time ago and then another “Flashback” edition that had an improved transfer, but was lacking on the supplements. I’m happy to say that Criterion, as per usual, has set the bar very high and this is the definitive edition of the movie. It might be a bit pricey, but I assure you that it’s worth every penny.
Video: How does it look?
“Dazed and Confused” left me a bit confused as it seems like an atypical title to appear on HD DVD. Then again, Universal is going all out to release most of their “A” list titles on the new format and I’ve the feeling that this is one of their better-selling catalog titles. That said, “Dazed and Confused” has certainly never looked better and this comes out in the same year that Criterion released their version of this film, too. Colors are very strong and vibrant and though it’s not as pristine as I would have liked, I found this to be (as expected) a better-looking transfer than its standard DVD counterpart. Detail is amazing as is the case with pretty much all HD DVD’s and I think we’ll be hard-pressed to see this film look any better than it currently does. Additionally, this movie also contains the standard DVD on the other side.
Audio: How does it sound?
The movie contains a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix that doesn’t improve too much on the previous Dolby Digital mix found on the standard DVD (well, the Criterion DVD and the “Flashback” edition, the original DVD had only a Dolby Surround mix). This movie has never been too audio-intensive, so we take it with a grain of salt. The movie features a great soundtrack and those 70’s songs have never sounded so clean and pure. Fans of the movie should know what to expect here and it’s a good-sounding track, though nothing to write home about. The standard version contains a DTS track that can be found on the “Flashback Edition” as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Decisions, decisions…what you’re getting here is essentially Universal’s “Flashback Edition” of the movie which improved upon the initial release of the movie and added some deleted scenes, some retro PSA’s and a featurette. And that’s what you’ll get here. If you’re solely looking for the movie to look and sound as good as it can, then this is the version to get for sure. However, Criterion released this movie a few months earlier which is the version to get if you’re looking for supplements. Granted, the picture is a bit softer and the sound not so crisp, but you’ll get more bang for your buck with that one. It’s a tough decision, but you might just end up like me and have them both on your shelf.