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Worth A Look: 12.5%
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Total Crap87.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books
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by Chris Parry

"I'm going to film my ass crack for two hours - it'll make a great sequel."
1 stars

Richard Linklater set out to make a film about the boredom of travel with this 1998 black and white Super 8 yawner. He wanted to show how traveling is mind-numbing and how in real life nothing happens. Congratulations Richard, you managed to explore 'boring' so well here that you had an entire audience of people bored out of their tree. Except the people that had the good sense to leave early - they were less bored because they got to smoke in the lobby and go to Wendy's and ask for their money back. Me? I had to sit through every interminable frame of this flick just so I could write this godforsaken review and warn you all to never, ever, EVER spend a dollar expecting that this film would be worth taking in. Quite frankly, even Linklater himself seemed bemused that the SXSW Film Fest programmers had decided to show a film that he introduced as "not at all an audience favorite", as part of a retrospective of festival highlights from the past decade. The true shame is that an audience of people paid good money to see a film that has no place in any film festival outside of Podunk High School's annual 'freshman video' night, and they did this because they trusted that SXSW would not show them a shitty film. But show the excrement they did, and the good people of Austin left in droves.

It's Impossible To Learn How To Plow... is terrible filmmaking, terrible storytelling, and terribly hard to fathom. Linklater stars in a film written by Linklater and directed by Linklater. The flick was edited by Linklater (at a local cable access TV studio) and produced by Linklater. Some guy called Linklater pointed the camera. None of these people, in my opinion, are great filmmakers.

Now, I know the latte crowd like to swoon over Linklater and they just think he's the greatest thing since sliced cheese, and everyone is welcome to their own opinion, but in this reviewer's view Linklater has butchered more good films than any filmmaker of his generation. If Ed Wood had made talkie flicks instead of monster movies, he might well have been seen as a 'weird auteur' and feted by his hometown dignitaries like Linklater is. If he'd had access to the funky animation Linklater used in Waking Life, he might have made the exact same film as Linklater did, and been seen as ground-breaking by people who heap their praise for the process on to the man who used it.

But Ed Wood made crappy movies, took loads of drugs, wore angora and died a lonely death while Richard Linklater became an indie king, elevated to god-like status by the likes of Harry Knowles and other 'reviewers' with a subterranean level of film knowledge.

So Linklater (the screen version) is doing nothing, bumming at home. A friend sends him a tape (oh, they're so zany, they send each other tapes instead of making phone calls!) and tells him he should come out to see him. So Linklater, bored out of his tree (and rapidly bringing us into his boredom), decides to go.

What follows is a bus trip, a train trip, some car travel, roughly an hour of it in total, where nobody says a word, nothing happens at all, no music plays, no birds sing, nobody enters frame, all we see is Linklater slouching in a train seat as the scenery passes. That's the film. I'm serious here, I'm not exaggerating, that's the entire film right there. He sits on a train, he visits his friend, they kick a tin can around an alley, he goes home - AND WE WATCH EVERY SECOND.

I'm generally one who'll claim that even a bad movie is worth watching in a theater, and that something can be had from any movie experience, even if its a lesson on how not to make a film. This film changed all that and showed me that each of us out there has no excuse to not make a movie. Every single one of us needs to pick up a cheap ass camera, point it at some scenery and start shooting, because if we don't flood the market with ourselves then more and more Linklaters will get paid to make awful movies. The emperor is stark fucking naked, standing with his thumb up his ass.

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originally posted: 04/01/03 11:30:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/23/04 tim essential viewing for fans of slacker 4 stars
9/09/03 buttcrack ricky screened this classic back in 1987 and i thought it sucked big donkey pies on acid! 1 stars
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  02-Feb-1988 (NR)



Directed by
  Richard Linklater

Written by
  Richard Linklater

  Richard Linklater

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