Two American film-makers give their different takes on the best - and the worst - things about being American
This week features two quintessentially American film-makers, but they could not be more different in how they pour that Americanness into their art.
In Everybody Wants Some!!(M18, 116 minutes, opens tomorrow, 4/5 stars), writer-director Richard Linklater shows that the best thing about being American - or more specifically, a middle-class Texan - is that you get to choose your tribe when you come of age.
Your tribe is a specific subculture that you accept or, more importantly, which accepts you.
Jake (Blake Jenner) is a college freshman in the 1980s who shares a house with other baseball jocks like him, for whom the priorities in life are baseball, girls, beer and smoking pot, in that order.
Linklater is going back to the autobiographical, traces of which are seen in the indies that made his name - Slacker (1991) and Dazed And Confused (1993) - and his latest work can be said to carry the story forward chronologically.
The film is a series of vignettes recording the days before the start of term and, except for a deepening relationship arc between Jake and artsy fellow student Beverly (Zoey Deutch), the story is plot-free. Not much learning happens and little hugging, even as Jake tries on and discards the identities that others thrust onto him.
Linklater, 55, has a great deal of affection for his ensemble of baseball-obsessed meatheads and he makes you want to stay with them, despite their hypercompetitive, childish and occasionally manipulative streaks.
Each of these child-men is in his own way interesting. Some of them, like the golden-haired stoner-guru Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), are more likeable than the volatile Jay (Juston Street), who cannot enter a social situation without sparking drama.
As you would expect in a Linklater production, the interpersonal exchanges are relaxed and unforced, yet precise in the way they establish hierarchy in an all-male household and show the direction in which the zeitgeist was blowing.
With the soundtrack featuring the work of The Knack, Cheap Trick, Van Halen (whose 1980 song of the same name gives this movie its title), Blondie and The Cars, you will time-warp into a 1980s Texas college town, a beautiful time and place in which punk and disco, along with jocks and artsy nerds, declared a state of truce.
Where To Invade Next (M18, 121 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3.5/5 stars) is Americana of another sort. Documentary-maker Michael Moore made his name as a mythbuster who examines assumptions about what makes his country great, before blowing those beliefs apart.
After taking on corporations (Roger & Me, 1989), gun ownership (Bowling For Columbine, 2002), the Bush family and its foreign friends (Fahrenheit 9/11, 2004) and the pharmaceutical business (Sicko, 2007), among others, Where To Invade Next feels like a greatest-hits album in which he packs causes he has addressed in the past.
As the United States has been known to help itself to resources such as oil by invasion, he argues, why not metaphorically invade Italy, Iceland and Finland to steal their greatest assets - their ideas? These include notions about the worker's right to time off, nutritious food in school cafeterias, women in positions of power, restrictions on the banking sector to prevent another meltdown and effective education systems.
Moore goes on a mini-world tour, interviewing Mr Claudio Domenicali, chief executive of Italian motorcycle maker Ducati, and Ms Krista Kiuru, the Finnish minister for education, among others. Unlike the combative Moore of old, there is little haranguing or soapboxing theatricality; he is genuinely interested in listening, and his questions and reactions are incisive and often laugh-out-loud funny.
This is investigative journalism-lite; there is not much here that would surprise those with a passing knowledge about how the world's most militarily superior nation lags behind many others in human potential indicators.
But for non-Americans, this film should come with a health warning. When you see what French kids eat in school and how many holidays Italians and Germans get in a year, the levels of jealousy might leave you depressed for weeks.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Americana explored'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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