Late last month Dazed and Confused turned 25 years old. This makes sense to me. I first saw it in middle school and that was (checks watch) roughly twenty some years ago. This story checks out. Dazed and Confused and I are both old. Fantastic.
I did see this movie in middle school. I can even tell you that I saw it after leaving a middle school dance early. I can say that when we left this middle school dance, a teacher told us that if we left, we couldn’t come back. It was then AMAZING that when watching Dazed and Confused at a friend’s house later that night, when Carl and his two buddies leave their middle school dance early, a teacher says nearly the exact same thing to them. This kind of stuff is hilarious when you are the kind of person who leaves middle school dances early and then walk to the video store and rents Dazed and Confused.
From them on out, at least for the next decade, Dazed and Confused hung heavy over my life, settling around my head like smoke settling in Wooderson’s car. For an impressionable youth such as myself, Dazed and Confused seemed like a template for how a life should be led. It was something to strive for, whether it was actually attainable or not. And I can now admit, with the kind of realness and humility that comes with getting older, that I did not hit my marks in high school. Those first two years of college were the closest I think I got to living a Dazed and Confused type of existence. I will not elaborate on this. I will leave it at that and move on.
The movie has become timeless, a classic, especially for people who watched it around the same time I did. If it’s on television, I’m watching at least thirty minutes of it, if not more. I probably think about it once a month without being prompted and I’m not sure why. Although sometimes I am prompted and then end up going down a rabbit hole of Dazed and Confused related content and memories. Last week for instance, someone at work was talking about Anthony Rapp and all I could think about was that he was in Dazed and Confused. I am admittedly not a big Rent-head, but I know he was in it. Despite that though, all I could think about when he was brought up was that he was Tony, one of the nerds, and that in the end, he ends up hooking up with that freshman gal. A big win for nerds everywhere. She was a good-looking gal. Probably out of his league. Again, a big win for the nerds among us.
When considering the impact Dazed and Confused had on me, I really think it’s because of when it came into my life, when I was entering that period when I was a pop culture sponge, those delicious formative years where you are shopping the pop culture grocery store, trying everything to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Everyone has that time period in their life where tastes are formed and preferences are created and for the most part, this happens somewhere amidst those murky teenage years, which is nice. At least something good comes from that time in our life.
With Dazed and Confused turning 25, there have been a few good retrospectives and essays about the movie that have made the rounds, as well as an episode of The Ringer’s podcast The Rewatchables, and all of these pop culture treats have effectively propelled Dazed and Confused from something I think about randomly and sporadically to something I’ve been thinking about on a damn near regular basis. And while my thoughts about the movie are not in any way limited, these are at least twenty five of my thoughts about Richard Linklater’s classic movie.
1. The Emporium Entrance…yes, capitalized because it merits capitalization, might be the best scene of the movie.
How can you watch that and not strive to someday, somehow, enter a social situation in such a manner? It’s also amazing with how the camera moves, how it follows Floyd, Mitch and Wooderson and with a few turns and swoops, it completely brings you into that world. And Wooderson, so cool with his casual point to their buddies.
2. Something I just realized just watching that clip is that the big party in the woods, the climactic event in the movie’s third act, is all Don’s idea. History has forgotten that. As well as Don. Such is life I guess.
3. Truer words have never been said. “Just keep livin’ man. L-I-V-I-N.”
But there also a lot of great lines in this scene, whether it’s Wooderson talking about how the older you get, the more rules they try and get you to follow or Don saying that “I just wanna look back and say that I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place.” And everyone in this scene makes a good point. Wooderson makes a good argument rooted in his own experiences, an argument for making your own decisions. Don makes the case for making the most of the situation, regardless how you may feel about it. Simone calls them out for bitching, even though they really don’t have much to bitch about. The only person who makes a slightly flawed contribution to the conversation is Slater, but we’ll give him a pass there.
4. “I came here to kick some ass and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost out of beer.” An iconic quote.
5. Dazed and Confused really captured the transient nature of hanging out in a big social circle. Again, my first two years of college were my Dazed and Confused years, but that’s also because my school was so small, it was like living in a small town. Nights were then spent meandering from one situation to another, rambling where the wind took you and hanging out with a bunch of different people in one night. I love how Floyd especially travels effortlessly between the stoners, the jocks and the nerds. It was fun to think that someone like Slater would be cool to be like, but don’t sleep on Floyd. There’s something to be said for having friends from all walks of life.
6. Back to the football field scene, way to play it cool Slater.
7. I love how Slater walks, how his arms sway effortlessly back and forth. And there’s also the slightest bounce to his step, as if he’s floating. It’s always been one of my favorite parts of the character.
8. “Are you cool, man?” We’ve all asked that question to someone, albeit phrased differently, but never phrased (or said) as perfectly,
9. Slater either failed out of college in a semester or by junior year had straightened himself up and became an econ manager. There’s no in between.
10. If this were present day, he’d definitely be a marketing major.
11. This movie takes place in Texas, but if they didn’t tell you that, would you know? The more I think about it, the more I realize that it really takes place in Texas in name only. It’s not like Friday Night Lights, where Texas was almost a character in the show. I mean, no one even has a Texas accent in Dazed and Confused besides Wooderson. Yet to be clear, I’m not looking to pick nits here. Just pointing out that while they say it takes place in Texas, the movie really takes place in Anytown U.S.A., which makes it all that much easier to relate to.
12. Some more love for Slater…
I don’t think this country was founded by aliens, but he makes a compelling point.
13. Rory Cochrane, the dude who played Slater, will always be Slater to me. It doesn’t matter what else he has done or will do in the future. Did you know he was in Black Mass, the movie where Johnny Depp plays Whitey Bulger? He played Stephen Flemmi, Bulger’s associate. A truly scary, awful dude. And he was pretty good in that movie, which itself wasn’t pretty good. But you know what? I still saw him as Slater. Rory Cochrane, this is a compliment.
14. If you were to rank which character from Dazed and Confused would be the best one to hang out with, Slater would probably be ranked pretty high, right?
15. But who would be ranked last? Probably Mitch Kramer.
16. Speaking of Mitch, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been pointed out before, but that dude touches his nose roughly 787 times throughout the movie. It’s his go-to move. On The Rewatchables podcast, Sean Fennessey did his best to try and defend it, saying it was an accurate portrayal of an awkward almost freshman-aged person. I’ll give him that. But I also just think Wiley Wiggins, the dude who played Mitch, just wasn’t that great of an actor. Apparently he designs video games or something know. Good for him.
17. There’s no shortage of great musical moments in Dazed and Confused, but my favorite might be “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd playing as the party is starting to wrap up.
I love how the song drifts in and out, filling the gaps between brief interactions between characters as they are gradually realizing that the night has run it’s course, whether it’s Jodi and Mitch talking, Cynthia giving Wooderson his number or Slater coming up with the idea to smoke a joint on the fifty yard line. It’s such a good closing time song.
18. That montage also features one of the best Benny moments, right around the 1:30 mark, when he gets up from his chair and is caught a little unsteady from what is probably his twentieth beer since the school day ended. Hey, we’ve all been there. That’s the problem with drinking while sitting. Eventually you have to stand up and if you haven’t in a while, it’ll sneak up on you. I also love the subtlety of Mel patting his boy Benny on the shoulder, followed by Mel flashing some serious crazy eyes. In just that moment you immediately understand that those two dudes have been in that position before and will no doubt be in that position again.
19. You can’t sleep on the popularity of the movie’s soundtrack, a soundtrack that found a home in almost everyone’s CD collection. It featured some songs I knew, but also some I didn’t and would quickly come to fall in love. The same with bands. I knew about Aerosmith and Bob Dylan and Skynyrd, but a band like War was a mystery to me. The movie uses two songs from War, with “Low Rider” probably coming out the more memorable and most closely associated with the movie of the two.
But the movie also used “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in an equally memorable way.
War always struck me as such an interesting band. They had been around for a few years before Eric Burdon of The Animals discovered them one night in L.A. and essentially made them his backing band. That only lasted for a couple years though, as Burdon left the band in 1971. They went on to have a successful post-Burdon run, with both of the songs that appeared in Dazed and Confused coming from that era.
20. Ted Nugent is a terrible person, but putting that aside, “Strangehold” is a hell of a good song.
21. As far as openings go, the opening credits of Dazed and Confused has got it all.
It sets the scene, gives you glimpses of the major characters in casual settings, but also settings that would help flush out their characters and it features one of the best Aerosmith songs this side of “Back in the Saddle.” With songs like “Sweet Emotion,” you could then understand why getting tickets to their concert would be so important.
22. Thanks to research, I know that Richard Linklater spent 1/6 of the film’s $6.9 million dollar budget on music, believing that it would help him set the stage and create the vibe he was looking for, which it 100% did. Again, on The Rewatchables, they mentioned how one of Linklater’s fights with the studio dealt with music, specifically with them wanting current, 1993 bands, performing 70’s classics. That sounds like a terrible idea and I’m glad Linklater stuck to his guns. He tried to get “Rock ‘n Roll” by Led Zeppelin, approaching the band’s surviving members Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page and asking. Page and Jones were down, but Plant objected. Lead singers are a pox on our collected houses.
23. I appreciate that they never say where the statues that were painted to look like members of Kiss came from. They just were there. In the opening, it looks like they are already in Floyd’s trunk, covered in a brown tarp. But we don’t see them steal them or it’s never talked about as to where they came from. I like that.
24. With an attitude like that, Wooderson probably gets himself in trouble at some point, right? Also, what does he do when Floyd and Dan and everyone else graduate and presumably go off to college? Does he just start hanging out with Mitch? What if Mitch doesn’t want to hang out with him? Or what if Wooderson realizes Mitch is a goon who touches his nose too much and damn it, he misses Floyd? Does he then go to wherever Floyd is going to school and live on his floor or something? Let’s face it. There are no good future scenarios for our beloved Wooderson. Well, unless he settles down with Cynthia.
Yeah, that may be his best option.
25. Something fun to keep track of for the next time you watch Dazed and Confused is to keep track of who is in which car when. Like in that image above, at the time it’s Slater in Wooderson’s car, but Slater also rides in Pickford’s car and probably Floyd’s at some point. Don is out there cruising with everyone. Don is the kind of person who experiences four or five nights in one night. But no really, watch the cars. It’s fun.
The whole movie is fun. The whole movie will always be fun. George Washington grew weed and Dazed and Confused is timeless. Those are facts.