On the occasion of Bernie opening in theaters today, Slate‘s Seth Stevenson surveys the entire ouevre of Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, viewing everything from Slacker to Inning by Inning, Linklater’s 2008 ESPN documentary about University of Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido.

Stevenson writes that Bernie:

[E]xhibits the same frustrating faults that mar many of the director’s fifteen-odd films. The boring visual style. The single-speed pacing. The lack of urgency and bite. And yet—as happens with every Linklater movie—I strolled out of the theater feeling just a tick more affection toward humanity than I’d felt on my way in…

Few would mention Linklater alongside the all-time directorial greats. Yet his films are always tremendously charming, and they have brought me much cinematic joy…

This is perhaps our most Buddhist filmmaker—in the sense that he is forever meditating on the present moment, the impermanence of it, the effort to mindfully inhabit it.

His reservations aside, Stevenson’s essay celebrates Linklater’s uniqueness, intellect, and open heart, using Slacker as a blueprint to define the director’s sensibility (even while observing, “he refuses to be pigeonholed”):

Within Slacker is embedded the mix of obsessions that has defined Linklater’s subsequent work. He is: 1) bored by the bounds of traditional three-act narrative structure, and classic protagonists; 2) entranced by the gift of gab, and by the literate, barstool monologuist who can cast a spell over everyone within earshot; 3) fiercely sympathetic to the outsider—the freak, the fringe; 4) spiritual, and engaged with big ideas.

In a separate story, Stevenson ranks all of Linklater’s films (except his first one, the Super-8 It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books) from best to worst, while also grouping them into broad categories (such as “Wistful Masterpieces” and “Indoctrinating Children Into the Slacker Cult”).

His pecking order (click for Stevenson’s fuller descriptions of each film): 

  1. Dazed and Confused
  2. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
  3. Slacker
  4. Waking Life
  5. School of Rock
  6. Bad News Bears
  7. Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach
  8. Bernie
  9. The Newton Boys
  10. Tape
  11. A Scanner Darkly
  12. Fast Food Nation
  13. subUrbia
  14. Me and Orson Welles

So what say you readers? Anybody out there not think Dazed and Confused is Linklater’s best? Was Me and Orson Welles (which Stevenson dismisses with the category, “Zac Efron is in this movie”) really that bad? Or perhaps Before Sunrise is overrated? You can vote in Slate’s own poll until May 4.

Bernie (which, full disclosure, though not exactly a secret if you have the current issue, is based on an article and co-written by TEXAS MONTHLY senior executive editor Skip Hollandsworth) opens today in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin.