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Out in Theaters: ‘VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS’

Those who hearken back to the golden Clintonian Summers of the 90’s might remember seeing The Fifth Element on the big screen during its maiden theatrical run. A blockbuster facing a mixed press at the time, but finding near cult status twenty years later. A defining moment for director Luc Besson. Or at least as defining as when he discovered Natalie Portman at a Pizza Hut and cast her in a hitman film with a coked-out Gary Oldman and Jean Reno. Or something like that. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE’

If you had told me that John Travolta would comeback from his recent Academy Award persona butchery (2014’s “Adele Dazeem”, 2015’s repulsively awkward Scar-Jo sneak-a-kiss) by playing a sand-blasted moral compass in a Ti West Western (a Western, it must be noted, that is of the genre through and through, absent of the horror flair that has, up to this point, characterized the filmmaker’s oeuvre), I woulda spit my cud. But Travolta is as present for In a Valley of Violence as it is a corn-fed, all-American, organically certified Western. Consider my head scratched. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’

Produced in 1960, the original The Magnificent Seven, directed by the celebrated John Sturges and starring such Western icons as Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson at the height of their fame, was itself but a hard reflection of Akira Kurosawa’s six-years prior work, Seven Samurai. In its import to the U.S. of A., Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven as the story of a ragtag band of heroes come to aid a village under heel relocated to the American Wild Wild West. Now 56 years on, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) has taken it upon himself to bring his distinct visual flourishes and knack for smart aleck smarm to bear on another retelling of some of what has become one of the world’s most iconic pieces of source material. Read More

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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE’

If you had told me that John Travolta would comeback from his recent Academy Award persona butchery (2014’s “Adele Dazeem”, 2015’s repulsively awkward Scar-Jo sneak-a-kiss) by playing a sand-blasted moral compass in a Ti West Western (a Western, it must be noted, that is of the genre through and through, absent of the horror flair that has, up to this point, characterized the filmmaker’s oeuvre), I woulda spit my cud. But Travolta is as present for In a Valley of Violence as it is a corn-fed, all-American, organically certified Western. Consider my head scratched. Read More

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Out in Theaters: GOOD KILL

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Andrew Niccol
, director of good films like Gattaca and god-awful ones like The Host (2013), puts us in the shoes of the “enemy” throughout Good Kill. By hoisting his camera skywards to capture aerial views of a deserty Americana suburban sprawl, he draws aesthetic parallels to the dusty spread of  Middle Eastern hovels his characters are occupied bombing and blasting. By directing our attention to these blatant visual comparisons between the slates of inconspicuous Vegas neighborhoods and the tactical POV of high-flying drones drifting above unsuspected, Niccol’s invades our sense of docility, in a somewhat subtle attempt to plant us in harm’s way and daring to jolt us into action and ultimately caring.

In this capacity, his film is a quiet triumph. So too is Ethan Hawke’s low-broiling performance as a war pilot grounded for reasons unknown and forced to instead pilot drones from an air-conditioned cubicle like a pimply teenager with a rumblepack joystick. His reticent desperation unfurls two-fold: at work with prodding pleas to his commanding officer (Bruce Greenwood) to be return to a real fighter jet and at home where his day job (worked during the graveyard shift) of “engaging hostiles” stands in sharp contract to swilling PBR and grilling porterhouses on a Kenmore 4 top.

The film capitalizes on this brand of muted shock-value; the cold, hard cavalier nature of these drone strikes prove as gut-churning as the unsettlingly high number of strikes each pilot is asked to carry out daily; but it sometimes leaves the blood wanting more stirring. Quite simply: strong visual cues, performances served with gusto and a solid moral foundation do not a perpetually enjoyable movie make.

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Niccol’s charge to churn the position of drone pilot into a harrowing, supremely unenviable position is an uphill battle but one he engages full-throttle. On the one hand, these drone pilots are perceived as militant sissies, sitting out the real battles where honor is won and lives are risked. Though Hawke’s Major Thomas Egan finds his post undesirable, it’s not for lack of action. In fact, these drone pilots appear to engage the enemy continuously. How the kill count statistics for actual pilots versus drone pilots break down I don’t know but Good Kill would lead us to believe that the drone pilots trigger finger is nothing short of a biblical harbinger of death, ten thousand miles away. They collect belt notches by the dozen and then zip off to another strike point. All on one tank of gas. 

This gets us into post-traumatic stress, which Egan is forced to content with throughout the picture. His PTSD is exacerbated when the CIA take charge of their command post to execute undocumented tactical strikes that put innocent women and children into the crosshairs and don’t hesitate to issue a kill order. In all senses, the disembodied talking heads painstakingly demand the loss of civilian life. Over and over again. Cue Die Antwoord; “Kill, kill, kill!” Niccol’s is unflinching in his portrait of government intelligence indifference, painting the faceless American commanders as nothing short of bloodthirsty war pigs. At times his irreverence to US command structure seems over-the-top but taken in the context of Rick Rowley’s Dirty Wars, his excess seems hardly exaggerated, rather it’s an illuminating necessary evil.

Taking us into these dark shadows, Niccol’s attempts to parse right from wrong with almost too much force, leaving very little grey in between. The sad truth of the matter is that the Middle East is a palette of greys and his ethical absolutism can come across a touch obtuse. Similarly, Egan’s home life rubs against a thing of caricature and though Hawke dedicates himself to his character’s crumbling, the alcoholism and self-destructive tendencies are cinematic redundancies of the cliched war-battered men returning home from battle. Had Hawke had a better counterpoint to bounce off of than January Jones – who always underwhelms – his frustration and eagerness to desert his family might have held a more palpable bite. As it stands, her nagging is just that and without the requisite depth to really spearhead our undivided investment in their familial struggles. When the end comes around the corner, our character makes a decision completely outside the realm of expectation and it falls short exactly because of our detachment from the nuclear unit that is Hawke & Jones.

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Ultimately, Niccol’s has made a film that probes cinematic rocks previously left unturned and does so in fairly compelling manner. Most of the time. He unearths the occasional scene dripping with tension but also allows a sluggish breeze of non-movement to creep in now and again. If only he knew, the film thrives in the quietest of moments; when Egan questions why they still wear flight suits; when his drone block smokes cigarettes and hold dopey Ooh Rah philosophy seminars. Niccol’s effort is commendable – as is his longing to make a war drama that’s both timely and brimming with cause – but the bits and bops don’t always come together smoothly, a pang of shortcoming felt especially in the big dramatic family moments.

C+

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2013 Silver Screen Riot Awards

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With the majority of 2013 awards winding down and the Oscars gearing up for next month, it’s time for me to reflect on the best parts about last year’s films. I’ve already published my top ten list alongside the absolute worst movies of the year but with these awards, I focus on the performances, direction, music, scene work and artistry of 2013.

At first, I tried to pigeonhole five nominees into each category but found that didn’t give me enough leeway to recognize all the talent I wanted to. When I then expanded to ten, it felt like there were times where I would be putting names down to fill up spots and didn’t really work for me either. So, instead of making an arbitrary number of nominees for each category, I opted to just recognize as many people as I saw fit in each category. So while the best actor category has 11 names of note, best foreign film only had 6 nominees and so forth. I know a lot of these may see overlap with other award nominations but I tried to recognize talent from all walks,  the old to the new, and award what stood out as my personal favorites.

Look out for a short breakdown in the actors and directors sections but the other categories speak for themselves.

Best Actor:

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WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Runner Up: Christian Bale ‘Out of the Furance’ & ‘American Hustle’
Honorable Mention: Ethan Hawke ‘Before Midnight’

Also:
Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ & ‘Mud’
Joaquin Phoenix ‘Her’
Mads Mikkelsen ‘The Hunt’
Chiwetel Elijofor ’12 Years a Slave’
Bruce Dern ‘Nebraska’
Tom Hanks ‘Captain Phillips’
Michael B. Jordan ‘Fruitvale Station’

It’s no secret that I’m a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan and it’s performances like his in The Wolf of Wall Street that earns him such a high ranking amongst my favorite working actors. With manic physicality, hypnotizing stage presence and wonderfully potent comedic timing, his take on amoral but lovin’ it Jordan Belfort is a role to remember. Christian Bale did wonders in Out of the Furnace and, even though I wasn’t head over heels for American Hustle, his performance there was nothing to balk at and one of the strongest features of the film. The most underrated performance of the year is Ethan Hawke who embodied humanity and boyish charm in my favorite film of the year Before Midnight. The film rests squarely on his and Julie Delpy‘s compotent shoulders and had their performances been any less, the impact wouldn’t have been nearly what it was. 

Best Supporting Actor:

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WINNER: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Runner Up: Jonah Hill ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Honorable Mention:  Geoffrey Rush ‘The Book Thief’

Also:
Woody Harrelson ‘Out of the Furnace’
Michael Fassbender ’12 Years a Slave’
Barkhad Abdi ‘Captain Phillips’
Ben Foster ‘Lone Survivor’
Daniel Bruhl ‘Rush’
Matthew McConaughey ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Alexander Skaarsgard ‘What Maisie Knew’

Another crowded category, I had to go with a somewhat calculated choice, a man more than likely to win at the Academy Awards this year, Jared Leto. His performance, almost moreso than Matthew McConaughey‘s, grounds the heartbreaking tale of Dallas Buyers Club and brings humanity to those that are too often dehumanized. On the other side of the coin, Jonah Hill was a riot in The Wolf of Wall Street and between his introductory scene and subsequent cousin soliloquy and the unhinged energy he brings to the Lemmons scene, his is one of the most unforgettable performances of the year. Another under-appreciated role takes my honorable mention slot with Geoffrey Rush‘s lovely performance in the otherwise forgettable The Book Thief. Rush is an acting giant and watching him effortlessly capture our sympathy just goes to show his monumental range.

Best Actress:

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WINNER: Meryl Streep ‘August: Osage County’
Runner Up: Julie Delpy ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Scarlett Johansson ‘Her’

Also:
Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’
Brie Larson ‘Short Term 12’
Judi Dench ‘Philomena’
Adele Exarchopoulos ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
Shailene Woodley ‘The Spectacular Now’
Greta Gerwig ‘Frances Ha’
Emma Thompson ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

I know Cate Blanchett is the name on everyone’s lips right now and there’s no denying that her performance is a showstopper but, for me, was not quite the most impressive of the year. Speaking of cinematic giants, I just couldn’t help but give my top award to Meryl Streep for her poisonous performance in the ensemble drama August: Osage County. Streep is a chameleon and we’re used to seeing her, for the most part, play loveable roles so seeing her transform into an utterly despicable train wreck of a pill popper showcases why she is the monolithic actress she is. Watching Julie Delpy embody the role of Celine for the third (or fourth if you consider Waking Life) time, you can see how much she has sank into this role and it’s simply a beauty to behold. Although deemed ineligible for the Oscars, Scarlett Johansson is able to achieve wonders with just her voice and deserves a pile of praise for that.

Best Supporting Actress:

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WINNER: Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”
Runner Up: Margot Robbie “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Honorable Mention: Kristen Scott Thomas ‘Only God Forgives’

Also:
Octavia Spenser ‘Fruitvale Station’
Jennifer Lawrence ‘American Hustle’
June Squibb ‘Nebraska’
Lupita Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’
Emily Watson ‘The Book Thief’
Melissa Leo ‘Prisoners’

Easily the least impressive of the four acting categories, the best supporting actress category just didn’t have quite as much to offer as the rest did this year. Going through my nominees, it was hard to choose a top spot because all were commendable but none were absolutely unforgettable. I would hardly consider Julia Roberts as someone whose films I anticipate so was caught offguard by her fantastic work in August: Osage County. She holds her own against Streep and at times even shows her up. Color me impressed. I gave the second slot to Margot Robbie of The Wolf of Wall Street because of an unforgettable scene she shares with DiCaprio that’s sexy, tortuous and hysterical all at once and would have been nothing without the presence she brings to the scene. And for all the flak Only God Forgives caught for lacking dialogue, Kristen Scott Thomas stood out as the only character with true personality and she absolutely chewed through her deluded sanctimony. She’s menacing, repulsive and commanding and totally owns every scene she’s in. And just to preempt those offended by my lack of pedastalizing Academy darling Jennifer Lawrence, I enjoyed what she did in American Hustle but could never really take her character seriously. It was fun but not near worthy the level of praise being heaped on. And Lupita Nyong’o was certainly stunning in her 12 Years a Slave scenes but remember, this is my favorites and her performance is nothing less than a chore to watch.

Best Director

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WINNER: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
Runner Up: Richard Linklater ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen ’12 Years a Slave’

Also:
Martin Scorsese ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Jean-Marc Valee ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Alexander Payne ‘Nebraska’
Denis Villeneuve ‘Prisoners’
Alfonso Cuaron ‘Gravity’
Destin Cretton ’12 Years a Slave’
Coen Bros ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

I have to give a leg up to the director/writer combos so it’s no surprise that Spike Jonze has secured the top position. The humanity he brings to this technological world and the insight he’s able to provide is simply stunning, aided by his sharp visual style and realistic futurism. Richard Linklater may not be the world’ most hands on director but the palpably freedom he affords his actors gives them the capacity to create the caliber of tender moments we see in Before Midnight. He’s no bleeding heart but he’s not quite a cynic either and I love watching the way he sees the world. On the more difficult side of things, I’ve seen all three of Steve McQueen‘s films and, though this comment may be hotly debated, think 12 Years a Slave is actually his least tortuous. At least to watch. It’s an amazing effort that drags us through hell and yet there is a string of hope that runs throughout the story. I guess that only someone from outside of the states could bring such honesty and power to a distinctly American story.

Best Ensemble:

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WINNER: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Honorable Mention: August: Osage County

Also:
12 Years a Slave
This is the End
The Counselor

Best Cinematography

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WINNER: Sean Bobbitt ’12 Years A Slave’
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
Honorable Mention: Roger Deakins ‘Prisoners’

Also:
Phedon Papamichael ‘Nebraska’
Hoyte Van Hoytema ‘Her’
Bruno Delbonnel ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
John R. Leonetti ‘The Conjuring’
Yves Bélanger ‘Lawrence Anyways’

Best Foreign Film

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WINNER: The Hunt
Runner Up: Laurence Anyways
Honorable Mention: Populaire

Also:
Wajdja
Blue is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

Best Documentary:

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WINNER: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: Cutie and the Boxer
Honorable Mention: Dirty Wars

Also:
The Crash Reel
Blackfish
The Square
Somm

Best Song

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WINNER: “Fare Thee Well” – Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner Up: “Young and Beautiful” – Great Gatsby
Honorable Mention: “Doby” – Anchorman 2: The Journey Continues

Also:
“Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewy6n Davis
“The Moon Song – Inside Llewyn Davis
“In Summer – Frozen
“Oblivion” – Oblivion

Best Scene:

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WINNER: Her ‘When it All Goes Dark’
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street “Lemmons 714”
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight ‘Letter from the Future’

Also:
Captain Phillips “Check Up”
August: Osage “Family Dinner”
Nebraska “Mt. Rushmore”
This is the End “Backstreets Back”
Gravity ‘Opening Sequence’
Out of the Furnace ‘Hot Dog’
Inside Llewyn Davis ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’
The Conjuring “Basement Exorcism”
Lawrence Anyways “It’s Raining Clothes”

I’d love to hear where you guys agree and disagree and would encourage you to share your own lists in the comments section below.

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Richard Linklater and Cast Talk BOYHOOD

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Even if you won’t be able to see Richard Linklater’s stunning Boyhood for another five months or so, the epicly elongated process that went into making this film is undeniably amazing and certainly worth a read. Shot over 12 years as a young boy grows from age six to eighteen, Linklater’s ambitious project is truly one of a kind and the product reflects his thoughtful dedication. Alongside his cast, including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, daughter Lorlei Linklater and debut star Ellar Salmon at his side, Linklater took to the stage at Sundance’s Eccles Theater to answer a host of questions after the world premiere of his sensational film.

Richard Linklater: We couldn’t imagine any place else to show this film to its first audience so it’s really special for us. We started this film 4,208 days ago. So thanks for coming along with us. I’m just so proud of these guys! We’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Q: Was it all your idea and script Richard, or do you collaborate with what’s going on in their lives?

RL: Very collaborative. It’s kind of outlined. But every year we would work out the scenes. The great thing of having that gestation period, roughly a year between shoots, so I could think about it, you know, fourth grade, fifrth grade, and then we would get together and just work on it, sometimes really quickly. It was very intense, like three or four day shoots every time, about a year in between to think about it. That’s the way I always work. At some point, the ideas merge, as the kids got older, at some point Ellar was writing with me much of it.

Q: How did you approach casting?

RL: Casting. Well, you know that’s the key. That was the lucky thing. I mean, I talked to Ethan first. We’d worked together and we’re friends, we run ideas by each other. So he jumped in. Do you guys wanna talk about how you came aboard?

Ethan Hawke: It all started with me. (Laughter) No, sometimes I think that Rick either has a lucky star or sold his soul to the Devil, because this movie couldn’t have worked without Lorelei and Ellar. And you couldn’t really know that they would be able to contribute the way they did. Except for the fact, for your writing question, one of the ways that Rick likes to write a movie is to invite his performers to be a part of the filmmaking process with him. It’s very clear the way he wants to make it and he lets it be incredibly open to us. So Lorelai, what’s going on in her life could inform what is happening in Samantha’s life and vice versa. For all of us, a lot of it was talking about it for us, what it was like in fourth grade, but now a lot of us are parents of fourth graders or have been. So we could benefit from having both points of view. I mean, Lorelai signed up for something…what age were you when you agreed to do it?

Lorelei Linklater: Eight.

EH: Eight. He held you to that promise for twelve years? What was the year you decided you no longer wanted to be involved in it?

LL: Maybe around the fourth year. I asked my Dad (director Richard Linklater) if my character could die. (Laughter) He said it would be too dramatic.

Patricia Arquette: Another thing that Rick did during the process, in regard to the writing thing, sometimes I think Ellar would be a little more advanced than Mason would be, because Ellar’s parents are really cool experimental artists and musicians, incredible people. Rick would say, “So here’s where Ellar’s at, but Mason’s a couple of years behind, so we’ve got to cut his hair, make him look not so cool.” So we had to uncool Ellar. Yeah, the coolest seventh grader on Earth happened to be working on our movie. But when Rick called, we met at Ethan’s hotel at a little party for ten minutes–

EH: In 1994.

PA: So he called me and said, “What are you going to be doing for the next twelve years?” I don’t know, hustling, trying to get a job, unemployed, what I’m doing now. “Ok, wanna do this movie?” Absolutely, coolest opportunity on Earth.

Q: Ellar, do you remember being cast?

Ellar Salmon: Very vaguely, I remember being a variable in an audition process. And, I remember having a distinct feeling that a large part of why I was cast was because of how cool my parents are. He knew he wouldn’t have to deal with those kind of parents. But I don’t remember it. It goes in and out. There are things early on that I watch and remember really clearly and then there are other things that I just have absolutely no memory of.

EH: It was fascinating to see Ellar develop as an actor. Because when he was a little boy, it was like playing with a kid and trying to capture moments. And when I came in, I would miss two years at a time sometimes. We had a camping trip scene, and that was the first time you had agency in the writing, bring in where he thought the character would be. You really wanted to talk about this Star Wars thing and talk about girls. So watching you learn how to act and how to collaborate as a filmmaker as a participant in this film. You learned how to improvise and how to be in character. And that just started growing. And the process of making it felt differently because Ellar was becoming a young man.

Q: With a three hour film, I’m curious if there was something that was a little difficult to cut that the audience would be interested in hearing about?

RL: All of my scenes. There was quite a bit on the floor.

Q: What was your favorite scene that you cut?

RL: Well it would be in the movie if it was my favorite. It was an interesting editing process. You got to spend all those years. Two months ago I trimmed something from Year 2. I had ten years to think about what I wasn’t totally happy about. Everything about this movie was odd. But there’s nothing. The movie’s long but it had to be. I never made a movie over two hours but this one had to be for a reason.

Q: As far as it how it was shot, seamlessly, it looks so beautiful and has incredible the production value but I was just curious about the technology involved. Did you keep using the same camera or was it changed in post?

RL: That’s a good question about technology. That was a big issue upfront. So we shot it on 35mm, negative, I wanted it to look the same way. I knew it’d look a lot different if we jumped into the digital, hi-def formats. So I don’t know how many 35mm films are at Sundance this year, but we’re one of them. Can I give a big shout out? There’s a hero in this film. It’s the crazy guy who took a leap of faith. Obviously, this whole thing, we all took leaps of faith. It was a lot of belief in the future to commit for something for so long. But it’s the strangest proposition to ask someone to help finance something for twelve years, in our industry. So I want to really thank Johnathan Sirak, at IFC. He doesn’t make a lot of films, and as years went on, I’d run into him and he’d say “Well, we have one film in production.” (Laughs) Every year, I just had a board meeting. Everyone asks what the hell this is on the books. He had to lie, every year. But we have to thank him so much for his support.

Q: You guys wanna let me know about any other films?

EH: You’re gonna be in the next episode. This is part of the movie now.

RL: We started a reality show actually. (laughs)

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Sundance Review: BOYHOOD

“Boyhood”
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ellar Salmon, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
163 Mins 

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A monolith of cinema, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood is a soaring accomplishment of product and process. Famously filmed over the course 12 years, Linklater’s long form approach allows for an intimacy and connection like no film before. From the time we meet young Macon at the tender age of six until he moves to college, Linklater fosters his audience’s near parental ties to this young man, making us feel for a character in unprecedented manner. It’s a masterpiece in all senses of the word; a rare trailblazer of a film with macroscopic vision that’s as uniformly jaw-dropping as the final product.

The cat has been in the bag for the bulk of filming on Boyhood but when Linklater and frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke announced last year that their yet untitled 12 Year Project would likely see the light of day in 2014, I wasn’t the only one to rush it to the top of my most anticipated films of 2014 list. While most movies film over the course of a few months, Linklater showed unprecedented patience with a willingness to craft this story over the course of a dozen years. Although the end product probably shared a similar amount of shoot time, breaking it up over that extensive period of time is wholly original (even in regard to Paul Almond‘s celebrated Up series which only checked in once every seven years.) Going into the project, Linklater had a general arc in mind but would let the times reflect unforeseeable changes, moving the direction of the film in line with the sway of culture and ethos. In that regard, the film serves as a time capsule for an ever changing American zeitgesit over the past decade.

Not above chats of Star Wars and girls, The Beatles and drinking, and the once celebratory naivety of Obama’s campaign of hope, Boyhood feels like a film Linklater designed particularly with me in mind. I wonder how many other people will feel the same way; how many will experience such a visceral gut punch and how many will find younger versions of themselves in a morphing Mason. Feeling such a instinctive connection urges questions on the universality of the human experience, it compels us wrestle with the past and acutely acknowledge the shifting paradigm that is the individual. Scientists, and stoners, say that because of our cellular lifespan, a human body is completely replaced within the span of 7 years. Looking at snapshots in time like this, we could be easily convinced this process is even more rapid. From one year to another, there’s a base consistency of character in Macon but its overshadowed by the omnipresent winds of change perennially blowing him into new directions.

Calling it a coming-of-age story feels slight as Boyhood tracks the joy and pain of growing up, one delicate moment at a time. We find ourselves in Macon, a perceptive youth, in his strength and in his weakness, in his whiny teenage angst and his youthful abandon, in his quasi-stoned prolific moments of reflection and his meekest helplessness. When he’s too young to stand up for himself, I felt the pangs of my 8-year old vulnerable self, reeling from my parent’s separation. As his hair grows long and he starts dipping into the pleasure pool, his raw arrogance is a relic I can robustly relate to.

I found myself beaming with pride at moments, disappointed in him at others and silently heartbroken and yet joyful as he reached new milestones. I watched him grow up, I witnessed him learning valuable life lessons, I feel in love beside him. To young Ellar Salmon‘s credit, there’s never a moment where we don’t fully believe the deeply personal yet universal John Doe plight of a boy coming of age. He’s an every man and an intellectual and Salmon’s maturing performance helps to auction the many faces one man can put on. When you stop to consider that Linklater had to take a half-blind shot in the dark with Salmon, casting him well before he could prove himself as a consistent and talented actor willing to put in a dozen years of his life into one performance, the fact that Salmon turned out as good as he was is nothing short of a miracle, much like the film itself.

A+

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