Boyhood

All posts in Film Reviews 2014




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Title: Boyhood
Year: 2014
Director: Richard Linklater
Lead: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Rated: Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

 

If you have not heard about Boyhood yet, let me quickly bring you up to speed. Boyhood is an epic film that follows a young boy from the age of 5 to 18. While that may sound very average, or un-noteworthy, let me add an extra kick of spice to this sauce. The film took 12 years to complete. Richard Linklater elected to shoot this film a couple weeks out every year for 12 years. He used the same cast for the entire film, no recasting was done. He also wrote the film as he went, paralleling the lives of the actors. In an interview for the film, Linklater said that sometimes, he would finish the script for the scenes they were shooting the night before they would film. Essentially, what this all means is that Boyhood is the most authentic coming of age film ever made.

I will start this review with honesty; Boyhood is probably the best movie I have ever seen. Obviously that statement is somewhat subjective, and it certainly does not mean that you will feel the same way. That is the beauty of art; everybody looks at artwork differently, brings their own life and experiences into account, and reacts differently. But for me, Boyhood, is the best movie I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of movies.

I have heard the argument that the fact that the film was shot over 12 years is a little bit of a gimmick. That argument in itself is somewhat flawed. In 1958, one of the great directors of horror films, William Castle, released his film, Macabre. Castle offered a $1,000 insurance policy to anybody who died during a screening.  Castle struck again in 1959 with his film, The Tingler, where he rigged various seats in a theater so that they would vibrate during intense moments in the film. Wait Until Dark in 1967 starred Audrey Hepburn. At the end of the film, when Hepburn’s character breaks all of the light bulbs on screen, theaters were instructed to turn off the emergency lights.

Those are all gimmicks.

Committing to a 12 year production schedule and actually following through with it is not a gimmick, it is a commitment. Boyhood feels a little bit like a window into a life. Coltrane’s character, Mason, feels like a real person. Being able to watch him grow up in a span of 3 hours is an incredible experience. Some fiilms try to span that sort of age gap but rely on recasting their lead in order to age them, it feels somewhat disjointed, you know that it is a different actor and it makes it more obvious that you are watching a movie. That does not happen in Boyhood, you are given the most honest representation possible by seeing these people age in real life. It allows you to simply watch the story unfold without making it obvious that some time has passed. It makes the story more real, and more credible.

The acting in this film is really great, I will say that it didn’t start off that way. Some of the performances early on were slightly weak on behalf of the kids and Patricia Arquette. This is the part in the review where I compare the film to the Harry Potter series. The kids were sort of awful actors in the first couple of movies and got consistently better as the series wore on. They got better because they learned as the years went by and honed their craft. That is what happened in Boyhood. The actors got better, and their performances got much better. The film got better as it went on, mostly because of the acting and the writing. Side note, Ethan Hawke is a legendary actor, he is great in this film

Not only is this film an onscreen coming of age story. This film lends itself so well to what was happening offscreen and how the filmmakers were growing as well. Every aspect of filmmaking improved as the film went along. The acting got better, the writing got better, even the cinematography got better as we moved forward. We are not only watching the actors grow, we are also watching the filmmakers grow with them.

I loved the directtion this film took, it was great listening to the soundtrack which pulled songs from each era and inserted them accordingly into the film. I am very close in age with Mason so I lived those years at the same age that he did which was fun to watch and relive some of those moments. It’s a film that feels very real life, almost as if we are another character in the film. Like we are in the room with Mason and his family throughout the film, just watching them live.

It’s hard to describe this film as any one thing because it really is unlike anything we have ever seen before. Everybody should see Boyhood. 10 out of 10

p.s. do not let the R rating deter you from allowing your 17-13 year old kids see the movie. It’s all stuff that they are going through in their lives, no reason to turn them away for that. This is another Kings Speech rating blunder my the MPAA.




 

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Title: Her

Year: 2013

Director: Spike Jonze

Lead: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

Rating: R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.

A man falls in love with his operating system.

This movie is the most original movie I’ve seen in recent memory, it’s so much more unique and different than anything that’s been made lately. Spike Jonze does so many things well in this movie, it’s a very bizarre premise that is navigated through flawlessly. The semi-futuristic world that this movie is set in is so genuine and real and not, like many other films, in your face futuristic. Deep down inside, this movie is not about the future or how somebody would go around having a romantic relationship with Siri, but how we connect with each other on a fundamental level. What I took from this film was that so many people are enveloped by their technology that they miss what’s right in front of them. It’s about the fear of human relationships for fear of being hurt. All of these themes are so well communicated through this film. It’s something that we’ve never seen before and in this day and age is so completely relevant because of the rapid pace in which technology is advancing.

Her is so well acted. Joaquin Phoenix reminds me in this film why he is one of the greats. Scarlett Johansson also surprises with a voice only performance that just oozes with brilliance through the speakers, her voice is so beautiful and her reactions are so genuine and real. The cinematography in this film is brilliant, it’s so beautiful and unobtrusive, the colors are so warm and bright and some of the shots in the elevators are pure brilliance. I do also have to address the special effects in this film. Some of you may be aking, “What special effects?” Exactly, it is almost impossible to tell, but LA was given some extra buildings and the video game with the cute, foul-mouthed little alien was awesome. I will continue to use the same adjective because it is so necessary, the effects were extremely unobtrusive, just like everything else.

Her is an outstanding example that we are in another golden age of cinema. The film is original, in some cases original doesn’t necessarily mean great, but Her is original and beautiful, it’s a career defining film for Spike Jonze, something he can certainly hang his hat on and something that all other film makers can aspire to. Expect to see this film late into the awards season, you gotta see it.

9 out of 10




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Title: Inside Llewyn Davis

Year: 2013

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen

Lead: Oscar Isaac, Carrie Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Rating: R for language including some sexual references

A week in the life of a floundering folk artist in New York’s Greenwhich Village.

Over the years, Joel and Ethan Coen have become known for their “what’s the point?” sort of movies. This attribute is most evident in films like Burn After Reading and A Serious ManInside Llewyn Davis is very much a window into a period of time in somebody’s life, it doesn’t really have a beginning and it doesn’t have an end. The film simply exists in it’s own bleak, hopeless world. Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is our poor soul who is, by his own words, tired. One thing the audience does not realize from the start of the film is that this week is just one of many that are all to much the same. Llewyn lives a life so much like that of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Weeks blur together in painful struggle, cycles repeat as he fights to make a name for himself in the folk scene. By the end of the film, not only is Llewyn tired, but so are we, and what’s even more troubling is that this film closes with literally the same scene that it opened on, Llewyn wakes up in the same bed and starts a new week the same way the last week started, leading us to believe that this new week is going to be just like the last; troubling, tiring and just plain hard.

The film is beautifully shot by Bruno Delbonnel. There are tons of overexposed whites and dark blacks, everything is very bleak and cold. There is a shot of a cat sitting on a window looking out into the grey of the world, it is one of the best shots I’ve seen in awhile. The music is also one of the best soundtracks in film history, carrying on the tradition of great Coen brother soundtracks that started with O Brother Where Art Thou. T Bone Burnett does an amazing job with assembling some great artists including Marcus Mumford to make a wonderful group of original songs that so seamlessly fit into the era that is recreated in the film. The acting is great, Isaac is fabulous, it’s very evident how tired he actually is, his reactions to the hardships in his life are extremely genuine. Carrie Mulligan is pissed the entire film, which at points almost becomes overbearing and over-dramatic but doesn’t. She walks the fine line very well. John Goodman is amazing as always, he plays a handicapped jazz musician with whom Llewyn hitches a ride with to Chicago. He offers an odd bit of comic relief as a grumpy lunatic.

Overall, the film is quite fantastic if not a little bit depressing. It does a good job of accurately depicting the folk music scene in New York in the sixties, the era seems genuine along with the workings of the music business and the struggle of a musician in an over-flooded genre.  The film is most definitely worth seeing. 8 out of 10