THE BRILLIANCE OF BOYHOOD

Boyhood is extraordinary. It’s heartwarming (that scene where Patricia Arquette says, “I just thought it would be better!” made me teary eyed in a major way), sometimes painful to watch (Marco Perella’s Professor Bill Welbrock is quite possibly the baddest movie villain of the year), and perfectly timed (the 12 years isn’t overwhelming or boring, it’s a perfect portrait of a life). It’s the most beautiful cinematic adventure I’ve ever taken, and I just want to talk about how great it is.

First of all, Richard Linklater (Dazed and ConfusedA Scanner DarklySlacker, The “Before” Trilogy) filmed the same people for twelve years. That’s the line that’s used to captivate you. It works, I mean, c’mon, no one has ever done that (I hear your “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE 7-UP DOCUMENTARIES! Those don’t count, y’all, he checks back in with those people every seven years, which is what Linklater did with his Before Trilogy, so shut your pie holes, that’s not the same thing). It was a twelve year long process. They would film for intervals of time every year for twelve years. It’s a film that shows the actual timeline of one family’s life: son Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), daughter Samantha (Lorelai Linklater), mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), & father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). Something that is absolutely brilliant, in my opinion, is that Linklater would mold the story around certain aspects of Ellar Coltrane’s life at the present time. So, I’ve hypothesized that Mason’s interests in arrowheads and photography and the like really stem from Ellar Coltrane’s interests at the moments when they were filming. It’s extremely honest and true to the times, as is evidenced by the absolutely terrific soundtrack. The film opens with Coldplay’s ultra-2000s song “Yellow”, and then shortly thereafter, the character of Samantha is singing Britney Spears’ “Oops… I Did It Again”. Brilliant. I can’t get over how much I loved it. There’s a scene early on where Olivia is reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to Mason and Samantha, and later on in the film you see them attend a book release party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Little things like that warmed my heart like no other movie ever has.

I have some questions though, and these are what I’m really here to get down to business about:

01. Does anyone else find it absolutely bonkers that Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke look so eerily similar? It’s NUTS. Because 5 year old Coltrane only looks slightly like Hawke, but the older he gets, ESPECIALLY 18 year old Coltrane, the more he looks like Hawke. It blew my mind before I even went to see the movie (this film has been on my radar for a long time. I’m so happy that I was finally able to see it tonight).

02. POTENTIAL SPOILER: When 8 year old Mason gets his haircut and goes to school, a girl named Nicole passes him a note that says, “I think your hair looks kewl”. When he moves into his dorm in college, he meets a girl named Nicole who, to me, looked similar to that girl that passed him the note! I could be wildly off, and the idea that she looked like the girl from before could just be my brain playing tricks on me hoping for a connection, but does anyone else know if this is a proven theory? There’s only one person credited as Nicole. Help! I’m so curious about this.

03. SPOILER?: An interesting tidbit from an interview with Simon Crook of Empire Film: “Still, we can’t resist asking… Sequel, then? ‘What, if we just kept going?’ Linklater looks horrified, puffs out his cheeks. ‘Well, he’s gonna be in his freshman year of college now, so I know what Mason’s life will be for the next few years. But after that?’ He pauses, has a little Linkthink and starts laughing. ‘You know, I was just thinking: wouldn’t it be great if Mason left college, got on a train, and met this girl in Europe…'” Did Mason grow up to be Jesse, Ethan Hawke’s character in Linklater’s Before Trilogy?? That’s what Linklater muses could happen.

I truly don’t have anything left to say about this film, and this is a very jumbled and unorganized blog post because I’m just so excited about this movie. It’s excellent, plain and simple. Just go see it immediately.

Boyhood is in theaters now, and is expected to be released on blu-ray and DVD in November of 2014.

It is also rumored to be released through the Criterion Collection (as it should be).

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I WATCHED: PALO ALTO

When James Franco’s collection of short stories, Palo Alto Stories, came out in 2009, I bought it. I read the first story, Halloween, and felt that it was reminiscent of the UK show Skins, which is a show that I love (it’s on Netflix, you should watch it, but only watch the UK version. Trust me. Don’t even consider starting the US MTV remake, it’s appalling.). I didn’t finish the book, which is a problem I have, starting things and not finishing them. At any rate, the movie came out in the height of the pretentious James Franco phase (which may not even be a phase, at this point? I don’t know. I keep telling myself it is because I’m a Franco-fan. At least I think I am. I could just be a Franco-fan by proxy because I’m an enormous Judd Apatow fan and he’s part of that crew, but I don’t know. All’s I know is I’ll defend Franco. As you’ll see. In this blog post.) I got around to watching the film adaptation of Palo Alto Stories, titled just Palo Alto, tonight, and I was so pleasantly surprised. I was really expecting it to be just the a film that reeked of pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but it wasn’t that. It was very raw and it offered a pretty harrowing view of fictional California teenagers, though I think I can say that there’s more than probably some acute truth in the depiction of privileged west coast teens. They smoke, they drink, they make huge mistakes to which their parents inflict no real consequences on them. This is something that baffles me. I know there are people in this world whose parents have no response of authority or guidance when their child does something that is so clearly wrong. For instance, when Teddy, played by Val Kilmer’s son Jack Kilmer, is the perpetrator of a hit and run whilst driving under the influence, he receives no punishment from his parents, not even a slap on the wrist. I get that this is a film and that it’s fictional, but there are people like that in this world! Parents who don’t care what their children do. That’s foreign to me, because my parents couldn’t possibly care anymore than they do about me and my behavior/reputation. I’m so thankful for that because that’s the kind of upbringing all children deserve, and I think it’s why I know right from wrong and how to carry myself.  But I digress. It’s a very aesthetically pleasing film. Director Gia Coppola, niece of Sofia Coppola, is understandably influenced by the films of her familial predecessor. Palo Alto is enormously evocative of The Virgin Suicides. Even so far as literally in some scenes, you can see that Emma Roberts’ character April has a Virgin Suicides poster on the wall of her bedroom. It’s dreamy in the same way that Sofia’s films are dreamy. Very muted color scheme, which makes every scene feel somehow simultaneously warm and cold. Palo Alto has been compared to Harmony Korine’s Kids and Gummo, but I didn’t get that vibe. The shock factor wasn’t there, and I think that’s the whole motivation behind Korine’s films. The only similarities between Korine and Palo Alto, in my opinion, was the unflinching depictions of misspent youth.

Apart from Emma Roberts’ stunning performance as the vulnerable April, who falls prey to the seemingly charming but ultimately presumptuous Mr. B, played by James Franco, the star and most alluring character is Nat Wolff’s Fred. His energy radiated on screen and despite his extreme self destructive and threatening presence. He’s violently selfish and narcissistic. The whole time I was watching the film, I wanted to know more about Fred. Is he on a steady drug cocktail that leaves him aggressively frantic or is there something wrong with him? What is he drinking out of that flower vase that still has flowers in it- WHY is he drinking out of that flower vase that still has flowers in it? He has no backstory, and I love that. I think an interesting turn the movie could have taken would have been to further develop Fred as more of a main character. Then again, maybe the reason I was so drawn to Fred was because he was such an elusive character; here one scene, gone the next. Perhaps, if the film would have followed that character arc more closely, we would have discovered he was a psychopath. He shows no remorse toward his habit for destruction, a habit that annihilates not only his surroundings but the people he holds close to him, and he shows no remorse. He shows the signs for a psychopath or sociopath, conclusively putting his character in a box and leaving him in a position where the viewer would be less enchanted by him. Fred was more interesting than Teddy. I was uninterested in Teddy’s story immediately after his arrest. While Teddy’s story became less and less interesting, Fred’s became more complex and interesting, and I’m left now wondering what became of Fred. The film concludes with a powerful scene of Fred racing the wrong way down a street screaming “I’m not Bob”, a mantra described earlier in the film that encourages one to turn away from death and not walk into it, arms open. It’s a powerful scene, and really solidified my opinion that Fred was the most entertaining, interesting, most perfectly underdeveloped and unpredictable character.

WATCH THIS NOW: SHORT TERM 12

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About 30 minutes into Short Term 12, I started crying. I don’t mean “tears welled up in my eyes”. I mean “tears welled up in my eyes and then they started dropping until I had to get a tissue”. This happened because of a particularly poignant scene (that we’ll talk about in a bit), though Short Term 12 is full of them due to the top-notch acting done by lead Brie Larson. Larson is Grace, the supervisor of Short Term 12, a residential treatment facility. Grace is “secretly” dating her co-worker Mason, the goofy and charming John Gallagher Jr. It’s alluded to relatively early on that Grace is harboring some demons of her own, but the focus of the movie doesn’t shift to that until later on. In the beginning, we’re lead to focus on the demons that the kids in the facility face, most notably, Marcus, played by Keith Stanfield with so much heart and believability that you’d think that the character of Marcus’s truth is Stanfield’s truth. Marcus, approaching 18, is set to be released from Short Term 12, which has become his home. This would-be cause for celebration is anything but for Marcus, due to his fear and hatred of his mother. In a heavily emotional and touching scene (the poignant one I mentioned earlier), Marcus runs some new rhymes by Mason. This scene is when I cried. This is the moment I knew this movie was going to be powerful and really affect me.

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Short Term 12 is written and directed by Destin Cretten, who also wrote and directed the short film that inspired the full-length feature. Cretten has few directorial credits, including the lesser-known I Am Not A Hipster, but Short Term 12 is definitely his breakout piece. I anticipate great things from Cretten, though he has no upcoming credits listed on IMDb.

Short Term 12 has an 8.0 on IMDb, a 99% on RottenTomatoes.com and a MetaScore of 82. It won the Audience and Grand Jury awards for best narrative feature at SXSW, and the Audience Award at the LA Film Fest. Short Term 12 is available on blu-ray and DVD, and on Netflix Instant.