Tag Archives: Grand Budapest Hotel

Let’s Celebrate ‘Boyhood’s’ Big Win

I don’t know why I was surprised when “Boyhood” swept up three of the top prizes at last night’s Golden Globe awards.

The uniquely made coming-of-age story emerged victorious with the best motion picture trophy for drama, the best director laurel and a supporting actress win for Patricia Arquette.

I think perhaps I was expecting something more weighty or topical to take the best drama trophy, like “Selma” or “The Theory of Everything.” But I probably should have seen “Boyhood’s” triumph coming.

After all, was there a more human, irresistible, hopeful, bittersweet film released in 2014 than Richard Linklater’s rumination on a decade of existence? It’s not the least bit shocking that the movie so effortlessly captured the affections of critics and viewers alike.

I don’t know whether “Boyhood” will fare as well at next month’s Oscars — the Academy Award nominations are set to be announced Thursday — but despite my love for “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” I wish Linklater and company all the luck in the world.

In the meantime, I’m reposting my original review of the film below, in honor of “Boyhood’s” big night at the Golden Globes.

Boyhood
Three and a half stars (out of four)
R (language, including sexual references, teen drug and alcohol use)
165 minutes

For many Americans, the last 10 years or so have passed in a blur. So many things have changed in our post-9/11 world that it’s impossible to process it all. That’s why Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age tale, “Boyhood,” is so remarkable. In spanning the childhood of Mason, a kid from Texas who is at once ordinary and extraordinary, the film functions as a vivid time capsule of the past decade.

Watching “Boyhood” sent me flashing back to my wedding in 2003, when I walked down the aisle to the sounds of Coldplay’s incomparable “Yellow.” It made me remember the magic of holding a new copy of J.K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter book in my hands. It brought back the hope I felt, however short-lived, when Barack Obama was elected president.

It made me realize that my own daughter will be grown in the blink of an eye, every minute of her life miraculous. When Patricia Arquette’s character despairs, toward the end of the film, exclaiming, “I thought there would be more,” I knew exactly what she meant.

Your reaction to “Boyhood” is likely to be different but it will be no less personal. You don’t have to be a boy, a Texan, or a parent to be deeply impacted by this languid, lovely rumination on childhood, memory, family and the small but glorious moments that make a life. Watching the movie is a surreal and amazing experience.

Linklater’s obsession with aging and time previously manifested itself in the “Before” trilogy, which charted the on-again, off-again romance of vagabond lovers Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) over the course of 18 years. The trilogy’s first installment, “Before Sunrise,” brims with youthful romance, while the latest chapter, 2013’s “Before Midnight,” is older, wiser and more painful to watch. It won’t exactly come as a surprise if Linklater should choose to reunite Delpy and Hawke for another rendezvous, say, 15 years from now.

“Boyhood” is an even more ambitious project. Linklater filmed it over 12 years, gathering his cast annually for a few days of shooting. The movie’s magnetic star, Ellar Coltrane, was just 6 when production began. He was 18 when it finally wrapped, so the audience is treated to the rare and strange experience of watching this young man grow up on camera, while the adult actors age right along with him. It’s an approach that resounds with authenticity, throwing into stark relief the sentimental artifice of virtually every coming-of-age movie that has come before.

“Boyhood” is the story of Mason, who we first see as a scruffy but thoughtful kindergartener, circa 2002. Mason lives with his struggling single mother (Arquette), who has terrible taste in men but is fiercely protective of her children, and older sister Samantha (Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei), who annoys him by singing Britney Spears songs.

Mason and Samantha find themselves uprooted when mom moves the family to Houston so she can attend college. The migration leads to a reconnection with the kids’ absentee dad, who could very well be Hawke’s slacker musician from “Reality Bites,” 10 years in the future. To his ex-wife’s chagrin, the father attempts to forge a relationship with his children over bowling and drives in his awesome car.

As with the “Before” trilogy, there’s no conventional Hollywood structure to “Boyhood.” The film takes a meandering approach, checking in with Mason each year and not necessarily at the most dramatic points in his childhood — a poignant reminder that it’s not always the major milestones that shape us, but a collection of small events.

Linklater traces Mason’s path to adulthood, from traumatic haircuts to family squabbles, bullying in the school bathroom to camping trips with dad. We watch Mason do what most kids do — play video games, shirk his homework, take an interest in the opposite sex — and it’s fascinating.

In a gradual and incredible cinematic alchemy, the dreamy, shaggy-haired boy who asks his father with utmost gravity whether elves exist transforms before our eyes into a cynical, skinny, quietly charming teenager with a passion for photography, a first girlfriend, a first job, college plans and lots of questions about the meaning of it all.

As a road map to the various stops along Mason’s journey, Linklater brilliantly uses pop songs of the decade and subtle references to changing technology, politics and pop culture. We know roughly when and where we are because Arcade Fire is playing on the radio, or there is a conversation about the Iraq War, or someone is watching a Lady Gaga video. Since the movie was filmed in the moment, there are no flashy attempts at retro costuming or art design. It feels real.

The film’s intensely naturalistic tone mimics the unpolished rhythms of improvisation. It’s actually painstakingly scripted, drawing from the filmmaker’s Texas boyhood. The movie’s sprawling scope is casual but electric, although it runs on for too long, clocking in at almost three hours. I suppose if I spent the last 12 years shooting a film, I’d be reluctant to whittle it down, too.

In casting Coltrane, Linklater hit the jackpot. How could he know this young actor would remain such a marvel over 18 years of growth, even through the awkward stages? And Hawke is so winning as a flawed father who nevertheless loves his children and really tries, in contrast to the string of alcoholic stepdads Mason’s mom brings home. Here’s hoping he never has to squander his talents on another “Sinister” or “The Purge.”

“Boyhood” celebrates parents, no matter how imperfect, and the way they protect and nurture their children, and acknowledges the many people — siblings, teachers, bosses, family friends — who influence who we become. It’s one of the few films that provides a clear-eyed view of 21st century families and its view of that tarnished but still sacred institution is sweetly hopeful.

Advertisements

The Top Five Films of 2014 (And the Not-So-Top Ones)

After the mad dash of the holidays, we stumble into January determined to take stock of the year that was and sweep aside the old in preparation for the new.

2015 brings with it an exciting new batch of movies, but before we welcome such heady stuff as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” it’s time to look back on the best of 2014.

My Top 10 list falls a little short this year. I could only come up with five really exceptional films. But there are many other cinematic highlights to discuss, along with a bonus list — the 10 Most Overrated Films of 2014.

Happy New Year.

6b645d371eb721d3d6fce488842d673a

The Top Five Films of 2014 (in no particular order)

1. “Birdman”: Like a wild, unpredictable improvisational jazz piece (an idea referenced in the film’s inventive musical score), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s show-biz satire exhilarates and astonishes. Seemingly shot in one seamless, kinetic take, the movie is unlike anything we’ve seen before. An excellent cast lays bare a humiliating array of ego trips and insecurities, most notably Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in performances that are self-deprecating and spell-binding. Fame has never been so fickle, so funny or so heartbreaking.

2. “Boyhood”: Watching 2014’s most languid and lovely drama is like thumbing through a decade’s worth of scrapbooks of one lad’s ordinary, extraordinary life. Writer-director Richard Linklater filmed the movie over a period of 12 years, resulting in a fictional time capsule of youth that never feels fabricated. As the boy in Linklater’s ‘hood, Ellar Coltrane is at once average and remarkable, bolstered by the poignant presence of Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his flawed but well meaning parents. Whether you’re 15 or 50, this movie sparks reflections of formative moments in your own life.

3. “Guardians of the Galaxy”: The year’s most undeniably entertaining movie was shockingly absent from many critics’ Top 10 lists. Come on, guys! Don’t pretend you didn’t love this wacky space romp, which expertly culled its irresistibly fun ideas from such timeless classics as “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” In introducing us to its strangest band of misfit superheroes yet, Marvel shamelessly pandered to ’80s nostalgia and got us all hooked on a feeling. Chris Pratt’s roguishly charming Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s butt-kicking Gamora, Dave Bautista’s hilariously literal Drax and the lovable duo of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are part of cinema history now, and rightly so.

4. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”: I thought I was over Wes Anderson. The director’s rococo affectations were beginning to feel increasingly empty to me. But then came “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” detailing the quirkiest of adventures shared by concierge extraordinaire Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes) and his trusty lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori). Anderson’s fantastical fairy tale of international intrigue contains one surprising and delightful cameo after another, but it’s really a showcase for the improbable comedic talents of Fiennes, whose portrayal of the unflappable  Gustave is unexpectedly bittersweet. Anderson has always been a filmmaker to be reckoned with. This is undoubtedly his masterpiece.

5. “Only Lovers Left Alive”: There are movies you like, and then there are movies you fall for, truly, madly, deeply. In 2014, that film for me was writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s effortlessly cool, exquisitely romantic vampire drama. As sleek and sexy as midnight velvet and dripping with playful pop cultural, literary and musical references, “Lovers” depicts the reunion of insomniac soulmates who aren’t your average bloodsuckers. Tom Hiddleston plays angsty Adam as a brooding old-school rock ‘n’ roller from Detroit. Tilda Swinton’s Eve is his exotic, more adventurous paramour, who hangs out in Tangier with none other than Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). This film really has to be seen to be believed. I want to sink my teeth into it again and again.

fnd_mc_nightcrawler

Honorable Mentions

“Gone Girl”: Gillian Flynn’s poisonous page turner is demented, disturbing and oh-so-much wicked fun in director David Fincher’s darkly funny big-screen treatment. You’ll never look at Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and the rest of the film’s fine cast quite the same way again.

“Nightcrawler”: Jake Gyllenhaal’s greasy, greedy, hypnotic turn as a ravenous coyote prowling L.A.’s seedy nightscapes in search of anything that bleeds is the highlight of writer-director Dan Gilroy’s pointed media satire.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”: Building on the firm foundation laid by 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” this sequel unites multiple generations of our favorite mutants — including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven and a double dose of Magneto and Professor X — in a twisty brain-teaser that effectively erases the franchise’s loathed third installment and paves the way for exciting installments to come.

“Edge of Tomorrow”: “Groundhog Day” meets “Alien” in a surprisingly clever post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick, which nobody saw because they were tired of watching Tom Cruise in post-apocalyptic sci-fi flicks. Cruise is billed as the star but Emily Blunt steals the movie out from under him as a tough-as-nails warrior, nickname the Full Metal Bitch.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: Marvel’s ever popular comic book movie franchise finally grew up with a thriller that boasts slick action and a satisfyingly adult script.

“Snowpiercer”: The year’s most original, intriguing and just plain weird sci-fi thriller depicts a violent, stylish, totally bizarro class war aboard a train designed to traverse an ice-bound post-apocalyptic globe. You probably loved it and hated it simultaneously.

Grammy90_18_03 (1)

Memorable Performances

The ever charming Shailene Woodley wormed her way a little deeper into our hearts in “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Divergent.”

Angelina Jolie was deliciously nasty as the misunderstood anti-heroine of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” reboot, “Maleficent.”

Tom Hardy did nothing but sit behind the wheel of a car and talk on the phone but was somehow spellbinding in “Locke.”

No one portrays eccentric geniuses quite like Benedict Cumberbatch, who dazzled as a socially awkward code breaker in “The Imitation Game.”

interstellar5

The 10 Most Overrated Films of 2014 (in no particular order)

1. and 2. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” weren’t terrible but they were both seriously out of balance, proving the point that splitting book adaptations into too many parts may be financially savvy but cheats the audience out of a tightly crafted story.

3. “Magic in the Moonlight”: Woody Allen’s latest whimsical comedy features gorgeous French locales and yummy 1920s costumes but it’s an epic bore that teases us with the promise of supernatural intrigue, then delivers a lot of tedious talk instead.

4. “Begin Again”: Writer-director John Carney’s follow-up to the captivating “Once” is disappointing simply because there’s nothing genuine about it, from the forgettable music to the precious, pretentious performances of Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley.

5. “Chef”: Many moviegoers were charmed by this sleeper comedy, but I failed to fall under its spell, mainly because I can only watch Jon Favreau drive around in a food truck for so long.

6. “Godzilla”: After last year’s underrated but totally awesome “Pacific Rim,” this monster mash-up promised super-sized thrills. The film’s scaly star was largely absent, however, making this Kaiju smash-fest a giant disappointment.

7. “Under the Skin”: Critics inexplicably went ga-ga for director Jonathan Glazer’s interminably dull indie drama, which consists of a morose, otherworldly Scarlett Johansson trolling the streets of Glasgow for unsuspecting perverts.

8. “The Lego Movie”: I’m not going to deny this animated flick featuring everyone’s favorite building blocks is fun, playful and clever to a point. Seriously, though, how old are we, America’s collective moviegoing audience? 12?

9. “Interstellar”: Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi opus is stunning in many ways and I was one of the critics who highly recommended it. Two months later, though, I have to admit this technically impressive but flawed film was easier to forget than I expected.

10. “The Interview”: Sony Pictures and the nation’s major movie chains never should have caved to the cyberterrorist threats that kept this North Korea-bashing comedy out of theaters. I just wish Seth Rogen and James Franco’s goofy riff on totalitarianism actually had something to say. Then it might be worth all the fuss.