The Oscars are a-coming
Long-time readers will know that each year I try to review all the Oscar-nominated films and actors, and try to predict who will win.(Or at any rate, say who I think SHOULD win.)
The 2015 Oscar nominations are yet to be announced, but we do have the nominations for the Golden Globe awards, so this year I decided to a steal march and start early, as many of the Golden Glove nominations will be also be nominated for Oscars.
This week, I will commence with a review of one of the films that has received multiple Golden Globe nominations and will certainly feature highly in the Oscar nominations.
It is difficult to find any film that has received such rave reviews from just about everyone who has seen it – both from the professional reviewers and also the movie going public.
It really is an unbelievable wave of critical acclaim – from the UK’s Daily Telegraph and Guardian, to Rotten Tomatoes (which aggregates critical reviews) and so on from every British film reviewer.
The same applies across the Atlantic ,where the influential Metacritic – another aggregator of reviews of films from leading critics – gives Boyhood a perfect 100 score, only the 10th film ever to achieve this lofty rating.
Even the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) which publishes reviews written by the cinema going public from all over the world contains review after review with a star rating of 10 out of 10. An almost unheard of phenomenon.
I think you get the general thrust here, it seems to be so far in front of its competitors that is hard to imagine that it will not sweep the 2105 Oscar awards and will almost certainly walk away with the coveted ‘Best Film’ Oscar.
Now to the film itself.
Boyhood, is a glorified ‘Coming of Age’ epic. What makes it stand out from most other films is a very clever, unique gimmick. The film spans 12 years in the life of a boy growing up in middle-class, suburban America, and it also took 12 years to make. The long time span of the production enabled the director to use the same actors for the leading parts – namely, mum, dad, sister and – crucially – the boy himself.
We are told that every year for 12 years, the actors were called back to the studios to undertake a few more weeks of film shooting.
It is very clever and very ambitious. The results of this unique piece of film making is that we see the real people get older and are not subjected to the usual movie-making devices – such as using different actors to play the same character at different ages and/or using make-up and prosthetics to make actors look older as the film’s fictional years progress.
So we are spared all this – which I must confess is huge plus for me. One of the things that puts me off biopics or indeed any movie that spans many years is the generally ineffective devices used by film producers to age it’s cast.
So this aspect of the movie gets a 10 out of 10 from me – or even an 11 out of 10 if it were possible.
But a good gimmick doesn’t a good movie make.
I honestly think that all the reviewers have been so bowled over by this unique, 12-year production time span, that they are somehow blinded by the magic of it all and have failed to look objectively at the real nuts and bolts of what the film is all about.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it is a bad film, I’ve sat through far, far worse, although it did all but send me to sleep about half way through.
For the most part, it managed to hold attention, but I am quite sure it would have benefited greatly from around having about 30 minutes hacked off its running time.
Sadly, it didn’t inspire me, amuse me, or inform me and the bottom line is – it failed to entertain me.
We first meet the six year old boy when he is growing up with his older sister in a one parent family, after his mother divorces his feckless father. The mother has a series of relationships that don’t work out too well and he has a couple of step fathers that come and go, but it is no big deal. Mum does a pretty good job in raising him and he still maintains a good relationship with his real Dad.
His mother becomes a college professor, so although there is an allegedly constant struggle for money, this struggle is somewhat relative. They always live in lovely big homes, they seem to want for nothing and Mum succeeds in putting both of her kids through college without too many sacrifices.
Sure he has to wash dishes in his spare time for pocket money, but he owns an old pick-up to get around in, but that’s about as far as his ‘life struggle’ goes.
The worst traumas that happen in his life were:
- When mum decides to leave her second husband who is an alcoholic and abusive.
- When against his better judgement he smokes a joint with friends
- When he gets into trouble with his teacher for spending the whole of the photography class in the dark room
- When his High school girlfriend of a few weeks decides to dump him.
He finally makes it to college, to study for a degree in photography, and the almost 3- hour film ends with our hero wondering what the world is all about and what does it all mean?
Easy for him to share such world-shattering, philosophical angst with his new, very pretty, equally privileged girlfriend. After all, he has never really wanted for nothing, and very probably never will. How boring!
Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it?
It’s a middle class film for middle class Americans. It probably reinforces their middle class mantra that everything will always turn out right as long as you come from a decent background, get a half way decent education, play by the rules, don’t suffer from any physical or mental illness and don’t have to fight for your very existence in some deprived ghetto full of gangs from ethnic minorities.
There one revealing, even worrying aspect of contemporary American life that emerges from this movie, which has nothing to do with the fact that it took 12 years to make. Throughout the entire movie, the only non-white Americans that we see are the distant backs of a couple of African American football players when our boy hero is sent to take photographs of his high school American football game.
It is clear that his entire life exists in a cocoon of white, middle-class America. It is a world where everyone is white – not even the suggestion of a brown skin in sight, except for a single, token Hispanic boy in a school gang that he briefly hangs out with when he was a pre-teenager.
If this story was shot in the UK, it would have been completely impossible to film anyone’s coming of age in England without involving blacks or Asians, or probably both.
But it seems that in America, even in this day and age of so-called racial integration, this is not the case. If the film reflects reality, then it is quite an eye opener. If it doesn’t, then why exclude blacks? Very odd….
I reiterate – don’t get me wrong. It’s a very well made film. It is well photographed and very well written and directed by Richard Linklater and all the actors are excellent. I would even go so far as to say that Ethan Hawke deserves a punt at best supporting actor for his portrayal as the boy’s good-for-nothing father.
Yes, it is a well-produced film, but it is a million miles away from being one of the top ten films of all time.
So I have searched and searched to find a few like-minded film critics – reviewers who have not been brainwashed by all the hype – and eventually I was relieved to find I am not alone in this incredible morass of Boyhood adoration.
After dozens of 10-star ‘amateur’ reviews on IMDB, I finally found a 1-star review that was much nearer to the truth of the matter.
“This is the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ all over again. The movie runs two hours and 45 minutes to cover 12 years, and believe me, it seems like 12 years. There is nothing of interest in the film. It is about nothing. Nothing happens, except children grow up, parents grow up, children make friends, parents marry again and again. No drama, no humour, no sadness, no happiness.
Just boring people leading boring lives, and the gimmick of using real children and filming them at yearly intervals to show how they grow, is just that, a gimmick. The boy of the title is a slacker, seeking meaning by doing nothing. Save your money, and more important, save your three hours and see another movie, any other movie.”
And below, from Kenneth Turan in the LA Times, is an excerpt from what a lone professional reviewer has to say.
If he reads what I have written above he might accuse me of plagiarism, but the honest truth is that I wrote the above piece before reading Kenneth Turan’s article. It just goes to show that “great minds…”
“If you do it right, film criticism is a lonely job. But some films make it lonelier than others. Films like “Boyhood.”
For just about every other critic in America, “Boyhood” has been the opposite experience, a chance to join in an unprecedented chorus of shared exultation about a film written and directed over the course of a dozen years by Richard Linklater that used the same group of actors to watch as a boy named Mason grows from a child of 6 to a young man of 18.
I was not one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate “Boyhood,” and I’m not totally immune to its attributes. But for me it was, at best, OK, a film whose animating idea is more interesting than its actual satisfactions. Sharing in the zeal of its advocates, being as on fire as Moses was when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the law — that just isn’t in the cards for me…..
….the “12 years, one cast” aspect of the film felt, in all honesty, a bit like a gimmick to me…”
(you can read the full article at http://goo.gl/zdzXgD)
Today, I read that there is an internet a parody of Boyhood called Cathood, which apparently condenses 12 years into 12 weeks in the life of a kitten, and has taken the internet world by storm.