Director: Richard Linklater


I am neither a Richard Linklater fan nor an Ethan Hawke fan, as some of you may remember from my blog on Before Midnight (2013), and unfortunately for me they are one of those frequent collaborative pairings that you often find in Hollywood.

It’s fairly safe to say that I approached Boyhood with some already preconceived notions based on my previous experiences with the Linklater/Hawke pairing so I wasn’t really expecting much. Then there was my additional issue with films that seem to attract an annoying level of hype and praise before they even hit the cinemas in their general release (like Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens but more on that at a later date!) – so rarely do these types of film actually live up to the hype that I have learnt to temper my expectations. I guess this is in part why I avoid reviews as much as possible. Ironic I know, given that I am in the very process of doing exactly that and writing a review.

With Boyhood my reluctance to watch the film was not just the inordinate amount of hype surrounding the film, or the unfavourable pairing (at least in my eyes) but also the very concept of the film. Growing up is a hard thing to do in the first place without the added pressure of doing it on camera … and let’s face it Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record of looking after it’s young stars now does it? So to me the idea of filming someone going through what could arguably be the most awkward period of their life, over a prolonged period, seems massively self-indulgent on Linklater’s part.

“The actors age before us, though it is the evolution of Ellar Coltrane (who plays the boy, Mason) and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter, playing Mason’s sister) that has the most resonance.” (931, Mick McAloon, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

BoyhoodWhile it is kind of fascinating to watch Ellar Coltrane grow up I was never entirely comfortable with the film and couldn’t quite ignore my feeling that it’s somewhat exploitative. There doesn’t actually appear to be that much of a narrative but rather relies on the gimmick of watching the cast age across the period of 12 years. It’s a massive undertaking on all parts, which I do definitely recognise, but in the main just ends up strengthening my view that the film is much more about Linklater’s overweening arrogance. In recognising Linklater’s achievement I am never the less left with a faint sense of voyeurism that never really sat very well with me.



Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Director: George Roy Hill


“The iconic teaming of Paul Newman and Robert Redford was so magical – and so profitable, scoring the year’s biggest hit – that this offbeat character study/action comedy in Western trappings and bathed in cinematographer Conrad Hall’s Oscar-winning sepia hues has been a touchstone for bickering buddy pictures ever since.” (494, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

I went through a period where I watched films in genres or by directors that normally bore me to tears and discovered that actually there were a few I enjoyed, such as Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). And it turns out that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is, so far, the only Western film I’ve watched that hasn’t bored me silly. But then I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it strictly as a western. It may have a number of the western tropes but in reality it is much more character driven. It’s really about these two men and their friendship that just so happens to take place against a western backdrop. And this is precisely why I found it entertaining rather than turgid like so many other films in the western genre.

There is lots of humour and having watched a number of buddy movies it’s clear that a lot of them have been influenced by this movie. The core trio of Butch (Paul Newman), Sundance (Robert Redford) and Etta (Katherine Ross) are brilliant, and in some ways remind me a little bit of the ‘golden trio’ from Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling) – they work best as a trio, each complimenting and at times reigning each other in. I actually really enjoyed watching Newman and Redford in their prime. Paul Newman is often held up as one of the truly brilliant actors of recent Hollywood and yet he is an actor whose work I have really not seen very much of so it was interesting to see him working his magic on-screen. They make a handsome pair of bandits as well it can’t be denied.

“[But] the film is immortal for its final image of the pair, freeze-framed as they run out into a shoot-’em-up with an army.” (494) Having never seen the film I had still been aware of this iconic final image. Now I have the context behind it and it makes the image so much more powerful.

butchButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is an utterly disarming combination of smart, original screenwriting, handsome visual treatment, and star power. With all the jokes and poses, there is still real interest in the well-defined, contrasting characters.” (494) I couldn’t agree more with Errigo. If it had been otherwise there is a high chance I would have been writing yet another blog about how dreary and tedious I find western movies so this was a nice surprise. However apologies for the crapness of this post – I’m pretty tired and clearly my brain isn’t working all that well. Don’t let my inarticulate ramblings dissuade you from watching the film because it really is so much more than I have touched upon in this update.

Oscar Nominations 2015

It’s that time of the year again when the film world waits with bated breath to find out who has been deemed worthy of an Oscar. As the culmination of both the nomination announcements and the Awards season you go into the announcement with a fairly good idea as to who and what will be included. This year was no different.

As expected Boyhood (Richard Linklater), Birdman (Alejandro G. Inarritu) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) came out on top in terms of nominations. I was surprised that The Lego Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) was not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category – I thought that would be a shoo-in, not only for a nomination but the win too.

There’s a respectable British presence in the acting categories with Keira Knightley, Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectfully. And then of course you have Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch vying for Best Actor. I’ve been saying that Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking was an Oscar contender from the moment I first saw the trailer (and I haven’t even seen the entire film yet) I would love either of them to win (and I think one of them will take home the BAFTA certainly!) but I have a feeling that Michael Keaton will swoop in and take it … no pun intended. Rosamund Pike’s performance in Gone Girl (David Fincher) is one of the most unnerving things I have seen this year and the fact that the film isn’t eve a horror film makes it all the more disturbing.

I’m once again disappointed, but by no means surprised, that The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson) has only garnered one nomination, and then in a more technical category like Sound Editing. I’ve never understood the Academy’s reluctance to acknowledge fantasy films. Harry Potter (various) didn’t win any of its 12 nominations and again all of those were in the more technical categories, overlooking some splendid performances. The same happened with the majority of the Middle Earth saga. The one time that the Academy actually nominated one of the films in anything other than the technical categories it resulted in a clean sweep as The Return of the King (Peter Jackson) walked away with 13 Oscars!! And Billy Boyd should have been nominated for his beautiful song “The Last Goodbye”.

Some of my favorite films to come out of last year are represented in the Visual Effects category, especially X-Men Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer). That sequence with Quicksilver in the Pentagon is outstanding – the moment I saw it I was sure it would be nominated at least (if it wasn’t then it would confirm the fact that sometimes the Academy can be idiots) However despite the incredible work on display in not only X-Men Days of Future Past but Captain America Winter Soldier (Russo brothers), Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves) I think Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) will win.

I’m not overly enamored of the films in the running for, what is arguably the most prestigious awards going in the film industry, this year. I was discussing this with my mum (as I always do seeing as she is the only one who will actually listen to me when I go all filmy) and she made an excellent point that there are two modes of thinking when it comes to the Oscars. There are the films that people, and by people I mean the general public – you know the actual cinema goers, actually like and then there are the films that the critics praise and ultimately do well in the Oscars. Rarely, if ever, do these two trains of thought align. And it’s demonstrated once again this year. The popular films (in terms of bums on seats) are relegated to things like Special Visual Effects, Hair and Make-up, Sound Editing and the like while the films that the critics made a fuss over are right up there with the big hitters (Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel – top 3 in terms of total nominations) and are very likely to win.

I fail to see why The Grand Budapest Hotel is nominated at all and I’m astounded that it’s got 9! It’s a self-indulgent pretentious film that makes far more of itself then it actually is. Which is a rambling, confusing and jumbled mess of a film that tries to present itself as a comedy – I didn’t laugh once. The same goes for Boyhood.

I know you should go into films with an open mind (which is why I avoid all reviews) but I really don’t anticipate enjoying this film. I tend not to like either Richard Linklater or Ethan Hawke’s work and they have an unfortunate habit of working together which is just a double whammy of disinterest on my side. I think it’s going to be overblown and far too long for a film where actually noting happens. Also if you were going to make a mostly improvised film about growing up then why the need to hire well-known and established Hollywood actors in the role of parents? I have a feeling that it really would have worked better being a documentary shot over the same period of time. The entire concept of the film irritates me which from past experience means it’s a shoo-in to win multiple awards (and has already picked up a number at other Award ceremonies this season so far)

After all if there is one thing the Academy loves doing its rewarding self-pretentious, over indulgent films rather than any actual talent. But who knows? Maybe this year they’ll prove me and my cynical thinking wrong.