Worth Watching

In 2002, writer-director Richard Linklater made what I believe to be a decision driven purely by madness. In his mind he must have thought “How can I make filmmaking a real challenge. What constraints can I lower upon myself that would ensure one single slip up would cause me to lose days, months, and possibly years worth of work?”

The answer, apparently, was to spend the next 12 years filming Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and his own daughter Lorelei Linklater living out what I now think is the truest ever paradigm of the “coming of age” movie.

For one or two weeks every year between 2002 and 2013, Linklater, cast, and crew would gather and literally film a day in the life of these characters. The sheer audacity of this can’t be overstated. So much could have gone wrong . I don’t think I have ever seen a braver, ballsier effort from a director. The cast could not be signed to contracts because of a California labor law that prevents contracts of longer than 7 years. The script was not complete when shooting began and Linklater actually would rewrite entire sections of script based on the real lives of the players as well as the footage shot from the previous years filming installment. What if somebody was hurt or injured and couldn’t complete their part? What if somebody was horribly disfigured? What if Ellar Coltrane, 7 years old when filming began, just decided he didn’t want to act anymore?

What if somebody died?

Apparently Linklater told Ethan Hawke to finish the film for him if he died during production. How many movies have to make plans for something like that happening?

Oh and by the way, it’s an incredible film. While so much of the buzz around it is, rightfully, placed on the production, the film itself is nothing short of a masterpiece for Linklater and Co. The “day in the life” storytelling style perfectly fits the narrative. The performances are rock solid across the board. Particularly Hawke and Arquette in somewhat thankless roles as parents who can’t always seem to get their shit together. Y’know, just like real life.

I won’t spoil too much of the story as I think it’s best to go into Boyhood with as little advance knowledge as possible and just let the subtle and well told narrative take you where it may. The film and cast always give us exactly what we need, never too much. When Arquette’s character remarries partway through the film and then divorces later on, it’s never spelled out for us, there’s no offhand remark about that character that isn’t around any more. We as the audience are expected to extrapolate all we need from the information given. It is immensely refreshing not to be handheld through a story.

I completely love the representation of the modern American family. As a single child of an adopted single mother, I’m not always interested in the traditional movie ideal that boy has to meet girl and they must be in love and stay together forever. A lot of times life doesn’t work that way. People grow up, people grow apart. Parents divorce and remarry and then sometimes do it all over again. The really strong families find a way to thrive and succeed despite all that shit and Boyhood succeeds at depicting this in a way I don’t think any other film ever has.

Boyhood was stuck in my brain for days after watching it. Even writing about it now has me wanting to experience it all over again. I think “experience” is a perfect term for Boyhood. Love it or hate it I think it’s important that everybody experience this film. Hopefully you’ll grow a little bit along with it. I know I did.

@movingpicpod

Chef1

What do you do when you’re responsible for kick-starting the largest film franchise in history? If you’re Jon Favreau you go and make a small personal movie about sandwiches….

Okay it’s not about sandwiches. It is about food though. Specifically one man’s love of food and how it affects all of his interpersonal relationships.

Favreau writes, directs, and stars as Carl Casper. The titular chef who, at the beginning of the film is divorced, barely communicating with his son, and laboring under a dictatorial owner who won’t let him cook the food he wants to cook. After a video of Carl verbally assaulting a food blog critic goes viral, he is fired and forced to re-evaluate his life. He acquires a run down food truck,  a sous chef (John Leguizamo), and sets out cross country to serve awesome sandwiches and reconnect with his son (Emjay Anthony).

This is a straight forward and well told story about food and how it can bring people together, or tear them apart. The characters are all strong and very well acted. The cast is stellar and there are a few great cameos that I won’t spoil here. It is small and personal in a refreshing way. We all have Favreau to thank for the current Marvel cinematic monster that is tearing its way across every movie theatre on the planet. But I love seeing him return to these smaller character pieces.

There’s also a very interesting subplot about social media and the many ways it can be used to build a community, or destroy a reputation. Not a week goes by where some athlete or celebrity makes some terrible decision on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and it dominates the news cycle for the next week. I think they could all do themselves a service by watching this movie.

My one large issue is that the movie wraps up in a bit too nice of a bow and it comes off very saccharine and tropey (Is that a word? It’s a word now.) I recently watched Boyhood (I will also be writing about it soon) which presents such a beautiful, realistic picture of a modern family unit. Chef unfortunately chooses the “Hollywood” ending and it plays very false, especially right at the end. However, this one issue aside I think Chef is very well worth watching.

P.S. Roy Choi was the chef consultant on this movie and it shows. All of the cooking scenes are gorgeous and are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen on film.

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SkeletonTwins1

Welcome to a new recurring feature where I highlight a lesser known, hard to find, or just generally overlooked film. In this case the 2014 comedy-drama The Skeleton Twins. I was greatly looking forward to this movie during the press cycle but unfortunately it was a limited release and therefore did not run in my area, and presumably many others.

Craig Johnson wrote and directed this film about an estranged brother and sister who are both on the verge of suicide and must work together to rebuild their relationship. Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader are absolutely perfect as the titular twins. Comedians often make wonderful dramatic actors and this is no exception. Their long history working together on SNL coupled with their impeccable comedic timing makes their relationship the strongest and most believable in the entire film. And it has to be. This is a movie that could come off as overly saccharine or cloying but Wiig and Hader keep things incredibly grounded and believable while still managing to show off their significant comedic chops in a few scenes (one of which is unfortunately spoiled by the trailer). Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell also have very good turns as Maggie’s husband and Milo’s former lover respectively. The Skeleton Twins is all about Maggie and Milo but the supporting cast does a wonderful job of inhabiting their world and helping to inform us how and why they have become so damaged and dysfunctional.

The movie is very brisk and tightly paced at 93 minutes but never feels rushed. Oft times I find dramas tend to be over long or paced in such a way that they feel longer than they really are. The Skeleton Twins does not suffer this problem. When the credits rolled I actually found myself wishing we had spent just a bit more time living with these characters. I think wanting a movie to be longer is a pretty solid sign of a movie worth watching.

SkeletonTwins2

@movingpicpod