Second Time Around: Boyhood

Remember that Shalamar song “The Second Time Around”, an adorable ditty from the 80’s?

The songs lyric, “It’s better than the first time”…is true for watching “Boyhood”.

Club sandwiches come to mind as an apt analogy regarding both the scene breakdown and the soundtrack.

This time around, I appreciated the number of scenes during each segment of the character Mason’s life. The only pattern I detected was a club sandwich effect, the longer “bread” segments occurring at the beginning (Ellar/Mason as a small child), middle (during the alcoholic step-dad years) and end (Ellar/Mason navigating his first love and college decisions). Hearing a director’s commentary on what didn’t make the film would be fascinating.

Being an ultra sensitive gal reared in a childhood with periodic domestic violence, the first time viewing “Boyhood” was fraught with fears of possible tragedies. The second time, I sat back and relaxed, even appreciating the soundtrack.

Re-listening now to the sixteen tracks, I’m biased toward Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, but how uniquely cute is Vampire Weekend’s “One: Blake’s Got a New Face”? There’s the requisite icons, Dylan and McCartney and nouveau rockers The Black Keys who kick ass on “She’s Long Gone” (playing in Rochester, by the way, Sunday September 14th!). The bread in the sound track’s club sandwich is Tweedy, his old, and sometimes current band Wilco and the finale by Canadian darlings Arcade Fire.

I also realized that holidays aren’t represented in the film which goes to illuminate that special moments often occur when natural life happens, not during the ‘ok, we’ve got to be merry because its Christmas’ routine. As Stevie Wonder sings “It’s not the religion, it’s the relationship”, and Linklater captures those; mother-son, father-son, parental and spouse, beautifully.

Calvary, the Saints Come Marching In

“Calvary” written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Ned Kelly) is definitely worth seeing. In fact, having just finished a screenwriting class, this could be the template given to future writers showing them the ropes:

~make your main character suffer and holy Job, does Brendan Gleeson’s character suffer
~have quirky unique minor characters and by Jove, are they quirky
~have an overarching theme that gets full coverage during the resolution, violins and all

A few of the quick snippets of reviews I’ve seen, brag about Mr. Gleeson’s acting range*. To that, I feel like sniping back, “You’re just seeing it now?”, Gleeson was fantastic in In Bruges. And ignore the critic who says, the movie can’t live up to the premise set in the first five minutes, because it did and will for you.

And would someone quick, get a biopic out about the late great Ray Bradbury because M. Emmet Walsh is the spitting image of him, coincidentally playing a cantankerous author in Calvary.

Last, I will say that Chris O’Dowd is the one who shows a new range*, a far cry from the cute puppy dog policeman in Bridesmaids.

Boyhood, My How Time Flies

I put off writing this blog, thinking I was going to watch the film for a second time, but alas my best movie friend has been occupied as of late, so here it goes:

Boyhood was an oxymoron of a film, and this comes from a fanatic of the Before Midnight, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset trilogy, so much so I was depressed each time those movies ended.

Boyhood is another matter. It is both profound and mundane; exactly why it captures life on film. As promised on one of my pages, I don’t want to talk too much about the plot, but will mention who will probably relate most if you:

*were raised by an alcoholic
*dealt with divorce (either as an adult or child)
*wanted a career in art despite a society that would rather honor finance and athletics
*changed high schools and found difficulty in the transition
*people who repeat relationship patterns

I was not sad when the film ended, which doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, but at three hours plus, it’s time to stand up and stretch. I love, love, love Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as well as the two ‘child’ actors, the female of whom is Linklater’s real life daughter and of course, Ellar Coltrane, the boy who is the movie’s anchor.

To see it with my 21 year old son was an immense blessing and his growing up certainly seems to have whipped by in less than three hours. If you have kids, cherish them! They’ll be adults too soon!

POST SCRIPT: On a blog advertisement display, I said I had a comparison with Paul George and Richard Linklater. Full confession: I’ve been known to be the Yogi Berra of comparisons, but the night Paul George was injured playing on the USA basketball team, the gravity of the ESPN coverage was akin to a fatal plane crash. Is it horrible that one of the best NBA players broke his leg in a freak accident? YES! Is it wildly difficult to make a movie over 12 years with the same 4 main actors? YES!
Have other athletes injured themselves and come back? Yes!
Have other directors’ films been overhyped to the point that when you actually see the real deal, it could never live up to said hype? YES!
I rest my case.

Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality

A funny thing happened on the way to the theater, well, actually inside the lobby.

At the Little Theater in Rochester, NY, to see Jodorowsky’s The Dance of Reality, I loitered beforehand, looking at movie posters, being idiosyncratic and wanting to sit without a romantic couple plunking themselves behind me-yes, alone on a Saturday night, c’est la vie (Jodorowsky’s part French-Chilean so that reference still works).

The ticket seller, a younger woman who seemed new, separately told two manly men who thought The Most Wanted Man had an early show that the 7 pm movie was actually an avant-garde movie about a director’s life (Jodorowky’s The Dance of Reality).

When both men scurried off, ears bleeding from hearing a term that meant ‘new’ and ‘experimental’, the ticket seller was thusly scolded to use other, more palatable, descriptive words. I couldn’t hear what the alternative phrase was to use, but was tempted to stick up for the poor girl’s honest accuracy. I mean the femal lead is the only character who does the entire movie singing her lines operatic…tell me that’s not new?

And I would have loved to bet the two gentlemen cold hard cash (ok, I’m a teacher in August, so, a dollar:) that if they gave The Dance of Reality a chance, they probably would have enjoyed it as much, if not more, than a LeCarre based film.

If they came back for the 9:30 pm Most Wanted Man, they certainly didn’t get a voluptuous nude woman with ‘healing powers’ (a la Nicole Kidman in “Paper Boy”). Or darkly comic moments of growing up as a boy under a tyrant father, with a gratuitously adoring mother and the subsequent crazy mixed messages that come from such upbringing. Nor did they see war time torture (which I assume is right up a manly man’s testosterone alley).

Really, my only gripe is the harsh digital film used, which I looked up just now to attempt hipness and am simply copying here, having not gone to film school: “Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)
Redcode RAW (5K) (source format)”. I see the term ‘raw’ used in the IMDB description and while I’m sure it’s a technical term (being in all caps), is still literally the reason I did not care for it. The material story is already raw enough, and then to add the garishness of digital film is not visually aesthetic. It’s like an over lit diner; the food’s nothing I’d want to actually inspect, so do I need a 160 watt bulb laid on for emphasis?

So Manly Men who came back (or not) for the 9:30 The Most Wanted Man, you missed a fine film, and should you open up to try The Dance of Reality, you owe me a dollar!

Venus in Fur: Piled High

In the most recent AARP newsletter, the author Nicholson Baker inferred his indifference to the hubbub regarding the naughty aspects of 50 Shades of Gray and I have to agree. Meaning, sex is extremely enjoyable in its basic form which is also why I’m pretty naïve to sexual fetishes. So I was surprised and intrigued by the psychological theories surrounding Dominatrix roles, specifically those of heterosexual women in the premise of Roman Polanski’s latest Venus in Fur.

Venus in Fur was originally a French novel from the late 1800’s that American David Ives adapted into a play. The basic plot is a play within a play, where an exasperated drama director reluctantly auditions a woman who ends up questioning the motivations of his story.

The ultimate hypothesis is that women who dominate are still ultimately submissive to men because they are fulfilling the role a man desires.

This had me thinking about women and feminism in general. Women have worked so hard to be equals of men, yet may have inadvertently allowed men to stop striving and caring about work and relationships . In relationships for instance, men may still ‘win’, when women control all aspects of that dynamic, especially because as a rule, men care less about the details of life.

I do not have statistics on this next thought, just experiential accounts, but my guess is that more women initiate divorce than men because men are more likely to go with the flow and realize the grass might not be greener on the opposite side. Marriages I have observed where the man is mistreated (verbally abused), may tolerate the situation due to any combo of the following: conditioning (meaning his mom was mean to his dad, too), the shame and disgrace of ‘quitting’, protection of financial status, or perhaps knowing the benefits of stability outweigh the risks of finding yet another cuckolding situation.

In the film Venus in Fur, Mathieu Almaric (a wonderful actor I first saw in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays Thomas, the writer and drama director. While I don’t personally think he ‘wins’, it’s only because I wouldn’t want to be abused. If indeed he was conditioned as a child (which is the back story, that as a youth he was sexually abused by his aunt involving spankings and fur)to associate pain with pleasure, then he does win. But does that necessarily mean the female Dominatrix ‘loses’ if she enjoys being superior?

At the risk of oversimplifying, I can’t help but think that the premise is just another indication that women are never satisfied. They don’t want to be inferior, yet as superiors, they still feel less than empowered. Hence, my aforementioned point of why men must just shake their heads and acquiesce. I am really glad I’m not a man, yet this is why I certainly do not understand many of my own gender.

I did thoroughly enjoy Venus in Fur and have to wonder if posing these interesting psychologies doesn’t help Roman vindicate himself from his sexual transgression from long ago still keeping him in asylum. Certainly marrying someone almost half his age (the female lead in the film is his real life wife Emmanuelle Seigner) shows his natural desire to connect with youth. The only difference being that once he became an older man, youth was no longer adolescent and illegal.

Skimming the Cinematic Stones: Early Linklater

Between my son’s practice in the Finger Lakes Opera ‘Carmen’ and my work on a Blue Cat Screenplay Contest Short, completing a triology of early Linklater was a challenge. But guess what, I’m not late! Santa aka ‘Boyhood’ won’t be in Rochester, New York till 8/15.

Let’s start with the wonderful surprise of Slackers (1991), a breezy yet heady walk through the lives of Austin, Texas 90’s ‘kids’. Don’t discount it because it’s old, nor get it confused with the other Slackers from 2002. Do be amazed that we’re still fighting about gun control 23 years later. The movie literally moves (like sharks) through the apartments, houses and streets of Austin. Not really big on story, more philosophical ramblings of both young and old.

The cult classic “Dazed and Confused” is from 1993 and is the first movie of two mega stars: Ben Affleck (who made me uncomfortable as a bad ass machismo frat boy) and Matthew McConaugHEY (the origin of his ‘alright, alright, alright’). Parker Posey, a mega star in my book from her tantrums in “Best in Show” (Guest 2000), also plays a cartwheeling high school sorority queen (and she pulls it off, not looking her actual 25 years of age). But, I have to say, this movie disappointed. Yeh, I get it’s a halcyon view of Linklater’s early life, but if someone gave me the choice of ’93 comedy ‘classics’ (and trust me ’93 was a barren landscape for great comedy) I’d pick ‘Grumpy Old Men’ or ‘Ground Hog Day’.

Last, in the Linklater menage, was “Waking Life”(2001), a very good case for the old adage that writers only have one story presented in different forms. Not a bad thing, considering that “Waking Life’ is Slackers grownup and animated with the addition a through character (Wiley Wiggins) as he meanders through conversations and musings of philosophers trying to decipher if he’s in a lucid dream or dead.

If you enjoy deep thought: ‘liberate from your own negativity”, existentialism as a positive realization of our free will, and last, but certainly only the tip of the movie’s ideological ice berg, that every choice we make is crucial to our life, then you’ll love “Waking Life”.

Much like “Slackers”, “Waking Life” addresses gun control with an ironic scene of a man bragging about his need to carry a gun everywhere quoting “a well armed populace is the best defense against tyranny”. I won’t tell you how that piece ends, but everyone except those pinch-your-cheeks-cute Texans can take a good guess.

In the end, this was a trilogy sandwich where the bread was better (Slackers and Waking Life) than the filling (Dazed and Confused), but indeed, it was a chewy, hearty and fulfilling sourdough. And if that line doesn’t sound like corn beef, I don’t know what does.:)