The Film Gang

Boyhood

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and watch the trailer below.

Richard Linklater’s latest film, Boyhood, was a very risky venture. You’ve likely heard that it took over twelve years to make, and that he used the same cast throughout. That, in itself, was daring  – taking the chance that each of the cast members would be available for a twelve year shoot.

But, I think there was an even greater risk. Generally, movies succeed on the basis of disguising themselves as reality. We don’t want to enter the theatre and be reminded, over and over, that what we are watching is an assemblage of hundreds of hours of preparation and execution designed to fool us into believing that we’re witnessing a few seamless hours in the lives of the characters.

Linklater must have known that if he succeeded in getting to the finish line, the reality that he’d have created something never attempted in the annals of film history would likely ensure that most folks would be very aware that they were watching a movie. Which is to say – the desired outcome of ‘getting lost’ in the film might well be diminished.

Fortunately, sometimes great risks produce great outcomes, and I am happy to report that Boyhood is among them.

So, what is Boyhood about? Ostensibly, it’s about the childhood, pubescence,  adolescence, and early adulthood of a bright guy named Mason, and about the lives of his closest family members. But I think it’s also a film about time – about how humans negotiate it, use it, abuse it, and, especially, about its velocity.

That Boyhood is about time and its manifestations is no surprise. Prior to Boyhood, my favorite Linklater films were the ‘Before’ trio: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Obviously, Linklater is artfully obsessed with time.

The film opens with six year old Mason lying on his back on a schoolyard lawn,

gazing pensively into the sky. His mom, Olivia, arrives to take him home. In the car, she asks him several questions generated by his teacher’s concerns. Mason’s simple answers establish immediately that he is a bright and unpretentious kid – a magnet for our attention and affections.

Next we are introduced to Mason’s precocious sister, Samantha. Samantha is played beautifully by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei. And we fall in love with her, too.

We now are beginning to know three of the four major characters – sister, brother, and mom. And soon we will meet the estranged father of the family, Mason Sr., played with characteristic excellence by Ethan Hawke.

We discover that mother Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette, has a penchant for choosing partners with unhealthy habits. Mason Sr. is an inveterate smoker. He is followed in Olivia’s chain of love interests by an abusive alcoholic, who, in turn, is followed by a guy with an incipient drinking problem.

Boyhood is a powerful portrait of the all too familiar problems faced by many single parent families – divorces, frequent moves, financial difficulties, a disarming rootlessness. Linklater, the endearing Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason Jr., and the entire cast have made a memorable, perhaps even, a great film. Don’t miss it.

 

Ida

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

 

Ida, as we say in English, (the name is pronounced eeda in Polish) is a film that could as well be called Ida & Wanda, or so it seems to me.

I’ve watched Ida four times and each time I’ve been more touched, more moved. But I’m also convinced that it’s as much a portrait of Ida’s aunt, Wanda, as it is of Ida.

(more…)

Love Is All You Need

Play

Review above, by Denis Morton

Raoul Peck

Play

Wasonville Film Festival Honors Young Filmmakers, Luis Valdez

Play

Listen to the audio above, by Dennis Morton

watsonville-film-festivalThe Second Annual Watsonville Film Festival will take place on Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3. This week, the KUSP Film Gang spoke with festival organizers.

Stand Up Guys

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton, above.

Barbara

Play

Film review above, by David Anthony

Amour

Play

Film review above, by David Anthony

Transcript of Review:

When persons reach “a certain age” thoughts of mortality necessarily punctuate the most mundane interactions.  When they are partners with progeny, this can be even more vexing, as the very substance of one’s life, lived alone and together feels at stake, as indeed it well may be. Michael Haneke’s current film, Amour vividly illustrates this. Employing the outsized talents of three giants of French cinema, writer and director Haneke captures a drama that almost everyone will experience at some point in their earthly journey.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are aging music teachers. They have shared full lives and care deeply for one another. One day Georges notices something amiss about Anne, as she goes catatonic in the midst of a conversation, then, regaining her composure, has no recollection of what has just happened. This is an augury of what is to follow as the years ineluctably take their toll in a tragic threnody that disrupts what had been business as usual for the octogenarian married couple, as well as their daughter, Eva, played by Isabelle Huppert, and their neighbors, acquaintances and other associates.

Amour is, as its title suggests, a painstaking, often painful exploration of all that love is, beginning with and periodically evoking romantic love, but encompassing much more than that, venturing into the range of the indefinable aspects of what forces emotionally and spiritually bind humans one to another, such that existence seems inconceivable and for some unimaginable, apparently or literally unlivable without their longtime counterparts.

The collaboration between writer-director Haneke and his cast is a story in itself. There is something cyclic about the story and those Haneke chose to act in it. Trintignant, for example, starred in some of the most widely seen and influential European films of the last three decades, including A Man and A Woman, The Conformist and Z, among others, when I first became aware of him, back in the late sixties. Riva burst upon the scene with Alain Resnais’ extraordinary cinematic translation of Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima Mon Amour in 1959 and has consistently turned heads ever since. Huppert, at almost 60, the metaphorical runt of the litter, has a portfolio no less impressive than her senior co-stars, including Time of the Wolf in which she plays Anne Laurent, in another film directed by Michael Haneke. Huppert and Haneke also worked together in The Piano Teacher (2001), giving this film an ensemble quality.

Amour has already been nominated for five Oscars. Whatever role politics may play in the ultimate decisions taken at the end of the Oscars for domestic, especially Hollywood productions, it is always instructive to see who is nominated and of course selected in the foreign film categories. Amour has already made its mark, gaining nominations for best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen, best performance by an actress in a leading role, best picture, best foreign film and best achievement in directing. That adds up to five memorable reasons to make a serious effort to see it. Amour is worth watching.

 

For the KUSP Film Gang, this is David H. Anthony

 

Hyde Park on Hudson

Play

Film review above, by David Anthony

Transcript of Review:

The present period has given rise to a number of reconsiderations of aspects of history. Glimpses of Presidential life will always prompt discussion, as has Oscar contender Lincoln, principally because of the larger than life Daniel Day Lewis.  A bit less successful is the no less interesting dramatization of the other backstairs at the White House, or in this case, the refuge from the White House, Hyde Park on Hudson.

Starring Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Laura Linney as his fifth cousin, Daisy, Hyde Park on Hudson is based upon a cache of letters written by Daisy but discovered only after her death about her affair with FDR, who as the film suggests, had many during his time in office. The story is arresting, and Murray does his level best to play the longest serving President, without either resembling him physically or sonically, but still striving to capture some of his charismatic qualities.

Hyde Park on Hudson is about many things. It is about a President as a flawed human being, imperfect because he is human, yet also shielded from public view by his disability, and protected from scrutiny when all around him knew of his dalliances.  Because it takes these secret subjects seriously, it cannot and should not be dismissed, Murray’s limitations notwithstanding.  By contrast, Laura Linney and all the women in the cast, led by Olivia Williams are quite extraordinary.

The film is uneven.  It alternates between intimate moments between FDR and Daisy and the sometimes farcical conceit of an awkward meeting with King George and Queen Elizabeth threatened by war, when the Royals must appeal for support in the face of the fascist threat. The King and Queen are parodied rather than portrayed; this seems a weakness of the film where it could easily have taken time to show them as they were, without diminishing the importance of their journey.  Indeed, it is difficult to sidestep questions of class and the Yankee inferiority complex where England and then the continent of Europe are concerned, but in this time when Downton Abbey has consumed the consciousness of so many in the U.S., there seems little need to take cheap potshots at the royal family when they have been so successful at shooting themselves in both feet, in fiction and fact.

Hyde Park on Hudson does make clear that Presidential indiscretions did not begin with JFK, or Bill Clinton, and that holders of high offices may conceal these sordid facts for a time, but eventually truth may out.  It is not a simple backhanded compliment to say that Hyde Park on Hudson, unsteady and erratic as it is on cinematic and historical grounds, is plausible emotionally, at least from the standpoint of Daisy and the women around her who alternately vied with and yet could at times sympathize, empathize, even support and encourage her. This story seemed well worth telling; that makes Hyde Park On Hudson worth seeing.

 

For The KUSP Film Gang, this is David Anthony.

Bill W (the film)

Play

Film review by David Anthony, above.