T- minus 4 days until my favorite awards show of the year! For the last eight years or so, I have teamed with my mother-in-law to enjoy a blow out Academy Awards party, complete with our own red carpet and paparazzi (Bless my father-in-law’s heart! At least he enjoys being behind a camera lens, even if he’d rather be shooting the aviary friends in his backyard.) This year we are unable to celebrate… and critique… and joke… and eat… and laugh… and most importantly COMPETE together, so we’ll have to settle for live texting from opposite corners of Texas with ballots in hand.
Undoubtedly, the most controversial film we continue to weigh in on is Boyhood. I disagree with its contention as a Best Picture, but I can see why the Academy holds it in such high esteem. They love artsy-fartsy stuff. I usually respect the artsy-fartsy stuff, even if I do have trouble appreciating it myself. However, in this case, even that is a stretch.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed the film last month, and I’m thankful the article explains the movie’s artistic element– how creator Richard Linklater produced the film by reuniting his actors for a handful of weeks each year between 2002 and 2013, allowing the audience a uniquely real view of the maturity and aging of the film’s characters.
Apparently, a similar idea has been used in photographs and a documentary, but not film. The article tells of a documentary created by Michael Apted which chronicles the “same group of British men and women every seven years since they were boys and girls.” The doc first hit screens in 1964 and was last updated in 2012. Similarly, a portfolio by Nicholas Nixon called “The Brown Sisters” showcases black-and-white portraits of Mrs. Nixon and her three sisters, the first of which was developed in 1975. The series crosses a 40- year span with the most recent photographs revealing that “the women’s faces and bodies are marked by the ruthless indignities of aging,” according to The Wall Street Journal. With all of that in mind, I can now more fully appreciate what Linklater has achieved cinematically. His is a groundbreaking film, in the context of art form.
Herein lies the problem with Linklater’s version of “real-time” film-making however: How in the world can he abandon a basic plot line in favor of the artistic element? The little boy (played by Ellar Coltrane) experiencing the process of maturity while the mother (Patricia Arquette) experiences the same thing, just during a later phase in life, does NOT equal plot. Maturity and aging are both themes, but they do not in and of themselves tell a story. The sequences failed to link together in a way that portrayed a seamless, able-to-be-followed common thread throughout the movie. Linklater aced film-making, flunked plot development 101. Points for trying though. And for pioneering “real-time” film-making.
Lastly, in short defense of Linklater’s script-writing, there remains a flash of brilliance found in the final scene of the film. The college-age main character, who by this point in the movie resembles little of his six-year-old self that started the story, says, “it’s constant, the moments, it’s like it’s always right now, you know?” That exact idea shadows the making of and the purpose of the movie– how the actors truly age right in front of us instead of using make-up and cinematic effects to produce the same affect. Enough symbolism to earn my praises as a Best Picture nominee? Not even close! But that’s some pretty expertly laid symbolism right there!