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Movie Review: Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' Is A Beautiful, Naturalistic 12-Year Journey

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BY JOSEPH EHRMAN-DUPRE

Boyhood is a concept film, but it does not feel like one. Filmed over 12 consecutive years, using the same actors to portray the same characters as they age naturally, Richard Linklater’s newest feature is a structured journey through time. The best part about it, though, is that the nearly three hour, briskly paced film feels unstructured and unrestrained, a listless walk (and sometimes run) alongside Mason (Ellar Coltrane, bravely putting his most awkward years on display). 

Boyhood3The narrative of the film, befitting its sprawling time frame, is difficult to describe succinctly. It feels as though a great deal happens, and also as if nothing happens, a mirror held up to the swiftly moving complexity of lives that sometimes feel dull and plodding. We do get to know several characters well along the way, though. Mason’s single mom (Patricia Arquette) has bad luck choosing men and proves alternately caring and prickly toward her son and daughter, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter and a natural comedian). Their dad, (Ethan Hawke, who grows more handsome as the film progresses) when we first meet him, has been largely absent, but, when he decides to come around, figures as an exciting and likable savior from the mundanity of everyday life. 

As a child, Mason and his sister go bowling with dad; a neighborhood friend shows off a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and they ogle the women inside; mom remarries a psychology professor and goes back to school herself. In his early teenage years, Mason drinks his first beer and alludes to several girlfriends (“We have nothing in common,” he laments to his dad) and his mom undergoes yet another divorce. High school brings a focused interest in photography, first time employment, a serious girlfriend, and the beginnings of collegiate aspiration. Cultural artifacts, from Obama-Biden campaign signs to Harry Potter midnight release parties, fill in the nooks and crannies.

Boyhood4It is incredible, really, just how much life Linklater brings into focus, and how easily enjoyable the film remains throughout. He avoids ticking off easy categories of development, opting instead for intimate scenes of sometimes awkward dialogue between members of the family, their friends, and acquaintances. Mom bears the heaviest emotional load, dad remains aloof and carefree, and the kids seem to be doing exactly what they would be doing when they aren’t shooting a film. It is clear that Linklater collaborated with his actors on the screenplay, which never feels forced.

The film is shot in a naturalistic style as well, unconcerned with picturesque beauty--save for when the characters themselves notice it--and captivated by the constantly shifting faces of Mason, his parents, and his sister. Also changing is the soundtrack, an audible timeline for those who will recognize minute evolutions in popular music across the twelve-year progression. Linklater thankfully never keeps viewers guessing about Mason’s age, though, slyly editing between years in a way that never interrupts, and sometimes enhances, the narrative thrust. When mom meets the professor she will marry, for instance, he suggestively intones that their kids should have a play date while Mason looks on, seeing his mom blush perhaps for the first time; we cut at least one year into the future and Mason, Samantha, and two other children are bouncing on a trampoline in the backyard of a comparatively palatial residence. Mom and her new hubby are just returning from their honeymoon, and the audience is instantly aware of what sort of change has occurred.

Boyhood is a joyride, really, a pleasure cruise that left me smiling and feeling, well, alive. It resonates on such a deep level because it is so deeply personal, a collaboration between artists who spent over a decade developing characters and getting to know each other just as a family does. It has imperfections: the children’s acting in particular can feel wooden, we miss all the times that are left out, and there could be more moments of driving dramatic force. But after leaving the theater, I found myself forgiving those flaws entirely. Perhaps it is because of Linklater’s ambition and the relative aplomb with which he pulled off his vision, or perhaps it is because in life itself, flaws abound. 

Flaws and all, Boyhood is sure to be one of the most unique and fulfilling cinematic experiences you’ll experience anytime soon.

Boyhood is now open in theaters nationwide. 

Check out a trailer for the film, AFTER THE JUMP...

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NewFest, NYC's Premier LGBT Film Festival, Opens: VIDEO

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The Film Society of Lincoln Center and OutFest combine forces this week to bring you NewFest, New York City's largest LGBT film festival.

NewFestFrom July 24th thru July 29th, NewFest will screen a series of wonderfully-curated narrative, documentary, and short films from a diverse array of directors. Nathaniel Rogers recently reviewed Futuro Beach and Gerontophilia, the opening and closing night selections, but there are many others to see in between.

Sure bets (based on other film fest's awards, including LA's OutFest) include: The Circle, a documentary about the Swiss underground gay movement post-WWII, Lilting, about a boyfriend and mother grieving the same death on very different terms, and The Way He Looks, a coming-of-age narrative about a blind teenager's affections for a new friend. 

Head over to the Film Society of Lincoln Center site to purchase tickets, and check out a trailer for the festival, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Sleek, Sexy Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Has Finally Arrived: VIDEO

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The focus is all on Anastasia Steele and, of course, Mr. Christian Grey in the just-released first trailer for the highly anticipated film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The movie is sure to be a hit with the "housewife" demographic that initially made the book a best seller, but given Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan's brooding good looks, anyone could be enticed to see it.

While there are a few light-hearted moments in the trailer, the film seems to revel in the darkness of Grey's mysterious past and the lusty intrigue of his present. One thing's for certain: it all looks uber-sexy. 

Check out the trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

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'Two And A Half Men' To Explore Gay Rights In Final Season [Spoilers]

In a rather stunning turn of events, CBS has announced that 'Two And a Half Men' stars Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer will get married in the show's final season. Why? So that they can adopt a child together.

TwoAndAHalfMenAccording to a piece from The Hollywood Reporter, Kutcher's character, Walden, will have a health scare at the beginning of the season leading to a search for meaning and resulting in a desire to have a child of his own. The problem? It is difficult to adopt as a single, heterosexual man. The solution? To marry the man who already essentially serves as his life partner, Cryer's Alan, and adopt a child together. 

CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler reportedly loves the idea:

She called the story a "great ride," and said that she views the storyline as a "very positive statement" about the wave of gay rights that are becoming more commonplace across the country and that she's not worried about any sort of blowback from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"I think it's a very positive statement that, you know what, I am going to adopt a child as [part of] a gay couple and the reality is, he can do that," she told THR. "And in a universe where at one point you couldn't do that and now you can do that, I think that's a much more positive statement that he's making."

Show creator Chuck Lorre recognized the possibility for offense but said he hopes viewers will not take the show too seriously.

"I hope there's [no backlash]," Lorre told E! News at the CBS TCA party on Thursday. "The show has always caused controversy. We have. There's no intention to insult or diminish anyone. The intention is to create laughter. That's it. Great laughter and if it's got a heartbeat in there that would be nice, too."

GLAAD stated that they hope the show will address the fact that in many states it is still impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children, but they have otherwise remained silent. 

What do you think about the heterosexual-same-sex-marriage plot? Offensive or inspired?


JJ Abrams Shows Off First Footage of 'Star Wars'  X-Wing Fighter

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J.J. Abrams gave the world its first glimpse at a battle-worn X-Wing from Star Wars: Episode VII this morning in a video promoting the Star Wars: Force For Change campaign. Launched back in May of this year, Force For Change sought to raise funds for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s Innovation Labs, which aims to spur innovation in UNICEF’s means of reaching out.

By giving anywhere between $10-$50,000 through the campaign’s Omaze page in the next four days, fans will be entered into a raffle to shoot a scene and be in the next Star Wars film and tour the London set with Abrams. Supporters are also entered to win the chance to host an advanced screening of the film for themselves and 20 friends.

Check out the epic reveal of the X-Wing AFTER THE JUMP...

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Benedict Cumberbatch Is Gay WWII Codebreaker Alan Turing In First Trailer For 'The Imitation Game' - VIDEO

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The first trailer for The Imitation Game, a historical drama focusing on Alan Turing, has dropped. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Game of Thrones’s Charles Dance as Alastair Denniston, the film follows the story of Turing’s recruitment into Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School during WWII to decrypt Nazi communicae. Often thought of as the “father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence,” Turing was responsible for many of the early examples of computer science, designing the Turing Machine, Automatic Computing Engine, and developing the very concept of the algorithm.

Turing, a gay man, was charged under England’s 20th century indecency laws after openly acknowledging his ongoing relationship with Arnold Murray. An early version of a screenplay for The Imitation Game came under fire from Turing biographer Andrew Hodge, whose Turing biography serves as the basis for much of The Imitation Game’s plot.

Hodges felt as if the film was in danger of downplaying Turing’s homosexuality and emphasizing his relationship with Joan Clarke. Clarke, portrayed in the film by Keira Knightley, was briefly engaged to Turing before Turing is said to have come out to her. Their relationship, says Hodges, worked “because he could talk to her as if she were really another man,” not because of any sort of genuine romantic interest. The trailer seems to make mention of Turing’s inability to feel for Clarke romantically but that may be the film’s sole mention of their relationship in those terms.

Watch the trailer for The Imitation Game AFTER THE JUMP...

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