Journey 57: Boyhood

Boyhood

First up, in the best picture nominated movies, after The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I watched pre-Oscars and already blogged about….Boyhood. I had not even heard of this film until its nomination. The primary piece of information that I picked up was that the same actors were filmed over 12 years to create this coming of age epic. That in itself is an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment. However, that being said, I wasn’t sure if I would like this film. I decided to view this movie first, and get it out of the way!

Boyhood stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Lorelei Linklater. It was written and directed by Richard Linklater. This drama is rated R, for language and scenes with teen drinking and drug use, and has a run time of 2 hours and 44 minutes. Boyhood was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Hawke, Best Supporting Actress for Arquette, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing. Arquette picked up the only win.

Filmed over 12 years, Boyhood follows Mason (Coltrane) as he grows up, from early childhood to the beginning of his freshman year in college. Not only do we watch Mason mature, but we watch his older sister Samantha (Linklater) grow up too and observe the changes in life for his divorced parents, Mason Sr. (Hawke) and Olivia (Arquette). In many ways, Mason is a typical boy, oft times plagued by his sister, wishing his parents would reconcile, more interested in video games than school.

As he matures, his intelligence and curiosity about life emerges. He’s just not that into school and sports. He does discover that he loves photography and has a gift for creating art. Not only does Mason mature, going through rites of passage, disappointments and the excitement of first love, his sister and parents journey through life with struggles and triumphs of their own. Boyhood is a poignant look at how a family interacts, supports and sometimes undermines each other as they journey.

I was a little concerned when I read the run time for this film. Granted, capturing 12 years of life for a film would translate into a lengthy movie, however, I wondered if there would be enough of a storyline to capture my interest once the novelty wore off of watching the actors actually age up with their characters. And, that was fascinating, to see each person age, sometimes  from one scene to another, rather than bringing in different actors for each age progression or using prosthetics and make up to achieve the aging affect. What a novel idea and monumental undertaking by Richard Linklater!

The story moves a bit slowly, early on, although I found my heart touched by Mason and Samantha, who were impacted greatly as their young mom and dad each struggled with life while attempting to parent well. The dad dreamed of being a singer and song writer and had a hard time holding on to a job. He loved his kids though, and made the supreme effort to be with them every weekend. The mom moved through a series of relationships while she continued her higher education, seeking a better life for herself and her children. As the movie progressed, the story got better and better.

I enjoyed watching the transformation of all four of the major characters. The dad settled down, giving up on his music aspirations to sell insurance, marry again and father another child. The mom finally came into a greater awareness, freeing herself from one bad marriage after another, focusing on her life as her children headed off to college. There was sadness in her as her youngest, her son, leaves for college. “I thought there would be more,” she sobs, referring, I believe, to how quickly the years passed and her longing for a bigger life.  The sister, Samantha, blazed a trail for her brother, moving away first from home to attend college, the bond between the siblings forged through all the years of looking out for each other.

And Mason, as he grew up, captured my attention most of all. I loved his questioning mind, his different view of the world, his lack of concern for what other people thought of him. He allowed his perceptions to become a way of creating art, and a way of life. There was such soulfulness in his eyes that others sometimes mistook for melancholy. At the end of the movie, as Mason sits with a new girl friend in the beautiful canyons of Texas, they discuss the phrase “seize the moment”. Perhaps, they conclude, it is really the moments that seize us, for this moment is all we have.

Boyhood was a powerful movie with an intriguing format and a great cast that committed to a lengthy project to tell a compelling story. Rather than being relieved that I’ve crossed it off my list, I am thoughtful tonight as I head to bed. I like it when a movie stays with me and makes me think.

Boyhood Mason ages up

Ellar Coltrane as he aged up portraying Mason.

Journey 53: 87th Academy Awards

Academy Awards 2015

Tonight was Oscar night! It has been a long held tradition, in my life, to watch this annual event. Movies have played such a vital role in my life.  So much more than a form of entertainment for me , I learn from watching films, often viewing a movie multiple times, receiving life lessons, wisdom, and inspiration from the stories as they unfold.

I know the Academy Awards Show is not everyone’s “thing”. That’s ok. It is MY thing. My family knows that and allows me the time and space to fully enjoy this special event. For me, it is an opportunity to watch gifted people celebrate each other and their passions, and be recognized for their gifts. Actors, actresses, writers, artists, musicians, directors….and so many other creative souls…join together to bring a story to life. I am encouraged to pursue and share my gifts, watching these people from around the world acknowledge and share theirs. It is a very powerful experience, hearing their stories, seeing their tears, knowing these men and women followed their hearts to get where they are, sometimes against great odds.

Neal Patrick Harris hosted the Oscars tonight, and did a fine job. He was neither over the top nor too restrained, and had an outstanding opening song routine. I had many favorite moments from this evening. One of my favorite nominated movies, The Grand Budapest Hotel, had a great showing, collecting 4 of the golden statues. Likewise, I was glad to see JK Simmons, a fine character actor, win best supporting actor for his role in Whiplash. The Glen Campbell song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, performed soulfully by Tim McGraw, brought tears to my eyes and a reminder to all of the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The memorial segment is always poignant for me. Meryl Streep gave a moving speech before water color images of the departed appeared one by one on a large screen. She said, in part, “They filled our lives so much, the films they were in made us laugh, think and cry. Through their work they shared a piece of their soul.” And there were moments that made me laugh. John Travolta and Idina Menzel presenting together was hilarious because last year, Travolta badly mangled Idina’s name. She got to purposefully mess his name up tonight. They were good sports this evening about an incident that embarrassed them both last year.

Although some don’t enjoy the acceptance speeches that the winners give, it is during those 45 seconds that the heart of the person is revealed, often with great joy or happy tears. Gratitude is common, along with the recognition that the winner doesn’t receive the award through his or her efforts alone. Tonight I especially appreciated JK Simmons, who reminded anyone “lucky enough to have a parent or two alive” to call them. And Polish film maker Pawel Pawlikowski, who was delighted to be in the interesting position of creating a film, Ida, about the need for silence and solitude, and then found himself at the epicenter of noise and excitement. “Life,” he gushed, “is full of surprises.”

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who won best director for Birdman, shared about how ego loves competition. He went on to say, “but the paradox is that true art, and true individual expression, as all the work of these incredible film makers is, can’t be compared or labeled or defeated because they exist, and our work will only by judged by time.”  I most enjoyed the acceptance speech of Eddie Redmayne, who won a best actor award for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Obviously shocked by his win, his genuine giddiness made me smile. He expressed gratitude to the Hawking family and promised to be the caretaker of his award, on behalf of Stephen, and all those suffering from ALS.

The top four big winners tonight were as follows:

Best Picture  Birdman

Best Actress  Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Actor  Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Director  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

A full list of winners can be found at:  Academy Awards 2015 Winners List

As I did last year, I intend to watch each of the best picture nominated movies in the upcoming weeks. I’ve only seen The Grand Budapest Hotel. I look forward to viewing each film, and several others that I made note of tonight. As someone said, at the beginning of the program tonight, and I regret I didn’t write down who it was, “Movies…they may not be real life, but they teach us about life.” They teach ME about life. They stir something deep within my soul, uplifting me, empowering me, teaching me about aspects of life I wouldn’t encounter any other way. I am open, and ready to receive.

Academy Awards 2015 2