1. ”Reverse Shot’s Best of 2014.” Below is Ashley Clark on their best in show, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
“Without wishing to indulge in hyperbole, the real miracle of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood—a moving, intimate family drama shot in small chunks with the same core cast over a period of twelve years—is not simply that its audacious concept was ushered through to completion. (Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, the youngster at the center of the film, could have at any moment decided the acting life wasn’t for him, and effectively scuppered the enterprise.) Rather, it’s the unshakable faith that Linklater has invested in stillness, subtlety, and—whisper it—banality, as a pathway to emotional resonance. Think about it: how many other directors would make a film over the same period and resist the temptation to shore up the intimidatingly diffuse timeline with dramatic clichés, coming-of-age touchstones (for instance, young Mason’s hilariously perplexed reaction to a pair of locker-room douchebag bullies), and actorly pyrotechnics? Save for one spectacular, alcohol-fueled family blowout, Boyhood is comprised of hushed, beautifully observed interactions that cut across generational lines, performed with grace and restraint by underrated actors like Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, who both shine as Mason’s separated parents.”
2. “Banned Critic: New York Film Critics Are ’Celebrity-Worshipping Awards-Givers.’” Armond White, who was expelled from the critics’ group last year after allegedly heckling Steve McQueen, a charge he denies, blasts the group for becoming part of “this scared, awards-crazed era.”
“During my 2010 chairmanship, I put the phrase ’oldest and most prestigious awards group’ into the Circle’s boilerplate publicity materials. (Sigh.) I organized unprecedented and unmatched partnership exhibitions with the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Film Society of Lincoln Center to celebrate the Circle’s 75th anniversary. I also arranged to have the Circle’s historic papers archived at MoMA to preserve its legacy. It was my honor to do so, in tribute to members who served before me such as Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Judith Crist, Kathleen Carroll, Archer Winsten, Bruce Williamson, John Simon and others. Real critics, they also weathered temperamental differences—even fisticuffs—yet maintained collegial sophistication without embarrassing themselves through public gossip and acts of intolerance.”
3. “Looking at Looking: How the HBO Series Reexamined Itself for Season 2.” Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan visits the set of the show.
“Encouragingly, as Looking’s first season continued, its modest ratings steadily ticked up and the show seemed to find itself. But given that the season was already in the can when it started airing, maybe it’s more to the point to say that critics finally understood what the show was trying to do. The pivot came via the fifth episode, a lovely little idyll that followed Patrick as he played hooky from his job, meandering through San Francisco with his new beau, Richie (Raúl Castillo), and engaging in revealing conversations. (’You’ve got bottom shame,’ Richie told his reluctant lover.) That humble two-hander, which shared plenty of DNA with Haigh’s acclaimed 2011 gay indie film Weekend, had Indiewire raving that Looking had gone ’from boring to brilliant.’ Though the episode served as the season’s creative high, Haigh argues that it wouldn’t have been as effective if it had aired sooner. ’That’s a good episode, but I don’t think it would’ve worked unless you had the buildup,’ he says. ’I’m a firm believer that you have to start slowly. You can make people work for it.’ And HBO is an unusually patient patron.”
4. ”Interstellar: ’The Loneliest Journey in Human History.’” Some thoughts on the Christopher Nolan film by Bilge Ebiri.
“It could be said that the day your children are born is also the day that the doors of perception become both more present and more closed off than ever; you become more intimately aware of a future without you in it. (You obviously don’t need to be a parent to feel all this, but becoming a parent certainly clarifies it for many of us.) After the tesseract closes on him, Coop wakes up on a space station orbiting Saturn, many decades in the future. There, he sees Murph, now a very old woman (played by Ellen Burstyn), and he’s given a privileged glimpse into the secret, unstated dream of every parent: To know that their child will one day die, at a very old age, happy and surrounded by their loved ones.”
5. ”Foxcatcher Rightly Sacrificed Mark Schultz’s Story to Craft a Sharp American Allegory.” We’ll disagree on the sharpness of the allegory, but this is a fine take on the issue by Flavorwire’s Moze Halperin.
“Indeed, Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller may have crossed some factual lines, but what he mostly did throughout the film was walk along the fascinating precipice of fact and fictional insinuation. What incensed Schultz about Foxcatcher was not the film itself—as it seems it wasn’t until well after he saw the movie that he got upset—but critics’ interpretation of its impeccably structured suggestions. These suggestions, while never elevated to become full-on assertions, are the film’s lifeblood. Put them together and they make a metaphorical map—by fictionalizing one American crime—of the structure of much larger American crimes against the working class.”
Video of the Day: A video essay by the folks over at The Seventh Art on the style of Xavier Dolan:
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