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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 25 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 30
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Linklater's Boyhood takes joy in life's minutia
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

BOYHOOD
Now playing


It is doubtful I will see a better movie than Richard Linklater's Boyhood in 2014. Without question, I won't see a more ambitious one. Filmed over the course of 12 years, following the evolution and growth of a child into a young man, the film is one of the more unlikely and intriguing coming of age tales ever put to celluloid.

But if it were only that? If it were only a cinematic hat trick where a core group of actors and filmmakers reunited every 365 days or so to film segments of a broader tale with no real idea where things were heading? While we'd still have something of interest to talk about, it's less likely I'd have cared near as much or responded so wholeheartedly to all that transpired during the film's mesmerizing 165-minute running time. Linklater doesn't sit on his laurels, doesn't allow the conceit itself to do all the talking, composing a mesmerizing, heartfelt and bracingly authentic narrative journey one almost can't help but relate to body and soul.

We meet Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in 2002. His Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke) have recently split up, he and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) left in the former's care. Over the next dozen years the kids make their way through school, their father becomes the man he's supposed to be (and not the one he fantasized about in his own youth) while their mother finishes her own education making more of herself than she imagined possible. Questions of self and identity arise, Mason progressing from boy to man right before our very eyes.

Linklater is obsessed with the moments between the moments, the big, potentially melodramatic stuff mostly taking place off-camera. What the filmmaker is interested in is seeing how people react to those things, looking at how they shape and mold a life over the course of time. Why and how Mom and Dad broke up isn't interesting; how the kids continue to relate to their parents in the aftermath is. First kisses are nice, but what is it that leads to the second or third one? What songs made up the soundtrack of our lives? What quiet moment spoke the loudest? What argument hurt the most? Which conversation resonated the strongest? These are the things that matter, and as such this is where the director focuses all his attention.

It's remarkable stuff, filled with drama, intrigue, suspense, laughter, tears and all the rest that comes with that. Not so much a life in total but a snapshot of one being formed, elements internal and external colliding and collapsing in and onto themselves as naturalistically as waves hitting the shore or the wind sweeping across a desert plain. No need for extra embellishments as the inherent mechanics of growth and maturation speak clearly for themselves, Linklater remembering truth is far stranger, and thus more enchanting, than fiction, infusing it inside his narrative spectacle with beguiling, almost monumental ease.

Considering the difficulties that are presented in an enterprise such as this, the hardships on the actors are relatively obvious. Shaping a single, distinct performance over the course of years had to be a challenge, especially considering your two unknowns (Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) will be essentially portraying their actual journeys from child, to teen, to adult as it actually happens.

Hawke in many ways gets off easy. Not only does he have some modicum of experience doing something sort of similar with the director as far as the pair's Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight are concerned, but just by the nature of his role he isn't required to show up every year of Mason's development. Still, he does a nice job, a few signature scenes near the end where Dad admits some pretty big truths to his high school graduate son crackling with requisite authenticity.

All the same, it is Arquette who does the heavy lifting. Unafraid to look her age throughout, eschewing movie star glamour at every turn, she's the one who is there every year, every moment, taking care of her two children best she knows how, while at the same time trying to put her own life into some semblance of recognizable order. It's a carefully composed and utterly distinctive performance, consistently pulsating with energy and life. The actress mines deep, emotionally complicated emotional terrain yet never does so in a way that would pull focus from the central character, augmenting Mason's story never overshadowing it.

Linklater, never one to shy away from a challenge, goes above and beyond, weaving the smallest facets of his saga into a tightly wound, virtually indestructible web I couldn't have escaped from even if I had wanted to. He remembers that life, just life, nothing more, is more moving, more profound, more interesting, entertaining and inspirational, than any superhero flying through the air at the speed of sound or spaceships blasting through hyperspace with lasers blazing away could ever be. Boyhood isn't just about Mason's life, it's about all our lives, reveling not so much in the destination as it does in the joyous minutia of the journey itself.


Fascinating Origins an eye-opening drama
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

I ORIGINS
Now playing


Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is a talented young molecular biologist currently studying the evolution of the human eye. He is aided by his new assistant Karen (Brit Marling), a woman who possesses a keen intellect and an extremely creative mind. Better, she also shares her lab partner's infatuation with the eye, believing if they can unlock its secrets, maybe they can also shed light on age-old questions of evolution, humanity and faith that have been vexing science and religion alike for generations.

Against his own common sense, Ian has fallen madly in love with the beautiful Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a free-spirited model whose belief in a hereafter is as strong and as wild as the heterochromia that gives her eyes their exotic, uninhibited multicolored allure. They have a connection that's as deep as it is ephemeral, as powerful as it is nondescript, their mutual desires coming close to overwhelming common sense, leading them to make decisions and go in directions they otherwise would not have traveled in.

The trailer for I Origins gives away far too much as far as I'm concerned, yet even with that being so, I'm going to leave my description of what transpires during the film to those two paragraphs. This second narrative effort from Another Earth writer/director Mike Cahill, the movie is a beautiful treatise on self, human understanding, religion, science and most of all faith. It moves, shifts and evolves in naturalistic fastidiousness, everything building to a magnificent conclusion that speaks volumes, but does so in a way that allows the viewer to put the pieces together in virtually any way that they would like. Make no mistake, this film is a marvel.

Differentiating between the science fact and the science fiction is close to impossible, Cahill handling all facets of his complex yet soulfully intimate scenario with confident ease. There is a point where the metaphorical complexities inherent in all that is taking place threaten to overwhelm the proceedings - a time after Ian has arrived in India, of all places, on a mission, impossible to put into proper context or explain with any ease. Yet the filmmaker makes these new events palpitate with poignant urgency, allowing for a meeting between adult and child that's a one-on-a-kind, generational mind-blower, yet one that keeps the inherent melodramatics to a minimum.

The key is Pitt. His performance is as multifaceted as they come, navigating difficult emotional terrain yet doing so with a realistic naturalism that's impressive. His Dr. Ian Gray is a man of science and reason whose heart has been broken clean in two, discovering things about the world he never knew possible, while trying to reconcile his beliefs with the almost otherworldly aura these new experiences begin to generate. Pitt, an underrated talent who to my mind has never gotten his full due, is always doing something interesting, making the character come alive with vital, innately genuine grace every step of the way.

Cahill doesn't make easy movies, that fact made more than clear with his almost too nondescript sci-fi think-piece Another Earth. He wants his audiences to work, to decide for themselves what is going on and why, leaving it up to them to discover the truth behind the mystery and the science making the magic rumble to vivacious life. Suffice it to say, this sort of handling and style works wonders as it pertains to things here, allowing the director's ruminations about faith and religious dogmatism to be more effective and meaningful than 2014's faith-based trifecta of Son of God, God's Not Dead and Heaven is for Real combined managed to spawn.

Put simply from a filmmaking perspective his growth from one movie to the next is astonishing, signature moments coming alive with a bracing legitimacy that I never saw coming. One spectacular scene involving a broken down elevator is amazing, Cahill allowing cinematographer Markus Förderer's (Hell) camera to linger on Pitt's impressively nuanced performance before slowly unleashing a devastating reveal. It stopped my breath, instantly, with almost brutal effectiveness, the tears flowing down my cheek as unsettlingly genuine as they were sincerely generated.

As I've already stated, I'm being purposely nondescript as far as the main narrative dynamics are concerned. But having an outline of the plot, knowing its ins and its outs, none of that in the end is all that important. What is significant is the connection Cahill managed to make between me and his story - about how he managed to get me so emotionally entwined with this ocular mystery - all leading to revelations that blew me away about who we are and why we're here. I Origins is an unforgettable journey into the heart, the eye truly becoming a window into a soul, more personal and affecting than any I could have anticipated beforehand - my own.


Colorful Electric Sky singing to the converted
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

UNDER THE ELECTRIC SKY
Now playing


Under the Electric Sky is a concert documentary composed and manufactured for the converted and, sad to say, for the converted alone. A look at the annual three-day Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) held in the Las Vegas desert, the movie attempts to tell a collection of stories looking at the lives of a handful of the concert goers and what it is that compels them to attend, some making treks from the other side of the globe in order to be a part of the festivities. Filled with the musical stylings of electronic dance music DJs like Fatboy Slim, Avicii, Calvin Harris, Above & Beyond, Afrojack and Armin Van Buuren, the movie is nonetheless a rather slight affair, its overall insights more of the Reality TV variety than they are sadly anything else.

The reason? The focus is all wrong. More than that, it fails to showcase the diversity, hope, love and universal ideas of acceptance and understanding EDC founder Pasquale Rotella feels is the key element to the success of his events around the globe. Other than a couple of notable exceptions, this is an incredibly Caucasian, and altogether straight affair, and while concepts of gender and sexual diversity are hinted at, they're never done so in a way that feels like anything more than a neon-colored smokescreen.

The best two stories revolve around Sadie, a small-town Texas college student suffering from issues with anxiety and self-esteem, and Jose, a wheelchair-bound dance music enthusiast who longs to be a part of the action but knows more often than not he'll have to sit on the outside and soak things up from a distance. What happens to both of them is, without question, beyond beautiful, their respective tales climaxing in moments of sublime emotional purity that speaks to exactly the ideas Rotella feels his event grows and thrives upon.

The others? They're okay, for the most part, if almost instantly forgettable - one involving longtime couple Alli and Matt finally getting married after initially meeting 15 years prior at a previous EDC, the only one that's even slightly interesting. In fact, one revolving around a group of longtime New Jersey friends nicknamed 'The Wolfpack' is oddly loathsome, playing like some half-baked variation of a subpar episode of 'The Jersey Shore,' the fact the group is there to ostensibly toast and remember a dearly departed friend not helping matters in the slightest.

Not that I don't give co-directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz at least some modicum of credit for what they've accomplished. They show the same delicate, sweetly nonintrusive touch they showcased on their previous music documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me. They attempt to let moments speak for themselves without additional accompaniment, keeping melodramatic excess to a happy minimum.

But, as stated, the focus is misdirected. For as much as some interviewed want to talk about Woodstock, the seminal documentary all concert films hope and pray they can bare even a passing resemblance to, this one is more concerned with the whitebread antics of festival goers than it is with the music itself. The artists and their compositions take a backseat to everything else, which can't help but feel a little odd, especially when everyone being interviewed, including Rotella, keep stating it was the music that initially got them excited in the first place.

Not that die-hard fans of EDC and this sort of music will care. As already stated, the converted are going to be falling all over themselves aching to give Under the Electric Sky a look, and I doubt they're going to have any of the same problems with the motion picture that I have. Maybe that's how it should be. I do not know. But in my mind a movie such as this should be broadening the fan base, not just preaching to the already fervent following, and on that front this concert documentary sings a series of songs I have no wish to ever hear again.






Beyonce and Jay Z conquering Seattle - and world - together
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Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club reads Cavafy in August
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An interview with Boyhood director Richard Linklater
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OUTBOUND: Vancouver Pride next weekend
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Ten album releases to get excited about
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A new perspective on recording classical music
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A conversation with Mike Cahill, director of I Origins
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Northwest News
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LETTERS
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Nick Carter and Jordan Knight book Showbox concert
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Linklater's Boyhood takes joy in life's minutia
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Fascinating Origins an eye-opening drama
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Colorful Electric Sky singing to the converted
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