Tag Archives: Richard Linklater

SXSW: Blaze

Ugh. You know how they say opposites attract? Well, I wish that was more true. I mean, Sean and I are opposites in some ways: he’s quiet, I’m loud; he’s analytical, I’m passionate and creative. But our flaws are all the same, which is deeply unfortunate. We’re both slobs (Sean will no doubt want to argue this, so I will amend: he’s a slob, I’m just too lazy to clean). We’re both argumentative. We both have poor memory. We’re both procrastinators.

When we saw this movie at SXSW, I’m not even sure we’d gone a full block before I’d declared “not it.” I did not not not want to review this movie. Sean acquiesed, and to be fair, I wrote 27 SXSW reviews, and he wrote 5, so he kinda owed me. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a month. As you may have guessed, we’re also both Assholes, and we’re both deathly stubborn. We occasionally bring up this review with much throat-clearing, and then we discuss it in that overly-polite way that couples who have been married a long time have in order not to divorce over literally every third conversation they have. Still no review.

So fuck, white flag, here it is:

There once was a Texan singer-songwriter who went by the name of Blaze Foley. He was a good musician but not a super successful one; in fact, he wasn’t very successful at life. He struggled with addictions and pushed away the woman who tried to love him. He MV5BNTAxZWU4MjktYmNkNC00NGRiLTk2MDMtNDhhMjkwMWIwYTUzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzM1MTEwMTE@._V1_accessorized his western wear with duct tape and lived in a tree house with no plumbing or electricity. He was mentally unstable, volatile, poor every damn day of his life, and then he got shot in the gut and died. Lucinda Williams called him “a genius and a beautiful loser.” Townes Van Zandt suggested “He’s only gone crazy once. Decided to stay.” The only hits he ever had were when his songs were recorded by other people, and even then lots were posthumous (Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, John Prine). And for some reason Ethan Hawke just really, really wanted to make a movie about the guy. So, using Blaze’s ex-lover Sybil Rosen’s book Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze as his guide, he did.

If you’re a music nerd who knows the likes of Van Zandt, Gurf Morlix, Guy Schwartz, and Billy Block, then this film is the perfect way to worship your duct tape messiah. Ben Dickey in the title role and Alia Shawkat as his bride are both wonderful. But I found the movie sluggish, the content unremarkable. I think Sean enjoyed the film more than I did (at the very least he could argue as to why anyone would want to make a film about this particular life) but he wouldn’t write the damn review so this is what you get: meh.

Of course, screening the movie on Blaze’s old stomping grounds means having a lot of his musician friends in the audience, and later on stage, which was cool. But I didn’t know the man and I don’t think I’d have wanted to. And if Julia Roberts can’t get me to listen to Lyle Lovett then no one can. So this was a lost cause for me, a bore and a chore.  Sorry, Blaze. I hope you’re resting in peace.

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Last Flag Flying

Doc shows up in his old pal Sal’s bar, unannounced. They haven’t seen each other since they served together in Vietnam. The trio isn’t complete until they pick up Mueller, now a reverend, and only then does Doc confess the true nature of their journey. Doc’s son has just died in Iraq, and they’re on a mission to bring his flag-draped body home.

The kid’s getting a hero’s burial but Doc learns that the circumstances of his son’s death were a little less than heroic – nothing against his kid, just the same tragic junk that the government would prefer to mislabel  – and it’s tearing him apart. So instead of leaving his son’s body in government hands, he resolves to hijack the coffin and he and his buds travel across the country to bring him home.

324633-last-flag-flying-la-derniere-tournee-gagnez-vos-places-2But you may recall that these old guys (Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne) were also marines, and they have their own tragic story that they tiptoe around and unravel slowly. And butting these two wars together, it’s rough; it may be 30 years later, but the senselessness feels eerily similar.

Richard Linklater puts together a really tough movie. It kind of flew under the radar when released so I didn’t have great expectations for Last Flag Flying, but in fact it does a pretty good job handling conflicting themes between grief, friendship, patriotism, service, and sacrifice. While it may suffer somewhat from the shifts in tone from levity to the more somber, it has a really incredible cast that brings warmth and real humanity to what is an otherwise fairly standard script.

Steve Carell: wow. We’ve seen him be extraordinary before, between Foxcatcher and Freeheld and Battle of the Sexes and more besides, there’ more to Carell than just a funny guy. He maneuvers between similar chords and discordant ones like this is some kind of masterclass in acting and fucking Laurence Fishburne has front row seats. And that’s no kind of knock against Carell’s costars, who really make this a tight little dramedy.  Bonding happens during acts of bravery, but also, apparently, in unheroic moments. Men make war, and war makes men. It’s dark, could stand to be darker, but that’s the stuff that works the best, and is deeply moving to watch.

Everybody Wants Some !!

I was totally fucking bored by this movie. Nothing happened. To call it meandering is to try to put a positive spin on something that was downright pointless. I didn’t crack a smile once, and my only reaction to the film was to cringe at the various combinations of knee socks and wispy mustaches.

Maybe I was just watching this with my vagina, ie: Richard Linklater has made yet another testament to boyhood, with only gross caricatures of women adorning the periphery of his movie. No, not women. The boys aren’t chasing women. They’re chasing pussy. The woman is incidental to the hole she can provide for a moment’s worth of pleasure. Is this something to glorify? Be nostalgic about?

And I’m not just offended on behalf of women. I’m offended on behalf of men, the many men in my life who are not gross or one-dimensional. Who manage to like sex  AND treat women with respect. Who think beyond the tips of their penises. They deserve better than this.

And mostly I’m offended on behalf of my $12 and 2 hours. Those I will never get back. I thanks-but-no-thx-300x192could have spent those on a dime bag and a make-out sesh in the backseat of my car to a rockin 80s soundtrack and had a much better time.

Teen comedies

TMPLadies and Gentlemen, we’ve made it to another Thursday! This week our friend at Wandering Through the Shelves had us exploring teen comedies, which means that one of us actually sat through Porky’s. True story.

Matt

Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for inspiring me to watch so many great movies this week. The term “teen comedy” made me wince at first until I realized how many of them I actually love. I really struggled to get my list down to 3 this week.

American Graffiti  Set in 1962 during the last night before two high school grads head off to American Graffiticollege, four friends spend one last hilariously wild night driving around the strip trying to get laid, find someone to buy beer for them, and give a clingy 12 year-old the slip. Most teen comedies are made by filmmakers looking for easy money but, in 1973, few people thought there would be an audience for this story and Universal apparently sat on the finished film for months before finally getting around to releasing it. It became a surprise hit and one of my favourite movies of all time. Filled with energy from beginning to end- not to mention the music of the 50s and early 60s-, it’s like Superbad just with less dick drawings. It’s a rare thing to see a teen party movie made by such a celebrated and talented filmmaker (George Lucas).

HeathersHeathers- “Dear diary. My teen angst bullshit has a body count”. The genre doesn’t get much darker than this. Teen murders made to look like teen suicides inadvertently brings much-needed (albeit phony) attention from the students, faculty, and media to this very real problem. Director Michael Lehmann and writer Daniel Waters apparently made the movie partly as a reaction to the John Hughes movies that they despised and it doesn’t get much different from Pretty in Pink than this. I found the dream-like tone disorienting at first but I was quickly won over by the twistedly hilarious writing and a great lead performance by Winona Ryder.

SuperbadSuperbad- Sometimes less dick drawings isn’t necessarily a good thing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started working on this script when they were 13 and it shows. The pair have never written anything else so far that felt so personal. It’s filthy as it gets and quotable as hell (“The funny thing about my back is it’s located on my cock”) but what’s most impressive is that it never forgets what it’s really about. Two best friends who have been joined at the hip for years are experiencing lots of separation anxiety knowing that they’ll be going to different colleges next year but can’t bring themselves to talk about it. It’s excruciatingly awkward to watch at times but also pretty sweet. And did I mention that it’s quotable? “This plan has been fucked since Jump Street and it’s all because of that used tampon Fogell.”

Jay

superbadWell Matt and I have come to our very first agreement – Superbad. The chemistry between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill is supergood, and though neither likely attended much actual high school, they sure capture the awkwardness with great gusto.

Saved! Set in a private Christian high school, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is lead singer in the Christian Jewels. Mary (Jena Malone), her best friend and band mate, begins to pull away as she i-am-filled-with-christs-love-saved-mandy-moore-gifdiscovers that her attempt to degay-ify her boyfriend Dean has resulted in a not-so-immaculate conception. She finds solace in the school’s only alternatives – Jewish bad girl Cas (Eva Amurri), Roland, the paralyzed atheist (Macauley Culkin), and Patrick, the skate-boarding pastor’s son (Patrick Fugit). It’s got all the familiar trappings of a classic teen comedy – the cliques and the outcasts, the bumbling parents, and the prom – they just happen to be coated thickly in Jesus. And on that level, it’s a great subversive critique of religion. Hypocrisy and high school – can you imagine a better pairing?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off   I’m expecting to see this on each and every list today because Ferris is ferristhe seminal teen comedy. We may as well have stopped making them, or at least seeing them, after this point, and nearly all that are made can’t help but reference it. Ferris Bueller, at the age of 17, knew how to take a day off. How many of us can say the same even now?

jawbreakerJawbreaker Bonus pick! This is not the best movie, but it’s a sentimental favourite. The Mean Girls of the 90s, three of the school’s most popular girls (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and someone else) accidentally kill the prom queen in a kidnapping prank. A cover-up of the crime is discovered by the school nerd (Judy Greer) and only the promise of a makeover and popularity will keep her quiet.

Sean

Teen Wolf – I first saw this movie before I was a teenager at a slumber party. I don’t rememberteen wolf much from that first viewing but I remember loving it. I mean, wolf Michael J. Fox was pretty much the best basketball player ever. And watching it now adds a whole other level of comedy because it’s so dated and so cheesy but so great. Probably the worst sports scenes ever filmed though.

billandtedBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – this is without question one of my favourite movies ever. I remember renting it for a week (along with a rental VCR of course) and watching it over and over and over. The history presentation is both the most awesome and most stupid climax to a movie but I always wished I could put together something as randomly great for a school project or anything in life.

Dazed & Confused It’s the last day of school in small town Texas 1976. The seniors are hazing dazedthe freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to. “Alright, alright, alright!” in the scene at the drive-in was Matthew McConaughey’s first line ever spoken on camera and is now basically his trademark. His  production company, JKL Productions, comes from Wooderson’s life credo: Just Keep Livin’!, so it’s safe to say that this movie was as big for him as it was for us. This movie is one of the best ensemble casts of my generation. Absolutely everyone is in this movie – it’s unbelievable how many familiar faces are here. I can’t say whether Dazed and Confused properly captures the 1970s teenage experience but it is so timeless and universal that the time period doesn’t matter. Richard Linklater really captures what it is to be a teen while taking us on a hilarious ride. Incidentally, the other movies on my list are more personal favourites and I don’t pretend they are actually good movies, but this one is not only good, it’s great. If you haven’t seen it you need to.

Oscars 2015: Best Director and Best Picture

Birdman cinematographyBest Directoruntitled

Richard Linklater- Boyhood

Alejandro González Iñárritu- Birdman

Bennett Miller- Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game

One of the more controversial categories this year, the Best Director race is traditionally one of the more reliable predictors of the Best Picture Oscar. The Academy’s snub of Ava DuVemay for Selma has put a bit of a damper on things but Linklater and Iñárritu’s inclusion still make for an nteresting race.

Miller and Tyldum are strange nominations. Not only did I find Selma a much better movie than The Imitation Game, it was much more of a director’s showcase. And Miller won’t win. Since I started watching 20 years ago, no director has won for a film that didn’t even earn a Best Picture nomination. As good a job as he did with Foxcatcher, it really is bizarre that the Academy passed over four Best Picture nominees in favour of Milller.

Now for Wes Anderson. I am running out of things to say about him, having praised The Grand Budapest Hotel several times over the last couple of weeks. We love him here at Assholes Watching Movies and are thrilled that the Academy finally got around to giving him his first Best Director nomination.

That leaves Linklater and Iñárritu who have made two of this year’s best movies. How do you compare the ambition of these two projects. Birdman’s self-aware screenplay and dizzying cinematography vs Boyhood’s 12 year commitment. I wouldn’t be disappointed either way but I’m voting Linklater. He made a great film, not just an ambitious one that was filled with beautiful moments filled with truth.

Best PictureBirdman script

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation GamePatricia Arquette

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

I’ve commented on all eight of these films at length andhave made no secret of my love for boyhood. Experts have declared Boyhood and Birdman as the two frontrunners, leaving me with no idea what is going to happen. Both movies are great so I won’t mind either way. As long as American Sniper doesn’t win as my colleague just predicted.

 

 

My 2015 Oscar Predictions

Oscar season is always a time of year I look forward to. A bunch of my asshole friends and I get together and eat some food, have some drinks, make some bets, shit on some actors and generally have a great time.

In the spirit of competition and fun I thought I would post my Oscar picks in order to get the other assholes talking.  Let the games begin!

 

Best Picture: Boyhood

Best Director: Richard Linklater

Best Actor: Michael Keaton

Best Actress: Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay: Birdman

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation game

Best Animated Feature: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary: CitizenFour

Best Cinematography: Birdman

Best Film Editing: Boyhood

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Song: Glory

Best Visual Effects: Interstellar

Best Hair & Makeup: The Grand Budapest hotel

Best Sound Mixing: American Sniper

Best Sound Editing: American Sniper

Best Live Action Short: Aya

Best Animated Short: Feast

Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Boyhood

Boyhood is a really cool concept for a movie. You have to admire the film makers who set out to film a movie over the course of twelve years. Twelve years! That’s a long time to be committed to a project but it really pays off. Ellar Coltrane, who plays the titular boy Mason, was 7 when they started, and 18 when they wrapped. Imagine signing that kind of contract at such a young age. You can’t, because such a thing would be illegal in the US. The producers would have just had to cross boyhoodtheir fingers, but everyone kept showing up, year after year. I’ve heard the kids maybe regretted their involvement at times, and who can blame them – hello, awkward years and teenage rebellion!. I’ve never had the same job that long, and few people of my generation ever will. Amazing. Richard Linklater, the director, was known for making movies that took place all in one day. This one, obviously, blows that right up. He even made a pact with Ethan Hawke that if he died during filming, Hawke would take over.

The time lapse is not the only naturlistic aspect of the movie. The family exchanges feel authentic; some of the footage feels almost home-movie-ish, like when the kids are lined up to get the most recent edition of the Harry Potter series. These kids went through everything that normal kids their age did – they experience Britney Spears, the Bush administration, and skinny jeans. Patricia Arquette really elevates her game as a struggling, single mother who raises her son and daughter and works to make better lives for them. Ethan Hawke, aging visibly o camera, plays the deadbeat father with a lot of growing up to do himself. Their lives feel real, like they could be your neighbours. Their cars and their sneakers are not mysteriously above their station. Real life happens to them, they repeat clothing, grow ill-advised mustaches, date the wrong guy, take up and then discard hobbies.

The script must have had to evolve as they filmed because a family is dynamic. It reacts and is influenced by the world around it. Politics and trends are woven deftly and interestingly into the story. Linklater was directing his own daughter for these twelve years and watching her grow in front of his lens. The kid actors are quite good, fortunately; they’re not hammy or too old for their age. I was beginning to think that for whatever reason only British kids could manage not to be annoying on film, but these two may have turned things around for the Americans, and it must have been difficult to cast someone who’s not just right for the part now, but will continue to be for years to come.

So we know the span is quite large (12 years!) but the scope is actually pretty tiny. We just stay focused on this little family, following this kid during those formative years of his life, all those little things that will eventually add up to the man. There’s not a lot happening. Yes, childhood is tumultuous, but these are pretty normal lives. Nobody adopted a pet dragon, or got adopted by a dog, or took home a giant inflatable robot. He just went to school, watched his mom divorce and remarry, learned to tolerate his sister, tried beer, masturbated to the Sears catalogue. Regular kid stuff that’s only interesting when you add it all up and realize that this is it. This is childhood. And at the end, it spits out an adult that we hope will go off and do well. This movie was the scrapbook of his life, and a running time of nearly three hours doesn’t cover more than an episode or two at each age, but even at that, this movie can feel a bit draggy. It’s not an action-packed movie, but I was moved by it. It’s not depressing by any means, but I guess I felt a bit sentimental about it, probably because I truly felt like I was given the chance to really get to know these people. In fact, it was hard to remember that this is fiction, it feels that much like just watching through someone’s window.

This is an experiment of a movie that needs to be seen. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. Will anyone attempt it again? The door’s open now, but it’s such an undertaking, and such a risk, that I believe this movie is one of a kind.