Boyhood: Picus's choice for movie of the year

Image © Moviepilot.com

Image © Moviepilot.com

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Screenplay by: Richard Linklater

Although a film twelve years may be a long time to make a movie, I assure you, it was well worth the wait. Boyhood is a story about a young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), and his family from the time he is about six years old until he is about 18.  He must navigate a life with his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and deal with divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke), his mother’s subsequent two marriages, and his father’s frequent absence.

For the two hour and 45 minutes of the film, the audience watches everyone grow up, even the adults. The film provides insight into how the characters truly mature over time and grow both individually and as a family unit, even when that family unit shifts throughout the film. 

I do not know if Richard Linklater knew where he wanted to go with this film when production began more than a decade ago, but it is truly remarkable that he and his crew kept up with one young boy’s life for so long.  Boyhood is an innovative film in which the audience is literally watching someone grow up. In many movies that take place over a long period of time, the actors are changed out, but in this film, the actors remained the same, which is what makes the film so special. It is not apparent at the start of the film, but by the end, all of the characters in it have a special bond, perhaps because the actors created a unique bond among the filmmakers as well as each other throughout the filmmaking process. 

What is nice about this film is that even though it is entitled Boyhood, we watch Samantha grow up alongside Mason; and his parents grow, too. Though Mason is the main character of the film everyone develops in their own. Because of this, perhaps Boyhood is not the most suiting title for the fillm: "Growing Up" might have been more appropriate. 

I was 20 years old at the time this film was released, and some of the pop culture references throughout the film brought back memories of my own childhood. The film is true to the time that each particular segment was shot. This chronology of entertainment also helps audiences figure out that the film is progressing, because there are not specific indicators that tell us the film is moving between years of Mason's life. 

Boyhood is an important film for anybody who feels any bit of nostalgia for their childhood. While the film is almost three hours long (it feels like five hours when you are watching it), there is never a dull moment. So far, this is my absolute favorite film of 2014 and I cannot recommend it enough. Boyhood is by far the must see film of the year.

I give Boyhood an A+. If this were IMDB, I would give it a 10/10, but it is not so I guess you will just have to settle for that.

by Matthew Picus '16
mpicus@gm.slc.edu

 

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Picus explores the interconnected Marvel Universe

illustration by Thomas Ordway '17

illustration by Thomas Ordway '17

Almost any moviegoer these days knows about the massive Marvel Studios project, The Avengers.  Most probably know about Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, who have all had their own independent blockbusters.  The Avengers franchise is the third highest grossing series in film history, behind only the James Bond and Harry Potter franchises. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood play characters in the series, and these roles have only made even bigger names out of them.  Robert Downey Jr. is synonymous now with Iron Man, as are Chris Hemsworth with Thor, and Chris Evans with Captain America. These are some of the most engaging superhero movies ever made; watching them is unlike watching any other series. What about this series’ structure has made this so?

The Avengers project started in 2008 with the release of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. Not many people remember The Incredible Hulk because it was a critical flop, it did not earn any sequels, and the title character has since been recast. After Hulk’s false start, Iron Man was the true beginning of the series. The film was a smash, largely due to Robert Downey Jr.’s charismatic performance. It is a near-unanimous opinion that the Iron Man films would not be of nearly the same caliber if somebody else were to play the lead. 

In 2010, we saw Iron Man 2, the movie that really began to build the premise for the 2012 release of The Avengers (the film that ultimately brought each lead hero together), as it introduced Nick Fury and Scarlet Widow, characters from other realms of the Marvel universe. In 2011, we were introduced to Thor, in (of course) Thor, and Captain America in The First Avenger. It became clearer with each passing film that these stories were not intended as standalone pieces, but that they were going to be part of something even larger. 

The series has proved captivating to millions of people worldwide.  People are constantly wondering what is going to happen in the next movie, who is going to be the next villain, which celebrity is going to play which legendary character, and how the next movie going to fit into the overarching Avengers plot. By interweaving each Avengers-related release, Marvel has constructed a franchise where each piece heightens and complicates the other. Walking into the theater, even for a run-of-the-mill, single-superhero affair, audiences are delighted to wonder which other Avenger will make a surprise appearance.

A series constructed in this way is compelling for so many reasons. These films are made so that audiences wait after the credits to watch a short bonus clip, foreshadowing the next movie in the series. Sometimes these short clips can be comedic, and other times, they show us some major event that is going to happen in the next installment. If you go see any of these movies, you absolutely must keep watching throughout the credits. Some major elements to the overall story are introduced in these clips. 

Another compelling layer to the series’ construction is the novelty found in viewing the post-Avengers films in order of their release, regardless of which superhero is the lead. This might sound weird for some of you. One might expect to be able to catch up on the Avengers series on a hero-by-hero basis, but a scene at the end of Iron Man 2 that introduced Thor to the rest of the Avengers universe changed the rules. Now, each of the subsequent movies reaches across its individual brand and builds on the other, often teasing the story for the sequel to The Avengers (the film)To further complicate matters, each of the new films includes a new leap forward in the Avengers storyline, rendering the solo-hero films integral to fans of the super-group film. You have to see every piece of the puzzle; you will be lost otherwise.

Because of the Avengers series’ interweaving aspects, and the way they are epitomized in the supergroup blockbuster, The Avengers, this series makes for an awesome movie marathon.  As it continues, I suspect that The Avengers will become the highest grossing movie series in history, eventually beating out the Harry Potter movies (sorry fans).  The interconnectivity in this project was and is an ingenious marketing plan: audiences are always going to want more. The form of the series invites audiences to binge-watch it, much like a Netflix series. Get your popcorn ready and get comfortable in front of your TV or computer; you are going to be awake for a while.

by Matthew Picus '16
mpicus@gm.slc.edu

Fast Films: Need For Speed vs. The Fast and the Furious Series

I grew up in Los Angeles, a city in which car culture is the name of the game. I am kind of a car guy. I love looking at cars and learning about them. I am also a movies guy, so when cars at the center of movies, naturally, I am drawn to them.  

Since The Fast and the Furious came out in 2001, the series has been about extraordinary cars and flashy speed racing. On March 14, a new film came out that is sure to have its share of sequels: Need for Speed. This Scott Waugh-directed blockbuster is destined for comparison to The Fast and the Furious series that we are all quite familiar with. Both of these stories offer similar surfaces—cars and street racing—but they share a deeper connection as well.

The first Fast and the Furious film took us to the streets of Los Angeles, where we met police officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), an undercover cop, and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a driver already involved in the underground street racing league. The first three films introduce us to all the main characters in the series, always keeping the story about street racing.  By the fourth film, we see all of these characters not just as street racers, but as a (crime) family. As they constantly run from the law while the stakes of their races climb higher, they become people the audience can rally behind and cheer for when they succeed, and feel sorry when they fail. 

By the fifth film, The Fast franchise is less about characters or street racing and more about drug lord takedowns. Fast Five (the best of the series, in my opinion), takes our familiar characters to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, where they attempt to take down the biggest drug lord they have met, all while being chased by the FBI. Fast and Furious 6, the newest film in the series, released last year, is essentially the same. The largest change: instead of Brazil, the story takes place in Europe. Most of the real the street racing, arguably the series’ best part, took place back in its beginning. I loved watching the street races, eyeing the customized cars, complete with high-tech, after-market accessories.

 Street racing remains the foundation and the bulk of the story in the new film, Need for Speed.  Aaron Paul stars as a street racer named Tobey Marshall from Mt. Kisco, New York, fresh out of prison.  He was framed for the death of his fellow mechanic and friend, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson). Pete was killed in a street race that also involved Tobey and a business associate named Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Tobey intends to get revenge for Pete’s death by entering the Deleon, a secret race. The location is known only to its invitees; Tobey knows Dino will be among them.  The winner goes home with all the cars involved in the race.  There are some sweet cars; their combined cost is near $8 million.  

While there are fewer women in this film than there are in the Fast and the Furious franchise, all the characters in this film echo the Fast family-like dynamic.  They enter the adventure as a singular unit, all rallying behind Tobey as he tries to avenge Pete’s death.  

I pay more attention to production cars because those are cars that you can actually find and buy without going to underground dealers.  While these cars that are used in Need for Speed are quite rare (in some instances, less than ten cars of a certain model exist in the entire world), they are still cars that if you look carefully for them and if you go to the right parts of town, can be found.  They can be more easily found if you go to your local auto show, depending on what city you live in.  You will find Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and a whole lot of other cars that will make your jaw drop.  In The Fast and the Furious, the cars start out far less expensive than in Need for Speed, but are highly customized.  It is the contrary for Need for Speed.  

So if you are into cars and some good racing action, these movies are not to be missed.  Also, a plus for Need for Speed: the new 2014 Ford Mustang—the legendary car’s 50th anniversary model--is unveiled in the last scene of the film.

by Matthew Picus ‘15
mpicus@gm.slc.edu

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Picus gives his rundown of the 86th annual Academy Awards

It’s that time of year again where Hollywood honors the best movies of the year: the ones that inspired us, made us think, and made us wonder.  But the show itself is entertainment all on its own.  This year, Ellen Degeneres hosted the Oscars, filling the show with lots of laughs throughout the night. The pizza delivery?  One of the best moments of the entire show by far! The picture of Brad Pitt eating a slice?  That was just perfect!  And how about that selfie Degeneres took with all those celebrities?  That picture set a record for most retweets EVER!  And it happened before the show even ended!  For nearly three-and-a-half hours on March 2, Degeneres entertained us all as we watched some of the best movies of 2013 win well-deserved awards.  Here are some of my thoughts about the awards themselves.

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s latest film showcases some of the best acting performances of the year.  With acting nominations for Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett, this film about a woman who loses almost everything is not to be missed. Blanchett, delivers perhaps the finest performance of her career. She won Best Actress in a Leading Role, proving that movies about strong female characters are not a niche. “Audiences want to see them and in fact they earn money,” explained Blanchett to journalists in the Oscars Winners Room. If you have not seen this film yet, you must go and watch it.

Gravity

I think a lot of people would agree with me when I say that this film won too many awards.  A film about an astronaut falling out of the sky, this was my 4th favorite film of the year.  Visually, it’s stunning.  It actually feels like you’re in space while watching it.  Excellently directed, shot, and edited, this film took home the most awards of the night with 7 wins, and many more nominations.  Sci-Fi fans, you won’t be disappointed.  While this film makes great achievements technically, it lacks in its storytelling.  Does it deserve all the technical awards?  Yes, but should it have even been nominated for its storytelling ability?  Maybe not.

Dallas Buyers Club

2013 was a great year for Matthew McConaughey.  He won Best Actor in a Leading role for this film, showcasing his best performance yet.  Jared Leto is also outstanding in his role, earning him the win for Best Supporting Actor.  This film, about a man who is dying of AIDS at the height of the AIDS scare in the 1980s, is a must see.  This film is not talked about nearly as much as it should be. If I were you, I would make sure to go see it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese has yet to direct a bad movie.  The Wolf of Wall Street may not be his finest movie, but it is absolutely incredible. Earning the bronze medal for my favorite film of the year, Leonardo DiCaprio shines in what is probably the strongest performance of his career.  DiCaprio has been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role many times before and this time should have been his time to win. Without a doubt, this was the biggest snub of the night.  If you like a movie about people making millions of dollars illegally, The Wolf of Wall Street is the movie for you!

American Hustle 

David O. Russell produced an amazing film. All of the actors in American Hustle deliver some of the finest performances not only of their careers, but also of the entire year.  All of them were nominated for Oscars this year, yet none of them won.  I expected this film to be the big winner of the night, winning awards in acting, as well as in directing and production design but alas, I was wrong.

Her

Joaquin Phoenix may not have delivered the strongest performance of the year, but it did have my favorite original screenplay of the year. Her is beautifully written, telling the riveting story of a man who falls in love with a computer. Spike Jonze deserved his award for this movie. Her will take you on an emotional roller coaster like few other movies will, and like no other movie of the year will.

12 Years a Slave      

12 Years a Slave was the big winner of the Oscars.  The film took home some of the biggest awards.  This is one of the toughest movies of the year to watch.Steve McQueen successfully directed a story that makes his audience uncomfortable.  Chiwetel Ejiofor delivered my favorite performance of the year, but was outshined by Matthew McConaughey for this award. Steve McQueen lost the Best Director award to Alfonso Cuarón, director of Gravity. This is perhaps the most important film of the year to see, and certainly my favorite, I recommend you go see it.

You can read this and all of my other reviews at www.myreviewkorner.blogspot.com

by Matthew Picus '15
mpicus@gm.slc.edu

 

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.