Film No 4 (2015) : Boyhood


With the 87th Academy Award winners ceremony taking place on 22 February 2015, I am on a bit of a mission to try to see as many of the top Oscar hopefuls as possible. I still want ‘The Theory of Everything‘ to Win Everything, (even in the categories for which it hasn’t received a single nomination), but it’s good to see who Eddie is up against.

I bought ‘Boyhood‘ on DVD, the cover of which proclaims that this is ‘the most impressive film ever made‘. Really? The Most Impressive Film Ever Made? That seems like a big pair of boots to fill. When the film starts, young Mason would barely fit a pair of size 10 junior sneakers. By the time the film ends and he is a lanky teen, his Mom probably leaves the shoes and makes him wear the boxes. But ‘Boyhood’ is about growth in far more than shoe sizes. Directed by Richard Linklater and filmed over 12 years, it explores the growing-up years of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18.

This is not a film you watch for the plot, which is really only a loose framework on which to hang Mason’s childhood and adolescence. The beauty of the movie is in its exploration of what it is to be a child, but also a parent. Whilst I watched, I had to admire the ambitiousness of the project, its remarkable consistency and attention to detail, as well as the commitment it must have inspired in all those involved. That was what I was thinking, with my head. But with my heart, I was feeling about parenthood and childhood. I found this film totally emotionally engaging, touching on how we might think we know our children but, from a very early age, they develop an independence which takes them a little further away from us every day.

Like Mason’s onscreen Mom (Patricia Arquette) I am the mother of an older daughter and younger son, and the scope of ‘Boyhood’ really struck a chord with me. If you are the mother of a teenage daughter, my guess is that you cried at the ‘Slipping Through my Fingers‘ scene on the morning of Sophie’s wedding in ‘Mamma Mia‘. I did. Meryl Streep’s interpretation of losing her daughter to adulthood echoed my own fears exactly. In the same way, of course Mason knows his mother is being over-dramatic when he heads off to college: she is convinced that meaningful life is over now her child-rearing skills are obsolete. But I have a sneaking suspicion that when the pangs of empty nest syndrome strike me, those scenes from the film will come back to haunt me.

I doubt this is The Most Impressive Film Ever Made but it is absolutely, definitely worth seeing. But not if your kids have just left home.

Film No 30 (2014) : Dead Poets Society

dead poetsDead Poets Society‘ has been my favourite film for a long time. Watching it again hasn’t changed my mind. Sure, it’s sentimental and full of quotable soundbites, but its message is still important.

Mr John Keating, played by Robin Williams, encourages his young male students to think for themselves, achieve their full potential, seize the day (‘Carpe Diem‘). Using an imaginative mix of poetry, music and humour, Keating draws out even the most reluctant of his pupils. His methods are frowned upon by the school’s head and staff, who try to discourage John from developing free-thinking individuals. Nevertheless, his classes inspire the boys of the revived ‘Dead Poets Society’ to chase their dreams. But when Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonardlands himself the lead role in a local production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, against the wishes of his overbearing father, Mr Keating’s liberal lessons are called in to question.

I would have liked to have been a teacher – English to ‘A’ level. That is because I would have liked to have been the kind of teacher portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie. Education is about so much more than pumping children full of facts – Dickens knew that when he wrote ‘Hard Times‘ way back in 1854. Somehow  though, we don’t seem to have learned very much about what our young people need to know in order to make their own way in the world.

My guess is that most people who go into teaching do it with the intention of inspiring their pupils, touching their souls in some way. What a pity then, that these remarkable individuals have their talents reduced to pushing our kids through the system like sausages, churning out results which only have value if they can be measured and counted. Courage, kindness, creativity, humility, determination and may other important life qualities are not on the numbered scale.

Robin Williams has taken his own life. A cruel irony for a funny man. For me, it’s not Mrs Doubtfire or Aladdin’s genie which linger in my mind; it’s the inspirational Mr John Keating, teacher extraordinaire.

mr keating

Film No 7 (2014) : Before Sunrise

Before sunriseA close friend whose opinions I value very highly, took a look at my blog so far and suggested that I should add more of the quirky details of my film viewing, such as who I was with and what flavour crisps we ate.

So, this week I visited a friend so that we could enjoy a film together as part of my 50:50 project. We ate salted mixed nuts and a box of Monty Bojangles Ginger Truffles which were reduced to £1.50 in Waitrose. We also had a glass of  white wine which I think, to be honest, might have been sitting open in the fridge for too long.truffles

We watched a 1995 movie starring Ethan Hawke, called ‘Before Sunrise’. Two young travellers meet on a train and decide to spend a night together in Vienna before going their separate ways. They pass the time walking, talking, sharing confidences, sometimes snacking and eventually kissing. He is somewhat arrogant, she has a stereotypically French lisp to her English. Both are gauche, seemingly victims of love at first sight, but fumbling to overcome their initial awkwardness. Hawke is intensely irritating, all mouth and trousers. Celine (played by Julie Delpy) spouts feminist theory and wears a very droopy dress. The plot is skimpy and the film made me think of an ‘A’ level Drama project.

My friend fell asleep with the cat on her lap. Luckily she doesn’t snore.

I watched the rest of the film on my own, surreptitiously sneaking in a couple of games of ‘Candy Crush’ on my phone.