Tag: patricia arquette

Boyhood


Boyhood (2014)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Having seen Michael Apted’s tremendous achievement called the “Up” series, where the same seven-year-olds are interviewed and filmed every seven years so we can learn the many different directions their lives have taken, I was more nervous and anxious than excited to watch Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” I was concerned that given the two projects’ similarities, it would be difficult to sit down and absorb Linklater’s work as is without the gnawing need to compare.

It is a most pleasant surprise that “Boyhood” offers enough originality and confidence to separate itself from the aforementioned behemoth of a project. First, the writer-director’s decision not to show title cards designed to tell us what year certain scenes are taking place gives a fluid quality in terms of how the story unfolds. Instead, we are left to our own reference points, from the pop music either playing on the radio or soundtrack to the sorts of technologies characters use in their every day lives.

Without the title cards, we are asked to become active participants: to look a little harder or to listen a bit more closely, to think back on where we were in our lives when those same songs were on the radio and when those same gadgets became fashionable. The film, in a way, works as a time capsule of the early 2000s to the early/mid-2010s.

The picture is not about plot but about growth and the familiar thoughts and sentiments in between. Its magic lies in small truths like how an elder sister (Lorelei Linklater) would purposefully annoy her younger brother, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), so early in the morning by singing Britney’s Spears’ “Oops! …I Did It Again”—just because she can. Further, we are given a chance to look back on feeling inadequate or small because our brother or sister may excel in the very thing that we are not good at. Another example lies in observing Mason Jr. and Samantha trying to get their father’s attention and approval because they have not seen him in years. It touched me on a personal level because it invoked memories of my father coming to visit from America and my brother and I would want to be around him and try to impress him in whatever way.

We observe different types of parenting. As Mason Jr. and Samantha grow over the years, we wonder whether the directions they steered their lives towards could have been attributed to inconsistent parenting. Though their mother (Patricia Arquette) is around, the siblings are familiar to seeing men come and go. Their biological father (Ethan Hawke) who means well, is barely around. He takes them out every other weekend at some point, but the bond between father and child, one might argue, remains tenuous. There is a scene in a car where the father expresses his frustration because he feels his children are not sharing enough about their lives. The script is so well-written that it manages to avoid clichés while still honing in on the message it wishes to convey.

Mason Jr.’s high school years touches upon his lack of direction. He has never been the kid who finished his homework on time and to get straight A’s on his report card. But just because he is not motivated academically, it does not mean he is not passionate. There is an excellent exchange between Mason Jr. and his photography teacher later in the film. In my opinion, it is a scene that young people at that age (and perhaps younger) ought to see and really think about—even though they may not want to do either.

Mr. Turlington (Tom McTigue) makes a point that there are a lot of talented people in the world. But just because one is talented does not necessarily mean that he or she will amount to anything without discipline, commitment, and having a really good work ethic. It made me think about my own life. This scene is not strictly applicable to talent.

When I was in high school, I thought people who would become the most successful were the “smart” ones—you know, those in the debate team, those who won a bunch of awards and other forms of recognition during graduation, those who had grade point averages above 4.0. In reality, who, in my eyes, ended up most successful? My peers who are not just smart, but the ones who are no stranger to hard work, highly adaptable, those who have lively personalities and drawing people in effortlessly. The most successful people are those who are able to bring something to the table that nobody else can.

“Boyhood” captures the attention not just because there is a gimmick involving picking a child and putting him in front of the camera for a couple of days throughout the years. It offers insight by pinpointing its characters’ imperfections and challenging us to relate and sympathize with them because we have walked or might one day walk in their shoes. The film inspires us to look back in the past, but it also aims to broaden our horizons.

Flirting with Disaster


Flirting with Disaster (1996)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette star as a New Yorker couple with a five-month-old unnamed baby. Stiller’s character was adopted and he thought it would only be right to find his biological parents (Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin) before naming the baby despite disapproval by his neurotic and self-absorbed biological parents (Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal). So the couple headed for San Diego along with a psychology student (Téa Leoni) who wanted to document the expected warm reunion. It’s a shame this film had been forgotten or overlooked by most as a great comedy. I had such a great time watching it because every minute was laugh-out-loud funny, intelligent and had an element of surprise. All characters had a chance to shine under the spotlight and used to the fullest but they were never exploited. They were made fun of but the sense of humor was never mean-spirited. The filmmakers were obviously aware of the fact that the audiences will most likely see themselves in these characters so the material and execution treated them with respect. The jokes were spot-on and the movie seemed to never run out of them. When the movie ended, I found myself smiling and wishing that it wasn’t yet over. I highly enjoyed the addition of Josh Brolin and Richard Jenkins as an FBI couple who wanted a baby. Again, it was easy to target these specific characters due to their sexual orientation but the material did not succumb to stupidity or bigotry to generate cheap laughs that ended just as the next scene was introduced. I liked the scene when the characters were stuck in a confined car and the script acknowledged the fact that not all gay men were into anal sex. It may sound obvious reading it now but one would be surprised that not a lot of people are aware of that. Sure, there were stereotypes but it attempted to break the mold by allowing the characters to think and act like real people. Furthermore, the director had a great ear for dialogue. I thought it was true to life because I often noticed characters talking on top of one another. It certainly is like that in my family especially during the holidays when everyone seems to lose their minds. (Or maybe we’re just too happy.) Astutely written and directed by David O. Russell, “Flirting with Disaster” is a highly successful roadtrip picture. If I were to be stuck with a group of people, I wish to be with them because I related to their quirkiness, neuroticisms, and flaws. This sleeper hit makes movies like Jay Roach’s “Meet the Parents” look pedestrian because movies like that rely more on slapstick to generate laughs.

True Romance


True Romance (1993)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, “True Romance” opened with Clarence (Christian Slater) talking about a hypothetical situation in which if he were to make love with another man, it would be with his idol Elvis Presley. From the first scene, we learned that Clarence was a modern guy who was a romantic at heart and in constant search of the one he could fall deeply in love with. When he met Alabama (Patricia Arquette) in a movie theater and the two discussed the picture they just saw in a diner, the two forged a strong connection which eventually led to Clarence killing Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman) and accidentally stealing drugs from the mob. Like most movies written by Tarantino, I loved how this film was character-driven and dialogue-heavy but it still kept a forward momentum. Each scene in which two characters were placed in a room and talked about the most seemingly random topics were most revealing, most amusing and most engaging. We were given the chance to understand their motivations, histories, limitations and how they saw their lives compared to how they hoped to live their lives. Despite the characters acting tough on the outside, each of them had a fascinating story to tell. Aside from the opening scene, some higlights include Christopher Walken’s, as a mob boss, interrogration of Dennis Hopper, as Clarence’s ex-cop father with whom he had not seen for years; Arquette and James Gandolfini’s brutal battle to the death in a motel room; and when Arquette reluctantly admitted to Slater that she was a call girl. While the picture had its share of violence, I admired that it did not glorify it. The focus was consistently on the story, how the couple tried to get away from the police and the mob despite the fact that they probably knew that there would not be a way out of their increasingly desperate situation. Nevertheless, since the two really believed in their love for one another, they decided to move forward and there was certain lyricism and poetry even though chaos was happening all around them. “True Romance” wore its love for the movies on its sleeve by excelling at its genre while at the same time breaking from it. Even small roles had a big contribution to the big picture such as Val Kilmer as the ghost of Elvis and Brad Pitt as a stoner. Watching “True Rlomance” was pure joy because I experienced a spectrum of emotion and it made me want to have a dangerous (but chic) adventure of my own.

Bringing Out the Dead


Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on Joe Connelly’s memoir, “Bringing Out the Dead” was about a paramedic named Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) who increasingly became out of touch with reality after several sleepless nights and increasing guilt involving a girl he failed to rescue. I liked the film’s first half but I was very put off by the second half. What I thought the first hour of the picture was strong because it captured the reality of how it was like to be a paramedic in the city. I liked the way Martin Scorsese, the director, highlighted the grittiness and ugliness of city life and putting his characters in the middle of a sea of negative emotions. The way the paramedics dealt with their patients were sometimes very sad, sometimes amusing, and sometimes maddening because the ethical codes were not always followed. The way they numbed themselves by means of making jokes out of serious situations were interesting defense mechanisms to observe. Unfortunately, the second half consisted of way too many scenes in which Cage’s character experienced hallucinations. I understood that he was guilt-ridden but I felt like the hallucinations were very distracting and it took away the picture’s sense of momentum. Maybe Scorsese wanted to contrast those fantastic elements with realism but I did not think it worked to the movie’s advantage. Those scenes went by so slowly and I became very frustrated. I also did not like the romantic angle between Cage and Patricia Arquette. It felt forced because they did not have any sort of chemistry. “Bringing Out the Dead” features a main character who is very flawed and at times unlikable but those are the qualities that made me interested in him. He took his job seriously so he was very hard on himself, which were most prominent when he drove around in an ambulance with another paramedic (John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore). This film is definitely not for everyone because it doesn’t really have a defined plot. It’s more of a peek on a man’s life and how he swallowed the elements of the job he hated such as the deaths and dying people. Set mostly at night, Cage’s narration while patrolling the streets reminded me of “Taxi Driver.” Unfortunately, “Bring Out the Dead” isn’t as strong and isn’t as focused. At least it had good performances.

Ed Wood


Ed Wood (1994)
★★★ / ★★★★

“Ed Wood,” directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the lead character, fascinated me in so many ways. It tells the story of a director that I’m very unfamiliar with, his strings of bad movies–how he made them, the behind-the-scenes drama, how the audiences reacted to his pictures–and his relationship with Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau). Even though it had just enough of serious undercurrents, the comedy was consistent from beginning to end. Each character that Depp interacted with, such as his eventual bitter girlfriend Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker), life-long partner (Patricia Arquette), and idol Orson Welles (Vincent D’Onofrio) brought multiple dimensions to the table. I’ve never seen Depp smile so much in any role. But yet he doesn’t become another commercial character. In fact, that smile had a certain edge to it, as if he’s smiling in order to distract others from his real thoughts and the secrets he wants to keep hidden. I felt like Burton really captured the era he wanted to portray. From the stunning black-and-white look of the film, the kinds of movies that studios were interested in producing at the time (science fiction films which involve giant animals or bugs that terrorize communities), and the cooky groups of people such as cross-dressers, drug addicts, dimming stars, and dreamers whose lives passed them by. And even though Burton sometimes made fun of Depp’s character from time to time, I still felt as though Mr. Wood’s memory was respected because he was portrayed as a man who never gave up on his dreams of making not just movies but actual art that he’s proud of even if others easily come to label his works as the “worst movies of all time.” I admired his determination to his raise the money himself when no other person or company would fund his projects. That struggle really carried this film through for me because it did not merely portray a series of funny moments just for the sake of laughter. In the end, it did not feel like another movie with a quirky way of telling a story. It felt like a near-masterpiece tribute for a man who was never taken seriously but still succeeded because of his undying spirit.