Richard Linklater

Film Rant: You Can’t Not Give Boyhood an Oscar

Let me preface this post by saying I have not seen Boyhood yet. Believe me, I plan to, but much like 12 Years a Slave (another film I have yet to watch despite it showing up on cable weeks ago), it just seems like one of those films that’s importance demands more than a casual watch, but a thorough examination. Less a film and more of an event. Still, I’ve always liked Richard Linklater as he came from the same group of indie filmmakers such as Tarantino, Rodriguez and Smith who dominated the festival circuit and pretty much defined my generation. As an admirer I have always followed his career and was well aware of the scope of Boyhood.

As I saw the nominees for the Golden Globes, I tell my girlfriend that Boyhood is a shoo-in for best dramatic picture. Never missing an opportunity to catch me with my foot in my mouth, she states the obvious, “You haven’t even seen the film!” to which I respond, “I don’t need to see it. It wins on principle alone.”

Last weekend I was proven correct, and despite admittedly not knowing what the hell I’m taking about most of the time, I’m chalking this up as a win.

As many of you already know, Boyhood took 12 years to make. This was not only a commitment for Linklater, but the entire cast as well, including 7-year-old Ellar Coltrane and Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei. Not only that, but Linklater apparently also had a contingency plan in place in the case of his unforeseeable demise during shooting. Ethan Hawke would take over as director in payment for all the films Linklater has cast him in, including Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and what I assume will be the finale, After Midnight: The JJ Cale Story.

In my opinion, the sheer scope of this film alone should further garner it an Oscar win. Even if it doesn’t hold a candle to the other nominees (which doesn’t appear to be the case at all), the Academy needs to create a one time only award for Best Use of Elbow Grease In A Motion Picture or Most Creative Use For Adolescence for Ellar Coltrane.

Now this is not to say that Boyhood is the only film that has taken a quarter of a lifetime to make. Films such as The Manson Family and Tiefland took 15 and 21 years respectively to come to theaters. Not to mention the animated film, The Thief and The Cobbler, that ended up taking a whopping 28 years before it reached completion. But as where those films’ long production times were often a result of perfectly understandable reasons such as creative conflicts, lack of financing or getting your ass kicked by the Allies, Boyhood is unique in that Linklater and the cast knew full well what they were getting themselves into. The 12-year production time is not a result of unforeseen obstacles, but the very essence of the film. This is not only a momentous decision on behalf of Linklater, but the cast as well.

I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Linklater: Hey Patricia, what are you doing for the next 12 years?

Arquette: Shooting Medium most likely, people love that show! But I got some extra time on my hands.

Linklater: What about you, Jake Weber?

Weber: Do I have to cut my hair?

Linklater: Probably.

Weber: There’s only one man I’ll cut my mop top for and that’s Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Linklater: We don’t have him.

Weber: Well, looks like someone’s casting Ethan Hawke again.

That’s my two cents and I’m sticking to it, until such time when I finally see all the other Oscar nominees, to which my next post might be entitled “Film Rerant: You Can’t Not Not Not Give Whiplash an Oscar”.

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Indie Intros: Richard Linklater’s Woodshock

Well, the Golden Globes are over and one of the big winners was Richard Linklater and his monumental film Boyhood. I use the word “monumental’ because Boyhood took 13 years to shoot, all of which with the same cast. In celebration to his win, I’ve decided we should take a look at one of his first forays into filmmaking with the documentary short “Woodshock”.

“Woodshock” documents the Woodshock music festival held in Dripping Springs, Texas in 1985. The film acts as a celebration of Linklater’s love of rock music, a theme that would also play a big part in films like School of Rock and Dazed and Confused. “Woodshock” is clearly a play on the famously influential Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 and the infamously violent Woodstock Music Festival of 1999. The 1985 Wookshock Music Festival had a long list of performers such as Daniel Johnston as well as huge list of bands I’ve never heard of because I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about music as I’d like to be.

The end credits list “Woodshock” as a “film attempt” by Linklater and collaborator Lee Daniel. This might be a pretty apt description. As cool as it is to see a young Daniel Johnston, a man who would later go on to influence musicians like Kurt Cobain, peddle his album to the camera, the film doesn’t have a lot of direction. Many of the good documentary films have a sort of narrative that accompanies the documentation. “Woodshock”, on the other hand, focuses purely on documenting the feel of the festival, which gives the film a kind of rebellious attitude that works well with it’s source material, but doesn’t really tell a story. What we get is a documentary that operates more like a home video or Trails commercial (a piece of advertising any Arizonan who’s stayed up till 3 am watching episodes of Cheaters is familiar with).

Still, this style of filmmaking is not unlike Linklater’s Slacker, the low budget feature that basically started his career. Just as in Slacker, the camera in “Woodshock” jumps from person to person, begging for interesting material like a dog at a barbeque. In Slacker, it was used with more storytelling application, giving the illusion of a bystander following the everyday lives of a group of young Austinites. I can’t help but think that Linklater’s experience shooting “Woodshock” allowed him to pinpoint exactly how he wanted to shoot Slacker. It acts as another example of how a director’s early films can be built upon to produce a defining piece of work.