Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Review: 'The Purge: Anarchy' Has a Lot of Ideas, But None of Them Amount to Much
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 17, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection The Purge: Anarchy has more ideas than you might expect. But it also has more ideas than it knows what to do with. Somewhere in the cobbled mess of the second Purge movie to get the green light, there are discussions about class warfare and the oppression of the impoverished. There is even a somewhat earnest attempt to access the psychology of a killer — to tap into what might make an ordinary joe stand up and purge his heart out once a year. There are dissections of the morality behind purging. Is it okay if it's for revenge? Is it okay if it's to level the playing field? Is it okay if we're turning the hounds back on those who released them? Is it ever okay? Lots of questions at bay in The Purge. Lots of ideas. Unfortunately, none of them are given the attention that they need to blossom into anything truly interesting. Instead, that attention goes (unsurprisingly) to the brutality and tension that spans the length of the movie. As three sets of Purge Night victims (a mother and daughter whose financial distresses are obstinately spelled out at the forefront of the story, an uppity young married couple on the brink of separation, and a well-armed man of mysterious intentions) band together in a feat of survival, we witness efforts so grim and vile that they're inclined to turn a sane viewer off of violent movies for the foreseeable future. Universal Pictures via Everett Collection But we're not quite sure if that's what The Purge: Anarchy wants, opting ultimately for the cathartic joys of the shoot-'em-up climax on which any number of nihilistic blockbusters have relied. In the wake of this incongruity — tapping into the disparate messages of striking back against the tyrannical rich, but also finding compassion and rejecting the urge to purge — we have no idea what The Purge wants us to take away. And that leaves us assuming that it doesn't really want us to take away anything. So, we're left with the bare bones: 100 minutes of upsetting violence, paper-thin characters, grotesque cinematography, and laughable dialogue. If we can't hang our hats on the occasional interesting point it tries to bring up, we don't have a great deal remaining. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Wish I Was Here' Is More Concerned with How It Looks and Sounds Than What It Has to Say
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 15, 2014
    Focus Features via Everett Collection Zach Braff is a funny guy. He can sell a joke (or, even more triumphantly, a reactionary take) with genuine comic chops. That's what makes the first half of Wish I Was Here so watchable — pleasant to the point that we might even expect it to carry forth successfully into the later acts. But beyond Braff's dry rejoinders and quirky stammers is something deliberately less impressive: his stab at the dramatic. Braff falters in the realm of the serious not as an actor — at least not predominantly — but as a writer and director. Wish I Was Here sets up a story loaded with the potential for sharp pangs. Braff plays Aiden Bloom, a man with an unhappy wife (Kate Hudson), a dying father (Mandy Patinkin), a lonesome daughter (Joey King), a disgruntled manchild brother (Josh Gad), and a crumbling dream (acting). Each construct is set up with relative validity, but none really hits home in a way that rings remotely authentic. Focus Features via Everett Collection The reason for this is, ultimately, because Wish I Was Here doesn't seem particularly concerned with what it says. It tosses around emotional maxims to tie father to son and wife to husband when convenient, digging up contrivances about ice cream, swear jars, and surfing memories that have no real bearing beyond the benefits of a momentary poetic aesthetic. More worried about how it sounds and looks than any of the messages it propagates, Wish I Was Here tends to contradict itself — Braff and Hudson both seek happiness, but only the former is granted a real relationship (or any screentime) with their children — or fall short of painting its picture. While brother Noah (Gad) is sold as a major piece of the Bloom family's fractured puzzle, we never get the chance to learn anything about him beyond a few points of biographical trivia. Still, the movie isn't entirely unbearable. As said, Braff can handle a comedic moment with aplomb. His daughter, played by King, is masterfully charming. The saving grace of Wish I Was Here is that the vast majority of its attention is on these two and their relationship. But when we stray elsewhere, it's as if the movie is doing everything it can to pad its runtime with ostensibly deep ideas. Ideas about childhood fantasies, science-fiction, paternal disappointment, Jewish scripture, punching people, and Comic-Con. None of it packs anything beneath the surface, so we can't help but groan and wonder why it was put there in the first place. Just get back to Braff and King bickering comedically. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Will the Female Thor Ever Find Her Way Into the Marvel Movie Universe?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 15, 2014
    Marvel After Bucky Barnes donned the Winter Soldier garb in the second Captain America movie, fans wondered whether or not he would ultimately fulfill his comic book destiny and inherit the Cap title from pal Steve Rogers. And we can't help but entertain a similar line of thought now that Marvel Comics has announced a new heir to Thor's hammer. The company utilized the platform of The View on Tuesday morning to announce the news that "the new Thor" would, in fact, be a yet unnamed female character.  "Thor, the God of Thunder, he messed up. He is no longer worthy to hold that damn hammer of his," Whoopi Goldberg, the ABC program's cohost (and clearly a devoted aficionado of the series, if her diction suggests anything). "And for the first time in history that hammer is being held by a woman ... The story behind her is she created herself. She was saved by Thor and she came down to Earth, followed him, and made herself look like Thor and so now she’s taking over." Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection Fans of the film universe will invariably question whether the still-gestating character will make her way into any of the string of movies yet to be released. With so many films propped for the future — following August's Guardians of the Galaxy and next years Avengers: Age of Ultron, we'll see no shortage of standalone character films like Captain America, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, the Hulk, and, naturally, another Thor feature — and considering the long arm of renowned strong-female-characters-lover Joss Whedon in the Marvel scope, we'd be remiss to deny the possibility of Thor's double-X-chromosome-laden replacement taking form on the big screen. And such a prospect would be long overdue. Although Black Widow took a central role in The Winter Soldier, we eagerly await her proper starring feature. The Avengers: Age of Ultron will introduce Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch and an unnamed character played by Kim Soo-hyun into the mix, but will still pack a cast of predominantly male heroes and villains; meanwhile, characters like Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill and Hayley Atwell's aging Peggy Carter take a veritable backseat. A female Thor (alongside Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes) would be a much needed addition to the formula. Although we don't know much about her just yet, we can't wait to hear more. Something tells us a certain San Diego-based festival that's coming up soon will offer a bit of insight. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Mood Indigo' Makes Up for a Wandering Script with Bright Imagination
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 14, 2014
    Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection Michel Gondry might not be an expert storyteller, but he is a master of imagination. Where your average American movie adheres to a rigid and familiar structure — an A-to-B throughline that limits opportunity for creative exploration — Gondry vies for the opposite extreme: his latest film, Mood Indigo, could benefit from a few tweaks in the department of narrative form. Meandering from one dreamy sequence to the next, the film falters in its delivery of what is meant to feel like a cogent love story/human tragedy. What it offers up instead is a nonstop carousel ride of wonderful ideas and images, all temperate beverages for our thirsty eyes. They more than make up for the film's narrative shortcomings, but that latter fault is what keeps Mood Indigo from being as thrilling and evocative as it otherwise might. Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection Gondry has directed some fine scripts to states of splendor — he knocked Eternal Sunshine out of the park and gave us the erratic but successfully cohesive Science of Sleep. While each of these markedly bizarre movies feels like a mapped adventure with a clear course through Gondry's right brain, Mood Indigo (which he adapted with Luc Bossi from Boris Vian's novel) comes off more like a pit stop at a mental playground. It's a pleasure to see the director play freely with the products of preadolescent hallucinations, but the momentum trips up when we spend so much time ogling insectile doorbells, motorized feasts, elastic dance moves, "high"-speed boxcar races, and so many more odd turns. Eventually, we get to the story, of which the movie takes even longer to acknowledge the presence than this review does. It's a romantic tragedy that has the Quixotic Colin (Romain Duris) caring for his new love and newer bride Chloé (Audrey Tautou, the cast standout) when she falls ill. In the latter half of the movie, Gondry uses his ambitious style to perfection, driving home the pangs of both parties — and those of their friends, stress-addled Nicolas (Omar Sy), obsessive addict Chick (Gad Elmalah), and the emotionally neglected Alise (Aïssa Maïga) — with darker hued dream clouds. Drafthouse Films The talents of this team help the often jagged film carry forth. Tautou is positively magnetic in her comedic, dramatic, and romantic scenes alike. Backdrop players Sy, Elmalah, and Maïga pepper in a dynamic nuttiness that works in perfect congruence to the film's first half, and a tragic "sickness" that works just as well in the second half.  It is in this late chapter that the film becomes more than an experiment in visual charms, evolving to a highly evocative and surprisingly down-to-earth platform without pulling any punches in the oddball department. Still, we're entering an intimacy with these characters too late into the film in order for their emotional beats to land as effectively as they should. Gondry spends so much time introducing us to the various constructs and facets of his wild, vast, unique world that he slips up on introducing us to the people who occupy it. When we finally do get to know them, even the ones we've liked all along, it can be a strain to accept them as real people. But fragmented though this story and these characters may be, they're all surrounded by such wonderful spectacle that it would be difficult to leave this movie without a supercharged heart and a jump-started imagination. These achievements are enough to render any of Moon Indigo's structural weaknesses a secondary thought. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Is 'Wish I Was Here' the Most Jewish Movie Ever Made?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 11, 2014
    Focus Features I expected quite a few things from Zach Braff's long-buffered Garden State follow-up Wish I Was Here: a brooding template, quirky imagery, Shins music. But I did not expect consistent, detailed conversations about Jewish law and scripture. Sure, Garden State included nods to the religion and culture (with which Braff was raised) but hardly to the degree that we see in Wish I Was Here. From the very first scene, in which Braff's character's daughter Grace (played by Joey King, a highlight in the flick) cites her rabbi's admonition of foul language, we're embedded in a distinctly Jewish atmosphere — one that, at times, gets so specific that I wondered what the experience of watching such a film might be for someone who didn't grow up with the religion, like I did. Full scenes revolve around the practices of Grace's adherence to the religion, without much exposition as to what we're seeing. Braff chauffers his viewers through the sequences poking fun at or offering affectionate nods to the particulars of Yeshiva academia with a "Get it?" or "Remember that?" attitude, insinuating a familiarity that the majority of his audience — if even close to a direct ratio of the population in large — probably won't have. Movies about Christianity have the luxury of going specific — no matter what religion you subscribe to, if you grew up in the Western World you more than likely know the basic gist of what goes on in church. But when it comes to Judaism, direct depictions can feel esoteric. It's not as though Braff is the only director to venture the illustration of Jewish religion and culture in a mainstream movie (as "indie" as Braff's persona is, he's still well-known enough for his work to garner public attention). We think immediately of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, two directors who have frequently colored their movies with a Jewish context. The difference, however, between the Allen/Brooks methods (which are, furthermore, very different from one another) and that of Braff is that you're more likely to see Allen take a jab at nebbishy stereotypes or Brooks make a crass crack about circumcisions than you are to see either delve into the particulars of the day-to-day at a Yeshiva school. Focus Features via Everett Collection A recent film that drove us fairly deep into Jewish education is A Serious Man, the Coen Brothers dark comedy that centers around a physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his son's disciplinary tribulations at Hebrew school. While the Coen Brothers dabble quite frequently in the fringes of our world, we're not surprised to see them deliver such a vivid portrait of Judaism in the Midwest. In fact, A Serious Man devotes itself to the idea that Stuhlbarg's family is stamped with an "outsider" label,  But Braff adheres to no such idea, which is at once puzzling and quite gratifying. With the exception of a single one-off joke from a gentile neighbor boy, Judaism is never meant to feel like anything but "the norm." We're invited into the film through the Bloom family, and as such are welcomed into their customs, which are treated with the same engagement, familiarity, and normative mentality with which any Martin Scorsese film would treat Catholicism.   It's an interesting, and impressive, move by Braff. Although we've seen Judaism depicted on the screen time and time again, Wish I Was Here is a unique example of a Jewish movie: one that isn't driven by a narrative entrenched in Jewish history but is foremost reverent to the religion; one that treats it not so much like an "outer tier" culture but a central, basic, human practice. As loving as the tributes to Judaism of Allen, Brooks, and the Coens are, they are often inclined to approach the religion as a "something else." But Wish I Was Here just treats it as the something. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Life Itself' Is Not Just a Tribute to Roger Ebert, It's a Tribute to Movies Love
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 10, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures When I was a kid, I decided — as many of the yet unjaded do — that I wanted my life to be about movies. I wanted to make them, critique them, talk about them, and watch as many of them as I could. The lucky ones don't grow away from this passion; the luckier still get the opportunity to make it a reality. But those occupying that small circle of unparalleled fortune often face something that might cast shade over the golden path that is a life devoted to the art of cinema. That plaguing question, "Does what I'm doing really matter?" It's not a question that is specific to people who write about film, but it's one that hits our community hard. We're not curing diseases, we're not building houses, we're not defending the wronged or curbing crime. In fact, the average comments section of an article or string of Twitter responses to a hasty remark is wont to suggest that we're actually making people angry. With so much acrimony spawning from the conversations we set forth unto the Internet, we can't help but wonder if we are not only not making the world a better place, but perhaps making it a worse one. Are we further dousing this outrageous planet in hot venom? Are we devoting time that might be better spent building or curing to a plight of emotional infancy? Are we wasting our lives and everybody else's time? Many of us, at one point or another, wonder these things. As far as we can tell from Life Itself, Roger Ebert never did. He always knew that this was a worthwhile pursuit. And even if Ebert didn't always harbor that certainty, the documentary does. From beginning to end, Life Itself is sure that the world needs people like Ebert. Magnolia Pictures "Like Ebert" would be high praise with which to adorn any movies writer. Still, Life Itself doesn't treat him as an untouchable deity — poking good-natured fun at his audacity, his ego, his rivalry-turned-enmity-turned-friendship with Gene Siskel (their relationship is chronicled in what is probably the most engaging chapter in the movie) — but as a pioneer. An artist in his own right who approached the trade of "criticism" with a new point of view, giving way to a new means of thinking and talking about, and loving, movies altogether. In its portrait of Ebert's anti-establishment devotion to the Chicago Sun-Times, his heated on-air feuds with Siskel, his hearty support of new filmmakers, and his brazen takedown of the very same when they turn in what he considers to be trash (man, how he hated The Color of Money), Life Itself gives us a real character in Ebert.  I do not think it is any documentary's sole mission to sing the praises of its subject. Instead, a good biographical feature is driven to explain why someone made a difference. It wasn't that Ebert was a god, or a hero, or in any outstanding way an anomaly. He was someone — as so many of us who'll flock to this film are, and will be ever more after the inspiring song it sings — so devoted to his craft: the beautiful, wonderful, lucky drive to think about, talk about, write about, and watch movies. Because movies, be they like Life Itself or Boyhood or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, are simply and essentially worth talking about. Ebert was someone who got that. He was someone worthy of our attention, respect, disapproval (sure, at times), and interest. Ultimately, Life Itself works to remind its viewers of one thing: Ebert is one of us. He's just really good at being one of us. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • And the 2014 Emmy Nominees Are...
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 10, 2014
    Getty Images/Kevin Winter The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony will air on Monday (oddly enough), August 25, and will be hosted by Saturday Night Live vet and Late Night host Seth Meyers. Here are the nominees recognized for their achievements over the course of this past year in television. Best Comedy SeriesThe Big Bang TheoryLouieModern FamilyOrange Is the New BlackSilicon ValleyVeep Best Drama SeriesBreaking BadDownton AbbeyGame of ThronesHouse of CardsMad MenTrue Detective Best Actor - ComedyLouis C.K. - LouieDon Cheadle - House of LiesRicky Gervais - DerekMatt LeBlanc - EpisodesWilliam H. Macy - ShamelessJim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory Best Actress - ComedyLena Dunham - GirlsEdie Falco - Nurse JackieJulia Louis-Dreyfus - VeepMelissa McCarthy - Mike and MollyAmy Poehler - Parks and RecreationTaylor Schilling - Orange Is the New Black Lead Actor - DramaBryan Cranston - Breaking BadJeff Daniels - The NewsroomJon Hamm - Mad MenWoody Harrelson - True DetectiveMatthew McConaughey - True DetectiveKevin Spacey - House of Cards Lead Actress - DramaLizzy Caplan - Masters of SexClaire Danes - HomelandMichelle Dockery - Downton AbbeyJulianne Margolies - The Good WifeKerry Washinton - ScandalRobin Wright - House of Cards Best Mini-SeriesAmerican Horror Story: CovenBonnie and ClydeFargoLutherTremeThe White Queen Best TV MovieKilling KennedyMohammad Ali's Greatest FightThe Normal HeartSherlock: His Last VowThe Trip to Babylon Best Actor - Mini-Series/TV MovieBenedict Cumberbatch - SherlockChiwetel Ejiofor - Dancing on the EdgeIdris Elba - LutherMartin Freeman - FargoMark Ruffalo - The Normal HeartBill Bob Thornton - Fargo Best Actress - Mini-Series/TV MovieHelena Bonham Carter - Burton and TaylorMinnie Driver - Return to ZeroJessica Lang - American Horror Story: CovenSarah Paulson - American Horror Story: CovenCicely Tyson - The Trip to BountifulKristen Wiig - Spoils of Babylon Best Variety ShowThe Colbert ReportThe Daily ShowJimmy Kimmel Live!Real Time with Bill MaherSaturday Night LiveThe Tonight Show Best Reality Competition ShowThe Amazing RaceDancing with the StarsProject RunwaySo You Think You Can DanceTop ChefThe Voice Best Supporting Actor - Comedy SeriesFred Armisen - PortlandiaAndre Braugher - Brooklin Nine-NineTy Burrell - Modern FamilyAdam Driver - GirlsJesse Tyler Ferguson - Modern FamilyTony Hale - Veep Best Supporting Actress - Comedy SeriesMayim Bialik - The Big Bang TheoryJulie Bowen - Modern FamilyAnna Chlumsky - VeepAllison Janney - MomKate McKinnon - Saturday Night LiveKate Mulgrew - Orange Is the New Black Best Supporting Actor - DramaJim Carter - Downton AbbeyJosh Charles - The Good WifePeter Dinklage - Game of ThronesMandy Patinkin - HomelandAaron Paul - Breaking BadJon Voight - Ray Donovan Best Supporting Actress - DramaChristine Baranski - The Good WifeJoan Froggatt - Downton AbbeyAnna Gunn - Breaking BadLena Headey - Game of ThronesChristina Hendricks - Mad MenMaggie Smith - Downton Abbey Best Guest Actor - ComedySteve Buscemi - PortlandiaLouis C.K. - Saturday Night LiveGary Cole - VeepJimmy Fallon - Saturday Night LiveNathan Lane - Modern FamilyBob Newhart - The Big Bang Theory Best Guest Actress - ComedyUzo Aduba - Orange Is the New BlackLaverne Cox - Orange Is the New BlackJoan Cusack - ShamelessTina Fey - Saturday Night LiveNatasha Lyonne - Orange Is the New BlackMelissa McCarthy - Saturday Night Live Best Guest Actor - DramaDylan Baker - The Good WifeBeau Bridges - Masters of SexReg E Cathey - House of CardsPaul Giamatti - Downton AbbeyRobert Morse - Mad MenJoe Morton - Scandal Best Guest Actress - DramaKate Burton - ScandalJane Fonda - The NewsroomAllison Janney - Masters of SexKate Mara - House of CardsMargo Martindale - The AmericansDiana Rigg - Game of Thrones
  • Review: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Is an Unbelievably Important (and Great) Movie
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 09, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Even more impressive than what Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has to say is how it goes about saying it. But what's the most impressive of all is the fact that the movie is having its conversation in the first place. The fact that a science-fiction blockbuster plopped right in the heat of a Marvel Comics- and Michael Bay-stocked summer, composed of computer generated super-apes and post-apocalyptic San Franciscos, is speaking unabashedly about the futility of war, the corrosivity of guns, the corruptibility of man (and ape), and the intense fallibility of any singular ideology. So astounding is it that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is delivering these principles that you'll watch with the constant apprehension of a thematic undercut — that a movie like this couldn't possibly carry forth with its desolation of the cells that constitute its summer picture brethren's lifeblood. But the film stays true, never for a moment working to glorify its illustration of violence and hate. Dawn has a lot of ugly things to show us about its world and our own, and it pulls no punches in its presentation. 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection That's not to say the movie is at all a chore to watch. Though its mission may be grim, Dawn drives us through a story about the impending war between hyper-intelligent simians and what's left of mankind with an effervescent pulse and rich character. On one side, we have Caesar (mo-capped Andy Serkis) struggling to maintain a just and orderly society of his ape brethren in a swanky little set-up in the woods, hoping principally for communal isolation. On the other, Gary Oldman strives for the very same harmony with his slum of Simian Flu-resistant humans, eyeing the power plant on the apes' turf as the source of a basic human necessity. Neither side wants war, and yet neither side is incapable of seeing the other as a threat to what it wants and needs.   We delight in our time in Ape Kingdom, finding a special fascination in watching Caesar play father to his eldest son Blue Eyes (who endures his own coming-of-age crisis of faith), in clever orangutan Maurice pioneering primate academia, and in battered chimp Koba fostering that Macchiavellian drive the old world knew too well. When the story slips into the inevitable nightmare that spawns between two parties, we have as vivid an idea of who's fighting who as any adventure, sci-fi, or war film has given us in recent years. 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection So who do we root for? That's just one of the many blockbuster conventions that Dawn not only avoids but abjectly annihilates. This isn't a story about good versus bad, right versus wrong, or even man versus ape. This is a story where the act is the enemy. Where war, guns, and hate are the criminal, where trust and love are the unfortunate victim. Dawn is outstandingly impressive in its delivery of these ideas: in the construction of a race of post-human apes, its coloring of archetypal characters (like top billing human Jason Clarke and a simple but substantial Keri Russell) as fluorescent, and its unique understanding and adherence to its message's gravity. But, to reiterate, what's even more unique, outstanding, and impressive is the fact that a movie like this is saying these things at all. 5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Boyhood' Could Change the Way You Watch Movies Forever
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 09, 2014
    IFC Films I understand that my headline must sound like second-rate hyperbole. Second-rate I'll cop to. But hyperbole it is not. After watching Boyhood, I couldn't help but feel like I had approached the film ill-prepared. A longtime Richard Linklater fan with a steady appetite for the sentimental, I was indelibly excited to see at last how the filmmaker had woven 12 years of footage into a vast, sweeping, cohesive story about the very idea of growing up. How such an expansive and ambitious project would materialize with the meticulous attention to theme and character, and the sparkling intellect that we've seen in almost every one of Linklater's pictures to date. But what I learned, and exerted to repeatedly relearn, during my viewing of Boyhood was that this wasn't like any of his films to date, or any other film I'd ever seen. Not necessarily in quality, but form. IFC Films Our culture has no shortage of maxims about appreciating the present. We're goaded by movies to smell the roses, seize the day, stop and look around once in a while, swear that we are infinite, and say "what the f**k?" But your standard living-in-the-moment pictures fall shy of their conquest, amounting as little more than a celebration of the occasional high-risk expedition. In earnest, living in the moment isn't a phenomenon limited to excitement; it's one that is just as celebratory of moments like the scenes that comprise Boyhood: We watch preadolescent Mason (Ellar Coltrane) amble aimlessly down a suburban road as his pals tease a mentally disabled teenaged neighbor. Later, he talks with his father (Ethan Hawke) about the logical impossibility of a narrative follow-up to Return of the Jedi. At one point, he and a few peers sip beers and toss hatchets at a slab of plywood. Nobody gets injured, the abuse of the mentally disabled teen doesn't spawn a series of "life lesson" consequences that teach Mason about compassion, and the Star Wars thing is only funny in extra-movie context. Each and every one of Boyhood's scenes, not these alone, is an entirely present ordeal. They are not brick nor mortar in a lengthy construction process that can only in full view reveal its motives. That's what we look for in movies — that kind of patient build-up, those eventual thematic tie-ins. Means to an end. But Linklater's intention is ready and accessible in every beautiful moment in Boyhood, eager for notice from the get-go as six-year-old Mason drinks in Texas' afternoon sky and daydreams about insects. From the very first moment, the film is "complete." IFC Films As such, it might prove difficult at first for a seasoned cinephile to enjoy Boyhood, to even learn how to watch and access a movie of this sort. Operating in contrast to traditional narrative momentum, Boyhood might well throw for a loop anybody approaching with their standard voyeuristic devices in tow. The film is not unsympathetic, nor inattentive, to this conflict; those abetting the "forward" mentality will see themselves in Mason's mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette), a woman inflicted with the same obsession with the "what's next" as we all tend to be. But the only forward pull in this movie is time. We're never "working toward" or "waiting for," instead reveling in the highs (camping trips, kisses, and Harry Potter book release parties), lows (parental spats, breakups, and ), and those everpresent mediums. The "nothing" moments that have more to them than any movie has ever invited us to acknowledge.   Its complete submission to those nothings, mediums, beautiful portraits of life's fabric is what makes Boyhood unprecedented. As such, as suggested above, you might not know what to make of Boyhood the first time around, or even through the first few mental returns to the film that you are destined to venture. It doesn't carry like a normal movie, so you won't experience it like one — you are not likely to experience the cinematic awe you know and respect. You'll experience something altogether new. Boyhood busts through the conventions of cinema to create just that. The fabrics of life onscreen. Once you hit that appreciation, however long it may take, you're paralyzed by something that we'd be remiss to relegate to the term "magic." This, like life itself, is a damn miracle. 5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Patricia Arquette Reassures Us About Her Final Scene in 'Boyhood'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 07, 2014
    IFC Films Richard Linklater's Boyhood is not like any other movie we've seen, and that isn't simply because of its 12-year-long production. The film follows young Mason, who ages from six to 18 (portrayed throughout by Ellar Coltrane), in a story that plays less like a traditional forward-moving narrative than a poetic tribute to every moment along the way. Although it is natural to affix attention on Coltrane and Mason in discussions of Boyhood, we'd be remiss to overlook the terrific performance of Patricia Arquette, who plays Mason's mother. As single mom Olivia, who is perpetually on the hunt for "something more," Arquette delivers some of the film's most piercing moments, including her final scene in the film (about which Arquette might have changed the way we think altogether). The actress, who worked with Linklater previously on Fast Food Nation, discusses her part the director's latest effort, and everything it has to say about cinema, parenting, and life in general. The one thing I tell everyone who hasn’t seen Boyhood is that you don't experience this like you do a normal movie. I keep thinking of the scene where they’re throwing hatchets. In any other movie, someone would get injured. But it’s just about watching these kids. Patricia Arquette: That’s part of what is amazing about this movie. First of all, to get financing for something you’re not going to see a return on for 13 years. But also the fact that Rick [Linklater] really chose to direct it with this really specific restraint that life in itself was enough. That most of us survive childhood. That there are some underlying difficult times, things that we have to move through in our lives, but most of it is okay. We’re so preconditioned as audiences to think… I was scared in that scene! Because we didn’t have the script to begin with, I didn’t know exactly what was happening. And I also felt this undercurrent of opening male sexuality. Older, corruptive teenagers that might be a negative influence. One kid [is] like, ‘Lie to girls,’ or whatever. More negative influence. It’s like, where is this going? This is getting scary. And I think there are moments that are scary in childhood. It’s not what we’re used to because we’re preconditioned as viewers to think, like, now they’re going to become junkies, they’re going to go to prison, they’re going to do a robbery, or some crazy thing. But I think that is part of what was so brave of Rick, because he had 12 years to constantly say to himself, ‘Oh, a film is supposed to be this.’ And he didn’t do it. That really carries through. Is that something that, as an actor in this movie, you really understood going in? Or that you had to keep reminding yourself? PA: The whole thing was so different. The whole thing was so human from the very beginning. Usually the whole structure… just even in getting material, you go through this gauntlet of agents, and then you read material, and then you have this meeting, and then there’s this business aspect to it where they’re offering and you’re going back and forth. With this, I met Rick once at a little cocktail party for five minutes. Years go by and then he called me, and he said, ‘What are you going to be doing for the next 12 years?’ It was just human to human. I said, ‘…I don’t know, what are you going to be doing?’ And he said, ‘I want to do this movie a week a year for 12 years.’ And I just got so excited creatively. I said, ‘Are you thinking about me?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I was wondering if you’d be interested.’ And I was like, ‘I’m in. What’s my part?’ That was secondary [to] this adventure of working together. And he said, ‘The mom.’ I said, ‘I guess I should read a script.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t really have a script.’ But he did tell me the main plot points for my character. And those remained. But his collaborative way of working was very human also. The weird thing was the movie coming out. It felt so organic making it. It felt so supportive and beautiful and human making it. This part got scary to me. This is the only thing where I’ve ever been like, ‘I’m so sad this is over.’ I usually love endings. But this was really hard. IFC Films Do you think you were more invested in Olivia than you have been in most of your other characters? PA: I think so. It’s like when people look back on their own family, in a way, or the summer camp they went to every [year]. It’s not just the experience on film, we also had our own artistic experience in the making of it. It was so warm and supportive. And not ego-driven by anyone at any time. It was such a beautiful personal experience. I guess I didn’t get the memo that we weren’t supposed to talk about it but along the way when I would talk about it, people were not that excited about it. I would say, ‘We’re making a movie about these kids. This boy starts first grade and it ends when he graduates high school.’ Nobody was really all that excited. [Laughs] I thought it was insane! I thought they were crazy people. I don’t know. You did mention that the main ideas for where Olivia was going to go stayed from the beginning. PA: They did. I think, also, this movie is a testament to Rick’s sensibility. If you look at Waking Life and you look at the Sunrise trilogy… He had only made the first one [Before Sunrise] by the time we had started this. During the making of [Boyhood], he and Ethan [Hawke] were like, ‘Hey, we should revisit that.’ So, in a weird way, this movie spawned that happening. It’s interesting how things develop organically out of each other. But Rick’s whole body of work… there’s really no other filmmaker like him. Did your thoughts of who Olivia was, or did what you wanted for her, change over the course of making the movie? PA: It’s interesting, because sometimes when you have a full script, you can make really specific choices about everything. I really never wanted my ego as an actor or my business to influence my character in some way I didn’t think was authentic. So I didn’t want to make weird specific choices for my character just to be an actor, you know? I also didn’t want her to be a struggling mom who is going to school and working and raising her kids and working out all the time and is always in a good mood no matter what. I didn’t want to Hollywood everything up. I really wanted to be pure to who she was. And I felt a lot of responsibility and respect for single moms, and I had so many examples in my own life. I’ve been that woman before in increments. I’ve seen my mom, all of my best friends, everyone around me, for portions. But there would be moments where, because it was this collaborative thing, you had to have a very open faith in working this way. We would come together, we would workshop… that year’s work, and sometimes people would make suggestions and I wouldn’t know how to play that. Do you have any examples? PA: Well, like for me, when I dropped my son off at college — which I did during the course of this movie — my whole thing with him was to pump him up. ‘Are you nervous? Don’t be nervous! You’ve got this! Your portfolio is great! Everyone’s nervous, babe! Everyone in there is nervous! This is going to be amazing! This is going to be great! Your family is here for you all the time! You’ve got this! You’ve got it!’ Then, when I dropped him off, I cried for nine hours. So, for me, it was like, wow… does it sound like she’s making it about her in that moment? But our producer had said to her daughter, ‘This is the worst day of my life,’ when she dropped her off at school. And Ethan [Coltrane]’s mom had said something. They were all based in real human things. So then I had to go, ‘How do I play this?’ Whenever I’d encounter those things — being in an abusive relationship for her, not saying when one of his stepdads says something negative to them — it was like playing blinders. We go through our lives and we have these blinders, and we don’t even notice them. Even though she’s done all this personal work and this psychological work, professional work…I don’t think she knew how to process, ‘Oh my god. I was a daughter, I went right to being a mom. I subconsciously thought some life was going to happen when I raised you great kids and let you off in the world.’ Now [she] actually, subconsciously, [is] thinking, ‘No, my whole life was to be a mother. What is happening? Who has taken my life away?’ IFC Films I’m glad that you brought up the scene where Olivia cries before Mason heads to college. Obviously it’s Olivia’s final scene in the movie, and it was a point of discussion between my friend and me. We were both kind of hoping that Olivia would get a happier ending. Even if you think the scene is honest, is that at all something you wanted? Her last moment to be a little more upbeat? PA: I didn’t mind that. Because I did feel like, even though I was trying to pump my son up when I dropped him off, when I drove away I cried for nine hours… then he called me, like, ‘Mom, I forgot to pack socks.’ Two days later: ‘Mom, where’s my insurance card?’ ‘Where do you buy Vitamin C?” [Laughs] Suddenly, it was all fine. It wasn’t the death you think it is in that moment of, like, ‘This is the end!’ So if you saw Olivia in three days, she’d be getting those phone calls, and she would be laughing. ‘Ugh! God. Here we go.’ But yeah, that particular moment… intense transition for her. I’m glad that you said that. That gives me a little bit of relief. PA: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s all going to be fine. In that moment… well, you also feel like you’re dying [when you] give birth. Literally. I had my daughter at home. You feel like you’re being drawn and quartered. [Laughs] I kind of have to die to pull someone from the other side back through with me. There are moments… we are an organic species, and part of the thing with watching these kids grow up, and watching me and Ethan get older… we are organic material. And Hollywood wants to arrest you. It could do a pretty good and weird job of doing so. But we, as a species, are organic material. We go through this evolution. We go through many little deaths, and rebirths, and growths. Finally, I feel like it’s only natural to envision, while you’re making the movie, what this is going to look like on the screen. Especially since you had such a long time to think about it. Now that it’s complete, are there any particularly noteworthy differences between your imagination and what it ultimately turned out to be? PA: Well, I saw a rough cut of the first five years… at five years. And then I didn’t want to see any more, because I really wanted, as an audience, to see the kids grow up. But sometimes Rick would call me and say, ‘You’re going to be leaving this year,’ or, ‘You’re going to be getting a divorce.’ And I would think, ‘I want to gain a few pounds now, because I feel like she’s unhappy at this moment in her life,’ and sometimes I would cut my hair. Before one year I had blue hair, and then I had to go back. One year I had brownish hair, and Rick is like, ‘Yeah, she could have brown hair. She’s trying to change her look up, or whatever.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t think so. I’m going to go back to [blonde].’ This kind of evolution of [her trying] to find herself. She grows her hair long, it’s too long, she can’t do anything with it, she cuts it, then she’s like, ‘I’ve got to grow my hair out! What am I doing?’ You’re never completely comfortable with where you’re at in your life. Boyhood comes out on July 11. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com