Boyhood

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or: How I Related to Boyhood and All its Ups and Downs

by: Juan Barquin

This essay includes spoilers for the film.

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I walked into Richard Linklater’s Boyhood worried about what I’d find; maybe a film neatly cut up into each period of a young man’s life, maybe a mess of montages, who knew. The overwhelming praise made me wary (as it always does). But, luckily enough, I understood and shared the love for this movie. Linklater has done a damn fine job depicting the growth of a young man over twelve years of his life. 

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Brazilian Film Festival 2014: Elena Is a Beautiful Reflection on Loss and Memory →

"Elena, I had a dream about you last night," Petra Costa, the woman who created the ultra-personal tribute to her dead sister that is Elena, says in the first lines of her film. It’s a perfectly apt way to introduce a film that’s as dreamlike as the very memories we hold of those dearest to us that have passed on, but everything becomes more real as the minutes flow by.

Blending audio and video recordings of her sister, deeply personal interviews with her mother, and entrancing footage of herself retracing the steps of her sister through New York, Costa crafts a touching tribute to the sister whose memory she so desperately longs to keep alive.

Short Cuts: August 2nd, 2014

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by Juan Barquin

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Some days, you just can’t muster up enough energy to write an entire review on a film. Other days, the words just won’t come out, but you do want to give it a bit of a push into the limelight or a toss in the trash. For all of those days, there’s capsules. And with that being said, here’s our first entry in Short Cuts, a new column where we chat about a couple of movies we’ve seen recently in (mostly) short form (under 500 words) rather than the typical long-form reviews and essays we love putting out. Today, that includes a charming musical, an atypical queer documentary, and a mid-tier biopic on a legend.

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Here’s a new column on DtHL which I kick off by reviewing three films from this year: BEGIN AGAIN, BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, and GET ON UP.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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by: Juan Barquin

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At this point in the game, I’ve seen every film that’s contributed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the sole exception of Thor: The Dark World. A lot of these films, while often humorous, don’t exactly dive right into the campy goodness that many comic books nowadays actually do. Much like DC, they’re dark; frankly, too dark for their own good. People long to adapt things that Frank Miller and Alan Moore might have written in the eighties, when a darker and edgier comic was necessary to save the life of the printed format. But we’re in 2014 now. It worked for Christopher Nolan, and plenty are still serious, but it’s time we lighten the hell up, and that’s exactly what Disney and Marvel are doing with Guardians of the Galaxy.

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A damn great movie to make for a damn great 100th post on DtHL.

Venus in Fur

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by Juan Barquin

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We enter the theater in the same manner that Emmanuelle Seigner’s character Vanda does: down the sidewalk, between the trees, across the street, and through the doors, all while getting soaked in the pouring rain. The inside of the theater and Mathieu Amalric’s frustrated director Thomas don’t look to provide any respite from the poor weather, but appearances can be misleading. And when it comes to Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur, one should be aware that first impressions can be dead wrong. This isn’t just a story of an actress trying to coax a man into casting her for her play; this is a strange little film full of blurred lines and delightful discussion entirely geared around a sadomasochistic relationship. 

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Lilting

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by Juan Barquin

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[Note: I saw this film at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, but never got around to posting my review because of sheer inconvenience. Here it is in full.]

Many queer films of recent times have chosen to focus on tragedy, specifically the loss of a partner and the impact it could have on the protagonist. One of the films I find does it best is Tom Ford’s directorial debut, A Single Man, capturing every ounce of pain that Colin Firth’s lead character experiences over the span of a day he spends contemplating suicide. Even some arguably more mainstream films such as Brokeback Mountain explore the theme to a much smaller level, with the film’s last act. 

Much like A Single Man, writer-director Hong Khaou’s feature debut Lilting also takes place after the passing on Kai (Andrew Leung), a young queer man who was loved immensely by those closest to him. The film focuses on two of those individuals grieving their loss in fairly different ways, each trying to find some semblance of solace. One is his partner Richard (Ben Whishaw), and the other is Junn, the mother he kept unaware of his sexuality (Cheng Pei-pei). 

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Company: Original Cast Album

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by Juan Barquin

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There’s a broadway musical that goes by the name Company that has always been a personal favorite of mine. The musical is composed of incredibly personal scenes between Robert, a bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday, the married couples that are his best friends, and the three women he is currently dating. It’s a tale that’s weirdly close to my heart, with songs that are often amusing and sometimes heartbreaking. To say I’ve seen and heard Company over a hundred times — be it the original Broadway cast, Sam Mendes’ production in ‘95, the brilliant revival starring Raúl Esparza in ‘06, and even the Neil Patrick Harris starring edition in ‘11 — wouldn’t be at all a stretch. And yet, it was recently brought to my attention that I’d never experienced the documentary Company: Original Cast Album. That wrong has now been righted.

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The Fault in Our Stars

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by Juan Barquin

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With the mountain of films coming out nowadays geared towards young adult audiences, the selection can get a little stiff. While I may have written a sort-of defense of them some time ago — specifically that of Vampire Academy and the way critics react negatively towards YA works — I must admit, many are starting to riff off each other in rather boring ways. Every dystopia looks the same, every character is a pseudo-intellectual, every tale surrounded by tragedy, and every romance a manic pixie dream character that dozens of youths and adults alike will fall in love with. These aren’t necessarily things that automatically signal a bad film, but they certainly aren’t improving the genre for the youths that watch the films either. Thankfully, The Fault in Our Stars actually manages to be a step above some of the other works adapted from young adult fiction, channeling plenty of genuine emotion even though it too fulfills many requirements of the frustrating genre it’s a part of.

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Life Itself

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by: Juan Barquin

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It’s always a little weird, thinking about my entire life and the way it’s been affected by someone as massively important as Roger Ebert. I almost want to talk as though I’ve known the guy my entire life, because even though I haven’t, he’s always been a major presence. As far back as I could use the Internet well enough and had access to a backlog of his reviews (and whatever new one was coming out that week), I found myself reading them. It wasn’t always because I agreed with him because I can’t always agree with the kind of man who hates Blue Velvet, Dead Man, and even something like Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, which is the only time I’ve ever been actively disappointed in the way he wrote something. It was because almost every time I read one of his reviews, I felt like I was listening to someone who respected the medium, respected the filmmaker, and most importantly, respected me. 

When I was just starting off in criticism and trying to figure out how to write, there wasn’t really anyone I was accustomed to reading besides Ebert. Sure, I’d always read about the films in the local newspaper before jumping to the comics section, but it wasn’t until later in my still pretty short life that I started reading all sorts of film historians, critics from the past, and random folks whose writing I liked. It was all about Ebert really, and I’m thankful for his popularity and constant presence throughout circles that weren’t necessarily full of cinephiles. For all I know, if it wasn’t for his influence, I wouldn’t be here writing about films today. Now that I’ve gotten my personal feelings out of the way, which are as abundant as usual, it’s time to discuss Steve James’ documentary on the critic, Life Itself. 

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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by Juan Barquin

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To kick off this review, I’ll start by talking about something I’ve noticed in, and mentioned about, practically every blockbuster this year: the differences between humans and non-humans. So many films this year (Godzilla, X-Men, and even Transformers) have attempted to sort of tackle the distinction between humans and their on-screen counterparts (be they giant monsters, giant robots, or crazy mutants). While all of them have succeeded in some regard, none has really nailed just how important or useless humanity really is within the confines of their script. Smack in the middle of the summer, we’ve got another film to add to this list, and arguably one that does it better than the rest. It’s the latest addition to a series that has always found interest in depicting the wicked ways of whatever the superior species is, and its title is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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