Finally a serious critic has the courage to say "the king has no clothes" or at least a very limited wardrobe ["A Gang of One Unmoved By 'Boy" by Kenneth Turan, Aug. 3]. When I left the movie, I felt like I had sat through an overlong, disjointed, at times overwrought and uneven film. One that was more of a "card trick" than a really good movie. A film that was mostly to be lauded for its commitment and tenacity to take 12 years to complete.
If anyone deserves credit for its success, it's Michael Apted, whose "Up" series demonstrated that capturing aging and mortality on screen is far more powerful than any fiction movies can conjure.
I didn't care for the movie "Boyhood" either. It wailed away on the easiest target in modern film — male bashing. And it was particularly annoying that 2 hours and 45 minutes after it started, after several interesting insights, the denouement had to be articulated by a college freshman who was tripping on acid.
So I was excited to see Turan was ready to articulate his dissenting opinion. Instead of that, we got a confessional about the internal turmoil and rigors of being a film critic. After all these years, Kenneth, you need to understand it's not about you. It's about the movie.
Being a lover of all films, growing up and working in this great industry and not always being a fan of "critics," I found myself agreeing with Kenneth Turan's piece on "Boyhood." Although I did not hate the movie, even enjoyed some of the performances, it left me wondering what all the fuss was about.
I appreciate Turan's honesty, knowing how hard it is to hear "everyone you know" raving about a film and not following suit. So for the first time in my life I am joining a "gang"!
Erica Hiller Carpenter
What an odd piece. Certainly the film has been overpraised and is flawed, but Turan never mentions the aesthetic reasons why he thinks the film does not measure up.
Perhaps he thought the two ex-husband characters were more "types" (the bitter alcoholic, the straight arrow who doesn't understand artistic sensibilities) than full-blooded characters. Perhaps he thought that the insights were shallow and Richard Linklater's writing filled with clichés. Or perhaps he thought Mason Sr.'s transformation from liberal deadbeat dad into numbed-out family man didn't ring true.
All of these criticisms are valid, but he seems more concerned with citing complaints from readers about past dissents or proclaiming that it's tough out there for a critic who is out of step with his peers' opinions.
And by the way, since when does a film critic recuse himself from reviewing a film because he knows his opinion doesn't jibe with the buzz from other critics at advanced screenings? That's something new.
I too have been living as a "gang of one" since I saw "Boyhood." I liked the film, but I would not label it a masterpiece. I thought that shooting over 12 years was novel, not profound. And while there were two scenes that moved me, overall I found the film lacking in any real narrative. In fact, I wondered if all the scenes were improvised because of the often-stilted dialogue and the mundane situations that were being portrayed.
I found "Boyhood" to be much like last year's "Gravity": a film that took an innovative and, yes, very cool approach to the craft of filmmaking but forgot to include a meaningful story that would keep the audience moved while they were being mesmerized.
I wish you had posted this when the movie had its debut. It is always a lonely road to disagree with popular opinion and speak your truth, but hey, that's what you signed up for.
I felt the same way about "Avatar" and most of Quentin Tarantino's work: much ado about little. Little compelling material is coming out of Hollywood these days; perhaps that's why more people are staying home, watching TV series.
In 1997, I made a small film called "I Love You Don't Touch Me!," which Kenneth Turan championed in this paper upon its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Because of his support, I was able to sell it to the Samuel Goldwyn Co.
A few years later, when I was trying to sell my second film, "Amy's Orgasm," the first critic I showed it to for what I hoped would be good advanced word of mouth was Turan. Unfortunately he didn't feel the same passion as he had for my first film and didn't feel comfortable championing it. I was devastated. But I respected his honesty.
In a business that's so full of disingenuousness, it's comforting to have a critic you can always count on to tell the truth — a critic who will stand alone at the service to his truth. Movies are better for it, and so are readers who still value film criticism.
Both my wife and I walked out of the movie scratching our heads feeling that the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes had been one giant manipulation to pay off a gimmick in what is essentially time-lapse photography without the true evolution or development one sees as real time lapse evolves. Unfortunately, while the actors were well-meaning in their roles, they were not given a storyline that held together effectively or entertainingly as slices of life over the 12-year span of those people's lives.
Turan hits the nail on the head when he describes the narrative as having been "fatally cobbled together, veering haphazardly from undertone moments to overdone melodramatic contrivance."
Too many times, I've bought a movie ticket because the overwhelming critical consensus made me fear missing a masterpiece if I didn't, only to feel in the end that I'd been duped into wasting my time and money. Sometimes I feel the critics are right, but many times my reaction is "meh." So it was refreshing to read Kenneth Turan's comments about "Boyhood." I'm more inclined to trust the judgment of a critic who's not afraid to be contrarian at times, at the risk of being maligned by other critics and the public.
I was relieved to read Turan's assessment of "Boyhood" since I too felt mystified by the enthusiastic endorsements from friends who loved the movie. Like him, I found the film hollow at its core, treating, as he said, "banalities as if they were words of wisdom."
After sitting through its almost three hours running time, I couldn't help but recall the depth and impact of the late Francois Truffaut's 1959 film about his boyhood, "The 400 Blows." It said so much more about imperfect parents and the challenges of youth — and did so in only 99 minutes!
Thank you, Kenneth Turan, for bravely standing against the crowd (as you did on the equally overpraised "Titanic") on "Boyhood." I could not agree with you more: Critics fell in love with the idea of the film and seemed to miss that there is little substance on-screen. It reminded me of the critical reaction to "The Artist," a best picture winner nearly forgotten a few years later. Of course, criticism is but one writer's opinion, but those whose reviews are widely distributed should remember to focus on what's on the screen — the art — and not on the film's "cool" back story.
Turan chalks up the rave reviews for "Boyhood" to our culture's out-of-control propensity for hyperbole. For anyone doubting this overly positive spin on everything, count how many times the word "awesome" is uttered on TV in one hour. It's truly awesome.
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