Boyhood vs. The Truman Show

Boyhood(2014) and The Truman Show(1998) have more in common than you’d think. For Boyhood, the appeal and popularity of Richard Linklater’s film, to a large part, goes to the length of time it took to film. Twelve years shooting the life of a boy growing up is a first in film-making. It was a daring idea. After all, though the story centered around the coming-of-age of Mason, the audience observed the aging process of the entire cast. That kind of commitment is remarkable. Stop-go-stop-go with a project and you risk fracturing cohesion and mood. Years rolling by alter a personality. Opinions change as anger and happiness come and go. We all feel the effects of time. Do you remember how you felt twelve years ago? Most likely what was important to you back then has altered, and your passions have waned or have grown into a new dimension. Writer/director Richard Linklater, then, took a true risk convincing a diverse cast to stay the course. I suspect the reason he succeeded was because he made the plane as he flew it.  Was this a reality film? Linklater set up a situation, threw in the characters, and filmed the reactions. I wonder if Linklater knew how he’d end his story when he began filming in 2002? I bet he had no idea, and this is what made his experiment unique.

truman-show

Directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol, in The Truman Show, we are the audience who watches Truman being watched by another audience. In the format of a reality-show, unbeknownst to Truman a community contained under a dome agreed to play a role next to Truman for the rest of their lives. The soap opera became reality. Over time the television audience watches the cast age. The drama of life happens and Truman’s reactions become the story. A play-within-a-play adds complexity to a story; we watch the reactions of the film audience reacting to Truman. Who watches us?

Truman faces his maker and experiences an awakening. To me, it’s a better coming-of-age story than Boyhood. The Truman Show featured better cinematography and solid acting by the ensemble cast.

22boyhood_ss-slide-7UMX-jumbo

With Boyhood, I found myself less engaged. It lacked a purpose so I felt bored, too, because the central character, Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, acted as well as Hayden Christensen did as Anakin Skywalker. The scene between gathered eighth graders and seniors drinking it up and talking trash was painful to watch. It was just plain bad acting. Thank goodness for the adults. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke acted just fine. Sad ending for them, no? They had their shot at life and arrived at the finish line disillusioned and emasculated.

What I did like about Boyhood was illustrating social history in America from  2002 to 2013. This is one of the first films which chronicles the first chunk of time of the 21st century. What fun to witness the evolution of technology in such a short time such as computers, phones, video games. Yes, to Harry Potter, the music, and the saga of Super Woman who did it all with no help from males. Add in the political climate between Bush and Obama; soldiers returning from Iraq; the rise and bust of the housing market, and the educational pressures for teenagers to get into college. How about our society’s obsession to text? Linklater created an interesting social timeline and threw in some satire for those in the present tense. Baby-boomers have no voice in this film.

Personally, I have seen The Truman Show a few times and find it far more entertaining. The philosophical questions posed about what is real, the religious imagery, and Truman’s coming-of-age is more interesting to me than Mason’s.

But that’s me. What about you?

Now featured at Seroword.com

Five Shots: Toozigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot is an ancient village or pueblo built by a culture known as the Sinagua. The pueblo consisted of 110 rooms including second and third story structures.  The Sinagua Indians lived and farmed the Verde Valley, Arizona a thousand years ago. They mysteriously left the area around 1400, but their well-intact condominiums and burial grounds remain. Read more about them HERE . Here are five shots after a day of rain.

DSC00158

DSC00160

DSC00156

DSC00157

DSC00117

Which one do you like best?

Five Shots: Rainbows and Rain Clouds

DSC00121

California rain slipped into my AZ valley bringing vibrant rainbows and rain clouds. Here are five shots around the house yesterday afternoon. Which one do you like best?

 

DSC00124

Rainbow over Toozigoot National Monument

 DSC00126

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness

 DSC00127

Layers within Sycamore Canyon Wilderness

 DSC00138

Mingus Mountain

 DSC00139

Rain Clouds over Mingus

 

Oscar Wins Trivia

Seems the trend lately at the Oscars is to share the love and pass out the golden boy to a variety of nominated films. When was the last sweep of awards for one film? I guessed The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and looked at Wikipedia and IMDb for quick answers. Many award results I remembered, but some I did not know. Here are some Oscar wins trivia I pulled and thought I’d share.

There are only three films that have won 11 Academy Awards. 

Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 

There are only two films who received the most nominations (14) by a single film

All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) 

The largest sweep (winning awards in every nominated category)

downloadrok

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) won all 11 categories for which it was nominated: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Art Direction, Makeup, Costume Design, Film Editing, and Visual Effects.

The most awards won by a male

2001_12_05_2

Walt Disney won 22 Oscars. He also won the most Oscars in one year, with four in 1954.

Most awards won by a female

tumblr_n3bnh3iCAg1rujq2eo3_500

Edith Head won eight Oscars, all for Costume Design

Most awards won by an actress

Katherine Hepburn (4), Ingrid Bergman(3), Meryl Streep (3)

Most awards won by an actor 

Walter Brennan (3), Jack Nicholson (3),  Daniel Day-Lewis (3)

 

Can you guess how many Oscars these greats won? 

1. Billy Wilder

2. Francis Ford Coppola

3. John Williams

4. Woody Allen

5. Rick Baker

6. Coen Brothers

7. Henry Mancini

8. Robert DeNiro

9. Bette Davis

10. Alfred Hitchcock

Answers:  1. 6; 2. 5; 3. 5; 4. 4; 5. 7; 6. 4; 7. 4; 8. 2; 9. 2; 10. 0. 

Time to sit back, pop the cork to some bubbly, and see who wins.

Saloons and Theaters in Jerome, AZ

DSC00008

J is for Jerome, 1880s to 1950s, “the” copper mining town

A recent treat included an interview and personal tour of a site for my manuscript “Inside the Gold Plated Pistol.” It’s 1927, Prohibition is in effect, and part of the story is at the copper mining town, Jerome, Arizona. A prevalent feature of any mining town are the ethnic saloons which brought news and respite to miners rotating in three shifts. Paul and Jerry’s saloon still exists today. I asked Paul Vojnic’s son and grandson for their memories about the building built in 1899 and the partnership established in 1939.

Oldest family run bar in Arizona

Oldest family run bar in Arizona

This saloon was a speakeasy. It inspires my descriptions for creating a legitimate setting true to mining, Jerome, and American life in 1927.

Marble top soda fountain and bar

Marble top soda fountain and bar

During Prohibition, the upstairs area sold candy, soda-pop and cigars. Downstairs, miners gambled and drank alcohol or ate at the Chinese-run restaurant. The bell on the basement wall is intact; if the police arrived upstairs, the bell warned drinkers to hide or take flight. The skeletal remains of one staircase connected to the front exterior of the building made it easy to come and go without much harassment.

Once there was a staircase leading to the front exterior of the saloon.

Once there was a staircase leading to the front exterior of the saloon.

I’m interested in the immigrant culture of Jerome in 1927. Research suggests among the many ethnic groups living in Jerome, there were Chinese families who ran restaurants, provided services like tailoring and cleaning, worked in the mine, and ran opium dens. I’d like to fictionalize a Chinese family. The Jerome Historical society, local narratives, and scholarly work aids in the creation. For example, I am fond of Robert Wheeler’s The Social Fabric I & II which contains essays by historians about American life. Professors Judy Yang and Sarah Deutsch present the Chinese and Mexican perspective in a way that substantiates the creative parts of my story.

Paul Vojnic

Paul Vojnic

What a face!

Around the block from Paul and Jerry’s Saloon is the Liberty Theater. From 1918-1929, Hollywood films and Vaudeville acts entertained the public. In 1927, the population was over 2,000. Today it’s around 550. The theater has been redone. Visitors can climb the back staircase up three flights to see the film projectors and equipment, the dressing rooms, and then down into the house which held over 100 people. It was calming to be surrounded by red velvet drapes, rows of seats, the organ, piano, and medium sized stage down in the front.

Did you catch the post about Sally, “Knickel-Hoppers”? If you have time, here’s some fun information about them HERE

Entertainment was highly valued in Jerome and still is today. The Vojnics told me that 2,000,000 people visit Jerome each year; it’s the third most visited destination after the Grand Canyon and Sedona. I believe it, for it’s crowded on the weekends. Parking is sparse, but worth the trouble to take in the vista views and explore three layers of streets cut into the side of the mountain.

Next to investigate comes the process of copper mining and the billion dollar industry that made Mr. Clark an élite industrialist. Even more fascinating is his recluse daughter, Huguette Clark, who inherited the fortune and hid herself away from the limelight. Here is a SYNOPSIS of Empty Mansions. I’ve just stared reading it. Is she a female Howard Hughes?

Violence and Valentine’s Day

Accolade_by_Edmund_Blair_Leighton

The Accolade by Edmund Leighton, 1901

I teach U.S. History, World History, Holocaust Studies, and Recent World History. IT is heavy.  I read scholarly books and novels about it. I watch documentaries and films about it. I attend conferences, create stories, and talk to colleagues about it. With my students, we analyze it day after day, month after month, year after year. And IT has me going home after work saturated with the stain of violence and its result–despair, atrocity, and the knowledge that history repeats itself, much like my day. Sometimes it takes hours for the fog of history to dissipate.

99622-004-4DECDA90

The Parthenon, Athens

To clarify, I love my job. I feel I owe Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Martin Luther, the Greeks, Cyrus the Great, the Mayans, and Lucy my best efforts to pass along their stories to each class, trying to inspire. If students explore humanity’s great achievements, they need to examine wars, dictators, and perverted power, for if they learn how to empathize and evaluate the past, history becomes important, and they won’t forget. One day history will stop repeating itself. Right?

I went home and Gone Girl greeted me right at the part when character Amy Dunne slit the throat of Desi Collings and swam in the results. I thought about her as the new psychopath, a female Hannibal Lector. I wondered if Alfred Hitchcock were alive and working today, would he like this new psycho? Would he be as gruesome as modern filmmakers who show the realism of murder, disaster, and mayhem? These were my thoughts during dinner. Next came the news. Only the horrible is reported, and I turned off the television and went to read. I opened the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist, Phillipp Meyer’s, The Son. It’s an epic western, and after a few pages of prologue, the story began with a Comanche attack of the protagonist’s homestead in Texas. Thus began the assault of the family members. Breasts were cut off, heads were scalped. The writing is fine, but the violence–after a day of IT, I threw the book across the room. It’s likely an excellent historical fiction novel. I’ve reclaimed it from the corner because as a writer, I’m interested how Meyer created the historical climate. It’s not his fault life was violent for all concerned in the 1800s. Violence is the human constant since we drew the hunt on cave walls.

6a00d8358081ff69e201a5115f40d5970c-800wi

I was one of those who scoffed at Valentine’s Day. The isles of pink and red. Ugly balloons and cards with expectations one must romance and love. Today.

But now, I’m starting to reconsider Valentine’s Day. I find I do need to be prodded to be extra-sweet to those I care about. I want to crack the unsentimental shell hardened by my daily dose of history. I need to let the gooey-goodness of life spill out.  I bought my students heart-shaped doughnuts, and they became well-behaved angels. We continued our discussion whether FDR’s New Deal was a conservative or radical experiment. They wanted to rush on to the exciting stuff–World War II.  Oh boy. Total War. Won’t that be fun. 

On Valentine’s Day, I vow to take a break from IT.  I will watch charming films, count my blessings, and pray for world peace.

William Holden as Lover

 

Today, the spotlight is on William Holden’s characters in Romantic films. Whether in the love triangle, or as the lead, characters lean toward self-absorption and antisocial behavior. Even though he starred with the “A” listers and won an Oscar for Best Actor (Stalag 17), Holden seems to stand on a plateau below the apex of his co-stars. His prolific career, and his star power during his height in the 1950s, should have garnered him more clout. Perhaps his personal life affected his legacy. So far, in this winter exploration of an actor I know too little about, William Holden has my admiration. Here are four films featuring Holden in romantic roles. I regret there are many I missed.

In Picnic (1955), he is Hal Carter, a vagabond loser who looks like a gladiator, fiery and full of sizzling passion under the surface. His chemistry wreaks havoc with the women of the town. Kim Novak is his sexual equal, and their chemistry is palpable during the dance scene at the river’s edge where the town celebrates. Director Joshua Logan directed the Broadway hit and the film. I loved the nuances and attack against convention in 50s society. It is a film taking advantage of the heat of summer to ignite the repressed desires of men and women. It is entertaining although not a satisfying drama like other “hot” films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but it is sexy in a covert, 1950s way. William Holden was great.

download (1)

Sabrina (1954)  Edith Head’s costume designs never had a fairer model than Audrey Hepburn. Although Humphrey Bogart’s Linus Larrabee wins Sabrina in the end, William Holden as playboy little brother, David, plays up the charm and humor to create the popular classic love triangle. According to IBDb, the drama behind the film was tense.  “Humphrey Bogart was a last minute replacement for Cary Grant. Bogart and William Holden couldn’t stand each other. Bogart disapproved of Audrey Hepburn (he wanted his wife Lauren Bacall in the role), while Holden fell in love with her. Bogart got $300,000, Holden got $150,000, and Hepburn only $15,000. Asked how he liked working with Hepburn, Bogart replied: “It’s OK, if you don’t mind to make 20 takes.” Ouch! Though Audrey Hepburn and William Holden fell in love, “Hepburn broke off the relationship on learning that Holden could not have children” (IMDb).

Born Yesterday (1950) Check out TCM BORN YESTERDAY for complete information about this fun classic showcasing Judy Holliday as the dumb blonde who turns smart with the help of her tutor, William Holden. Director George Cukor places all the attention on “Billy” and it’s refreshing to see the men take a side seat. She liberates herself with knowledge and gets the best of her beastly, corrupt mobster boyfriend played by Broderick Crawford. I thought Judy Holliday was hilarious.

Grace Kelly began acting in 1950 at age 20 and retired from acting six years later to become Princess Monaco. In The Country Girl (1954), she takes off her makeup and gives an Oscar-winning performance as Bing Crosby’s wife (He was nominated as Best Actor). It is an odd film, a brilliant film with dynamic characters who take turns intriguing the audience–who is the bad guy and who is the good? It’s a psychological mystery surrounding alcoholism, co-dependency, and manipulation. Of the four mentioned in this post, this is the one I’d recommend watching. George Seaton won Best Screenplay. There’s Edith Head again, making Grace look magnificent here, then later in the same year in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Bing Crosby’s performance impressed me the most.

What do you think of these four William Holden films? There are a few not here. Would you recommend Love is Many Splendid Thing? Golden Boy? The Bridges at Toko-Ri?