“Masterpiece,” They’re Saying

I had a few responses after seeing Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood at last January’s Sundance Film Festival — “historic,” “unique,” “really quite special,” “mild mannered,” “fascinating” and “a human-scale, life-passage stunt film.” But for whatever reason the word “masterpiece” never quite came to me. I’m not disputing this judgment. It just never tapped me on the shoulder as I initially sought to describe this dreamy, expertly woven, time-dimensional saga. And yet a fairly sizable group of critics have used the “M” term, and in so doing they’re laying down the gauntlet to the Academy: “This…yes, this is Best Picture material, Academy, and don’t you dare try and push this one off to the Spirit Awards! We the undersigned are saying this…really!” So far the masterpiece crowers include Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, N.Y. TimesManohla Dargis, Variety‘s Ramin Satoodeh, Vanity Fair‘s Matt Patches, Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeny, TheWrap‘s Greg Gilman, The Daily Beast‘s Marlow Stern, USA Today‘s Claudia Puig, etc. I’m sure there are many others. What HE-reading ticket-buyers have seen it today, and what do they think?

Here’s Armond White’s reaction in the National Review.

  • Thom Phoolery

    Why isn’t this one set in South Central L.A.?

  • DukeSavoy

    “Can’t a guy just have a 18-year shooting schedule masterpiece without folks getting all up in his grille and making mash-ups and generally bringing a critical eye to the proceedings instead of recognizing an 18-year masterpiece when they see one after 18 years of filming a boy growing up for 18 years of logistical issues and schedules not meshing and leaving the film stock in a car in the sun and getting really sick of the project for like six years and misplacing all the footage from year 7 before finding it under the Chesterfield sofa next to some gum wrappers and dog vomit?”

  • Yes, masterpiece. The definition: “a person’s greatest piece of work, as in an art.” Yep, that would qualify. Easily.

  • Steven Gaydos

    For the record, the Variety review is by Peter Debruge and no, the “m” word is never used: http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/sundance-film-review-boyhood-1201064902/

  • vansmith

    The idea of film criticism/review is more about the critics writing ability, how clever or well worded he/she can trash a film or impress the reader with their knowledge of obscure films that don’t make it to a theater near you.

  • AntoniusBlock

    Come on, are we really calling Drew McWeeny a critic now?

    • Dave Glanz

      Absolutely. Especially after his review of “Boyhood.” He’s becoming the Ebert of the “fanboy” generation – which is fine by me.

      • cyanic

        Just because he’s fat with glasses doesn’t mean he’s similar to Ebert.

        • Dave Glanz

          True – he’s overweight and wears glasses. What I’m referring to is the way Drew is able to weave his life experiences and pour his heart into the reviews. Some of that maybe comes from the platform that was “Ain’t it Cool News,” but he’s refined it nicely, in my opinion.

          • Drew is in the LA Film Critics Association, which says that a majority of critical peers feel he belongs among them. He also does more reviewing than most of the group.

            • Michael Gebert

              Remember that John Simon quit the National Society of Film Critics when they let that backwater hayseed Ebert in.

  • Martin Foyle

    Yeah, saw it yesterday, a fine piece of work alright, draws you in, still thinking over bits a day later. I’ll go see it again, then I’ll decide if it’s a masterpiece.

  • Maurice

    I saw it last night. It’s a masterpiece all right. I’m pretty certain it will not be surpassed this year.

  • DuluozRedux

    Linklater is so overrated. Has the guy made one film that is actually good? If so, I haven’t seen it. I was initially interested in seeing this, but the more I read the less I want to see it. It seems like a stunt. And I hate slice of life bullshit. And then when I read about an alcoholic stepfather, I lost any and all interest in seeing this. Until someone I personally know and whose taste in films I respect says I gotta see it, I’m taking a pass on this one, especially at that running time. Linklater ain’t worth it.

    • Roger in Orlando

      When the Big Book on indie film is written, he will get his true due. Soderbergh broke ground, but Linklater inspired virtually every indie filmmaker to come along since. And directly or indirectly, he mentored a lot of them.

      • DuluozRedux

        That’s a bold statement, i.e. complete bullshit. How the fuck has he inspired nearly every indie filmmaker that came after him? In what way? And who did he mentor specifically?

        Linklater is the hipster’s idea of a great filmmaker, all because of the Delpy-Hawke shit and Dazed and Confused. Nothing else he has made, before Boyhood that is, has caused a ripple.

        • Roger in Orlando

          Two that come straight to mind, from the horse’s mouth interviews I’ve conducted, are Kevin Smith and the Blair Witch Project team. Seriously, there are years when his name comes up half a dozen times as I profile first-time filmmakers who mention “Slacker” as proving to them that a good concept/idea, with good dialogue is more important than ready cash or Daddy paying for a fancy film school. The Munblecore crowd mention him, to a one. Linklater talks at colleges, festivals, takes their questions and later follow-up queries, mentoring. Rodriguez does a bit of that, too. Plainly, talky movies are not your thing. But dismissing “Before Sunrise” etc. shows you have no soul.

          • DuluozRedux

            Wow, Kevin Smith, the Blair Witch team, and the Mumblecore folks? What an esteemed group! They certainly are every indie filmmaker I can think of. Yup, no one’s missing from that list.

            A good concept with good dialogue is more important than money? Sure thing, pal. Cause we all know most indie filmmakers want to play some bumblefuck festivals for their whole lives cause they’re shut out of the majors and will never get real theatrical distribution. This ain’t 1991 anymore.

            And what the fuck is a “talky” movie? You mean something with unrealistic dialogue and no plot and nothing original going on? You mean Mumblecore garbage? Linklater is proof you don’t need ideas, or any kind of talent with a camera, to succeed. If anything, he contributes to this bullshit notion of cinema as anti-art.

            • Roger in Orlando

              You are one toxic piece of shit, aren’t you? The bile just bubbles. Being a journalist, I wasn’t going to add names I cannot verify from memory, straight out. Scads of folks took “Slacker” as inspiration and from there others picked up the baton. Yeah, it’s been two generations, but Linklater is pretty close to being the source. On the other hand, why are you even commenting on a movie blog? You don’t enjoy good movies, everybody here is some sort of better credentialed threat to your bad taste/manhood/closeted whatever it is you have in the closet.

              • DuluozRedux

                Aww, I love you too, sweetie.

                • daniel23

                  Many, many people – myself included – have taken the Before Trilogy, Dazed and Confused, and Boyhood to heart, because those films speak to us at some core, authentic level. And like it or not, his films, his style, and his practical approach have been extremely influential. You’re perfectly free to not like his movies – but I don’t really get the fierceness with which you’re trying to argue that they are worthless. Just don’t go see them. The multiplexes are filled, year round, with expensive, escapist, blandly digestible studio product that is as far removed from Linklater’s `slices of life’ as possible. Why are you so threatened by a small film about a family evolving over time? Even if it’s a huge hit, its not like they’re gonna stop making Transformers movies. You’ll be all right, don’t worry.

                  • DuluozRedux

                    Phew, for a minute there I thought Linklater’s greatness would make them stop churning out Transformers movies! Shit, that was close. As we all know, all we got is Linklater’s fake profundity, and then studio shit, nothing in between, and thank god for that.

                    In other news, hipster assholes with no taste in movies who like a camera to just sit on a tripod and record get REALLY butthurt if you diss their main man Linklater. Shit, these fucking pussies even like The Newton Boys! Go wax your moustache as you sip your organic, sustainable beer you fucking dolt.

                    • daniel23

                      Why are you so angry about this? You haven’t even seen the film. Sure, Linklater’s movies arent the most cinematically adventurous out there, but he has an integrity, and a playful intellectual approach to his favorite themes (time, memory, relationships) that I – for one – respond to. Of all the inanities and compromises and depressing trends happening in the movie world right now, why waste your energy, and your admittedly hilarious creative insults, on a small minority of people who like his movies? Also, its taken me many years to figure out how to wax my mustache WHILE I drink my organic beer, a skill you would find extremely impressive if you actually saw it with your own eyes.

              • dvdoff

                Why? Because it used to be those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t do now bitch about those who can on websites.

      • KB80

        All the indie filmmakers who have now made Austin their home base, come for Malick.. but stay for Linklater.

    • Yes, by all means don’t see it. You really don’t need a movie like that polluting your pure mind. Besides I counted only two hot chicks in it that would qualify by your standards. Wait, scratch that, only one. So yeah. There are better ways to spend your time, believe me. Imagine how many cool points you’re going to get just by skipping it? Maybe you’ll get a couple of anons here to stand by you. Maybe you can form a team. You can fold your arms and nod your head and say, nope, not impressed. I’m not one of “them.” I am an original. That’ll teach ’em. That’ll teach ’em all.

      • DuluozRedux

        I love how in your cloistered world of holier than thou criterrati, you think I’m under the assumption that I’m somehow “cool” for skipping this. You couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s considered cool to be into this kind of shit. Just like it was “cool” to be into the World Cup for two weeks. Just like it’s “cool” to be into anything hipsters and the masses deem to be the “it” thing for that week.

        In this day and age, and in this culture, it is not “cool” to be contrarian.

        • cliterrati?

          (Therefore, since it’s cool you choose to be uncool so that you can then be cool?)

          • Thom Phoolery

            Cool it.

        • cyanic

          Does it make me contrarian to say Lars Von Trier is full of shit?

        • Gautam Anand

          Ask Armond White.. how being a contrarian always keeps you in limelight.

          • cyanic

            DR is commentator here. Not a professional writer getting unnecessary PR attention.

            • Gautam Anand

              Attention has many forms.. if you don’t know.

        • Oliver_C

          I stopped being interested in being “cool” the moment the “cool” people started saying ‘My Little Pony’ was “cool”. But I digress…

    • Oliver_C

      “Has the guy made one film that is actually good?”

  • Roger in Orlando

    I see this as more Linklater’s “Tempest,” likening it to the now-late Paul Mazursky’s mid-career “BIG STATEMENT on what I DO” movie. Linklater has always concocted lovely, realistic characters and conversations — situations — in very pedestrian looking films. Some of his films have a DIY artlessness about them that is the very re-definition of art. Slot this into his “Texas Growing Up” movies — “Slacker,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Waking Life” maybe. His Orson Welles pic was much more polished, more fun. Since you can praise him for rendering the banal chapters of life in vivid, fleshed-out reality, even if the production values are bare bones, it is some sort of ultimate Linklater BIG STATEMENT on what life is all about. Masterpiece? Maybe.

  • Chris Willman

    I love this movie, but I think using terms like “masterpiece” sets up expectations that won’t serve it well among general audiences who may be led to expect something more formal and less messy. If everyone could just get off the superlative train and let the movie breathe and be what it is…