My Favorite Moments in the 2014 Best Picture Nominees: Boyhood
Our next Best Picture nominee is Boyhood.
Here’s how Oscar season works: from mid-December until mid-January, I go over what will and what won’t be nominated. Opinions are formed. It can get heated. Then they announce the nominations, and from then until Oscar night, it’s all about what’s going to win. And more opinions are formed. The problem is that nowhere during this do we actually stop and appreciate the films. They’re always seen through the lens of competition.
So what I do every year is, after all the analysis is done, and all the opinions are dealt with, I stop, take a minute, throw it all away, and just stop to appreciate the movies. I watch all the nominees again, and I pick my favorite moments (or elements) from each of them. The ultimate goal being to remind everyone that once you take away all the competition, the awards, arbitrary decisions of what film is better, what we’re left with is great cinema. And that’s what it’s all about.
Here are my favorite moments from Boyhood:
5. “You did a great job.”
This scene choked me up. It’s the whole graduation scene in general, but this specific moment, where the two parents are confronting the passage of time, and have that one nice moment where he says, “You did a great job with them.” It gets me every time. I like how the film doesn’t overplay it. It stays true to what it is. But it’s still a nice little moment. It’s weird that this is one of the moments that stuck out to me, since I’m not a parent and haven’t had to go through this. But it still affected me. Since I know this is one of those moments that’s really hard for people to have to go through. And I really liked how this movie handled it.
4. “Don’t make me one of those people.”
I love this scene. The beauty of this movie is that it puts you in situations that are common among children growing up, yet a lot of them are ones that I never personally experienced. And yet, I feel like I almost have. I don’t know how it is for people who were children of divorce, or who had alcoholic parents, or were bullied, etc. etc. But in watching these scenes, they felt real. And I loved this moment, where Ethan Hawke comes to pick them up for the day, and they have this awkward conversation, and he stops them and is like, “No. I know I wasn’t around the last two years, but don’t treat me like one of those people you give the token answers to. I want to have real conversations with you.” It’s a great moment. It’s one of those scenes where it feels like something that is completely natural and real and happens all the time. I’ve never experienced it, but in this scene, I feel like I did.
3. This scene
It just makes me happy. Just a family having a good time together. No explanation needed. It’s one of those moments in movies that’s just pure. These are the scenes that make movies worth watching. The scripted stuff is great, and the prepared stuff is fine. But when you get that perfect moment where people are just existing, and what’s happening is just in the moment and just… being. That’s when cinema is magical. There’s a scene early in the movie where Mason asks his father if there’s real magic in the world. And there is. This movie. Scenes like this.
2. The Stepfather
This guy was fucking great. I loved how subtle they were with him, and how, in brief moments you were able to understand exactly who this guy is and what he’s about. That golf scene, where he’s digging at his own son — that felt real. This guy’s entire performance felt real. The way he’d stop a happy dinner on a dime to ask if they did their science project, or sneak liquor from the detergent cabinet. It was great. And that dinner scene… man, oh man. I didn’t grow up with an alcoholic in the family, but I imagine that’s exactly how that goes. Motherfucker just hates squash. Then there’s the phone interrogation after Arquette walks out on him. You get an entire picture of who this guy is and what it’s like being around him in such a short time. I didn’t think any other character in the film was as strongly drawn as he was.
1. 12 Years a Boy
This is the kind of movie that makes everyone who sees it go, “How come anyone didn’t think of that sooner?” It’s so brilliant. Shoot a movie a little bit over the course of a bunch of years. Watch a child grow up. It’s incredible what Richard Linklater and the cast were able to pull off. It’s such an intimate experience. There’s something great about how there’s no set narrative here, and how we just check in with them and how it all feels like it ties together even though it’s more connect the dots than a continuous story. It’s a really special film. The whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts, and this is one of those movies that’s gonna go down in history as one of the most brilliant and beautiful movies ever made, because this is one of those times where we actually see someone grow up, and we see one of the most daring experiments ever put to him pay off in such a great way.