John Sloss

John Sloss

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Boyhood Review


Essential

By shooting this film over 12 years, writer-director Richard Linklater is able to explore family dynamics in an intensely involving way that's never been seen on-screen before. Watching the film is such an immersive experience that it's impossible not to be moved as the characters grow up before our eyes. But this isn't a gimmicky drama; it's a masterwork of writing, directing, editing and acting.

The story opens in as a single mother (Patricia Arquette) makes the difficult decision to take her young children Samantha and Mason (Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane) back to Houston to live near her mother (Libby Villari) so she can go to university. Eventually the kids' absent father (Ethan Hawke) arrives for a visit, and over the following years both parents do their best to raise the kids on alternating weekends. Step-parents (Marco Perella, Brad Hawkins and Tamara Jolaine) come and go, while the children grow into young adults. Samantha leaves for college, and Mason discovers a talent for photography, which will shape his future. And he also has a first experience with love before graduating from high school and facing the world on his own.

As the title suggests, the film centres on Mason, and the remarkable Coltrane ages from 6 to 18 over the course of the story. Watching him grow up physically is sometimes startling, but it's his emotional process that makes the film a true classic, mainly because his inner development is pretty much the only plot the movie has. And it's utterly riveting: over two hours and 45 minutes, there isn't a single dull moment. This family shifts and changes, going through rhythms of playfulness, private jokes, dark emotion and deep pain. They also offer a running commentary on 12 years of American history, discussing politics and other issues while making major decisions about their own lives.

Continue reading: Boyhood Review

I'm Not There Review


Essential
We first meet the real Bob Dylan, lit by a spotlight and blowing into a harmonica with his eyes turned ever-downward, at the very end of Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. (The footage comes from a concert filmed in the 1960's.) Though there are six evocations of our hero's persona and dozens of references to his words and images, his actual visage is kept under lock and key until the solemn credits. To Haynes, the mystery of who the man is behind closed doors should stay that way: Behind closed doors tends to be pretty tedious if not downright boring. It's more fun to extrapolate: In the open valleys of cultural myth, a celebrity can become any number of things.

At first, he's a young, train-hopping wanderer who has taken the name Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin), from his hero Woody Guthrie. He also plays a guitar with "This Machine Kills Fascism" painted on it. Later, the man appears as an aged Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) who can't understand why the locals are being bullied out of their land by a decrepit Pat Garrett (Bruce Greenwood). Fitfully, the sequences are shot in the dusty browns of Peckinpah and the hippie westerns of the late 1960s and 1970s. Both stories, along with the others, are consistently interrupted by a press conference with poet Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw), who speaks in a particularly American sarcasm while scrutinizing everyone who questions him, half-mumbling with cigarette in hand.

Continue reading: I'm Not There Review

A Home At The End Of The World Review


Weak
An initially touching story that wilts under its own insignificance, A Home at the End of the World is the second film to be adapted from a Michael Cunningham novel, following the footsteps of The Hours, a work that, for all its flaws, A Home can't even come close to. In an opening that veers wildly, and not unpleasantly, between adolescent melodrama and wildly unintended farce, we are given the suburban Cleveland childhood of two buddies, Bobby Morrow and Jonathan Glover. Bobby's eyes were opened to the world at age nine in the late 1960s, when his older brother Carlton introduced him to the joys of acid and hanging out in graveyards.

A few years later, after the deaths of both Carlton and his mother, Bobby is a puppy-eyed teenager who inherited Carlton's magnetic personality and utter lack of guile, which is what attracts another teen, the gawkier Jonathan, to him. After his dad dies, Bobby moves permanently into the Glover household as a sort of unofficial adopted brother to Jonathan - except that they're brothers who occasionally make out and smoke joints with Mrs. Glover (Sissy Spacek). The rather uptight Jonathan (he wears glasses and has braces, you see) can't handle Bobby's openness and is more than a little jealous of how eagerly her mother has embraced him into their family, and their romantic relationship stalls.

Continue reading: A Home At The End Of The World Review

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John Sloss Movies

Boyhood Movie Review

Boyhood Movie Review

By shooting this film over 12 years, writer-director Richard Linklater is able to explore family...

I'm Not There Movie Review

I'm Not There Movie Review

We first meet the real Bob Dylan, lit by a spotlight and blowing into a...

A Home At The End Of The World Movie Review

A Home At The End Of The World Movie Review

An initially touching story that wilts under its own insignificance, A Home at the End...

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