Coming Of Age

Moonrise Kingdom appears to be a delicate fancy of a film – an assessment you suspect might entertain Wes Anderson – offering no more ground-breaking a story than young love, with the director’s traditional preoccupation with whimsy, and creating such artfully created landscapes and characters that they flirt outrageously with magic realism, though without explicit realisation of that concept. But there are weightier issues at hand, of parental neglect, of revolution (not just sexual but also anti-establishment), and it seems completely appropriate that Anderson chose to set it in as provocatively important a time as 1965. The film follows two young lovers – Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) – who escape their lives to run away together, and the ensuing chaos of their parents and the local authorities’ attempts to find them: no more than a gentle plot that suggests nothing of the drama and comedy that subsequently unfolds.

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A long time ago, we spoke with renaissance man D.C. Pierson about his novel “The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.” It’s a thrilling tale about a gawky young high school lad who loves to draw and the friendship he strikes up with an even gawkier high school lad who never sleeps at all ever. Of course, freakish occurrences like that don’t go unnoticed, and soon they are running from dark forces that plan all sorts of terrible things for them. It’s endearing, thrilling, and strange. It’s the kind of novel that seems written by a sophomore in high school if that sophomore could actually write as well as he thinks he can. Fortunately, and finally, it’s being turned into a movie, and they’re keeping it all in the family. Mystery Team director Dan Eckman will be taking the reins on this one alongside producer of all things Derrick Comedy, Meggie McFadden. According to Cinema Blend the pair co-wrote the script for The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To with Pierson. The project doesn’t have financing yet, but Eckman will be reaching out for money quite soon. Hopefully someone will believe in it (financially), because (in several ways) this could be the movie that Gentlemen Broncos desperately wanted to be.

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Why Watch? Because kids can be so cruel. We’re lucky enough to feature some short films from directors on the rise, but we’re also lucky enough (thanks internet!) to go back and watch the early work of established talent. I’m not a big fan of Sofia Coppola‘s films, but this short shows a completely different side of her. There’s a momentum here – an almost MTV sensibility – that doesn’t exist in her other movies. Here, in a short that lies somewhere between the tones of The Virgin Suicides and Mean Girls, a group of 7th grade girls plot a secret plan based on “Flowers in the Attic.” As it turns out, 7th grade girls can be real assholes. So can everyone else. For fun – see if you can spot Peter Bogdanovich in a small role. What does it cost? Just 14 minutes of your time. Check out Lick the Star for yourself:

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It’s Spielberg week around here, so hop on your bike and join us on an adventure that involves dirty criminals, dirty pirates, and mortgage-saving gold. The Goonies, directed by Richard Donner, is the kind of fantasy that a lot of children had growing up. They knew something was happening, changing in their neighborhood. They knew that their parents were in some sort of trouble that was too grown up to really grasp, and they wanted to do something to fix everything. Fortunately, a pirate left a ton of treasure to help them out. Now to avoid all the booty traps to get to it. There is a ton of trivia surrounding this movie, but maybe my favorite is that Data has “007″ inscribed on his belt, because, as we all know, Data was always a bigger bad ass than Bond. The other contender is the fact that the children weren’t allowed to see the pirate ship until they filmed the scene of them discovering it. That’s a play right out of the Willy Wonka playbook, and apparently the Goonies take had to be redone because some of the kids cursed.

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There’s nothing quite like returning to the old neighborhood to find that your childhood playground hasn’t been torn down. You run your hand along rope ladders deemed “unsafe” by modern standards, feel the crunch of pebbles beneath your feet that did more to cut than soften a fall, sit in the swing and think for a moment about jumping out at the highest point. Super 8 is the cinematic equivalent of unearthing a time capsule and finding everything inside is still impossibly shiny and new. It’s impossible to remove the film from its own nostalgia, except for its intended audience of children discovering this type of filmmaking for the first time (and maybe even seeing their first Amblin logo). That’s a pretty powerful thing. With everyone clamoring to tap a market of adults eager for their own past while simultaneously getting kids into seats, J.J. Abrams‘s latest is one of the few that actually succeeds.

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Richard Ayoade’s Submarine is a much-needed corrective to the twee adolescent indie dramedy. The film maintains many of the recognizable bells and whistles of that exceedingly tired subgenre, but like the potential available in any catalog of clichés, Submarine finds a way to make them work. Instead of simply presenting us a socially outcast teen protagonist who speaks and thinks like somebody possessing cleverness and insight far beyond his years, Submarine provides specific reasons why its protagonist is so articulate while still giving us plenty of evidence that he is indeed an inexperienced teenager who has a lot to learn. Instead of assembling random visual quirks into a Jared Hess-style landscape in which decades of fashion are collapsed into one oppressively ironic and ahistorical moment, the setting and style of Submarine is (mostly) consistent in presenting a historical moment informed by nostalgia, even if we don’t quite know when that moment is (but we don’t really need to). In short, Submarine is refreshingly sincere. It’s an all-too-familiar coming of age tale, but the film gives us plenty of reasons to give a damn – its story in particular.

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Mud is being described by the LA Times as a coming of age story. Two teenage boys stumble upon a fugitive (named Mud) and then help him escape. It’s unclear how that will play out, but it’ll definitely make you grow up in a big damned hurry. Chris Pine is in talks to play the convict, which would continue his path of making smaller dramas while waiting to captain the Enterprise or step into the boots of Jack Ryan. The movie will be directed by rising talent Jeff Nichols, whose Take Shelter is currently playing Cannes. Producer Aaron Ryder evoked the name Stand By Me when describing the project, but the plot synopsis also has a slightly older A Perfect World feel. Making the former comparison is a gamble considering how nostalgia-covered Rob Reiner’s film is, but it’s enough to get my attention. Who wouldn’t love another great, sweaty summer-set coming of age tale? Especially one testing the acting range of Chris Pine?

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Hello, darkness, my old friend. Times can be difficult when you’re in love with a girl but having sex with her mother. Dustin Hoffman makes the hard times look easy, though. Little needs to be said by way of praise for this classic, but in a way, it’s been reduced to its iconic leg-filled image of Hoffman’s character Ben’s face staring dumbfounded and its most memorable line. Oddly enough, the leg from the famous poster isn’t star Anne Bancroft‘s. It’s not Mrs. Robinson. It’s television star Linda Gray (who would actually play Mrs. Robinson later on in the stage production in London.

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Hesher (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a character that represents almost all different sides of life, and mainly, childhood. He’s reckless, narcissistic, always looking for fun, and you never know whether or not he’s your friend or your greatest enemy. Hesher is a cypher, someone that you can never truly understand or grasp. Many will love him and many will hate him. A character such as Hesher can’t be easy to write. If he becomes too extremist, he can lose any hints at humanity and could become a total cartoon. But director Spencer Susser and co-writer David Michôd (the director behind last year’s tremendous Animal Kingdom) managed to find an authentic grounding in this coming-of-age film that chronicles the extreme emotions of childhood. Hesher isn’t the star of the film, but he represents everything about childhood and what the lead, T.J., is going through. Here’s what Susser had to say about writing a jarring tone, the max levels Hesher goes to, and writing spontaneity:

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There are few subjects that will bring back all the awkward memories of my middle school days, but the one always gauranteed to, is magic. That’s because I am a dork of the first order and made more than a few dollars cutting ropes up at parties and putting them back together again. But I never would have had the dedication or guts to do what the kids in Make Believe do. The documentary chronicles the lives of six teenagers as they prepare for a huge magic competition in Las Vegas. They come from all over the world, but they’re all outsiders. And only one of them can win. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Last week I explored how emotionally and physically painful losing one’s virginity is for the ladies. The women discussed all held on to their v-cards like prized pies at a county fair, and when they gave it up disaster often struck. Be it mass suicide, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, or (worse yet) feelings, each movie addressed this entirely relatable coming-of-age experience. While many of us look back at our first time through rose-colored glasses, it was watching movies growing up that helped us come to terms with what happens to our bodies, feelings, and sexual futures. Thank god, for every female virginity tale, there are female sex positive films, family friendly fantasies, and Golden Years send-offs. But what about the boys? Unlike women centric virginity films, the boy’s story is often considered awkward, comical, and down-right head slap inducing. Why are boys never given as much respect in sexual awakening stories as the girls, who consequentially are considered fragile glass eggs. I could sit here and list off all the hilarious comedies where a terribly geeky boy not only kisses but fucks the girl of his dream, but I think there is something deeper to explore in these movies.  Losing our virginity is a push into adulthood, an emotional journey for some and anticlimactic for others. But no matter what sex for the first time only makes us want it more.

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That Amblin logo at the front of the new trailer for Super 8 is an important signal to audiences that fell in love with the studio (and fell in love with movies because of the studio), and the rest of the trailer seems like it was cut from a movie Steven Spielberg directed in 1981 using all the best technology from 2011. Simply put, the trailer finally fives a sense of the plot to this mysterious flick without giving away everything. It’s incredible, a heartfelt looking movie, and it raises genuine excitement in the way that trailers haven’t seem to do in months. Get that feeling for yourself:

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Vanessa (Savanah Wiltfong) sits and enjoys an ice cream cone with her boyfriend Philip (Shayne Topp) at the beginning of summer vacation in suburban Alaska. Life couldn’t be any better, which is of course the perfect time for Philip to break up with her… he’s heading to France for the summer, and he fully expects that when he returns the two of them will no longer be compatible equals…

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The review quote missing from the Dear Lemon Lima trailer is Rob Hunter saying, “What an oddly beautiful and bittersweet little film this is…” In his review, he describes exactly why he fell in love with the movie, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s 2,208,000 words (at 24 frames per second) on why you should love it. The movie tells the story of a young girl whose boyfriend calls it quits, and she decides that winning the Snowstorm Survivor Competition is the way back into his arms and affections. The sweet and sour and funny and strange are all there. Just like growing up. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Black Swan Movie

Every time Nina Sayers gets near sex, something terrible happens. It is the focal point catalyst for almost every major event of Black Swan – where a character is forced to grow up in the most violent way possible. For a bulk of the film, this character – brought to life by Natalie Portman – is passive about the world around her. Nina’s mother has kept her in a state of arrested development, her boss relegates her to the background as he pleases, and even when she’s given a chance to shine, she is unable to do so because of the psychological barriers she faces. All of those barriers are brought down by sex. A few more are created because of it.

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As we all know, Pippi Longstocking is the prototype for Punky Brewster, except Punky didn’t suffer from the rare affliction that made her pigtails stick straight out. Longstocking, on the other hand, has that affliction, and super powers, and a vicious witty retort factory living in her head. She also has a monkey for some reason. Now, Debra Granik wants to direct Pippi Longstocking, using the classic tale as the basis for a coming of age story, and she hopes it’s a new direction than the normal coming of age tales aimed at young women. “What a person in the business can get from that is, ‘Hey, a young female protagonist doesn’t need to have a boyfriend, get pregnant, cut herself or be naked to attract an audience.’ “ That will remain to be seen (as will the film), but Granik is using her well-deserved spotlight for Winter’s Bone and taking on a task of importance (if nothing else, personal importance), and that’s commendable. My one question is, didn’t the Coen Brothers sort of just make this film and call it True Grit?

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It’s cold, and there’s blood on the ground. There are empty streets to get lost in, but there’s a monster on the loose. Let Me In is nearly relentless in its tone of isolation and the chance of finding friendship in the eye of the puberty hurricane. There are few warm moments that emerge out of the kid’s eye view, and they’re as beautiful as the silence. In fact, the whole movie is an exercise in the careful crafting of something we can all relate to by using something none of us can. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is bullied at school, left alone by a mother more wrapped up in her own impending divorce, and concerned mostly with eating Now And Laters and acting tough with a kitchen knife in front of his mirror. Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves into the building, and Owen’s life changes. He has finally found a friend. And that friend needs blood to survive.

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Filling up seconds with paragraphs of words, director Matt Reeves impressed a full Comic-Con crowd with his technical knowledge and his film fandom. Those who could keep up with him, at least. The man spoke in the knowing pace of a hundred miles a minute with an audience fortunate to catch words like Hitchcock, Kino, and Dutch Angle like pennies from Heaven amongst the strikingly long statements. It was his expertise and passion that held everyone captive, but it was also the names he dropped. Not in the form of famous talent he’s sat down to lunch with, but in the form of the films that truly inspired him while working on Let Me In. After some impressive footage, it seems like these films sunk in deep. Thus, by way of a mini-Masters class on the subject, here are the four films that Matt Reeves kept in the forefront of his mind while shaping his coming-of-age vampire film.

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With Neil at Sundance, I decide to take my own personal trip by remembering a Sundance film from a few years back that deserves more recognition.

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Goonies might never say die, but the kids on the sandlot will call you a butt sniffer and then make out with a hot lifeguard. Celebrate their bad ass status with us, won’t you?

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