I saw Boyhood the other night and it was awesome. But I’m still trying to figure out whether part of its awesomeness ultimately boils down to “gimmick” filmmaking, as opposed to real art and inventiveness.

I’m sure you know the technical details, but the film was shot over ten years, with all the actors (including the two kids at the center of the story) showing the real honest-to-god aging and maturing of their characters in real time. But after watching the film, I found myself imagining an alternate version of the film, perfectly identical to the real thing — scene for scene, shot for shot, line for line — except made with entirely traditional techniques. In this alternative film, the young leads would have been played by three different actors (one as a child, one as a pre-teen, one as a teenager), with they and the rest of the cast aged up or down with hair and makeup. Which is to say, a totally normal, totally traditional biopic.

If I'd seen that alternate film, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much, because objectively speaking, the actual story in Boyhood is a little bit on the thin side. It’s a collection of great moments, but relatively few of them really connect from beginning to end. In that way, Boyhood reminded me a lot of Angela’s Ashes from about fifteen years ago — which is also a film following a character from boyhood to adolescence, but in which the central character is played by three different actors at different ages. Which is to say, a totally normal, totally traditional biopic.

So in thinking about why I loved Boyhood and why I thought Angela’s Ashes was about as exciting as warm yogurt, I start to ask myself whether the only reason I love Boyhood is for its technical side — the insane, amazing, brilliant experiment of actually shooting a movie over ten years. Or are those technical considerations totally secondary to the more important emotional connection that they allowed the story to create — the idea that explicitly knowing that I’m seeing these characters age over ten years creates a resonance with those characters that no traditional film could ever create?


A Personal Thing

So this is a bit of a personal thing.

I know that everyone on the Internet stays totally on top of British Columbia's political affairs, but for those few who need the update — we're in the middle of a teachers' strike here. It's a nasty strike, driven by our provincial premier's hate-on for our education system and her love of tearing up public-sector union contracts. (For my American associates, think Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in drag.)

This strike is affecting me on a personal level because my wife is a teacher (and an amazing one, though that's beside the point), and I know how much it hurts her to not be in her classroom for the start of school for the first time in twenty-seven years. The strike is also affecting me on a personal level because our household income is taking a hit as a result of my wife and teachers across BC standing up for our education system and the kids it serves. We're not in any kind of trouble yet, and my own work continues to go well, and as a full-time self-employed creative type, I have a longstanding and prosperous relationship with our line of credit. But given that I prefer to avoid trouble before it happens whenever possible, I'm looking to keep my own side of the household income as robust as I can.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that in addition to the RPG work that I think most people tripping across this site know me for, I write books. They're good books, or so I've been told by those who read them. They're fantasy and SF, and are available in all sorts of places, and if you had any inclination to check them out, now would be a most awesome time.