Clenching the Nomination - Boyhood | Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
18Feb/150

Clenching the Nomination – Boyhood

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What scene clenched the Best Picture nomination for Boyhood at this year's Academy Awards? Kyle weighs in with his thoughts. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2015 here.

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In a way it's both odd and fitting that the same scene late in Boyhood is responsible for both the film's Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress nominations. This isn't a movie that calls attention to itself with cliché, Oscar-bait sequences that beat viewers over the head with its ambitious scope (though it could easily have done so), and that lack of a distinct Defining Moment may account for the universally warm but rarely ecstatic reception on the part of critics and moviegoers. But despite the (refreshing) fact that there are no hammy scenes drumming up false emotion by evoking the narrative surrounding the film's 12-year production, Patricia Arquette's subtle breakdown late in the film manages to reflect the same sense of profound scale, rooted in a character who can't believe so much of her life has just passed her by.

This scene, which takes place as Mason is leaving home for college, does a great job of two things specifically. First—and this is what got Arquette her well-deserved Oscar nomination—it unexpectedly and with great empathy shows a complex, profound moment in a parent's life. So much of Boyhood is focused on how Mason changes as he grows up that it's easy to miss the subtle changes in his mother, who remains a child-like constant through much of the first two-thirds of the film. This scene sees an outpouring of pathos that reflects everything from the emotional turmoil of the previous 12 years, to a sense of anxiety over what the future holds, to a hopeful sentimentality that sees it all as a natural part of the journey.

In this sense, the scene functions also to foreshadow and mirror the audience's (and likely the filmmakers') experience with the film and these characters, which is about to end. Boyhood works so well not just because of the gimmick—that's just a marketing-friendly consequence of how Linklater had to make this kind of movie—but because the form catches us up in the characters' on-screen evolution(s) in the same unexpected, unnoticed way that our own lives change. If The Grand Budapest Hotel secured its spot by making a surprisingly poignant statement about the function of storytelling in history, then Boyhood uses apparently innovative storytelling to distract us from just how poignant depictions of “regular” life can be.

Posted by Kyle Miner

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