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Criticwire Survey: Beyond 'Boyhood,' The Best Movies About The Passage of Time

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July 14, 2014 9:19 AM
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Boyhood

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, "What is the best film in theaters right now?" can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: Richard Linklater has said that the real theme of his movie "Boyhood" is not growing up but time itself. What's your favorite film or TV illustration of the passage of time?

Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire

Whatever you might think of the film, that one-year-later transition in "Notting Hill" is a thing of beauty. One long slow pan through a busy Portobello Road street market takes us through all four seasons, the death of a relationship, and the birth of new life. It's detail-rich, shot with incredible skill and set to the amazing Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine." Even if you can't stand Hugh Grant, you can't deny that it's a great, great sequence.


Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com, Indiewire

Obviously, the montage covering the first couple days of the Kumite in "Bloodsport."


Ali Arikan, RogerEbert.com

Young Conan turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Wheel of Pain. 


Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, Business Week

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were particularly good at this sort of thing, and I think "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" contains one particular scene that might be the wittiest, saddest, most gruesome and profound depiction of the passage of time I've ever seen. It's right after the film's first half, after Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) returns from Berlin in the early 1900s, in the wake of a diplomatic row and an abortive duel related to the Boer War. He's fallen for Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr) but has also lost her to another man — a German officer who will become his lifelong best friend (Anton Walbrook). He will also spend the rest of his life haunted by this woman, though he'll never see her again. (He will, however, see other women played by Deborah Kerr.) He's at his aunt's house, and she questions him about the mysterious woman that he's fallen in love with and left behind in Berlin. She then tells him that she's got an empty house and that it is essentially his: "Whatever you do, and wherever you go, you've always got a home here." She then adds, weirdly, that he should feel free to fill up the walls with whatever he shoots. We then get a montage of all the animal heads Clive Candy fills the walls with. A lion, a gazelle, a rhino, an elephant, etc. each representing a different year and each announced on the soundtrack with a gunshot, and punctuated with a display label: "Lion. E Africa. 1903," "Crocodile, Bengal. 1907," and so on... until we finally get a German helmet. "Hun, Flanders, 1918." And thus, we're in the film's next section, set at the end of WWI.

Colonel Blimp

It's a playful montage (don't tell PETA), but it's also a cruel one — because the scene comes immediately after Clive and his aunt talk about his lost love, his decorating the walls with animal heads instead of establishing a happy home feels like a sad depiction of emotional displacement and corrupted domesticity. And the addition of the Hun helmet at the end places the very concept of war in that context as well. "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is ostensibly a patriotic movie, but it's also one of the great anti-war films ever made, precisely because of this undercurrent of thwarted desire that runs throughout it. 

Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

Hands down, the final scene in the finale of "Six Feet Under." I just pulled it up on YouTube to post it here and my husband, who is sitting next to me, made me stop watching. There are a lot of scenes in movies and TV in which time passes, but this one made me feel time passing — in the show, and in reality. (Much as "Boyhood" did.)


Peter Howell, Toronto Star

The time-travel episode "Walking Distance" from Rod Serling's classic TV series "The Twilight Zone" has stayed with me since I first saw it at about age 13 in 1969, a decade after it was first broadcast. The essential message about the emptiness of nostalgia rings ever louder as the years advance. Set in 1959, it stars Gig Young as burdened metropolitan advertising executive Martin Sloan, whom today we'd call a Don Draper type. He's out for a countryside drive that isn't proving to be as restorative as he'd hoped. He stops to get his car serviced at a gas station and realizes he's just a short stroll away from his boyhood burgh of Homewood. Walking into town, in true "Twilight Zone" fashion, he's shocked to discover he's returned not just to a familiar place but also to 1934, a carefree year for him. He meets his younger self and also his father, who sagely advises him to look not wistfully at the past but rather hopefully towards the future. It's a subtle put powerful meditation on coping with the sense of longing we all feel about time that slips away and memories that persist. J. J. Abrams evidently agrees, since there's a shout-out to "Walking Distance" in his 2011 film "Super 8." Bonus for this TZ episode: Bernard Herrmann's masterful score and an appearance by a very young Ron Howard, shortly before he became known as the precocious Opie in "The Andy Griffith Show" and long before his current notoriety as a film director.


Richard Brody, the New Yorker

The shortest answer is: Orson Welles. But when the talk turns to studio butcherings of directors' cuts, I'm reminded of the peculiar incidental benefit of one such hack job. The movie is "Once Upon a Time in America," the experience took place in June, 1984, at a borderline-suburban multiplex (Douglaston, Queens, for those who are keeping score), and the cut is the studio's just-over-two-hour one that was released theatrically at the time. The version that's shown now runs almost four hours (Sergio Leone's original four-and-a-half-hour film will come out in September), and it features an elaborate flashback structure. But for the original theatrical release, Warner Bros. didn't only slice it by nearly half, but also ironed its narrative out into strict chronological order. As a result, when, near the end, the action skips from the nineteen-thirties to the late 'sixties, it does so in a single cut — Robert de Niro's character, Noodles, suddenly has gray hair and a wrinkled face. There's nothing in the story to prepare for the leap ahead, and that drastic change in his appearance gave me an aestheticized jolt of time passing that nothing in "Boyhood" or any other film has matched.


Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, What the Flick?!

I gotta go back to "Citizen Kane" on this one — the snow falling on Rosebud the sled as we hear the train whistle taking young Charles away to his new life; the white snow dissolves into the white wrapping paper that covers a ridiculously elaborate and fancy sled given to him by his new guardian Walter Parks Thatcher; the stentorian Thatcher towers above the boy and intones, "Well, Charles... Merry Christmas."; the boy responds, in a surly tone, "Merry Christmas"; cut to an elderly Thatcher at his desk, dictating a letter, "...and a Happy New Year!"


Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

Both Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" and Agnes Varda's "Cleo from 5 to 7" are hour- and minute-specific and give the impression that dramatic events are happening in real time as opposed to movie time.


Jake Cole, Slant Magazine, Movie Mezzanine

Last year I caught up with John Ford's "The Long Gray Line," often considered a minor effort but not without backing from major Ford partisans like Tag Gallagher. Watching it, I was struck by the way it handled the passage of its central character's life. An upending of the usual Great Men narrative arcs, "The Long Gray Line" isn't about a legendary warrior, or even a buck private who rises through the ranks through distinguished service. It is instead about the soldier who stays behind as an instructor as his friends, and later the children of friends, go off to war. This lack of movement, limited by military orders, not a failure of drive, removes all the usual suspects of narrative time-marking (geographical relocation, social mobility), with only a slow increase of age make-up and the increasing weariness of Tyrone Power's performance to suggest change. Yet I cannot think of another film in which time feels more palpable, nor more oppressive. Time moves seemingly outside the unchanging parade grounds, instruction areas and mess halls where Maher remains stagnant under orders as he sends men who seem younger and younger to fight and die. "Boyhood," actually, is the first film I've seen before or since that gives me remotely the same impression of time moving unstoppably forward, with no regard to its characters' desires.


Peter Labuza, Approaching the End, The Cinephiliacs

Lincoln
There's a shot in Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln" when the hero meets Ann Rutledge for the first time, and then throws a rock into a pond that dissolves to a winter lake. The shot then tracks down river to Lincoln visiting Ann Rutledge's grave. It's one of the most gorgeous scenes in American movies. 


Peter Keough, Boston Globe

The cut from the Dawn of Man to the space station in "2001."

Christian Marclay's "The Clock."

David Fear, Rolling Stone

Still think the bone-to-spaceship cut is unbeatable, unmatched.


Adam Kempenaar, Filmspotting

You mean other than the un-toppable 2001 match cut? Nowhere close to the same expanse of time, but I swoon for Ophuls' dancing/falling in love montage with Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica in "The Earrings of Madame de..."


2001

Luke Y Thompson, Topless Robot

"2001" obviously has one of the best and most famous cuts illustrating the passage of time. But one that struck me and stayed with me when I saw it was the ending of" Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust," where, in the film's final scene, immortal vampire D attends the funeral of the film's young female lead, who, within the passage of a second of screen time, has passed away from old age. The loneliness of never dying, conveyed instantly.


Monica Castillo, Movie Mezzanine, Bitch Magazine

The moment that comes to mind is from 1960's "The Time Machine." During the time travel sequence, our protagonist uses a store window mannequin as a point of reference to observe the passage of time.Calling her his fellow "ageless" companion, we watch as she models the changing women's fashions from the turn of the 20th century to the 1960s through stop-motion photography. The scene always impressed me when I was a kid, but I think it also points to the minutia that changes around us: clothes, hairstyles, gadgets, and so on. I say this as someone who just realized she's had a cellphone on her at all times for 11 years.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

I immediately thought of the sequence in George Pal's Time Machine in which the time machine...goes through time.  Maybe it's a little on the nose but this wonderful stop-motion sequence in which the hero sits in the well-adorned time throne and watches as the world changes around him not only brilliantly solves the problem of how to show time-travel but taken on its own it's a lovely little poem about how much and how quickly everything changes around us while we remain mostly ourselves, sitting in a chair, watching it all unfold.  Also, do yourself a favor and go out and get The Time Machine on DVD for the special feature Journey Through Time.  It is the most insane behind the scenes you will ever see, think Tim and Eric making a special feature documentary.  Trust me.  


Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter, Tribune

Casting a Glance
James Benning's passport says he was born in Milwaukee, but I reckon Gallifrey is nearer the mark: he's our Time Lord. And I'm not just referring to his "challenging" works which rely on duration — indeed, my absolute favorite of his is the relatively brisk "casting a glance" from 2007, in which some of the shots can be counted in seconds. A tribute to the land-sculptor Robert Smithson, it's a deceptively simple history of the artist's colossal masterpiece Spiral Jetty — which extends out into Utah's Great Salt Lake — from 1970 to 2006, condensing more than three decades (each date specified by intertitles) into 80 minutes over which we become intimately acquainted with the effects of geological time. For several years "casting a glance" was only viewable on 16mm via very occasional cinema screenings; it's now available on DVD courtesy of the Austrian Filmmuseum and is a superb introduction to one of the world's greatest living filmmakers. If "casting a glance" is still something of a hidden mountain, Miranda July's "The Future" warrants rediscovery. There's a one-minute sequence in which July's Sophie is working as a receptionist at a dance-studio. Two of her friends come in, and she's surprised that they're both heavily pregnant as she only saw them a few weeks ago... Or maybe it was longer Over the course of eight shot-reverse-shot cuts 36 years pass: the foetuses become babies; children; teens; adults; get together and have a child of their own. But to Sophie, who never changes, this is all happening in the blinks of an eye. Like the hideously underappreciated film itself, the sequence (online here) is original, economic, hilarious and quietly heartbreaking. Life just passes by: inexorable, unstoppable and faster than any train in Benning's "RR." 


Michael Pattison, Sight & Sound, Fandor

Benning. My first was "Nightfall," a two-hour single take of a sunset. My last was his newest, "BNSF," a three-hour single take of a rail track. But my favorite Benning film, and a less obvious choice as one that depicts time itself, is "Deseret," in which the director imposes a one-shot-per-sentence rule upon voice-over narration so that its chronological succession of New York Times articles about Utah shows — alongside a perceived history of the latter state — the changing rhythms and speeds of journalism over a 140-year period.


Kenji Fujishima, In Review Online

The most indelible illustration of the passage of time that immediately comes to my mind arrives late in Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood." It's not even an extended scene or montage, either, but a single cut that, by matching two hand gestures, collapses decades of time, bridging the gap from one character's childhood to his early adulthood. (That edit, of course, is a homage of sorts to the famous bone/space vessel match cut bridging the dawn of man and the future in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," but if anything, Anderson's cut is more strangely poignant.)


Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, NYC Film Critic

On a first viewing, that two-decade flash-forward between the second and third acts of "There Will Be Blood" might seem jarring. But it's gracefully set up by the shot that directly precedes the time jump. While Daniel Plainview is off attending to his pipeline, his deafened "son" H.W. befriends Mary Sunday, the younger sister of Plainview's preacher nemesis, Eli. In the last image we see of these two as children in 1907, they're taking turns jumping off a porch—H.W. goes first, Mary follows and as she plunges downwards out of the frame, we cut to a shot of the adult Mary's hands moving upwards as she exchanges, via sign language, vows with a grown-up H.W. on their wedding day in 1927. It's a beautiful cut-on-action that connects the past and the future and illustrates how the trust the two form as children flowers into love later in their lives. That unspoken "I'll follow you" becomes an (also unspoken) "I do." 

This is extrapolating a bit, but watching that scene, I also feel that we're picking them up in mid-game — that they've been following each other around in circles for some time climbing the stairs and jumping off the porch. Each circle, then, becomes a revolution of the clock or calendar year, pushing them (and us) forward through time. To me at least, it's like a visual representation of that great Joni Mitchell song "The Circle Game," which also links the process of growing up to circular childhood pastimes… like, say, daring the boy and/or girl you like to jump off the front porch with you. I have no idea if P.T. Anderson had Mitchell specifically on his mind in that scene, but it's one of my very favorite moments from one of my very favorite movies and serves as a lovely, quiet time travel transition to the shattering crescendo of "Blood's" final act.

Nell Minow, Beliefnet, RogerEbert.com

This is a great interest of mine, going back to Slavoljub "Slavko" Vorkapić and the falling calendar pages. My favorites include the breakfast table scene in "Citizen Kane," the waiting in the theater scene at the beginning of "The Red Shoes," Rod Taylor flying through time in George Pal's "The Time Machine" and the "Ain't No Sunshine" walk through the open market in "Notting Hill." I also love the scene where Burt Reynolds is teaching his first class in "Starting Over" and he (and we in the audience) think his remarks have just about filled the hour only to look at the clock and see that it has just been a few minutes. 

Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film

Vincente Minnelli's "Brigadoon "is the unrivaled construction of a dream about time and cinema's ability to take us captive in it. The village that returns from the eternal mists every 100 years for a single day defies nature, as does the enchantedly aseptic Scottish landscape, entirely wondrously constructed on the MGM sound stages. Cyd Charisse, in a creamy pale yellow dress — the ultimate hourglass — puts time in her basket with the heather she picks. Gene Kelly mirrors her movement, the V of his red T-shirt recognizes the slash of red in her skirt. In the Heather on the Hill dance sequence the "wounds" in their costumes communicate "and all the clouds are holding still." As in many of Arthur Freed's productions of the late 40s and early 50s, lost time and lost loves can be regained because the miracle of artifice protects them. It is the dream you find while out hunting for the passing of time. 


Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

I admire fictional feature films shot in "real time." They intrigue me even when they are gimmicky because they strive to simulate realism but use editing to achieve it, something real life can't allow. While I admire "Cleo from 5 to 7," and "Phone Booth," and even enjoy "Nick of Time" (if only because it unfolds on my birthday) my favorite film in this genre is Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope." Sure it may have been a stunt and it's stagy, but Hitchcock was quite clever with how he marked the passing of time in the film.


Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Popmatters

Raging Bull
Off the top of my head, the single shot that comes to me is that amazing slow pan up Robert De Niro's body before the last act of "Raging Bull," this would be the one where the camera lingers ever so briefly on LaMotta's now voluminous gut sticking out of his shirt. I remember seeing it the first time and doing a distinct double-take: Was that a body-double? (no!) An elaborate fat suit? (no!!) What it was signified what I believed to be the ultimate kind of dedication from an actor. It must have killed him (I seem to recall him saying after he did a similar trick for "Angel Heart" that he simply couldn't do it again — it was too depressing), but it made the film that much more rich and significant. LaMotta had lived his life like a sonofabitch and now, in his older years, his body perfectly reflected it. I know Christian Bale loses/gains 30 pounds before noon most days, but at the time, I was absolutely blown away. 


Dan Schindel, Film School Rejects, Movie Mezzanine

Time isn't real. Time is memory and imagination. I guess maybe memory and imagination might not be real either, but that's deeper philosophy and metaphysical stuff and I have already made this contribution pretentious enough. At the end of "Come and See," which better than anything else utterly refutes the idea that a fiction film can't be anti-war, the protagonist rewinds time. 

For readers who don't know, the story follows a teenage Soviet boy as he witnesses all manner of horrors by the German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR during World War II. After he's semi-miraculously stayed alive through several massacres, he discovers a portrait of Hitler discarded by the wayside. Wearing cinema's greatest thousand-yard stare on his face, he fires his rifle at the portrait, again and again. As he does so, images of the war and Nazi Germany throughout its history play for the viewer, but in reverse. Clouds of ash assemble into buildings, soldiers fall upward into planes, books jump out of bonfires into people's hands. It's like a visualization of the passage about the movie in "Slaughterhouse-Five." The boy keeps shooting his gun, and things keep improving in Germany. Images of Hitler recur, with him getting younger each time. Finally, the boy ceases fire — he's aiming at an image of an infant Adolf seated on his mother's lap. And he can't pull the trigger any more.

This is a film that features graphic and brutal rape, torture, and mass murder, but this sequence twists a knife in your gut like nothing else. It captures the sheer helplessness of beholding history's awful, inexorable march onward. Wishing to be able to change it is a natural instinct, and the source of every time travel story ever — a genre in which killing Hitler is a popular subject. But we can't change a thing. It's a mundane reality that only becomes tragic when you think about it too long, and let the scope of people's suffering crush you. We. Can't. Change. A. Thing.

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second 

I'm torn. So many of my favorite films feature temporally driven moments of note. Be it the jump cuts of "Breathless," the passage of time in the blink of an eye in the work of Eric Rohmer, or the lost weekend of "Last Year At Marienbad," time is as omnipresent an element as cinematography, sound or performance when it comes to the movies that really mean something to me. Ultimately though it's a toss up between Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles," in which time is used in a way like no other, Jacques Rivette's "Out 1," in which duration is pushed to the extreme, and François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel Cycle. With the latter it's the specific transition (that we don't see) between the final shot of "The 400 Blows," as iconic a closing moments in film as there is, and the opening bars of "Antoine et Colette," the second film in the series. That one of the most ambiguous and haunting final images in all of the movies could lead in to as playful a film as "Antoine et Colette" will never cease to amaze me. 

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

12 Angry Men

I've got two answers, because why not: "12 Angry Men" and "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp." The passage of time in the former is movie-length, whereas the passage of time in the latter covers a greater amount of time in mere minutes. The tension that occurs among the nameless jurors in "12 Angry Men" is expertly captured in real time without feeling like some cheesy gimmick. The combination of humidity, crappy fans in place of central air, a rainstorm, and the general discord sown among the jurors boils over so often in just over 90 minutes; the opening act sets up how these men will fight amongst each other to decide over the fate of a poor young man on trial for murder, but the way Sidney Lumet allows the back-biting to unfold is phenomenal in its depiction of how only a couple hours have worn on these men. 

"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," aside from being generally one of the best movies ever made (as is "12 Angry Men," granted), shows the passage of time throughout its epic length, but the montages that bridge each major section are what stand out. The gaps between Clive Wynne-Candy's time in the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War are filled in with the simplest possible representations: for example, his empty wall becomes littered with the spoils of various hunting expeditions in between two of the sections. There are myriad reasons why "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is a film anyone who's remotely interested in cinema should watch, but the way that Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, in the script and direction, present Clive Wynne-Candy's life in its interim is glorious.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

At first, I thought this question had stumped me. Then, BING! I realized the answer (as you may have already guessed from my Ned Ryerson reference) is "Groundhog Day." Bill Murray is forced to live the same day over and over. While the film focuses largely on how he uses this time loop to woo Andie MacDowell, there are all sorts of amazing/frightening implications in the margins. Like how he becomes fluent in another language, or learns to play the piano. These are things that can take people years to accomplish. Therefore, we can conclude that Murray has been stuck for an insanely long period of time, possibly even a decade or more. It alternately drives him crazy and gives him the opportunity to become a better, more well-rounded human being. That subtext has always fascinated me, and it's just another reason why "Groundhog Day" has become a classic.


Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That

This is an obvious answer, but "Up's" opening montage is so perfect it can't really be argued with. It captures a whole relationship's life in mere minutes with moments of joy, hardship and sadness. The scene speaks to everyone's experience of life, even if you haven't experienced it yet. "Toy Story 3" is another excellent example from Pixar, as the movie address the transition to adulthood without ever explicitly addressing it. Yes, Andy is off to college, a near universal right of passage for an American youth, but the toy's adventure looks at the scariness of the unknown and how sometimes the next step in your life isn't exactly what you thought it would be, spinning out of control till you find the best fit for your changing worldview. Pixar has addressed these themes in more than a few of their films ("Brave," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles"), but I think these two might be the best examples.


Cameron Williams, The Popcorn Junkie,

As the older Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfus) finishes off his story in the final moments of "Stand by Me," awash in the memories of his youth, we discover the fate of his childhood friend Chris and he types, "Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever." Shortly after, Gordie's son and his friend enter the room to ask if he's ready to take them to the pool. Gordie replies that he'll be right there and his son quips that his dad gets weird when he's writing. In that moment Gordie finds the perfect line to finish his story as the green letters on his computer screen reduce the audience to a bubbling mess, they read, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" The cathartic process of the older Gordie completing his story in comparison to the apprehensive writer glimpsed in the flashbacks is an incredible passage of time. Adolescence to adulthood in the blink of an eye, cue Ben E. King's song, pass the tissues.


Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

One illustration of the passing of time that's stuck with me is the jump that occurs in the third act of "Take this Waltz." It's a montage of sex sequences featuring Michelle Williams and someone I won't say just in case anyone hasn't seen this movie yet, but how it starts and how it ends says a lot about where the characters have wound up. Especially considering what comes before and after, this struck me initially as a daring move on Sarah Polley's part and now it's only grown in esteem.


Sean Chavel, Flick Minute

"Orlando" from 1993 has Tilda Swinton as an English nobleman, androgynous and omnisexual, who flourishes after granted blessings from Queen Elizabeth I in a lavish and picaresque costume epic. Orlando is an ever-transforming character whom changes definition, as well as social title, during a series of episodic exploits. It manages to cover 400 years in its scant 93 minutes running time, and gets more exuberant in its closing passage of years.


Andreas Stoehr, Pussy Goes Grrrr

Favorite examples that spring to my mind include the breakfast table montage in "Citizen Kane," the "Boléro" segment from "Allegro Non Troppo," the stop-motion aging of a family in the "Road to Nowhere" music video, and — perhaps most wonderful of all — the happy ending to Buster Keaton's "College," in which he and love interest Anne Cornwall get married, have children, grow old, and then die. (The passage of time can also be conveyed through dialogue. Witness Andre Gregory's poignant last line in "My Dinner with Andre": "A baby holds your hands and then suddenly there's this huge man lifting you off the ground, and then he's gone. Where's that son?")


Jake Howell, Movie City News

I'm quite partial to Richard Kelly's "Donnie Darko," which features time as a sort of Doomsday clock. From Grandma Death to the manipulation of space-time to the way time traps people in certain roles, that film somehow always makes me think (and laugh).


Mark Young, Sound on Sight, The New York Movie Klub

My favorite scene on this topic comes at the end of the 1998 Paul Newman film "Twilight,'"when Newman's down-on-his-luck private eye visits a one-time friend: an aging, cancer-stricken movie star played by Gene Hackman. Hackman is in bed, recovering from a recent medical emergency, watching himself in a movie. Director Robert Benton used footage from an old Hackman film (I believe it was "The French Connection II") in the scene, allowing viewers to feel the same pain the characters are feeling, that old ache which asks rhetorically, "Were we ever so young?" Then, as Newman leaves the room, Hackman professes to feeling much better. "I just might beat this," he croaks, but Benton's expertly composed shot tells the truth, making Hackman look withered and doomed, perched upon his eventual deathbed. The scene says everything that needs to be said about aging: we can't remember when we were that young, but we know for certain that someday we'll be that old. And, thanks to some sparkly teenage vampires, not even the title of such a definitive statement is safe.


Boyhood

Q: What is the best movie in theaters right now?

A: "Boyhood"

Other movies receiving multiple votes:  "Snowpiercer," "Life Itself"


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5 Comments

  • Steve Barr | July 18, 2014 4:05 PMReply

    Watching the third Godfather film is full of moments of pain and regret and what could have been and what time does to us all . As for the best movie playing in theatres now James Gray's The Immigrant . Regarding Boyhood : The most over-praised movie of the year and with the passing of time people will look back on this movie and say to themselves " What was I thinking ".

  • Armak | July 14, 2014 8:41 PMReply

    And let's not forget this, possibly the saddest moment in the history of animation.
    YouTube— /watch?v=XECQApj9IJs

  • Janet | July 14, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    Synecdoche, NY

  • Brando | July 14, 2014 2:21 PMReply

    HIGH NOON, as time presses unrelentingly, inevitably forward in real time toward the anticipated showdown.

  • Armak | July 14, 2014 2:16 PMReply

    Mike Mills' extraordinary BEGINNERS does amazing things with subjective time. The whole film feels like an ending, beginning, and middle all at once, the whole film. So by capturing the subjectivity of time, he ends up capturing the objectivity of it too.

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