MONTH END PROCESSING FOR AUGUST 2014
Movies: Thirty years ago last week, I left my family home in Manchester and headed off for the big city. Sure, I was nervous, but excited about the prospect too: whereas my parents were just nervous, though they didn't reveal that until I was almost out the door. There's a unnervingly similar scene to that at the end of Boyhood, Richard Linklater's stunning film about one young man's life between the ages of 6 and 18. The one thing everyone knows about Boyhood is that it was shot in real time, Linklater filming a few scenes a year over a twelve year period to allow the character of Mason to age realistically on camera. There's a risk that this could turn actor Ellar Coltrane into a mere special effect, but the strategy pays off: although curiously few people seem to be acknowledging the equally nuanced performance of Lorelei Linklater (the director's daughter) as Mason's older sister Samantha. The Belated Birthday Girl expressed some concerns going in, fearing that this would be a film about its central conceit with nothing else to offer beyond that. But that underestimates what Linklater's always done in a quarter century of filmmaking, setting up characters and letting them reveal themselves through relaxed dialogue. Boyhood's a delightful time capsule of the period of its making (coincidentally, roughly spanning the first twelve years that The BBG and I have been an item), but it's so, so much more than that. There's a genuine sense of a life being lived in front of the camera, and the risk that it could have all fallen apart at any time during the 12 year shoot just mirrors the risks we all run living from day to day. And if you're still not sure if Ellar Coltrane is an actor or a special effect, just watch everything he does in the film's final shot.
Telly: If you need any proof of how much of an impact Mike Judge has had on the culture, just note how many people's first reaction to the appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United's manager was "he totally looks like Butt-Head." Judge's track record in animation will stand the test of time: his live-action work has been somewhat more patchy. Until Silicon Valley, whose first season has already finished on HBO and is just on the point of wrapping up on Sky Atlantic over here. A sitcom centered around people with Moderately Irresponsible Jobs In The Computer Industry may seem like a rather niche proposition, but Judge and his co-creators are way ahead of you. The tech Macguffin at the centre of season one's plot - a massively effective data compression algorithm - is presented in terms any casual viewer can pick up. From there it's all about the character dynamics between the various geeks and suits involved, and any industry-specific gags are just bonus icing on the cake. Silicon Valley 's characters are what really make it work, and it's rather a shame that one of the most interesting ones - Peter Gregory, the boss of one of the two companies battling over ownership of the software - was played by Christopher Evan Welch, who died halfway through production of the season. It's particularly frustrating given the hints dropped about an ongoing storyline concerning Peter's rivalry with former colleague Gavin Belson, which presumably won't come to anything now. Unless they cast David Mitchell as his long-lost English brother for season two. Do it! Do it!
Theatre: After spending part of August running round Edinburgh in search of the hottest theatrical hits, we finished off the month catching up on one of London's current incendiary tickets. A Streetcar Named Desire is running at the Young Vic until September 19th, but your chances of getting a ticket for the theatre are virtually zero at this stage. There's a lot to like about the production - notably Magda Willi's set, an open-plan apartment framework where there's nowhere to hide, particularly as it's doing a slow revolve the whole time. And most of the performances are great, with Ben Foster being totally his own man as Stanley Kowalski, to the extent that you never think of Brando once as you watch him. The weakest link, surprisingly, is Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois: it's a one-note performance that never really develops, despite the huge emotional arc of the character. There are points in the second half where she should be escalating out of control, and instead she's letting the costumes do the work. Despite that, Streetcar's worth seeing overall, and the good people at NT Live are streaming it live to cinemas on September 16th. If you go, can you let me know how the hell the cameras cope with the stage being in continuous motion?