All posts by petertaylor10

Boyhood: A Story of Mason, and Me

In the middle of Boyhood, Ethan Hawke as Mason Sr., absent father, drives his son, Mason Jr, played by Ellar Coltrane, to his 15th birthday party being held way out in the dry countryside of Texas. As they motor along in dad’s sleek new minivan, father tells son, “When you get older you can save up and buy a car of your own, be cool like I used to be”.

Nostalgia, always wanting to be cool like we were in the past, plays a large role in the film Boyhood, just as it does in real boyhood. This masterpiece, directed and shot over 12 years by visionary auteur Richard Linklater, follows the life of Mason Jr., as he grows from a six-year old in kindergarten to an eighteen-year old entering his first year in college. Mason is a child of divorced parents, living with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) along with his older sister Samantha (Lorelai Linklater). The family isn’t very stable, and moves around often as Olivia works on her dream of earning a psychology degree.

In Boyhood, Mason constantly is uprooted from his barely lived-in homes, and is always wishing for that chance to recapture the greatness, the simplicity of his last home. Even though he doesn’t realize it, all Mason wants to do is “be cool”, even though he wants to be cool in a far different way than his father does.

In our own boyhood (or girlhood), we also move from place to place, from school to school, from friend to friend. People enter our lives; people leave them. We experience milestones, from our first day of kindergarten to high school graduation; from our first baseball game to our first day of college. We constantly look back at past lives, desperately wanting to cling on to the pieces we loved and just cannot leave behind. We don’t want to turn our backs on the comfort, the coolness.

For Mason, Harry Potter was cool. In the beginning of the movie, his family lines up eagerly to buy the newest addition to the wizarding saga, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. For Mason, Game Boy is cool. Mason plays one of this favorite games on his device as he waits to see his father for the first time in over a year. For Mason, Kings of Leon and the Beatles are cool. Mason receives a definitive collection of the solo works of the Beatles for his birthday from his dad, and Mason kisses a girl in the back seat of a car as a Kings of Leon single blares in the background. For Mason, art is cool. Mason eventually falls in love with photography, and he also falls in love with a girl. For Mason, love is cool.

For me, and for many kids of my generation, these things are all cool. I vividly remember reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in bed with my mom and dad and siblings many years ago, just like Mason and Samantha. I remember waiting with great anticipation in line for the premier of the last Harry Potter movie. I remember long hours playing Game Boy with my brother, just like Mason. We played Pokemon sometimes, each of us having a favorite version of the game, mine the obviously superior Pokemon Sapphire, his the obviously lesser Pokemon Ruby. Often we would battle each other for hours playing Mario. I remember listening to Kings of Leon for hours on my iPod Nano, similar to the iPod Nano that Mason has. I remember talking to my dad about my favorite Beatles’ album, just like how Mason talks to his dad about his favorite member of the band (Paul McCartney).

Most of all, I’ve always thought art is cool. I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long, long time now. I have never felt the joy of expressing my true self like when I’m writing. I get the feeling that Mason feels the same way about his photography. And just like Mason, I experienced something like love when I was younger. Just like Mason, the love ended. It was no one’s fault; it just happened. As Hawke so rightly says about adolescents, “Everybody’s just changing so much, you know. The odds of two young people staying on the same wavelength…”. That is what happened to Mason, and that is what happened to me. In boyhood, we all change so quickly. Oftentimes, we cannot cope with the changes occurring in our children peers, whether they are friends, enemies, or love interests. These changes force people to move apart. This happened to both me and Mason. So, we both grieve for a period, and then move on.

Now, as I stand mere weeks from moving away from home, from becoming a true adult, from ending my own boyhood, I could not have seen Mason’s Boyhood at a better time. This movie is receiving rave reviews across the country. It has a perfect score on Metacritic; only movies like The Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia achieve that ranking. This is probably my favorite movie of all time. It has been greatly praised for the writing, direction, score, and cinematography, among other things. I love this movie for all of those things. But most of all, I and so many others, including many of my fellow young adults, love it because it so perfectly encapsulates the emotions I and others felt growing up, whether it was in 1960s or 2000s America. For me, it seemed to illustrate so many of the emotions running through my mind at this time. Now, the specifics of my and Mason’s stories are different. My parents stayed together, while his didn’t. I played sports and acted, while Mason took pictures. We attended different high schools, lived in different states, grew up in different atmospheres. Yet, when Mason felt happiness playing Game Boy, I understood. When Mason was bullied in middle school, I understood. When Mason felt isolated from his parents, I understood. When Mason didn’t try his hardest in school, I understood. When Mason was in love, I understood. When Mason was heartbroken, I understood.

And, most importantly, when Mason wanted to move on from his boyhood, wanted to put his mark on the world, wanted to be happy with his life, I understood. Leaving -friends, a hometown, and family- is the hardest thing that anyone can ever do. It almost seems like an impossible task. But, just like Mason, I have my life to live. Just like Mason, I love my family, and will owe them greatly for everything they taught me. Just like Mason, I am part of the Class of 2018. Just like Mason, I am unsure of what lies ahead, but willing to move forward confidently, and ready to live my life how I have always wanted to live it. Just like Mason, my boyhood is ending. If I ever grow grow nostalgic for my boyhood, grow nostalgic for the time I was really cool, I can always crack open my Harry Potter and crank up the Kings of Leon to eleven. Just like Mason, my boyhood may be over, but that doesn’t mean it never existed.

My 2013 Music Playlist

I received some positive feedback after I posted my early 2014 rap favorites last night. So, I figured that I would post my Spotify 2013 playlist, full of all of my favorite songs from last year. If you want more background on the music on display, check out this post. Also, some of the music on my playlist, like the songs from Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and RFA, you have to download on your computer to listen to them, because they aren’t on Spotify. Downloading them is very easy, and I highly recommend doing so. The site that I download them from, DatPiff, is totally legit. Here are the links to Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, Vic Mensa’s Innanetape, and RFA’s Just Don’t Turn the Lights On. Enjoy!

Oscars Takeaways: Deserving Winners, but One Huge Snub.

Last night was the first time that I ever watched an awards show in full. Being a cynic, I always thought that awards shows were just a vehicle for pretentious people to bask in the applause of their contemporaries while wearing fancy clothes that cost a year’s worth in college tuition (that was just a guess, but could certainly be right). But I watched more new movies this year than I ever have before. I saw Solomon Northup’s story unfold in the extraordinary 12 Years A Slave; I witnessed Sandra Bullock make her astonishing escape from certain death in Gravity; I laughed in horror at Leonardo Dicaprio’s antics in The Wolf of Wall Street, and then stared in boredom at the Coke Zero version of Wolf (not just in the obvious cocaine way), American Hustle. In a year with so many great movies, it was surprising how many of the awards seemed locked before the show started. In the end, all of the locks won: Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor, Jared Leto for Supporting Actor, Cate Blanchett for Best Actress, Gravity in the technical categories. And while not locks, the two major awards were won by the heavy favorites: Alfonso Cuarón for Best Director and 12 Years for Best Picture. While I wasn’t interested enough to watch the various celebrities parade into the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, I was interested enough to care who won. So, in a year of great movies but little controversy in terms of which ones won the awards, I have 5 general takeaways:

1. 12 Years A Slave gets its due:

The best movie of the year is rewarded with the Best Picture. Seems obvious, right? But there were definite reasons for director Steve McQueen to be worried that his magnum opus wouldn’t win: Gravity was dominating the categories it was nominated in, and many people loved American Hustle. But in the end 12 Years walked away with the big award. Not only an important “message movie”, 12 Years is an extraordinary, seemingly impossible artistic achievement. McQueen films his movie with a sense of serenity. He could have opted for a much more frantic movie, but instead his calm shooting makes the film more powerful. The performances are excellent, from the Best Supporting Actress-winning Lupito Nyong’o, nominated Chiwitel Ejiofor in the lead, and Bendict Cumberbatch in a cameo, to the evil Michael Fassbender, also deservingly nominated for Best Supporting Actor. These actors thrive off of the superb script from John Ridley, which like McQueen’s shooting is powerful because of its willingness to be subtle at times. This subtlety only makes the more emotional parts more powerful.

2. Gravity’s technical wonder is rewarded:

While a great movie in its own right, Gravity cannot compare to the overall impact of 12 Years. But in one way, Gravity  does surpasses 12 Years: its technical accomplishments. It won 7 Oscars, and 6 of them in technical categories, like Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Mixing. Gravity is a technical masterpiece. Visually it is breathtaking: some of the shots of the earth are shockingly good, and Cuarón’s and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s long shot style is used to great effect, as Lubezki’s camera zooms in and out of the rubble surrounding Sandra Bullock. And Cuarón deservedly won Best Director. While McQueen also did an amazing job, not to mention Martin Scorcese, Cuarón is almost solely responsible for Gravity. A great movie that deserves the accolades it received.

3. The best Best Actor race in a long time:

Every single nominee deserved to win, from Dicaprio in Wolf to Bruce Dern in Nebraska. Even people not nominated (Oscar Issac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, and Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, among others) had a legitimate claim to giving the best performance of the year. Now, McConaughey probably should have won for his great performance as Ron Woodruff, straight AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club. One of the great things about McConaughey’s performance is that even at the end, after he has saved the lives of many AIDS patients by providing them with illegal medicine, Ron Woodruff does not consider himself a savior, nor does he even like gay people. He solely considers himself an opportunist who now has some sympathy for people different than him. This ensures that the movie does not become too preachy and instead is focused on the internal struggle of a man. But even though that performance was so great, the other nominated actors have real gripes. Leo gives arguably his best performance yet in his already storied career, and Ejiofor gives a beautifully reserved performance in 12 Years. For my money, my favorite performance of the year was Issac’s, as he gives a truly despicable character some needed humanity.

4. American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street both go home with nothing:

One of these movies I loved, the other I didn’t. Wolf of Wall Street broke barriers and went beyond normal measures in its efforts to depict the debauchery of Wall Street during the ’90s, while American Hustle wasted great performances from its A-list actors in a movie with no real climax or interesting hustle. But both movies went home awardless. I very much wanted Wolf to win something. I felt that such a bold movie should have been rewarded with an award. I was secretly rooting for Scorsese to bring home his second Director trophy, and for Leo to get his much deserved Oscar. And even though I didn’t like Hustle, I wouldn’t have minded Bradley Cooper winning Best Supporting Actor. American Hustle even had a chance at Best Picture and Best Director, as the Academy generally loves David O. Russell. Jennifer Lawrence also had a legitimate chance of upsetting Lupita Nyong’o. But none of these things happened. In a weaker year, these two movies would have dominated the Oscars. But in such a strong year, Wolf was too polarizing and Hustle too bland. Dicaprio must be shocked that The Great Gatsby won 2 Oscars while Wolf won none.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis is snubbed:

This is a true tragedy. In my opinion, Llewyn Davis was the only movie that could hold a candle to 12 Years. It was smart, sad, funny, interesting. Oscar Issac was truly phenomenal as the title character, a folk singer down on his luck. As I mentioned above, Issac inserts some essential humanity into this truly bad person. Without this humanity, the audience would feel no sympathy for Llewyn Davis. But instead, we spend the whole movie rooting for him, even as he takes advantage of people and criticizes his fellow performers. Issac is supported by stellar showings from Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and the amazing John Goodman (how he has not even been nominated for an Oscar, much less won one, is beyond me. He must have deserved to win for playing the immortal Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, another Cohen brothers’ classic). The cinematography is brilliant, creating a depressed atmosphere. And of course the score is superb. Issac not only sings his own songs, he sings them live. Overall, this was an outstanding film, which had very interesting things to say about the futility of being an artist, and whether creating art actually fulfills people. This is my favorite Cohen brothers’ movie, and that is saying something.

And one more: Ellen was funny!

I know, shocking! A funny awards show host host! The only other Oscars I’ve watched a ton of is last year’s, and Seth MacFarlane was just not funny. I don’t like his work in general… Actually, I hate it (I’m sure he’s a nice guy though!). So that was bad. But Ellen was good! The pizza bit was good, the selfie was funny though manufactured, and her other jokes were good. She was by turns self-depricating and self-promoting with her trademark sense of irony. Good job, girl.

Hopefully we get half as good a movie year in 2014. Happy movies!

Union Preview Part 2: Depth Chart

The 2014 Union season is rapidly approaching. In only 6 days, the Boys in Blue will begin their 5th campaign off of the coast of the Pacific in Portland. There are  many reasons for Union fans this season to be more optimistic about their team’s playoff chances this year more than any other Union season. In Part 1 of my preview, I looked at 5 new players who could be huge difference makers as the U look to reach the playoffs for the 2nd time in their short history. In this part, I will take a look at the Union in a more general sense, by looking at the entire roster, and who coach John Hackworth will look to start. Overall, the personnel on hand makes the Union a playoff team; anything short of that would be a disappointment.

Union Depth Chart:

Goalkeeper– 1. Zac MacMath 2. Andre Blake 3. Brian Holt

For the first time in his young career, MacMath will face stern competition from the 1st overall draft pick Blake, who many believe to be the best goalkeeper prospect in the league for many years. MacMath is talented in his own right- he played a splendid last 3 months of last season, showing improvement at collecting balls in the air to his decent shotstopping skills- and he will not give up the #1 shirt without a fight. In order to retain the starting job, MacMath must continue to improve at dealing with balls in the air, and must improve greatly in his distribution. He could also be more aggressive in organizing his defense. In Blake, the U have a GK prospect who has the total package: athletic, mature, good in the air. Blake will certainly push MacMath hard. Holt is the last resort, and will probably get very little game time this season.

Centerback– Starting- Amobi Okugo, Austin Berry; Reserves- Richie Marquez, Ethan White

Okugo and Berry are the clear starters. Okugo is primed for a breakout season, one which could cement him as one of the 5 or 6 best CB’s in the league. Since entering the league in 2012, Berry has won a Rookie of the Year and has played in 62 games, including playing every minute of the Chicago Fire’s 2013 campaign. The most important part of a defensive partnership is continuity and comfort, and with both players very durable and won’t miss many games, expect the pair to develop chemistry early on. They could be one of the 3 or 4 best pairings in the league by the end of the season. Out of the backups, White is more experienced, though I think he has had a disappointing camp, as he has gotten very little playing time with the 1st team. And, if he was playing well in camp, Haackworth would not have needed to acquire Berry to pair with Okugo. Marques is a rookie, but I think he will get some playing time this year, considering he beat out the more heralded fellow rookie Kevin Cope for a centerback spot.

Right back– 1. Sheanon Williams 2. Ray Gaddis 3. Matt Kassel

This is Williams’ spot. Last season he broke the record for most appearances for the Union, and he did so while quietly putting in a campaign that some people rated as the best for a right back in the entire league. He is able to both defend solidly and attack with real results, leading the league in assists for a defender with 8. Gaddis is an excellent backup. With his amazing speed, he is able to overlap on the attack with ease, knowing he can run back to cover on defense when needed. He is far more comfortable on the right side. Kassel is the emergency option, and in limited minutes last season played okay.

Left back– 1. Fabinho 2. Ray Gaddis

It seems that Fabinho narrowly won the starting spot over Gaddis during the preseason. Fabinho provides some things that Gaddis cannot on the left side; as a left footer who has spent some time at left midfield during his career, he is able to attack and send in crosses down the left flank. However, his defensive skills are lacking. Gaddis is far more effective on the right than on the left. On the left, his crossing ability is negated, and he is far less effective as an offensive weapon. However, Hackworth did surprisingly start Gaddis at left back last season, so do not be surprised if he gets the nod again.

Center midfield– Starting- Maurice Edu, Vincent Noguiera, Brian Carroll; Next subs- Pedro Ribeiro, Zach Pfeffer, Michael Lahoud; Last resorts- Corben Bone, Keon Daniel, Leo Fernandes

There are so many center midfielders on the roster that many of them will only make the Union’s gameday roster, much less start, a few times this season. Edu and Noguiera are definite starters. They were both paid a lot of money to come here, and the U’s fans will expect a lot of results. Both players are in the prime of their careers and have a lot of pedigree; Edu is a former national team player, while Noguiera was the captain of a French Ligue 1 side for many years. Expect Edu to do a lot of work in defense while running forward to connect the side, and Noguiera to act as a “faux-creator” in John Hackworth’s system (more on why he is a “faux-creator” as opposed to just a “creator” in my look at the Union’s tactics). Captain Brian Carroll is virtually a lock in the side, occupying the 3rd midfield role. However, there is concern among the fanbase that Carroll may be redundant in the side, and that the U require a more offensive 3rd midfielder. That other option could be rookie Pedro Ribeiro. At 6’4″, he has the physical stature to dominate other teams with his strength, but he also is extremely gifted technically. He could be a real difference maker for the side this season. Pfeffer is a player with a ton of potential. He is Homegrown, having went to Upper Dublin. With all of the midfielders on the roster, he may not get much playing time this season, but he still has a ton of talent. Expect Lahoud to be a defensive option for Hackworth late in games. Bone, Daniel, and Fernandes may not get much time. I can’t see any of them making a major contribution, although Bone was a pickup this offseason, so it is possible that Hackworth plays him, and Daniel is a veteran who has shown flashes of talent in years other than 2013.

Right wing– 1. Sebastian Le Toux 1b. Danny Cruz 3. Jimmy McLaughlin

This battle is close between Le Toux and Cruz. Both are limited technically, but are excellent athletes who use their athleticism in different ways. Le Toux is one of the most fit soccer player I have ever seen. He is capable of running for 90 minutes every week. Last year, he added a new dimension to his game, as he became an accurate crosser, even taking the lead of Union corner kicks. This technical skill is a huge boost to his game, as he is not a great passer. Cruz, on the other hand, expends all of his energy in a 55 minute stint. He is constantly buzzing around the opposition fullbacks, looking to win the ball off them high up the field to start quick attacks. However, he is limited tactically, as he often doesn’t supply enough defensive cover for his fullback. Add that to his seeming lack of all technical skills, and the U have a player who can infuriate the fanbase. But Hackworth likes him a lot, and even though Le Toux is the better player, Cruz will get a ton of time this season. McLaughlin is the last option and may be sent down to the Union’s lower division affiliate, Harrisbug City Islanders.

Left wing– 1. Cristian Maidana 2. Cristhian Hernandez

This is Maidana’s wing to roam. Signed as a Designated Player like Mo Edu (meaning the U went over the individual salary restriction to sign him), Hackworth desperately needs Maidana to provide tangible results in goals and assists, not just improved technical play on the left flank. On all accounts Maidana is a very skilled player, able to dribble at players and create for others. In fact, he has played a lot of his career as the central attacking midfielder, meaning that he could provide an essential creative option for the side. The Homegrown Hernandez could play with the big club this season. He is versatile, able to play multiple positions, but he won’t get much time unless there are injuries.

Forward– Starting- Jack McInerney; Bench- Connor Casey, Antoine Hoppenot, Aaron Wheeler

This is the year for Jack Mac to cement himself as one of the MLS’ best forwards. After leading the league in goals through May, McInerney only added 2 more the rest of the way. A very intellegent player, who makes excellent runs off of the ball to put himself into good positions, he must prove he can add quality in the buildup. But, his most important task will be becoming a consistent goalscorer. The Union probably need 15-20 goals out of him, and he has the ability to do it. Casey is a very good backup who provides a very different look than McInerney, as he is a very physical player who excels in holding up the ball. However, injuries have hampered his preseason, so he may not provide as much of an impact as last season. Hoppenot is Hackworth’s spark plug off of the bench. But, while he certainly provides energy in the last 30 minutes of games, able to dribble directly at opponents and create dangerous offensive opportunities, he must become a more capable goalscorer. Wheeler is a big body while limited technically, and a bad sign for his playing time this season is that Hackworth had him playing a lot of centerback this offseason.

Now that I have went over the entire Union roster, next time I will focus on their tactics: what Hackworth will implement, and what I think they should play.