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Independent Movie Spotlight: 'Boyhood,' 'Alive Inside,' and 'Life Itself'
| Sunday, June 29, 2014, 3:00 pm |

Written by Adam Mast
Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is a fascinating, epic look into a boy's life; a cinematic experience 12 years in the making, seen through the eyes of a child making his way towards that crazy thing called adulthood. 
“Boyhood” follows Mason (wonderfully played by Ellar Coltrane) through 12 years of his life. Through it all, Mason witnesses the separation of his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette), his mother’s dealings with a handful of loser boyfriends, his father’s new beginning, and the meaning of his own existence. 
Clearly, the most intriguing aspect to this picture is that Linklater doesn’t change out any of his principal cast. As audience members, we see these characters (and the actors who play them) literally grow over the course of a dozen years, and this makes for quite a unique and moving motion picture experience. 
“Boyhood” is brimming with humor, and it steers clear of tragedy, tear-jerking manipulation, and the overly melodramatic. It’s all fittingly low-key because, sometimes, that’s life. Granted, had any of the actors in this film died during the course of production, the movie might have turned out decidedly different. 
Even though the wonderfully profound “Boyhood” is nearly three hours long, there’s never a moment wasted. Overall, the improvisational flow of the words gives this epic character piece a lived-in feel, similar to the vibe at the heart of Linklater’s “Before” series. Ambitious, wise, and observant, “Boyhood” is truly special, and it demands to be seen.
”ALIVE INSIDE” (unrated)
This compassionate documentary from director Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen as he sets out to use music therapy as a way to better the lives of Alzheimer's patients. With so much time, money, and effort going into the manufacturing of drugs in this country, it seems that the simple act of touching the human spirit has been forgotten. Cohen is looking to change that, and as “Alive Inside” so beautifully illustrates, it looks as if he's found the key. 
This simple yet beautiful film is not only inspirational, it's further proof that one man can make a difference. Kudos to Cohen for his efforts, and to Bennett and his filmmaking team for helping this committed social worker get his message out there. The expressions of joy on these patients' faces as Cohen plays tunes from their past is enough to melt even the biggest cynic's cold heart. 

Director Steve James knew Roger Ebert all too well. In fact, he credits the late Chicago-based film critic with helping start his career. Back in 1994, James had an exceptional documentary playing on the film festival circuit, “Hoop Dreams.” Ebert and his “At the Movies” co-host Gene Siskel raved about the film on their popular television program, and that review helped propel “Hoop Dreams” to heights it might not have reached otherwise. All these years later, James had an opportunity to return the favor by paying tribute to a man who meant a great deal to him, and thus, “Life Itself” was born. 
This heartfelt -- and heartbreaking -- documentary is not only a tribute to Ebert the critic, but Ebert the man. “Life Itself” traces Ebert's life from his humble beginnings to his battle with cancer and passing in 2013. “Life Itself” is about a man who loved cinema with every fiber of his being, but this is also a picture about the human condition.
Even at the end, with his loving wife, Chaz, by his side, this iconic man maintained a sharp wit and an incredible sense of humor. James has done this cinematic treasure proud with an exceptional documentary. This is a film every movie lover needs to see, because Ebert not only loved cinema; he was synonymous with it. 
“Life Itself,” “Boyhood,” and “Alive Inside” open on July 4, 11, and 18, respectively, all in limited release. We’ll do our best to get the powers that be to bring them to St. George. 
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