Yu Aoi brings old-world charm to Tokyo Family

This time I’m writing about a film that was nominated for, but didn’t win the Best Film award of the Japanese Academy – Yoji Yamada’s Tokyo Family (Tokyo kazoku), a contemporized but faithful remake of the Yasujiro Ozu classic, Tokyo Story (1953). The film regularly features on critics and audience lists of ‘best Japanese movies of all time’, so you can imagine what a daunting task it is to remake such a film. The original tells the story of an aged couple who come to visit their grown up children in Tokyo but discover that the children are caught up in their own fast-paced city lives and after a couple of days, actually find their presence a botheration. If this was a relevant topic in the late 50s, you can imagine how much more relevant it is today.

Of course, I am a big fan of Yamada’s Samurai trilogy and I plan one day to watch at least one or two of his long-running ‘Tora-san’ movies (48 movies from 1969 to 1995). But I confess, after reading the less than flattering reviews of Tokyo Family (all comparing it unfavorably to the original classic film, Tokyo Story), I wondered why I was bothering to watch it at all. After the first 15 minutes, I thought that I should just stop watching and go do something else; I couldn’t get used to the time-displacement of the story, nor the new faces in familiar roles. I then fast-forwarded the film at x1.5 for the next half hour or so.

By this time, I got used to the ‘new’ actors occupying the spaces of my beloved characters; particularly Isao Hashizume in the role of the father (played by the legendary Chishu Ryu in the original) and Tomoko Nakajima as his sharp-tongued daughter who runs a hair-dressing parlor (played perfectly in 1953 by stage and film actress Haruko Sugimura in one of her signature roles). So I switched the video back to regular speed, stopped comparing and started enjoying.

Half-way through the 2 ½ hour film, we come to the point where the key supporting character Noriko enters the story. In the original movie, she was played by Setsuko Hara. Her role in the 1953 film was considered a continuation of the father-daughter pairings that she and Chishu Ryu had become famous for in two earlier films by Ozu (Late Spring and Early Summer).

In this version, Noriko is the girlfriend of the youngest son; in the original, she was the widow of the son killed in the war, who still maintains a close relationship with the family and actually shows greater filial piety than the couple’s own children. Noriko in 2013 is played by Yu Aoi, who won Best Supporting Actress for Hula Girls in 2007. She was nominated again for this portrayal of the sweet-natured ‘girl-next-door’ who wins over the affections of the aged parents, particularly the hard-to-please father. And I have to say, she really fills those shoes very well with an entirely believable and earnest performance; this made all the difference for me in the end.

The last act of the movie is as emotional as the original. The entire family is seen together under tragic circumstances and the low-key sentimental melodrama that Japanese cinema so excels in (especially funeral and wake scenes) is in full flow. The parting scene between the father and the girl who is to become his daughter-in-law is particularly intense and touching.

So, ultimately, I will give a thumbs-up to the remake and of course, as most reviewers have recommended, I will set aside time to watch the original classic once again.


Best Film winners at the Japanese Academy: The Twilight Samurai

The 2003 Tom Cruise period action-drama The Last Samurai is the film that introduced me to contemporary Japanese actors Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada; I believe this was the first English language film that either had acted in. Since then, both have appeared in a number of Hollywood productions, but the real treat is to watch them in Japanese movies, where they have the opportunity to play a wider range of characters.

Hiroyuki Sanada won his only Japanese Best Actor awards so far (he has been nominated 4 other times) for The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) released in 2002. This is the first of veteran director Yoji Yamada’s ‘Samurai Trilogy’ (released in 2-year gaps by The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor). Many of the famous samurai films of the 1950s and 60s showcase the brave and heroic side of a samurai’s life; but even in those films, one could read the subtext of their hand-to-mouth existence and the susceptibility of their lives to the whims and fancies of feudal lords. Yamada’s trilogy focuses on this latter, less glamorous aspect of samurai life and amplifies it to tell 3 different stories where honor and self-respect stand firm in the face of overwhelming social and financial odds.

In The Twilight Samurai, Sanada plays Seibei, an impoverished widower who is a Samurai in name only, but actually spends his days doing accounts as a junior member of his warlord’s bureaucracy. He acquires the nickname ‘twilight’ because he rushes off at sunset every day to get home and take care of his 2 kids and elderly mother (while his colleagues go off to eat, drink and make merry). He even supplements his meagre income building cricket cages to sell. He is so poor that he is unable to wash or clothe himself properly and for this too, he is berated by his superiors.

At some point, his childhood friend’s sister Tomoe returns to town following her divorce from an abusive husband. Leading on from an incident involving her ex-husband, Seibei and Tomoe slowly develop feelings for each other, but Seibei declines an opportunity to marry her, given his own poverty and inferior social status. Eventually, Seibei is commanded by his feudal lord to kill a renegade samurai. Seibei departs on his mission, not expecting to return alive. His situation is so pathetic that he does not even have a retainer to prepare him for the duel; Tomoe comes home to assist him and he confesses to her that he should have married her when he had the chance, but now it is too late as she has accepted another’s proposal. The renegade samurai is a wretched creature with no hope of escape or redemption and herein lies the true tragedy of this story. The tense duel in close quarters is a fight to the death and ends in favor of our hero. He returns home to his family, exhausted and wounded, and is amazed to find Tomoe still there. Our joy in their reunion is immediately doused by the bittersweet coda (with voice-over narration by Seibei’s grown up daughter) which tells us that they married but he died 3 years later in a civil war; an appropriate end for such a down-on-his-luck character, I suppose.

I liked Yoji Yamada’s straightforward, linear storytelling approach. There are no tricks of time or perception to distract you from the story. Similarly, the camera work is very functional, with no crazy angles, rapid zooms or fast tracking shots; this is exemplified during a duel between Seibei and Tomoe’s ex-husband, which is shot in mid-range at tatami-level, with minimal camera movement, allowing us to focus all our attention on Seibei’s extraordinary skill, ending with a superb leaping, spinning blow; I must have played back this scene half a dozen times.

I also realized how much effort must have gone into a simple scene which shows Seibei speaking to someone while busily splitting wooden strips with his knife (to build the cricket cages with); this is a task that requires some skill, yet the actor Sanada carries it off with ease, just as we would expect of someone who does this task every day. This must have required great degree of practice from Sanada and perhaps multiple takes to make it appear so natural.

The music is minimalist, in keeping with the entire philosophy of keeping this movie spare and simple. Many scenes have no music at all, or often times just a simple note on a flute or the beat of a drum.

This film won an incredible 12 Japanese Academy Awards, sweeping all the major categories – Film, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Cinematography, Lighting, Editing, Art Direction, Music Score and Sound; in other words, every award except Best Supporting Actress. An extraordinary achievement, made all the more commendable by the fact that Yamada followed this up with the equally superb The Hidden Blade (nominated for all categories, but won only Art Direction) and Love and Honor (nominated for all categories, and won Supporting Actor, Cinematography and Lighting) over the next 4 years.

Best Film winners at the Japanese Academy: Confessions

When I started watching Confessions (Kokuhaku), I had no idea what to expect, not having bothered to read any reviews or blurbs. I had picked the movie just because it had won the 2011 Best Film award of the Japanese Academy. By the end of the film, I was trying to understand what it was about this film that appealed to the viewing public (it was a modest box office success) and the Academy voters. Did they see this as a biting social satire with an underlying message about the need to raise kids better? Or perhaps Japanese adults also shared the director’s view that their youth are disaffected, disconnected, angst-ridden and selfish and therefore this revenge tale gave them some sort of vicarious satisfaction? Surely, if seen as a straight-up psychological thriller then it should not qualify for so high an honor as the best Japanese film of 2010; not when it was up against movies like About Her Brother (directed by the legendary Yoji Yamada), Takashi Miike’s samurai spectacular 13 Assassins and Villain (by Hula Girls director Sang-il Lee). Some bloggers even felt that the box office success was due merely to the loyal fan base of singer-actress Takako Matsu turning up at the theatres.

The opening segment features a long monologue by Middle School class teacher Ms. Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) intercut with some flashback scenes. The teacher informs her unruly students that she is handing in her resignation and they will have a new teacher when they return from spring break. She then shocks them by saying that the recent accidental death of her young daughter (she was found in the school swimming pool) was actually cold-blooded murder by 2 of her students. She then names the students (one has openly confessed to her already while the other has been protected by his mother) and expresses her frustration that as minors, these 2 boys will be protected from severe punishment by Juvenile Law. She therefore details out her own elaborate revenge plan to the horror/ fascination of the assembled students.

The story then continues past the spring break through the new term as we see the lives of the 2 boys start to unravel. Other significant players in the drama are the class teacher, the parent of one of the boys and a girl in the class who is attracted to the other boy. As a viewer, it’s easy to hate the kids as none of them show any redeeming qualities whatsoever. None of the adults are likeable either, all being portrayed as either stupid, self-centered or in constant denial. Takako Matsu plays the class teacher as someone leeched of all feeling/ emotion due to the death of her daughter, living now for the sole purpose of exacting revenge through a cunning cat-and-mouse play. The violence and the irredeemable nature of the students recalls the cult classic Japanese drama-thriller Battle Royale. On the other hand, the glazed/ disconnected looks of the school kids and their lack of any emotional depth recalls the appearance and demeanor of the children in both 1960’s Village of the Damned and Michael Haneke’s award-winning The White Ribbon from 2009.

The story is told in a semi-impressionist style, so don’t look for too much logic or detail (for example, why haven’t the other students told their parents about all this, why is there no intervention from school authorities, etc.).

The movie’s 55-year-old director Tetsuya Nakashima is considered to be one of the important contemporary directors in Japan today, making a series of films depicting troubled relationships in the modern world. His latest effort, The World of Kanako has also created a lot of controversy for its relentless physical and psychological violence.

Confessions is one of those films where I really don’t know what to think at the end of it, except to be afraid that the urban First World school kids depicted in the movie are closer to reality than fiction.

Best Film winners at the Japanese Academy: Hula Girls

In the 1960s, as Japan’s economy shifted from being coal-powered to oil-powered, coal mines came under increasing financial pressure. In the city of Iwaki, the Joban coalfield was one such enterprise whose owners realized their time was running out. Determined to extend the life of the mine and to protect the employment of the town’s residents by any means possible, the management came up with the idea of opening a resort, taking advantage of the numerous hot springs in the area; the same spring water which used to seep into the mines and had ironically been a hazard and nuisance to the miners all these years! They selected a Hawaiian theme for the resort and in spite of the initial resistance of the miners, trained the young girls of the town to dance the Hawaiian hula. The resort went on to become one of the most popular in the country, famous as much for its dance troupe as for its spring water and at its peak in the early 70s, it hosted 1.5 million visitors a year.

This is the inspiring and extraordinary story which forms the basis for the film Hula Girls (Hura gâru), which won the Best Film Award of the Japanese Academy in 2007. It was also chosen as Japan’s entry to the Foreign Film category of the Oscars that year.

In this big-screen retelling of the story, the mining company recruits a dance instructor from Tokyo named Madoka Hirayama (played by strikingly beautiful actress/ singer Yasuko Matsuyuki), who agrees to come to this place in the boondocks because she is trying to escape her past in Tokyo. Nevertheless, she still retains her pride and a haughty demeanour.

She is asked to train a small group of girls, mostly daughters of the resident miners. In particular, the story focuses on a trio of girls Sanae, Kimiko and Sayuri, who defy local and parental opposition to volunteer for the dance classes. The plot goes through the predictable roller-coaster ride that one sees in these feel-good movies involving group effort in the face of adversity. The young girls overcome their own fears and the doubts of their instructor, plus other minor plot hiccups to triumph in a grand finale. The instructor battles her own internal demons and redeems herself through the success of the girls. The parents are won over by the efforts and self-belief of the girls and are there in the end to celebrate their success. We have seen this play through in films ranging from Bend It Like Beckham to Japanese films like Sumo Do Sumo Don’t and Shall We Dansu?. But it’s precisely because stories like this work (when well executed) that we are drawn to them time and again. I certainly enjoyed this good-natured film with its laughter, tears and comedic melodrama.

The film was directed by Sang-il Lee, a Japanese of Korean descent who was 33 years old at the time he filmed it. Four years later, his crime drama Villain (Akunin) was nominated for multiple awards including Best Film, Director and Screenplay. In 2013, he directed a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s award winning revisionist Western Unforgiven, with Ken Watanabe playing the lead role and getting nominated for Best Actor by the Japanese Academy. Certainly, it’s an impressive body of work in the past 7 years and hopefully more to come.

Best Film winners at the Japanese Academy: Departures

In 2009, the winner of the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars was Departures (Okuribito), directed by Yojiro Takita.

Takita is a veteran director who made his early living directing a series of ‘pink films’ (the Japanese term for soft porn), before graduating to more serious fare. His breakthrough year was in 1994 when he was nominated as Best Director at the Japanese Academy for two different films which he had released the previous year – Made in Japan and Shinjuku Shark – an amazing achievement. Sadly, I have yet to watch or even find a subtitled copy of either of these films.

His 2004 samurai film, When The Last Sword is Drawn won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Film. He then hit the mother lode with this film Okuribito, released in 2008. It is a back-to-the-roots story in which young cellist, Daigo Kobayashi (played by former J-pop star Masahiro Motoki) quits his job in Tokyo and returns with his wife to his hometown Yamagata. He has decided to honor his mother’s last wishes and live in the house that she left to him following her death 2 years earlier. He answers an ad in the paper, mistakenly believing it to be for a travel agency assistant (the ad says “assisting departures”) only to find himself employed as an assistant at a funeral parlor – specifically, to clean, prepare and dress the recently deceased for the viewing at the wake.

What follows is an incredible story of self-discovery; the owner of the funeral service (Japanese acting veteran Tsutomu Yamazaki) plays the classical role of the ‘wise old man’ who helps the young protagonist find his way. It is not an easy journey; his wife as well as other townsfolk (including some of his deceased mother’s friends) are appalled at his new profession. He perseveres, initially out of a sense of duty to the funeral parlor owner and eventually out of a sense of fulfillment that he is bringing closure to all these bereaved families. He also must come to terms with his feelings towards his father who left the family when he was only 6 years old. There are some truly fascinating scenes showing Kobayashi at work reverentially preparing the dead, for which actor Motoki spent several hours of dedicated study. The movie is funny, bittersweet and at times, unabashedly sentimental. The music by Joe Hisaishi (the man who has scored the soundtracks for many Miyazaki films) pulls at the heartstrings. The main theme ‘Memory’ is an instant classic and I had written briefly about it in an earlier series of posts about my favourite soundtracks.

As much as I love Kurosawa’s samurai films, I would say that if there is one Japanese film you would watch in your life, it should be Okuribito.

Best Film winners at the Japanese Academy: Spirited Away

Given how many Japanese movies I have watched (103, to be precise, as of 18th Oct 2014), I haven’t really written too many posts about them. So, I’ve decided every now and then to share some thoughts about the most memorable ones. Since several of my favourite Japanese movies have won the Best Film Award of the Japanese Academy, that’s a convenient theme under which I can cluster my future series of posts. It could just as easily have been ‘Favourite Anime films’ or ‘My top samurai films’…

Today, I’ll write about Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi).

In 1997, when James Cameron’s Titanic was barreling around the world creating a global phenomenon, I read that it had become the highest grossing film in Japan by overtaking a Japanese animation film called Princess Mononoke which had been released a few months earlier. This was my first introduction to the name Hayao Miyazaki. Living in Chennai, India at that time, I couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the movie, but I remembered the article about Japan’s living legend of animation. This was in the days before regular access to the internet, so it’s not like I could just go online and read up about him.

Soon after, I watched my first ever Japanese film (it was either Kurosawa’s Yojimbo or Rashomon) and the love affair began. Miyazaki’s name came up again when his next film Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in early 2003. It had already won Best Picture in Japan a year earlier. By then, I had moved to Bangalore and my local DVD library on Church Street (named Habitat) soon got a copy.

Spirited Away was a revelation for me, brought up as I was on Disney’s version of animated storytelling. This is the story of a 10-year-old girl traveling with her parents to their new home. They take a wrong turn and soon end up in a magical world, filled with spirits, witches and other strange creatures. Her parents are turned into pigs and it’s up to little Chihiro to use her courage and her wits to save them. I was initially repulsed by the grotesque characters in the film, especially the ugly witch Yubaba, but was eventually drawn into the fascinating world and its myriad denizens – the young boy Haku who turns into a white dragon, the frightening No-Face and Kamaji, the strange ‘spider-man’ who runs the boiler room in the bath-house.

Watching it was an incredible, magical, scary experience. I vicariously lived through Chihiro’s fear so intensely that I still feel a sense of apprehension when I think about watching the film again! Since then, I have watched all the Studio Ghibli films, and to be honest I much prefer Miyazaki’s lighter fare like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service and even Howl’s Moving Castle, which can be considered as dark as Spirited Away.

We watched his bittersweet farewell film The Wind Rises earlier this year and also visited the Ghibli museum in Japan in April. How fortunate I am to have seen the works of this great man and what a great injustice that his films have not been seen by more people around the world.

Coming-of-age films launch the stars of tomorrow

The coming-of-age genre is one that I was never particularly interested in, until recently. Even the ones that I have watched and enjoyed like Big or 400 Blows have been on my list either because of their box office success or their critical acclaim, not because of the genre they belong to. I think it all changed when I watched Juno in 2007. This charming film with its quirky and endearing characters won me over instantly. It’s one of those films that I would watch a few times more if I came across it while surfing TV channels (much like Four Weddings and a Funeral or My Cousin Vinny). The star of the film of course, was Ellen Page, who had a leading role in the little seen Hard Candy in 2005 and a brief role in the widely seen X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. But this film gave her the opportunity to showcase her acting chops and she was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. She’s certainly a star of tomorrow and has already started building up a diverse body of work including Chris Nolan’s Inception, more X-Men movies and Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love.

Then in 2008, I came across an eerie film with a coming of age theme – Let the Right One In. This Swedish film is usually marketed as a vampire/ horror-drama, but it is essentially the story of a lonely bullied boy who finds friendship in a young girl next door who turns out to be a vampire. The two develop a strong bond and she teaches him to stand up for himself. Of course, with a vampire in the film, there’s blood and killing and thrills. But ultimately, it’s a film about the friendship between a boy and a girl, one of whom is just a little bit strange (much like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo from 2011). The final scene of the film is so very memorable – the boy is traveling on a train with a big box next to him. The box has the vampire girl inside (to protect her from the sunlight); she taps the word “kiss” in morse code to the boy and he in turn taps the word “puss” (small kiss in Swedish) back to her. I haven’t watched the highly acclaimed American remake Let Me In (2010); it features Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz who have become major young adult stars in the 4 years since then. Smit-McPhee had a memorable role as the teenage son in this summer’s sci-fi hit Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Ms. Moretz has had even bigger success; she was in the violent comic book adaptation Kick-Ass and its sequel, acted in the afore-mentioned Hugo in 2011, stars opposite Denzel Washington in this fall’s The Equalizer and will play the lead in the 2016 film adaptation of the YA alien-invasion novel The Fifth Wave.

Perhaps encouraged by the box office success of these character-driven films, a number of other similarly-themed movies have achieved wider distribution in recent years. Like Juno and Let Me In, the young actors in these films all seem destined for future stardom and success.

The Kids are All Right (2010) – The 2 young actors in this drama, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, already had big screen experience by the time this critically acclaimed film was released, but both have gone on to even greater success since then. Hutcherson has hit pay-dirt with The Hunger Games movies and Wasikowska, who is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented young actresses around, has played the title role in a number of literary adaptations – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Jane Eyre (2011) and the upcoming Madame Bovary (2014).

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) – This movie was produced by the same team that made Juno. It features stirring performances from the 3 young leads. I already knew Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson film and of course Emma Watson as Hermione from the Harry Potter films. But the real eye opener for me was Ezra Miller who played Watson’s step-brother in this movie. I was surprised, but thrilled to hear a few days ago that he’s been chosen to play the title role in the Warner Bros./ DC Comics film The Flash, due out in 2018. Someone with Ezra Miller’s sensitive and rather exotic features strikes me as an unusual choice to play a typical square jawed superhero, but it certainly makes for an interesting one.

Mud (2012) – This film, set on the Arkansas river, was inspired by Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. It’s one of the films that set the stage for Matthew McConnaughey’s come back which culminated in his Oscar win earlier this year. MM plays the titular ‘Mud’, a man on the run who befriends 2 boys – Ellis and ‘Neckbone’ – who are exploring the river island on which he is hiding out. While securing their help to outwit his pursuers, Mud ends up building a strong bond with Ellis, played by newcomer Tye Sheridan. I was really impressed with his heartfelt performance and I intend to watch the little seen, but well-received Joe in which he plays a similar role opposite Nicolas Cage. I will certainly be keeping an eye on his future projects.

The Spectacular Now (2013) – This film featured up-and-coming Shailene Woodley, (who played George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants) playing the nice but friendless girl-next-door, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with hard-partying Miles Teller, whose philosophy is to ‘live in the now’. As the couple navigate the final year of high school and plan their future, their conflicting approaches to life help them discover their true selves. This is one of the best of the new crop of contemporary coming-of-age films and set the stage for Woodley’s mainstream success in Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, both released this summer. Having seen her break through in The Descendants, it didn’t surprise me to see her captivating performance in this film. On the other hand, I had never seen or heard of Miles Teller before, and he really stamped his presence on the screen as the outwardly confident teen, whose bluster and fast-paced lifestyle covers up his deep loneliness. Teller is back on screen with Woodley in Divergent and its upcoming sequel, but his big pay-day is already set with his lead role as Reed Richards/ Mr. Fantastic in the much-anticipated reboot of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four in 2015. He is also starring in the highly acclaimed music-themed drama Whiplash, releasing in theatres now.

The Way Way Back (2013) – Young actor Liam James has appeared in a number of child roles, including Roland Emmerich’s disaster film 2012 and a recurring role in TV’s The Killing, but The Way Way Back was his first ‘lead’ role, playing the kid stuck in the ‘summer vacation from hell’, as he accompanies his divorced mother and her bullying overbearing boyfriend (played brilliantly by Steve Carrell) to a beachside town. Here, he finds escape by helping out at a nearby theme park and comes under the wing of devil-may-care theme park manager Owen (another one of Sam Rockwell’s many memorable screen personas) and other equally strange and wonderful theme park employees. This is a truly likeable movie with a very satisfying ending. Liam James’ Duncan character starts off as being irritatingly slow and withdrawn, but over the course of the film, builds up self-confidence and courage. Perhaps due to his contract with The Killing, I don’t see any future movie projects listed for him.

Labor Day (2013) – I started the article talking about Jason Reitman’s Juno, so it seems appropriate to end with his latest effort Labor Day. This film was released to mixed reviews last December, although I liked it well enough. It plays out like a modern day fable, telling the story of an escaped (but innocent) convict Frank (Josh Brolin), who spends a long Labor Day weekend hiding out in the home of withdrawn single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her introverted but thoughtful son Henry (played by Gattlin Griffith). What starts out as a kidnap situation quickly changes into an improbable, but still believable dream-like love story, as Henry becomes the man of the house, chopping wood, clearing out the trash, helping mother and son bake a pie, teaching the boy to hit a baseball and of course, falling in love with Adele, all over the course of 3 days. Henry’s well-meaning but naïve actions put paid to the family’s attempts to get away to Canada for a new life, but the film still ends on a positive note. Gattlin Griffith has acted in a number of films already since 2006, but this is his most high profile role and could lead to something bigger.

So, in conclusion, there’s quite a pipeline of talent that’s come to public attention through these coming-of-age movies in the past 4-5 years. Some like Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ellen Page, Josh Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska and Shailene Woodley have already made the jump from indie films to blockbusters. Others like Miles Teller and Ezra Miller are seemingly on the road to stardom with their upcoming superhero roles. The younger ones like Tye Sheridan, Liam James and Gattlin Griffith have opportunities to build on their breakthrough performances. Only time will tell if they will can continue to get good roles or if they will fade away like Macaulay Culkin and Haley Joel Osment.

I’m also very keen to watch Richard Linklater’s much talked-about 10 year project Boyhood, which was released to so much buzz earlier this year. Considering that I had just watched his breakout hit Dazed and Confused earlier this year (which can also be considered a coming-of-age story), Boyhood would be just the right choice to bookend the year.