On the surface, Boyhood is a sweet and harmless movie. A labor-of-love by Linklater, the director of beloved films like Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise, the film is small-scale and intimate, a collage of carefully observed off-the-cuff moments that shares the same DNA as his indie breakthrough Slacker. It's got a great, heart-wrenching Patricia Arquette performance. It's got that scene where Ethan Hawke dad-splains Wilco. If you read any of the 274 "fresh" reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes, you've likely heard it's both funny and poignant.
The meta-conversation about the critical reception of Boyhood is not new. At some point between the film's acclaimed premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2014 and the Academy Awards the following year in February, when the film lost Best Picture to Birdman, writers began to not only critique the film, but also discuss the conversation around it. "Why the Unanimous Praise for ‘Boyhood’ Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for ‘Boyhood'" read one headline. There were nuanced and thoughtful pieces about the film's treatment of race and gender, as well.
Essays like those certainly played a role in the great ongoing Boyhood debate. The online movie discourse moves quickly, especially surrounding Oscar front-runners -- just ask La La Land -- and Linklater's film was subject to the healthy backlash and inevitable backlash-to-the-backlash that's now a part of any Awards season media cycle. But, I don't think those are the responses -- found mostly on mainstream media publications, film-specific sites, and blogs -- that powered the most recent mini-dust-up.
To understand the pure disdain that a vocal sub-sect of the movie internet feels for Boyhood, it's probably best to start with a clip from Half in the Bag, a review-based YouTube show produced by Red Letter Media, a Milwaukee-based production company and YouTube channel with over 500,000 subscribers. The popular program, which currently raises $18,931 a month on membership platform Patreon, combines the trusty format of Siskel & Ebert with the irreverent humor of Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Perhaps fittingly, all three programs hail from the MidWest.)