Category Archives: Indies

Catching up with My Friend Dean

IMG_2081Well I’ve seen four movies in the last two weeks. I guess I really am failing at me trying to be me in 2016 when I was watching the equivalent of a movie a day.

In reality, toward the end of the DLM Challenge, weekends would mean watching several movies in one day and thinking that if things went south during “Sleepwalk With Me” my obit writer from The New York Times could at least lead with “She died doing what she loved.”

For those of you fascinated with The New York Times, (see also “Page One: Inside the New York Times), there is a new documentary with an inside look at the obits department … wait for it … “Obit,” and the process the writers use to have information on those who are still with us at the ready to publish when they become the opposite. Two of the film’s subjects, Bruce Weber and Margalit Fox, were recently interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Even if you can’t stand her voice like me, it’s a good listen. Good news, “Obit” is coming soon to the Lagoon Cinema and there are several other screenings listed on the film’s website.

I also saw a sold-out screening of “Dean,” Demetri Martin’s first feature film at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Festival.

Judging from the crowd and audience’s reaction, and its festival buzz, this film will make the rounds at independent theaters again this summer.

Martin stars in the film as Dean, a wayward writer coping with his mother’s death and how his father is coping with it by selling the family home. Dean runs away to Los Angeles to work on his book only to find old and new friends and a healthy dose of complicated romance. The mix of sadness and comedy in the film seemed a little uneven at times, to the point where you may forget what the premise of the story is, but maybe that’s the point. Who really wants to think about what’s making them sad when they can go on impromptu road trips and chill at the beach?

The film is also illustrated with Martin’s own drawings to depict Dean’s feelings, which adds to the distance from his struggle with processing mortality (for the viewer) while you see him try to woo Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) at a party in LA.

The mortality theme comes back with full force in the end, ultimately making the whole audience cry, from what I could tell. That said, you may want to watch “Dean” at home and really let it all out. Then you can watch some of his stand-up comedy as a palate cleanser.

I returned to the film festival the next night for a Finnish film “Little Wing” and a Q&A with the lead actress Paula Vesala.

It also stars Linnea Skog as the young girl in the film, Varpu, struggling with her own independence while in some ways taking care of her mother. Varpu defines her independence by stealing a car and driving overnight to find her birth father.

That journey ultimately brings Varpu and her mother closer together. Vesala talked about the music she wrote for the film and the connection between the title “Little Wing” and a Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. Skog, who is 12, won the Finnish Academy Award for her performance and it’s one that deserves more attention in the United States if the film gets distribution here. Unfortunately Vesala said they’ve struggled with video on demand rights and other streaming distribution, but if you can find it I definitely recommend this film. I also listened to the song “Little Wing” today and can see the connection and inspiration between the lyrics and the character of Varpu.

“Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairly tales

That’s all she ever thinks about

Riding the wind

When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free

It’s alright, she says
It’s alright
Take anything you want from me
Anything

Fly on, little wing.”

The story has a happy ending overall, so you shouldn’t need any comedic relief after watching it.

If you need some anyway try Pete Holmes’ new special on HBO “Faces and Sounds” or Maria Bamford’s “Old Baby” on Netflix.

I ordered a T-shirt I am going to try to incorporate into my wardrobe … not pajamas … just because Bamford’s special is so wonderfully uncomfortable and brilliant comedy.

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I’ve watched “Faces and Sounds” twice now and will again because with Pete Holmes, joy is everywhere.

It’s also the perfect follow up to any episode of season 2 of “Fargo,” or anything from “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos” in case you’re still catching up on those. For me, each episode of “Fargo” is 45 minutes of worrying that Jesse Plemons’ character is going to be brutally murdered. Landry Clarke CANNOT Die. Wait, wrong show, but you know what I mean.

Last thing (I am not in the best writing mood today and my usual perfect transitions are just not coming to me) there is a podcast for all of you Fargoheads “Aw Jeez: A Fargo Podcast” that analyzes each episode based on historical accuracy, the actors’ Minnesota accents and a view hidden plot points.

Okay, that is all for today. Bye!

 

 

 

 

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Father of the Bride as it should be watched

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Leo approved.

For those of you keeping track (me), I still haven’t finished watching “Afternoon Delight” but I did get to revisit “Father of the Bride” as it should be watched – on VHS and with a glass of Miller Lite at my side.

Let me be clear, I am talking about the classic 1991 (the year that brought us the equally nostalgic “My Girl” and me the lakeside house in Wisconsin where I have watched it many, many times) version of this film starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams and Martin Short as Frank, “It’s pronounced FRAHNK Dad.”

I understand that my critical acclaim for this film may be a product of nostalgia and anyone in my generation watching it for the first time now (although I assume this is not possible) would not appreciate the countless “It was then I realized” monologues from George Banks, but I still think it holds up among other films I watched in my formative years.

“Career Opportunities,” which I remember LOVING as a kid, however, does not.

I am sure “My Girl” is also among the films from my early years I would still like, but honestly I think it’s too sad to watch again. Hey, bees, you’re the worst.

Luckily I can see Anna Chlumsky on “Veep” and “Father of the Bride” has a scene set to the song “My Girl,” so I don’t need to go down the road of watching that movie again.

Besides, this week I am actually going to see some new movies screening during the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

Demetri Martin’s directorial debut “Dean” is screening Wednesday and I am seeing a Finnish film “Little Wing,” on Thursday.

Martin is one of my favorite comedians and I already know I like his movie. Now he just needs to start a podcast. Oh no, maybe he has one. I am not allowing myself to look that up because there are 87 episodes on my podcast playlist. Help.

I picked “Little Wing,” (similar to my wine selection strategy) because of the name. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl who sets out to find her father and the lead actress in the film will be there for the screening on Thursday.

I am not sure I will be able to see any other films as part of MSPIFF, but luckily the Cannes schedule has been announced and I can just jet off to France to see Sofia Coppola’s new film, “The Beguiled.”

While the film looks really dark, it’s one of the things that’s making me happy this week (stealing from my friends over at Pop Culture Happy Hour) as is the fact that “Mustang” director Deniz Gamze Ergüven has a new film, “Kings.”

I still go back to “Mustang” as one my favorite films from the 366 movies in 366 Days challenge last year so I am intrigued by his next project related to the Rodney King trial in 1992.

Among other happiness-makers, I am going to Marc Maron’s show on Saturday and I learned – because of a mention from my other friends over at Indiewire – that Matt Damon has a new movie, “Downsizing.” I can only imagine that it’s a spin-off of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”

Here is the actual description of the film, “A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.”

I always thought my chosen super power would be to be invisible, as long as I don’t inherit any of the fatal flaws that come with having said power, but this makes me rethink my decision. Basically, I just want to shrink down and hang out with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig (she’s also in the movie) and have Alexander Payne tell us what to do.

(Weird) happiness defined.

Bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pod, a Pod, a Pod for You

IMG_1780Hello? Is this the Podcasts Anonymous support group?

I am sure (or hope) that I am not alone here in saying that I listen to — hold on let me turn off this episode of Spontaneanation — podcasts all the time (when I’m showering — a distraction that I am sure increases my likelihood of being murdered by a serial killer, just like in the movies —  driving, cleaning, as a saving grace when I have to shop at any large retailer on a weekend, etc.) I am also sure I’ve mentioned this fact before and you may consider this a cry for help or take it as a recommendation to join in the fun, at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Seriously, you’re going to develop an addiction from this.

Still here? Okay.

I’ll listen to anything movie or improv-comedy related and I certainly dabble in the true crime and newsy stuff from time-to-time. I’m mostly looking for any show that can serve as an escape from the real world for about an hour, or 10.

My latest obsession is the Craig’s List Podcast, which actually combines movies and a little improv comedy. As a basis for the show, Craig and Carla Cackowski are working their way through Craig’s 100 favorite movies of all time and then discuss them on air. They have guest hosts from the comedy world from time to time and at the end of each episode perform an improv comedy scene based on the film they watched.

The list covers the gamut in film genres and I’m pleased to say I’ve actually seen a lot of Craig’s favorites, from classics to comedy and documentaries to biopics and horror films.

The latest episode combines classics and horror to dissect Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” with special guest composer Jonathan Dinerstein providing comedic and musical accompaniment.

He joined the show to talk about the score that adds the tension and fright to “Psycho” and even plays tidbits of it on the piano in the background.

They also discussed a new documentary about the film “78/52,” which cuts into the intricacies of the infamous shower scene directed by Hitchcock.

I think I know what my next double feature will be. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen “Psycho,” but it’s one of the films with scenes I remember the most from my formative years as a movie lover and Craig’s List took me right back to that place.

Some of my other favorite episodes include their discussion of “Se7en” (Craig does a killer impersonation of Morgan Freeman,) “Diner,” (a lot of factoids about Baltimore in this one,) “It Happened One Night,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Rushmore.”

Follow Craig’s List Podcast on Twitter to catch up on their episodes and the coming attractions.

In other news, I haven’t watched any movies (in their entirety) in the last week, but I do recommend “Afternoon Delight” starring Kathryn Hahn and Jessica St. Clair. Rachel (Hahn), after a night at strip club with her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor), Stephanie (St. Clair) and her husband Bo (Keegan-Michael Key), befriends one of the dancers (Juno Temple) and eventually takes her in as their live-in nanny.

The film takes a plot line that could be your average raunchy sex comedy and strips it down (sorry) to a story focused on the characters and their happiness, much like “The Overnight.”

As Dr. Steve Brule would say, Check it Out!

Okay, (as John Hodgman would say – more or less) I think that is all for today.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is on its way in a matter of days and I need to pick out what I want to try to see this year. There are hundreds of options and I’ve missed going to the event the past couple of years.

It may seriously take away from my podcast time, but if I’m lucky they’ll be showing a movie about podcasts.

Bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been lost on Kong: Skull Island

IMG_1710.JPGWell, I survived my movie challenge last year and (partially) as a result it’s been eight months since I’ve worked on this blog.

It’s fitting that my writing perch now has a view of my signed Mike Birbiglia poster (taken from the poster sale by a former coworker at the ol’ Edina Cinema) because my last post here was about Birbiglia’s film “Don’t Think Twice.” He did a Q&A about the film after the July 2016 screening at the Lagoon Cinema and, other than his obviously flawless and brilliant response to the questions I kept telling myself I would ask if I had the courage, I remember the breeze of comedic genius as he walked by my aisle seat to the front of the theater. Maybe I’ll meet him someday, but at the same time it’s enough for me to sit and listen and admire that he can sell out huge theaters and at the same time spend weeks touring to different cities doing Q&A’s and teaching improv classes to local comedians.

I could talk and write about him forever, but I didn’t come back here only to gush about Mike Birbiglia.

BUT I could keep going about him … no? Okay fine.

I know you’re all wondering about the side effects of watching 366 movies in one year (you can see the full list here) and I will say (Captain Obvious – be on alert, I’m about to steal your thunder) it’s too many movies and I think I missed some of the impact they would have had if I watched them at the pace of a normal person.

That said, there’s a good chance I would never get around to some of the classics and obscure films I made it through — “It Happened One Night,” “Charade,” “Prayer of the Rollerboys,” and “The Story of Ricky” come to mind.

This brings to mind another side effect of the challenge, any time someone asks me what my favorite or most memorable films are from last year, the answer always changes.

I should just carry my movie notebook around with me so I can consult the list and make sure I am really delivering the goods. (Dating tip: read from your movie, shopping, pet name, dream vacation, etc. list when things get awkward.)

I do have a movie notebook with my list now, which is another benefit of the challenge, although it makes me wish I had kept one all along so I would have a record of everything I’ve seen; and a tool for those extremely awkward date moments — like when a guy says you have nice veins. Um, so have you seen “Working Girl?”

This year, I only have nine movies to refer to compared to 75 by the end of this day last year when I watched “Upstream Color” and “That Touch of Mink.” Don’t ask me what they’re about.

The last movie I saw was “Kong: Skull Island” — mainly to see my girl Brie Larson and my boy Marc Evan Jackson, who delivers some great one-liners — my favorite being “Oh dear.” I can’t give away the context to that line, but just wait until you see it.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve also watched “Jackie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Julieta,” “20th Century Women,” “Sing,” “Moonlight,” “Split,” “Baby Mama,” and the aforementioned “Kong: Skull Island.”

I knew very little about the film before seeing it and learned, from another former co-worker at the ol’ Edina Cinema when I stopped in there the other day, that the director– Jordan Vogt-Roberts — also made “The Kings of Summer.”

It’s an indie film that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, in my opinion, and represents a new trend of those directors breaking into the Hollywood blockbuster world with positive results: witty scripts and comedic actors coupled with special effects and action.

Another example: Colin Trevorrow made “Jurassic World” in addition to “Safety Not Guaranteed,” thus bringing together Chris Pratt, Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson and some pesky dinosaurs.

“Kong: Skull Island” has the right mix of action, humor (John C. Reilly) and heart and I hope the trend represented by the work of Vogt-Roberts and Trevorrow (who is making a “Jurassic World” sequel) continues.

As for me and my movie-watching challenge plans for the future, I think it’s to be continued …

I’ll see what I want to see and what I’m in the mood for this year (something I couldn’t always do in 2016) and next year might embark on a challenge of a smaller scale than 366 movies.

There are a lot out there I need and want to see and perhaps I’ll be ready to put some lipstick on and watch a ton of movies, again, by 2018.

Until then, I leave you with this reminder from Paul F. Tompkins to see ‘Kong: Skull Island” and one from me to see “The Kings of Summer.”

81 of 366: Listen Up Philip

philip
imdb.com

It didn’t take long for me to realize I had to look past the idea that Listen Up Philip would be a film centered on the title character (Jason Schwartzman) truly isolated at a cabin in upstate New York as he awaited publication of his second novel and did not interact with anyone else for most of the story.

I also had to look beyond Schwartzman’s impeccable ability to grow a beard and focus on the fact that, while the story does build to Philip knowing it’s best he stay alone, he doesn’t distance himself from other characters while getting to that point.

The plot of the film, written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, starts as Philip wants to focus on himself and he is invited to stay at the cabin of his literary hero Ike (Jonathan Pryce). However, what Philip really seems to do is embark on a character exploration that must include those close to him as a way to validate his self obsession — especially in scenes where he is convinced his girlfriend will take him back.

The story is told visually, often with jittery camera work focusing in on a character’s face, actions, or both, and in a literary tone as narrator (Eric Bogosian) describes inner monologues of the characters as they go about interacting with each other.

The narration brought the film to the level of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums came to mind) and the neurotic points of the plot reflected an homage to Woody Allen.

It was an interesting style choice, especially to show how well-written the film is, but I thought it would be more effective for Philip to be truly alone for awhile before he went on a self discovery mission connecting with past ex-girlfriends and ultimately shutting out anyone close to him.

Philip’s presentation as a loner was almost too blatant and there wasn’t anything left to interpret or guess as far as his true goal in life or even the reasons he had that goal.

Schwartzman played Philip well, despite the shortcomings in the development of his character, and I found his scenes with Ashley  (Elisabeth Moss) during the course of their relationship to be the most telling of who he is besides a writer who wants to be alone.

Overall. Listen  Up Philip is a strong visual presentation about a writer’s life and quest to be alone, the path to get there was just a little disjointed for me.

“There’s many reasons we are what we’ve become. I’m going through changes, ripping out pages. I’m going through changes now.”

Langhorne Slim & The Law – Changes

 

 

 

77 of 366: Your Sister’s Sister

Hey hey, happy Flashback Friday. Is that a thing or just for people who missed celebrating Throwback Thursday?

sistersIn any case, here is an old picture of my sister Carla and I from Spring of 1982 at our old house on Springdale Court.

I am also celebrating Flashback Friday by going back to movie 77 of my quest to watch 366 this year, Your Sister’s Sister.

I am hurting a bit by not writing about the film after I saw it. Even though I take notes, my feelings about a film is hard to express days later.

sisterssister
imdb.com

What has continued to be on my mind about it, however, is the ending. There was one moment when I thought it was going to end and then one more short scene after that took it away from a predictable conclusion to the story.

I enjoyed the film up until that point anyway but the last addition to the plot was effective to conclude a story focused on character development, family relationships, love and loss.

There are only three main characters in the film, written and directed by Lynn Shelton, Iris and Hannah, who are sisters, and Jack.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is Iris’s (Emily Blunt) best friend and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) is her sister.

Jack, at the suggestion of Iris, decides to spend some time alone at her family’s cabin after his brother dies.

Hannah has the same plan, going to the cabin after a tough break up, leaving the two lost souls together in a time when they planned to be alone.

They have a drunken night together only to be visited the next day by Iris, who decides to go check on Jack, and possibly express her romantic feelings for him.

Each character went to the cabin for their own reasons, but they end up discovering as much about themselves as they do about their dynamic together with a good share of challenges along the way.

Having only three characters presented a solid platform for focusing on the individuals as much as their relationships together as their feelings and life decisions were tested in a concentrated environment.

I feel like I’m being a little vague here but there were some surprises in Your Sister’s Sister, in addition to the ending, that took the well-written and developed film to a more mysterious level open to interpretation by the viewer.

With that, here’s a quote for today from a randomly-selected page in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.

“We shall see what fate has in store for us, won’t we?

I thought you didn’t believe in fate.

She waved her hand. It’s not so much that I don’t believe in it. I don’t subscribed to its nomination. If fate is the law then is fate also subject to the law? At some point we cannot escape naming responsibility. It’s in our nature. Sometimes I think we are all like that myopic coiner at his press, taking the blind slugs one by one from the tray, all of us bent so jealously at our work, determined that not even chaos be outside of our own making.”

 

 

 

 

76 of 366: Hello, My Name is Doris

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imdb.com

Hello, My Name is Doris is a film I would say is not entirely what it seems. If you watch the trailer (I recommend you don’t because they often ruin the whole movie and/or create false expectations) it appears to be a quirky comedy about an older woman who pursues a younger man she works with and nothing beyond that. That is in fact a main plot point of the film, but director and writer Michael Showalter and writer Laura Terruso take that story to a deeper level to present a heartwarming, sad and yes sometimes comedic character study of Doris (Sally Field.)

According to an interview with Michael Showalter and Sally Field on Nerdist, he wanted her to star as the title character and her involvement in the film was critical to getting it made.

Doris lives on Staten Island and works in the city where one day she meets John, her company’s new art director from California. Having just lost her mother and continuing a lifetime of putting herself aside for other people, Doris meeting John (Max Greenfield) is an awakening that, while misdirected for a while, takes her to a new point in her life she has been wanting to get to for a long, long time.

It’s not just their meeting, but a friendship, that movies Doris forward even as she takes a few missteps along the way and misconstrues what is happening with John.

I think that had to happen for Doris and I also think, bridging the gap between cinema and real life for a second, most people will find some way to relate to Doris, and even John, as they experience love and loss all with a good share of social awkwardness in the background.

Hello, My Name Is Doris is a simple story that maybe has been done before in some form or another, but together Showalter, Terruso, Field and Greenfield take it to another level.

I think it’s how they used just enough restraint in the situations Doris faces with John combined with an imaginative look at the many facets of her character to balance who she was and who she becomes that makes this film and story work.

Field, as an established actress with an admirable library of work in her career, explores something new in Doris and didn’t let anything hold her back while showing the character during her high and low moments.

I really think anyone can appreciate this film, including scholars of the subject, comedy nerds and anyone in between.

It will also stand the test of time, I think, or as Doris says about her aged duck sauce in the fridge, “It keeps!”

For complete lack of a better phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover with Hello, My Name is Doris. It will surprise you, make you laugh and look at your own life through the eyes of Doris. If you don’t take away any life lessons from this story, at least consider a fashion tip or two from Doris.

She’s a baller.

 

 

 

74 of 366: Upstream Color

 

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erbpfilm.com

Upstream Color is a beautifully experimental film exploring man’s relationship with nature and at the same time human relationships and love. From there, the film honestly was difficult to understand and, from the brief commentaries I’ve read, it’s supposed to be that way.

Shane Carruth’s (Primer) film festival darling starts with a woman infected with a parasite in her blood stream and evolves from there to a story of survival, independence and the themes I mentioned above, if you choose to interpret it that way.

Carruth, in addition to writing and directing the film, stars in it as Jeff, who later falls in love with the infected woman, Kris.

The film takes a turn from the plot about Kris to their relationship and fight against the world, but there are many other subplots going on that I know fit, but again, didn’t comprehend.

It’s actually a film that I feel okay about not understanding because I think it’s meant to be experienced as a visual film as much as it is a literary exploration of some deep ideas bordering on science fiction.

Carruth effectively balances science fiction with a story about love and presents a project you can appreciate at any level. I think it’s a film worth watching again, for people who have the time (not me), to experience what other themes and meanings stand out without reading any of the analysis available in many places on the Internet first.

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden has a strong presence in the film, both in readings by Kris’ character and physical copies in many scenes. That, combined with many scenes in and about nature, presented the theme that exploring how humans fit into nature was one of Carruth’s ideas.

If you want to dig deeper, Indiewire has a cheat sheet on Upstream Color (I only skimmed it before writing this post) that would be worth reading as well whether you watch the film one or 10 times.

Overall, I like the choose your own adventure style of Upstream Color. Its story is piecemeal and, as I said, can be interpreted at any level of depth and intensity you like or just taken at face value as visually mesmerizing artwork expressing the magic of film and storytelling.

 

 

66 of 366: Adult Beginners

adult
imdb.com

Adult Beginners fits the mold of a mid-life/family crisis film and, while the story has a few unique points and comedic moments, it mostly has been done before.

Think of it as a toned-down version of Sisters mixed with a little bit of Happy Christmas. 

I am by no means saying Adult Beginners (streaming on Netflix) is an intentional copy cat of other titles, but it wasn’t original enough for me to stand out from similar independent or bigger-budget films.

I was excited to see it for Nick Kroll’s role in developing the story along with Liz Flahive and Jeff Cox, who wrote the script.

I’ve been a fan of Kroll’s comedy from the since of the baby character and El Chupacabra on Comedy Bang! Bang! and it’s intriguing to see his different performances on screen, especially when he has a hand in them.

Kroll plays Jake, a down-on-his-luck entrepreneur who needs to live with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) until he gets back on his feet.

They live in Jake and Justine’s childhood home, which the couple is trying to sell before they have another baby. Jake begins to help around the house and babysit his nephew, Teddy.

It could have gone any way from there, but like other similar films, the living arrangement begins to test the relationship between Jake and Justine against her marriage and own family life as all the characters work through their own issues.

They’re all starting over again in some ways and it doesn’t work well under one roof.

The downfall of Kroll’s performance as Jake and the script is he goes too far to be funny on a few occasions while the more emotional scenes with Justine fell flat and didn’t seem to have any heart or, for lack of a better term, real emotional depth.

All the characters’ relationships and plot points are presented mostly on the surface level and in such a way that you only see a glimpse of the potential for a strong film.

I admire Kroll and think Adult Beginners is a sign of what’s to come as he continues to expand his creative work in comedy and in film.

Now, without further ado, it took me three listens (worth it) of the Sally Field and Michael Showalter interview on Nerdist to find this quote. I wrote down the wrong time stamp during the first listen, found a different quote I liked to use for a different blog, and then welcomed the excuse to give it a third try knowing I didn’t imagine hearing this. Sally Field has had a long and impressive career and much of the interview focuses on her and the partnership with Showalter to make their new film, Hello, My Name is Doris. I recommend it, even if you only listen once like a normal person, and cannot wait to see this film.

“It’s what you do during those really down times that really inform who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.”

— Sally Field

65 of 366: Ruby Sparks

ruby
imdb.com

I’ll admit a lot of the time I’m not entirely confident in what I put out there with my writing. Some films inspire me to write immediately after they’re over in such a way I don’t even need to think about it, while others prompt me to analyze the plot and meaning and ultimately over think everything.

Ruby Sparks is one of those films where the thoughts just came to me right away and I even spent a lot of time writing while it was on.

That’s fitting I suppose since the film is about a writer, Calvin (played by Paul Dano), who struggles to finish his next novel until a character he creates comes to life as he types words about her.

Ruby, played by Zoe Kazan,  who also wrote the screenplay, could be a true figment of Calvin’s imagination except other people can see her. Or perhaps she is just a coping mechanism for Calvin as he faces pressure to write his next great novel after early success with his first book.

It becomes apparent, building to the point where Calvin explains Ruby’s purpose in the end, that you don’t need to make sense of it all and how real her character is.

In that way Ruby Sparks is what a film should be, full of imagination, magic and mystery that could have any number of meanings.

“Falling in love is an act of magic, so is writing.” 

Kazan, with directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), bringing her script to life, plays with the ideas of make believe in her film as well as fate and creativity and perhaps the undertone of people’s expectations in a relationship.

Do people go so far when they are with someone to try to change them and make them into who they want them to be? Do people have unrealistic expectations in relationships at times and get in their head about them too much? Absolutely.

“I couldn’t see you when you were here and now that you’re gone, I see you everywhere.” 

Ruby Sparks is one of the more thought-provoking films I’ve seen lately, even though it’s billed as a romantic comedy. It just has so many possible meanings and ideas displayed through performances by Dano, Kazan and a supporting cast of Chris Messina, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas that effectively portray their complex characters.

Early on, as I said, there is a sense you need to figure it all out including why Calvin imagines Ruby in is life, but it’s best left to your own interpretation.

The result with that approach is simply a beautiful love story about writing, family, romance and creativity unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

“Any writer can attest in the luckiest, happiest state, the words are not coming from you, but through you.”