Cyrus

Mark and Jay Duplass like people. No matter how much their characters screw up or how mean they get, they love them. There’s no cynicism or condescension from their part. When you’re dealing with a character who lives his life based on the ways of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs, it wouldn’t be too hard to poke fun at him. The Duplass brothers don’t do that. Their newest film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, is pretty in line with their past films. It’s a story of good-hearted people who are completely lost, all looking for the right signs. And, as Rev. Graham Hess did in Shyamalan’s alien-invasion film, they find them in unexpected places. Here’s what Mark and Jay Duplass had to say about Jeff’s adoration for Signs, how they build their characters, and the importance of improvisation:

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Jay and Mark Duplass were two of the biggest names at the forefront of the Mumblecore movement in filmmaking that sprung up a half-decade or so ago. What is Mumblecore? Many critics of cinema would lead us to believe that it’s a new genre, one in which realism takes precedence over everything else. It utilizes unknown actors, it shoots in real locations, and the scripts are largely improvised. Personally, I just think young filmmakers like the Duplass brothers were too broke to make movies in any sort of traditional way, so they just started making them in their houses and with their friends. Any sort of genre labels or rumblings of an artistic movement came later when writers were trying to digest what they’d seen in movies like The Puffy Chair or Baghead. And that’s bound to happen. Critics, bloggers, and essay writers need to find things to talk about, so they come up with labels, they put things in categories. Is it a coincidence, then, that the new project being developed by two filmmakers whose careers were launched largely due to online and word of mouth buzz would be about the same writers who created their monster? Maybe, I don’t know.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we have 1st Lt. Travon Boykins – massive film geek and fightin’ force for the US Army – calling in live from the (un)active war zone of Iraq. Advisin’ and assistin’, baby. Shunning our usual format, we ramble on coherently for a while, give a one-sentence review of True Grit and figure out what Californication looks like without any sex. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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This Week in DVD

Most DVD Tuesdays see a random smorgasbord of titles released with no discernible pattern, and this week is ultimately no different. But it does feature a fairly hefty sampling of one genre in particular… documentaries! Who’s up for some true stories and real life drama, mystery, and comedy? Don’t turn your nose up so fast people. There are some fascinating true stories below, yes, even the one on Joan Rivers, and they’re all worth a watch or two. Titles out this week include The Other Guys, Cyrus, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Town, Gasland, and more.

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The top nominations for this year’s Indie Spirit Awards are no surprise. Winter’s Bone continues its march through the woods to find its father and an Oscar with 7 nominations (which is almost all it was even eligible for). In a close second, The Kids Are All Right finds itself with 5 nominations. If you’re a fan of female directors, this year is celebrating a number of them in the top spots, but it’s also incredibly important to point out that Samuel L. Jackson and Bill Murray are finally up for the same award. The Indepdenent Spirit Awards make a good primer for the films that might make their way into the Academy Award nominee pool. In recent tradition, the winner of the Best Feature prize goes on to be an Oscar contender (and occasional winner). Examples of that include Precious, The Wrestler, Juno, and Brokeback Mountain. The full list of nominees continues below:

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Culture Warrior

For better or worse, this summer of movies is over, and now we’re in the early-Fall transition into the inevitable season of so-called “serious” awards-friendly films, films that supposedly say a lot about human nature and our time and place as a culture. However, I’ve always contended that it is often the films that seemingly exist only for “entertainment’s sake” that have the most to say about culture, mainly because they operate in such a way that allows us to turn our minds off, passively consume them, and therefore go along unquestionably with the socio-political presumptions explicitly or implicitly embedded within their narratives. Such films that purport to exist solely for entertainment value often end up telling us a lot about how and what we think about the present, and it just so happens that these types of films are most often relegated to the summer months. Summer movies in 2010 ranged from highbrow to lowbrow, blockbuster to indie to sleeper, with head-scratchers and brain-cell-killers alike, but many of these films, intentionally or not, had something to say or assume about the present cultural moment.

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And so it goes for the 4th of July weekend, two heavy hitters deliver fireworks to the masses, even if those fireworks aren’t on a milestone level of awesomeness. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Last Airbender had respectable openings even if neither of them came close to breaking any records this weekend. The much beloved Toy Story 3 held strong in its third weekend out, and a big surprise came in the form of the latest indie comedy from the Duplass brothers. All in all, another fun-filled weekend at the movie theater.

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Jay Duplass

This isn’t a battle a la Step Brothers or Rushmore style, but something real. The Duplass brother’s shooting style is a contributing factor to that which is quite unorthodox compared to most filmmakers. They shoot in sequence, the camerawork is practically all handheld, and they hardly stick to the dialog on page. Their formula is different, but obviously works. Here’s what Jay Duplass had to say about all this.

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“The humor comes from a frank recognition of the truth. I think all good actors work that way. You just do what is real. If the situation is silly, then it’s funny.”

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Columbus Rejects! Get a chance to see Cyrus before it opens… for free!

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Cyrus

Ignoring the namesake of the film, Cyrus focuses not so much on Jonah Hill’s twenty one year old, socially maladjusted mama’s boy, and more on John C. Reilly’s character John. John is a schlubby, sad-sack forty something with an interestingly amiable relationship with his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener), who after seven years is finally getting remarried.

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June 2010 Movie Guide

Now that American Idol and Lost are over, you have the entire month of June free for movies. What the hell are you going to watch?

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Twilight: Eclipse

According to today’s final line-up press release, LAFF will welcome the world premiere of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third film in the popular glittery vampire romance franchise. But fans might be disappointed about how it’s scheduled to go down.

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Summer Movies 2010

It’s that time again. Every year, Film School Rejects is looked to by readers the world over to be the guiding light for summer movie-going. What can we say? We just have a knack for it. And this summer, we’re excited…

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Cyrus

I’ve gotten a bit tired of John C. Reilly doing so many comedies recently. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a damn funny man who elevates everything he’s in, but I’ve been increasingly afraid that a man with as strong of dramatic chops as he will continually fall into typecasting through the short-term memory of Hollywood. Enter Cyrus, the first high-profile, star-studded effort by those kooky mumblecore kids Jay and Mark Duplass.

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SXSW Film 2010

When films are cast perfectly, you can tell. There is a certain energy and chemistry that makes these characters feel alive. So when casting an improvisational comedy, could you ask for two better guys than John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill?

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Today at SXSW

Today, we’re looking forward to a lot of the narrative competition films and a few cool spotlight premieres. It’s the fattest day of screening here at SXSW, so gird your loins — it’s about to get messy.

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SXSW Film 2010

It’s that time again. The 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival is upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited. For the second year in a row, we’re covering one of our favorite American film festivals as an Austin-based publication. And we kick off our official festival coverage with a list.

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The Hollywood Reporter article announcing the involvement of Jonah Hill in director David Gordon Green’s next comedy, an irreverent look at babysitting called The Sitter, says that the film will harken to 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, which starred Elisabeth Shue who gets caught up in a whirlwind of trouble after taking a babysitting job on a whim…

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