Jay Duplass

Manson Family Vacation

This past Thursday was Werner Herzog‘s birthday. We wanted to get him something special, so I’ve made Manson Family Vacation the subject of this week’s Fund This column, because he really wants it made. “I want you to give them money for this film about murder and love,” he can be heard saying in the project’s Kickstarter campaign video. Oh wait, no, that’s just Linas Phillips doing his impersonation of the German director. Phillips, who you may know from his commentaries as Herzog for Tango and Cash and Every Which Way But Loose or his documentary Walking to Werner, in which he personally walks from Seattle to Los Angeles to meet the cinema icon, is one of the two stars of Manson Family Vacation. Here’s hoping he finds a way to slip the voice in this movie, too. Phillips also made the indie road movie Bass Ackwards (which our own Rob Hunter did not like, to each his own), but here he’s simply an actor, playing opposite filmmaker Jay Duplass (Cyrus; Jeff, Who Lives at Home), who is also mainly just in front of the camera this time around (well, he’s executive producer, too). At the helm for this one is J. Davis, an editor making his directorial debut. In the film, Phillips and Duplass will be estranged brothers, one with his shit together and one not. Duplass is the former, a husband, father and lawyer in L.A. whose adopted older sibling (Phillips) shows up out of the blue wanting […]

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The Do-Deca-Pentathalon

The Duplass Brothers got into making movies by making movies. Some called it Mumblecore, but it should really be called The Nike Method. Their latest, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon features two brothers locked in an epic (yet secretive) sporting event that they take exactly as seriously as it needs to be taken. But as Mark and Jay Duplass explain in this interview, no matter the type of movie they make, they’ll always focus on the small moments and emotions that arise from them. One example? Battleship. If given the blockbuster, here’s how the pair would have delivered the littoral explosion-fest

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Sports are an important part of childhood. They teach kids to work hard, they foster a spirit of healthy competition, they promote teamwork, and they give millions of people all over the world a dream to shoot for. At least, that’s the theory. They did nothing of the sort for brothers Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis). These guys are out of shape, egotistical, they view competition only as an opportunity to put each other down, and there’s no chance athletics are taking either of them anywhere beyond their own back yards. They’re neurotic idiots, and the center of their neuroses are a series of games they’ve been playing against each other since they were kids called the Do-Deca-Pentathlon. This new film from writer/director brother duo Mark and Jay Duplass asks us to take pleasure in watching them behave badly. By now most people have an idea of who Mark and Jay Duplass are. They started off making very small movies that they acted in themselves and with their friends. They then went on to make more mainstream movies like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home, but without compromising their indie aesthetic or their penchant for getting loosely scripted, improvisation heavy performances out of their actors.

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Jay and Mark Duplass cut their teeth in the film world writing and directing weird, super-indie movies like The Puffy Chair and Baghead, and have only more recently started tipping their toes ever so slightly into the mainstream with works like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Deadline Metairie is reporting the brothers have taken a job writing a film for Todd Phillips, king of the mainstream comedy. Especially since the brothers are famous for writing loose scripts that are heavy on improvisational acting, and this particular job requires that they adapt a novel. Let’s back up a bit. Back in February it was announced that Todd Phillips had renewed his first look agreement with Warner Bros., and there were a number of projects mentioned that he might be developing for the studio. One of them was called Mule, and was an adaptation of a Tony D’Souza novel of the same name. Amazon describes D’Souza’s book by saying: “James and Kate are golden children of the late twentieth century, flush with opportunity. But an economic downturn and an unexpected pregnancy send them searching for a way to make do. A friend in California’s Siskiyou County grows prime-grade marijuana; if James transports just one load from Cali to Florida, he’ll pull down enough cash to survive for months. And so begins the life of a mule.”

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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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In one sense, Mark and Jay Duplass continue their march toward the mainstream with Jeff, Who Lives at Home, their latest writing-directing effort. After all, the Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips bloodlines merge in the form of co-stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms. But Jeff isn’t the sort of vulgar but heartfelt comedy one might expect from that those leading men. There’s no Segel nudity to speak of, and Helms tones down his familiar likable-frat-boy comic relief shtick. Segel plays a slacker, sure, but one imbued with a higher purpose. He’s stuck home, planted on the couch, waiting for a sign to point him toward his destiny. The Duplass brothers’ latest is exactly the sort of whimsical, slight indie enterprise that would be centered on such a character, the sort of movie that begins with Segel’s Jeff waxing poetic about the deeper meaning of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs before the start of an ordinary day-in-the-life that spins ever so slightly out of control. Helms plays his estranged brother Pat, who has business lunches at Hooters and buys Porsches he can’t afford. When Pat discovers his wife Linda (Judy Greer) might be having an affair, he enlists Jeff in some reconnaissance.

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The title of Jay and Mark Duplass’ latest film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, may imply that the film will center primarily on leading loser Jeff, well, living at home. When we first meet Jeff (Jason Segel), he’s smoking weed in his mother’s basement, but though that setting (and that particular action) would, at first puff, seem to lay the stage for what the rest of the film portrays, Jeff gets out of the house and out in the world pretty swiftly. Jeff, Who Lives at Home may ostensibly focus on Jeff’s journey to a greater understanding of himself and the world he lives in (and, yes, that journey comes with much less weed-smoking than one would expect), the Duplass brothers have actually crafted a charming film that is, at its heart, about the influence of everyday magic in the lives of an off-kilter family. The Duplass men have long been concerned with issues of family and disaffection, and finding humor in the tragedy that is inherent (and sometimes inherited) in both. The Puffy Chair and Cyrus both have plots that center on daddy issues, to some extent, and Jeff, Who Lives at Home is no different. Segel’s Jeff is a thirtyish slacker who is unable to complete even the most mundane of tasks (early on in the film, his mother asks him to simply procure some wood glue and fix a broken shutter). He lives at home with said mother Sharon (played amusingly by Susan Sarandon, complete with her […]

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Earlier this morning, my partner in LA film festival crime, the lovely Ms. Allison Loring, posted her list of Most Anticipated Films from this year’s upcoming AFI FEST presented by Audi. Of course, many of our choices overlap (Shame, Butter, Rampart), but we part ways when it comes to some of the smaller films at the festival. For all the big, Oscar bait flicks (J. Edgar) or the wang- and soul-baring Fass-outings (Shame again, always Shame), there are a few films that I’ve been positively rabid to see (Alps, Michael) that might not yet have the cache value and audience awareness of those other films. From the festival’s incredible list of 110 films, I’ve narrowed down my list to ten films that are my bonafide Most Anticipated Films of the festival. Like any list, I am sure that some of you perusing it will be displeased, weighing in on titles I’m a fool to miss. But hold your wrath for a few days, because many of the best titles of the fest are ones I’ve already seen, and those films might just crop up in an unexpected place (like, oh, another list). AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting today, October 27, right HERE). The complete schedule grid is now online for the festival, which you can check out HERE. After the break, […]

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With AFI FEST presented by Audi just one week away, fellow FSR-er and AFI FEST attendee Kate Erbland and I went through the impressive list of films on the schedule and selected the ones we are most looking forward to seeing. To the credit of those putting together this year’s AFI FEST, I found myself practically highlighting the entire schedule grid as I saw film after film that had already been on my “to-see” list. From films I have been anticipating for the past few months (Shame) to ones I had not heard of until now (Butter), this year’s AFI FEST looks to be one of its strongest lineups yet. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting today, October 27, right HERE). The complete schedule grid is now online for the festival, which you can check out HERE. After the break, check out my list of my top ten most anticipated films of this year’s AFI FEST. Which films are you planning on seeing at this year’s AFI FEST?

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As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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The inaugural New York Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival kicks off next week on September 1, and in advance of ten days of films and fun, the festival has released their full lineup. The festival will open with Jay Duplass’ Kevin and will close with Craig Vivieros’ Lost in Italy (starring Glen Murphy and Ray Winstone). The festival’s centerpiece film is Josh Hyde’s Postales (an Official Selection at the Edinburgh and Shanghai International Film Festivals). In between those three framing films, the festival will show over 140 features and shorts, along with a number of interesting and unique panels. Duplass’ documentary Kevin is the director’s first foray into documentary features, and its opening night screening will be followed by a performance by Kevin Gant himself (a talented performer that both the Duplass brothers idolized as kids). Gant and Duplass will also participate in a Q&A moderated by Matt Singer. Other standouts in the NYHKFF schedule include a special 10th Anniversary Screening of Ken Park, with director Larry Clark and actress Tiffany Limos appearing for a Q&A following the film, along with screenings of Mike Petty’s Karaoke Man (starring James Denton), gay comedy Walk A Mile In My Pradas (starring Tom Arnold), and Sheron Dayoc’s Halaw (Special Jury Prize winner at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival). The festival has also put together a couple of very, very interesting panels (cough, cough, I’m on one, cough), which you can read more about after the break.

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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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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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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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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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Long have I been a fan of awkward comedy. Or more specifically, comedy that thrives on situations where two characters quite simply don’t belong together. Enter the Duplass Brothers’ latest film, Cyrus.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
B+


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