Like Crazy

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People will hate Drake Doremus’s Breathe In. They will walk out of the theater and be sad and confused and maybe even (probably, really, more than anything) angry. They will hate it because they will hate the characters that exist inside of the film, and they will hate it because they make them mad, and they will hate it because it is not Like Crazy 2. And that’s okay, because while Breathe In will elicit all these emotions (and, quite likely, more), it is an immensely accomplished and measured film, an assured follow-up to Doremus’s other Sundance hit, 2011’s Like Crazy, and even more assured because it is not like Like Crazy, not at all, and that is something to marvel at. While Doremus and his co-screenwriter, Ben York Jones, turned their eyes on a couple that should be together in Like Crazy, when it comes to Breathe In, they go in the complete opposite direction, to a couple that should, by no means, be together. And while we all know that as every minute of Breathe In steadily ticks by, they don’t know that (or, at least, they refuse to believe that), and the result is car crash cinema done right. You can’t look away. But you can’t cheer for it in the slightest.

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Culture Warrior

Imagine what some of our most beloved romantic films would look like if they were made in the 21st century. Laura and Alec of David Lean’s Brief Encounter could have managed their secret meetups over text. Harry and Sally could have checked each others’ okcupid accounts before explaining every aspect of what they seek in a partner over a cross-country road trip. And Ilsa would never have had to get on that plane because, y’know, the war’s over. This is a fruitless endeavor, I know, but it brings one thing into light which poses both problems and opportunities for the contemporary romance film, specifically the romantic comedy: politics, economic conditions, shifting gender roles, and technological evolution means different kinds of relationships and, thus, different kinds of romantic movies. How can the 21st century romance film expect the wedding-bell-chiming happy ending to work in a society full of emerging adults who feel less and less of a need to get married? How can new romantic comedies account for the fact that today’s working professional must move constantly – putting all their human relationships at risk – in order to find a job that suits them without only making films about the uber-privileged? Will there ever be a mainstream romantic comedy featuring a non-monogomous or non-heteronormative protagonist? Several recent screen romances have attempted to tackle the changing nature of relationships – or, at least, the type of relationship typically depicted in the Hollywood romance.

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Reel Sex

Most people, as they recover from seasonal snacking comas and hangovers brought on by liquid medication for too much concentrated family time, spend these last few weeks of December reflecting on the year past. While fellow Reject Landon Palmer pointed out earlier today that 2011 has already been lauded as a “quiet” year by many of our peers, I would like to address how cinematic sex and relationships embrace this quietness through an enveloping theme of sadness. As base as it might sound, a lot of tragic shit went down in 2011; from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Oakland riots to the honoring of ten years post-9/11, this year was a study in human perseverance. And as great art always succeeds at doing, film mirrored the world’s rising tension, air of tragedy, and sense of loss time and time again.

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Year in Review: The Best Scores and Soundtracks of 2011

It has been quite the year in film, but even more so when it came to the music in those films. We got scores that pushed the envelope, soundtracks that were full of nostalgia and orchestration that could easily fit in to the 1930s. It was an eclectic year that introduced us to new talent while also reestablishing the music from existing ones. Normally when the year comes to close, I look back on the various soundtracks and scores from the films that came out and I can easily hone in on a handful that most stood out to me. 2011 was not that kind of year. With even more artists becoming composers (The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx), impressive composers coming to the forefront (Cliff Martinez with his scores for The Lincoln Lawyer, Contagion and Drive, two of which made this list) and childhood favorites back on the big screen (The Muppets and Winnie the Pooh), there was a huge pool of talent and good music to choose from. And although it makes my task of rounding up the top picks more difficult, it also means films are getting filled with more and more good music – a trend I hope (and expect) will continue in 2012. But on to this year’s picks!

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The 21st Gotham Independent Film Awards kicked off awards season with their ceremony this evening, doling out a limited number of awards to some of the strongest independent voices and films of the year. The Gothams cover just seven categories, but they often signal big trends and name up-and-comers, what with awards named things like Breakthrough Director and Actor or Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. The final jury is made up of “distinguished filmmakers,” though you’d be hard-pressed to find a list of just who is on that jury this year. The Gothams turned in some real surprises tonight (big enough that, even as the first award show of the year, they are still considered shocks, that’s something), with the two biggest nomination-getters, The Descendants and Martha Marcy May Marlene, coming away without a thing. Martha Marcy May Marlene missing out on awards is certainly bizarre enough, but what may well be the biggest upset from that shut-out is lead actress Elizabeth Olsen losing out on Breakthrough Actor to Felicity Jones. Both ladies starred in Sundance hits (MMMM and Like Crazy, respectively), but back in January, I cannot imagine that anyone would have placed Jones’ performance above Olsen’s (including myself, and I quite liked both films and both performances). Other jaw-droppers? Mike Mills‘ Beginners taking home Best Feature – along with Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, as the two productions tied for the honor. If this is a hint as to how unpredictable the coming season […]

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This year’s Young Hollywood panel (presented by the Los Angeles Times) brought together rising stars Anton Yelchin, Evan Rachel Wood, Armie Hammer and Kirsten Dunst to discuss how they got started in acting, what it is like working with impressive (and at times intimidating) directors like Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and David Fincher and how their success is shaping their careers. Hammer and Dunst are each featured in films screening at the festival (J. Edgar and Melancholia, respectively) with Hammer as Edgar’s right-hand man and Dunst as a depressed bride. Yelchin and Wood have been getting attention for their performances as one half of a long distance relationship in Like Crazy and the tempting intern who may undo an entire presidential campaign in The Ides of March. The four came together Friday night (with Hammer fresh off the premiere of J. Edgar the night before) and there was a palpable energy between them as they would get so excited or intrigued by another person’s answer it would sometimes feel like we were simply overhearing a conversation between new friends. It was interesting to see Hammer surrounded by three actors who have been doing this since they were young (as he is just getting started in his career) and how he was just as engaged in their answers as the audience, asking which project they would be referring to in a story or simply being shocked over hearing about directors who preferred to do scenes in a single take.

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The Reject Report

And we’re back. Three cups of coffee, and these boots are made for walking. Granted, the walking might be a little jittery. That’s what happens after you’ve gone through a whole pot of the magical, black stuff. It’s kind of like catnip for adult humans. And it all comes back full circle. The circle this week leads to Puss in Boots, that lovable side character from the Shrek films who’s finally getting his own animated adventure. He’s sure to take the grand ball of yarn this weekend, but he’ll have some stiff competition from the returning Paranormal Activity 3 and the triple threat himself, Justin Timberlake, finally getting his name above the title on an action/sci-fi/epic. It’s the Reject Report this week, and we’re seeing the bottom of the cup. Coffee coffee coffee.

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Watching Like Crazy was a frustrating experience for me. The whole time I was watching the film, I felt as if I should have been enjoying it much more than I actually was. Visually, the film is both intimate and gorgeous, kind of like watching a home movie if your dad was a virtuoso filmmaker. The performances are all strong, from top to bottom. But despite all of the obvious talent on the screen, I just couldn’t find myself connecting to the story or the characters as they were crafted. Maybe I’m not much of a romantic, but I found the relationship woes of the main characters Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) to be less than compelling. In fact, they were pretty frustrating to get through. Who were these kids and why should I care that they treat their personal lives like the most important things in the world? We’re not so much introduced to Jacob and Anna as we watch as they’re introduced to each other. The film opens with their meeting in a college course in which Anna is a student and Jacob a teacher’s aid, followed by Anna’s bold decision to leave a note declaring her infatuation under Jacob’s windshield wiper, and the stilted conversation and stolen glances of their first date. The getting-to-know-you sequence is cute, but it doesn’t last long. Soon we’re informed through montage (we’re informed of a lot of things through montage in this film) that the two kids are now very […]

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Sundance veteran Drake Doremus returned to Park City this year with a very different film than 2010’s Douchebag. For his 2011 entry, Doremus brought along Like Crazy, a sensitive and romantic film that doesn’t rely on anyone taking their shirt off or ludicrous meet-cutes or casts packed with tween pop stars to make it work. I saw the film back in January at Sundance, and it is one of two romantic dramedies with a young, hip cast from the festival that has stuck in my mind these many months. The other one, the Freddie Highmore-starring The Art of Getting By (retitled from its Sundance name, Homework) has remained in my brain mainly due to how much I hated it. It’s frowned upon to spit when speaking about films, but that’s been the best way I’ve found to physically express how terrible that movie was, and how emotionally disingenuous. On the flipside, there was Doremus’s Like Crazy, which stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones (with co-starring appearances by Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley). Not to get emotional over here (because, you know, gross), but Like Crazy is one of the best films about long distance relationships I’ve ever seen (and I know from long distance relationships).

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A young man and woman fall in love while at college, but since the girl is British, she gets legally removed from her love and the two have to make due with a long distance version of their heated partnership. This is the story that just got by Paramount for $4 million.Director Drake Doremus’s Like Crazy features this storied plot and performances from Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones that are being hailed for their strength, familiarity and truth to life. The Hollywood Reported said the movie was “bruisingly bittersweet and made with the kind of tenderness that suggests a deep personal significance,” and Erik Davis at Cinematical claimed, “It’s a powerful film, to say the least, and it will most likely destroy those who’ve had experience with a long distance relationship,” while also praising the humor and sweetness of the movie. Absolutely be on the lookout for this film to show up in theaters sometime in 2011. [IndieWire]

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