Mark Duplass

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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Multi-hyphenate Katie Aselton returns to Sundance with her second film, a much different outing than her gorgeous and melancholy 2010 entry, The Freebie. This time around, Aselton has ceded writing duties to her husband, Mark Duplass, and the pair have made what will likely be referred to as “Deliverance for girls” for many years to come. But Black Rock is a twisty little horror outing that perhaps shares more with The Freebie than might be obvious from first blush. Both films hinge on interpersonal relationships, the confusion of behavioral signals and perceptions, and mistakes that have far-reaching consequences. Yet, Black Rock is most certainly a thriller and a genre picture, and its wooded island setting, thumping soundtrack (with remarkably sage picks from The Kills), and grim plotline only serve to show how well Aselton can cross genres with style.

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A man places an ad in a local paper looking for a partner to go on a journey with him – but this particular man is not looking to make a love connection, he is in need of a companion to travel through time with him. He’s done it once before, but you’ll have to bring to your own weapons because, as he tells it, “safety not guaranteed.” From this seed of an idea, director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly have crafted Safety Not Guaranteed, a low-fi romance that benefits both from charismatic performances and the intriguing background that the time travel element provides. The film is loosely based on a true story – an ad did appear in a Seattle paper, exactly as it appears in the film, but Connolly and Trevorrow have taken their film in a different direction – stuff mentioned in the ad (payment, that it’s been done before) never comes up after its first read, and no one ever says anything else about it. Instead, the film focuses on a trio of intrepid reporters (really just one mild douchebags and two interns who don’t have a choice in the matter) who decide to craft a piece about the man who has placed the ad. A fluff piece, something silly. Of course, they find much more than they bargained for once their investigation commence.

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Welcome to Day Two of Kate Christmas. Yesterday, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced their first wave of programming, featuring twenty-six titles that will be screening in competition. While the arrival of those titles was enough to send me into a tizzy I have still not recovered from, today the festival has only piled on the pre-holiday goodies with the announcement of their Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films. A few titles of note to get your juices flowing – Gareth Evans‘ The Raid (also known round these parts as “oh, hell yeah”), Andrea Arnold‘s take on Wuthering Heights, Katie Aselton‘s second directorial outing Black Rock (scripted by her husband Mark Duplass), Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish‘s Sleepwalk With Me (based on Birbiglia’s hilarious book), and Lynn Shelton‘s Your Sister’s Sister. Again, that’s just a taste, so check out the full list of Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films after the break.

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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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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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SXSW Film 2010

As I’ve mentioned about a hundred times already, we’re coming down the home stretch toward SXSW 2010. And as we continue to dig deeper into the festival line-up, we continue to find all sorts of interesting hidden gems. This one in particular stood out to me. Mars is a romantic comedy told in the visual style of a graphic novel, that tells the story of a reborn space race between the United States and the European Space Agency.

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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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wes-anderson-noah-baumbach

A central mass of talent is gravitating around Noah Baumbach’s new project. Is that going to be enough to create a quality movie?

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humpday-1

If there is one thing that we can take away from director Lynn Shelton’s awkward sex comedy Humpday, it is that there is nothing more uncomfortable to watch yet strikingly hilarious than two straight men who set out to have sex on camera.

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