Ruby Sparks

SpaceCamp 2

It may not have cracked the top ten this weekend after finally entering wide release, and it probably will be left empty handed at the Golden Globes tonight, but Spike Jonze‘s Her is one of the best movies of last year (it was #4 on FSR’s aggregated top ten, #3 on resident critic Rob Hunter’s list, #2 on our best sci-fi list…) and if you haven’t seen it already, you must go out as soon as you can and fall in love with this movie about love. If you don’t already know from our coverage and praise, the futurist sci-fi film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man recently separated from his wife who rebounds with his computer’s sentient operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. That plot has reminded me of other movies since I first heard about it, and I’ve continued to recall related recommendations before, during and after seeing it. It’s not necessarily derivative so much as the next step for cinema that deals with the idea of love as a concept, what it means to be in love and how much it’s in our heads as opposed to heart and how much is really a mutual experience. This week’s list of movies to watch mostly involve those same themes, though not all. As usual, some come from connections made by others. I’ve decided to leave out one particular movie, WarGames, as it’s not about love and I already highlighted it in relation to Her in the special year-end […]

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Culture Warrior

It’s nothing new to say that the term “independent filmmaking” has come to no longer reference the actual practice of making films outside the studio system, and alerts more directly to an aesthetic of hipness. That the cute-and-quirky consecutive multi-Oscar nominees Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were similarly marketed by Fox Searchlight as “independent films” despite the fact that the former was actually produced independently and the latter was funded by studio dollars, effectively put the nail in the coffin for actual independent filmmaking to have any meaningful visibility. Meanwhile, first-time directors who make their name at Sundance like Marc Webb, Doug Liman, and Seth Gordon quickly reveal themselves to be aspiring directors-for-hire rather than anti-Hollywood renegades. Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley, and Jim Jarmusch seem ever more like naïve, idealist relics each passing year. It’s clear what the blurring of the lines between independence and studio filmmaking has meant for the mainstream: as my friend and colleague Josh Coonrod pointed out last week, it renders “platform release” synonymous with “independent,” it means that movies featuring Bradley Cooper and Bruce Willis are the top competitors at the “Independent” Spirit Awards (see the John Cassavetes Award for actual independents), and it means that Quentin Tarantino is, for some reason, still considered an independent filmmaker. American independent filmmaking has lost its ideological reason for being. But when it comes to films that are actually independently financed – films for whom the moniker is less an appeal toward cultural capital and more an accurate […]

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Safety Not Guaranteed A trio of magazine writers (Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni) head to a small coastal town in Washington to investigate an intriguing classified ad. Once there they discover as much about themselves as they do the oddball (Mark Duplass) behind the time travel-themed ad. If the synopsis sounds hokey just know that the resulting film is a sweet and simple delight from beginning to end. Plaza balances her usual cynicism and sarcasm with a true emotionally satisfying performance while Johnson and Duplass bring heart and laughs as well. It’s rare to see such a small film manage such an uplifting finale, but writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow manage something special here that deserves an audience. Also available on DVD. [Extras: Featurettes]

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As far as I can tell, regular folk don’t care for movies about movies or films about filmmaking. They used to, back when Hollywood was a more glamourous and idolized place for Americans. Classics like Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain, The Bad and the Beautiful and the 1954 version of A Star is Born were among the top-grossing releases of their time. But 60 years later, it seems the only people really interested in stories of Hollywood, actors, directors, screenwriters, et al. are people involved with the film industry — the self-indulgence being one step below all the awards nonsense — and movie geeks, including film critics and fans. If you’re reading Film School Rejects, you’re not one of the aforementioned “regular folk,” and you probably get more of a kick out of stuff like Living in Oblivion, Ed Wood, Get Shorty, State and Main, The Hard Way, The Last Tycoon, The Stunt Man, The Big Picture, The Player, Bowfinger, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Argo than those people do. While it is true that The Artist faced the challenge of being a silent film, another major obstacle in the way of box office success must have been its Hollywood setting. Argo isn’t really literally about filmmaking, though, and that might be working in its favor. Ben Affleck‘s period thriller, which is expected to finally take the top spot at the box office this weekend, is about not making a film, so it should have the opposite result of most movies in which […]

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Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris don’t make your average summer comedies. In 2006 their surprise hit Little Miss Sunshine involved a deteriorating marriage, a druggy grandfather, a suicidal uncle, and, of course, a mute Paul Dano – all comedic trappings that hardly approach light fare. Their return after a six year theatrical release absence, Ruby Sparks, is no different. Although the trailers and TV spots hint at a quirky and charming love story, Ruby Sparks is nothing of the sort. When your lead is a narcissistic, immature, unlikable, and slightly nihilistic writer whose manic pixie dream girl is his own boyish creation, you’re not exactly making How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Ruby Sparks, in the same vein as Dayton and Faris’ previous feature, is a story about failure, how to bounce back from it and, more importantly, how to also make it funny. Here’s what Dayton and Faris had to say about Ruby Sparks not being a comedy, the creative importance of facing problems, and how their film represents the modern man-children of the world:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a column about things and stuff. Mostly movies, a little television, all worth reading. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better assortment of things to read without having to dig through the same story 35 times in your RSS reader. We do that part for you. We begin this evening with a first look at Cloud Atlas, the upcoming film from the Wachowskis and director Tom Tykwer. This one features a man (Tom Hanks) who comes into contact with an emissary from an alien world. They both look frightened.

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Paul Dano interview

“I don’t really know what kind of actor I am,” Paul Dano said when we spoke to him a few weeks ago while discussing his latest film, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farsis‘s mildly dark romantic comedy Ruby Sparks. When Dano stated such, it came as a bit of a surprise, particularly because Dano has always come off as an actor who goes fairly deep into a character, from reading books to finding a character’s favorite band. What was also obvious is that he isn’t the artistically tortured character we see him play in the film. The character, Calvin, is a bit of a jerk: a narcissistic, condescending, and neurotic nerd who wants control over everything. Dano, who spoke of his fear over expectations and other Ruby Sparks-related themes, seemed satisfied leaving all that control in the hands of all the accomplished directors he’s worked with. Here’s what Ruby Sparks’ star Paul Dano had to say about the nice surprises you get when making a film, his process for creating a character, and the time he wrestled with Spike Jonze on the set of Where the Wild Things Are:

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Ruby Sparks tells the story of a young writer (Paul Dano) who seemingly creates his dream girl out of thin air (and his writing) and is then able to control her through said writing. This curious tale is further heightened thanks to a magical score from composer Nick Urata (Crazy, Stupid, Love), which bounces from feeling hopeful to ominous to almost dangerous. The score succeeds in grabbing the audience’s attention from its first note and does not let go until its very last. With the soundtrack for Ruby Sparks released just yesterday, I spoke with Urata about his process creating the film’s score, how effected he was after seeing only the first cut of the film, and how that led to him getting the gig as the film’s composer.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column about movies and television and things that are said about movies and television. Sometimes it’s full of news. Sometimes it’s weird. It’s always worth reading. We begin tonight with a fact that should be well known to readers of this column. If not, you’re not paying attention, and you should feel shame. I enjoy reading the work of Pajiba’s Joanna Robinson more than I enjoy reading my own work. Which is a lot to say, as I find myself to be downright brilliant. That said, the supremely talented Ms. Robinson has written a list all about 5 Kickass Female Characters You Wouldn’t Want to Meet in a Dark Alley — including Thor‘s Sif, as played by Jaimie Alexander and seen above. The only problem is that I want to meet all of these women in a dark alley. But not in a combative manner. Unless they’re into that sort of thing. What can I say? I’m flexible.

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Directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are finally returning to the big screen for the first time since 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine with one of the summer’s most anticipated indie releases – the Zoe Kazan-penned Ruby Sparks. Also starring Kazan, the film centers on Paul Dano‘s character, a once-successful young author who is felled by some intense writer’s block and a dismal love life. When he starts writing about a new character, Ruby, Calvin’s spark comes back – but everything is thrown into disarray when he discovers Ruby (Kazan) in his apartment – his creation brought to life. Is it love? Magic? Or both?

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Here’s a tip, indie producers, cast Zoe Kazan in anything and I’ll buy a ticket. Toss in Jake Johnson and I’m convinced someone cast this film out of my dreams. Deadline Portland reports that Kazan and Johnson will star in Jenee LaMarque‘s Black List script, The Pretty One, which was also a finalist for the Nicholl Fellowship and Zoetrope screenplay contest. LaMarque will also make her directorial debut with the project, which is billed as an “offbeat comedy” that centers on Kazan’s as an “awkward but loveable young woman who is mistaken for her dead ‘perfect’ identical twin, and seizes the chance to masquerade as her sister. But when she falls in love with her twin’s eccentric next door neighbor, she finds herself wanting to live her own imperfect life, and have the truth come out.” Oh, man, sounds wacky! But also lovable…and possibly eccentric. There’s nothing quite like a good mistaken identity romantic comedy, and I’m sure the film will be rife with all sorts of missteps, awkward moments, and near-misses until some big, emotional reveal. Though that all sounds like standard stuff, the heaps of praise that the film’s script has received, along with this rising star cast, hint that perhaps we’re in for a surprise treat. Consider my ticket bought.

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Zoe Kazan‘s feature writing debut, Ruby Sparks, already has enough going for it that I’ll forgive its new name change – to Ruby from its working title, He Loves Me, which feels a bit less movie-of-the-week and a touch more substantial. Title issues aside, Kazan’s first foray into screenwriting sees the return of directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (helming their first feature since 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine), is marked by a talented cast (Paul Dano, Kazan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, Elliot Gould, Chris Messina, and Deborah Ann Woll), and comes with a plotline that’s a thought-provoking twist on the romantic comedy. So why the name switcheroo? Well, it’s either something that’s far too-on-the-nose, or it’s meant to denote the full name of Kazan’s character, who is so far known to be just “Ruby.” But that on-the-nose? It could just mean that she sparks something, forming the entire basis of the film. And what does she spark? Only a little literary inspiration and her entire existence.

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