Posts Tagged ‘Ruby Sparks’

Wow! What a year.

I’ll dispense with the pomp and circumstances of a long, tedious intro but I couldn’t help but stop and remark on the amazing year of cinema we’ve just enjoyed. Also, I should add that despite my best efforts, I was not able to gain access to a screening of Zero Dark Thirty before it’s wide release next month. From what I’m hearing, that movie would have surely made the top 10 but alas, I haven’t seen it.

So without further ado…

10. Ruby Sparks

Yes, you could say that it’s just keeping the seat warm for when I finally see Zero Dark, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ruby is an exceptional little indie, that alternates between light romantic humor and surprisingly dark emotional drama.

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are aces as a brilliant novelist who skyrocketed to early and unsustainable success and the woman that he somehow manifests with his mind. The ending is slightly underwhelming but the climax is shockingly raw and unforgettable.

Read my full review here.

9. Les Miserables

Director Tom Hooper‘s decision to tape his actors singing live was always going to be divisive and I understand where the criticisms come from. Ultimately in comes down to whether you prefer the musical power of a staged performance, or the gritty realism that only a movie can deliver.

For me, it was an easy choice. Yes, a lot of the actors (Crowe particularly) came off as airy and light, without the usual punch-in-the-face sound that we’ve come to expect from the stage or even other studio-scrubbed musicals, but the raw and sincere emotion that crept into the lyrics as the result of the musical and dramatic flexibility given to the actors, in my opinion, made up for the difference and more.

8. The Queen of Versailles

For all the yelling and chest-thumping about the evil “1%” done in the wake of the economic recession, it’s hard to truly understand the void between the have’s and have-not’s in this country. Then came this riches-to-rags documentary, about Westgate Resorts mogul David Siegel and his family, which put the American class system front and center as the financial collapse put the breaks on their construction of the largest private residence in the country.

The Siegels are not bad people, and there is something to be admired about the self-made nature of their fortune. But watching as they let one, then another, and another of their hired help go and “cut back” in the face of frozen assets, only to find that their life of luxury has made them too lazy to clean up after themselves or even feed their pets, you can’t help but feel an almost exhilarating amount of schadenfreude pulsing through your veins.

Read my full review here.

7. Looper

Every movie that has ever attempted to tell a time-travel story has had to deal with some amount of logical inconsistencies. It is, after all, impossible, and therefore difficult to tie up all the narrative loose ends with a pretty pink bow. While most of these plot holes are the result of lazy, half-hearted storytelling (I’m looking at you Men In Black 3) others, like Looper, are simply the collateral damage of balls-to-the-wall bravura.

In this twisty sci-fi noir, Rian Johnson establishes his own rules for time-travel chronology and leaves the finer points on the cutting room floor as he charges ahead. For the first act, you almost find yourself asking “but…wait, what?” only to see Johnson just scoot your worries aside with a hypnotically chilling scene where a man literally falls to pieces before your eyes. It’s when you know that, questions or no questions, you’re watching something truly special and you can then sit back and enjoy the ride.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect high school movie than Steven Chbosky’s Perks. The three leads’ performances are stupendous, particularly Ezra Miller but not to discredit Emma Watson or the film’s star Logan Lerman. The idea of a group of misfit toys assembling to survive adolescence is not a new one, but where those films dwindle in melodrama, Perks soars with heart, sincerity and an acknowledgment that even in the darkest times of life there are moments of true beauty.

Read my full review here.

5. The Dark Knight Rises

Few franchises have been handled with the same care and success as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Most three-quels limp to the finish line, weary with exhaustion and ready for something new. And while many would agree that Heath Leger’s Joker and The Dark Knight make the 2nd bat a superior film, most also agree that Nolan somehow managed to reward his fans with a satisfying, natural ending, while still probing the kinds of moral questions and social commentary that elevated his superhero tale above the mold in the first place.

There are valid criticisms, but to end your story with this kind of power is no small feat, and for that TDKR makes the top 10 and, hopefully, a nomination for Nolan.

Read my full review here.

4. Argo

Part spy-thriller, part political drama, and part Hollywood tribute comedy, Argo is the rare “True story” that’s actually true, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat despite the ending being a foregone conclusion. Ben Affleck, post-renaissance, just seems to get better and better and, frankly, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

3. Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve long been a fan of Wes Anderson’s style, but even so Moonrise Kingdom blew me away with it’s pseudo-fantastic tone and it’s simple sense of fun. The tale of two young lovers on the run from family, a police officer and a troop of boy scouts is just about the most charming time you’ll have in front of a screen all year.

Read my full review here.

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Most movies today are about big things: big action, big drama, big romance, big suspense. Linings, however, is a comparably little story, about a man who returns home after an emotional breakdown and tries to put the pieces of his life back together. In the process, he crosses paths with another damaged sole, in the form of the electric Jennifer Lawrence, who steps back into her indie roots after the mega-behemoth Hunger Games and who, I might add, has never looked more captivatingly beautiful (and yes, I’m including the red dress she wore to the Oscars in 2011).

The story spins gold out of the quiet dramas of non-extraordinary life and, under the direction of David O. Russell, pulls an extraordinary performance out of every actor who steps on screen — Chris Tucker is a revelation and De Niro turns in some of his best work in years. And, in probably the movies most impressive feat, it somehow manages to inspire without the slightest hint of sanctimony or insincerity.

Read my full review here.

1. Lincoln

There’s no point talking around it, Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in Lincoln is so good it defies description. Were that the film’s only attribute it would be enough, but add to it superb acting from one of the largest casts ever assembled, crisp writing that captures humor, despair and victory, and all the talents of one of the greatest Hollywood directors to ever pick up a camera and you have, in a word: Art.

I left the theater feeling like I had just watched one of the greatest movies ever made. I could find no fault (except that it didn’t end at the right moment), and was both educated and entertained in the viewing.

I still feel it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. I toyed for a while with re-arranging my top 3 but the choice, in the end, was clear.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

About halfway through Ruby Sparks, you forget that you’re watching a fantasy. Sure, the hilarious and superbly-acted sequence when literary wunderkind Calvin (Paul Dano) first encounters the corporeal Ruby — a woman he created with his mind and his typewriter — is fresh in your mind, and the film’s central premise is not lost to you, but after so many scenes of understated simplicity you simply forget that Ruby’s very existence is an inexplicable phenomenon.

You find yourself, instead, watching a rom-com not unlike many others. Boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy and girl meets boys parents, complications ensue and boy and girl’s relationship strains.

Unlike most rom-coms, however, and unlike actual love stories, in Ruby Sparks boy is able to control girl — literally — a power that he sets aside once the beautiful waif appears in his kitchen, cooking eggs in her underwear.

Sets aside, that is, until desperation, loneliness, jealousy, and petty insecurities drive him to sit back down at his typewriter and “tweak” the girl of his dreams. A sentence here, a personality trait there, until finally the very dark implications of “reality” come crashing in on the light “fantasy,” culminating in an emotional, difficult-to-watch, yet fascinating climax that suggests in all-to-real visuals the error in trying to control and change another human being.

That is the film’s central theme. You can’t change the ones you love, you can only change yourself. It’s a theme that directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) achieve masterfully with a script by Kazan through implicit metaphor and explicit demonstration. It’s a heavy thought, wrapped up in a light, fluffy shell of playful whimsey and dusted with a delicious yet ultimately unsatisfying finish.

But while the film’s conclusion may leave you wanting, everything up to that point delivers in spades. The casting is superb, with real-life couple Dano and Kazan providing all the hipster-chemistry you could ask for, backed up by a impressive bench, including Antonio Banderas as a Big Sur free spirit, Elliot Gould as a supportive therapist, Steve Coogan as a Steve-Coogan-dirtbag and Chris Messina as Calvin’s big brother and confidante. The set pieces are such that you’ll want to hop in a convertible and make for the coast as soon as the credits role and the soundtrack and score perfectly support the emotion and imagery.

I would have traded one less “I Love You” montage in favor of a peak at Calvin’s maturation. Instead we are left to assume that he has learned his lesson and are given what feels like a throw-away catharsis in the final moments. That said, the film delivers and left me re-thinking its scenes long after I had left the theater. B+

Read Full Post »