I was in hiking in Switzerland when The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy posted his LAFF review of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris‘s Ruby Sparks (Fox Searchlight, 7.25), so the conversation has begun — I just wasn’t paying attention.
“A beguiling romantic fantasy about the creative process and its potential to quite literally take on a life of its own, Ruby Sparks performs an imaginative high-wire act with finesse and charm,” McCarthy wrote.
“It’s perhaps no coincidence that the long-awaited second feature from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine centers on a novelist (Paul Dano) suffering from writer’s block, but the film itself reveals no sense of artistic stasis, proving vital and responsive to the nervy improbabilities of co-star Zoe Kazan‘s original screenplay.
“It’s unlikely that commercial lightning will strike twice for Fox Searchlight to the same degree it did after the distributor picked up Dayton and Faris’ debut six years ago, but the genuinely romantic core and Harvey-like fantastical element suggest real box-office potential to be tapped equally among young men and women
“It’s an intimate, tightly focused tale that’s been handled with impressive rigor but not too insistent a touch. The fleet filmmaking style, which briskly moves things along but never feels manipulative or invasive, is invigorating, as are the exceptionally luminous images created by cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
“A couple in real life, Dano and Kazan individually and together project what is often called offbeat appeal. His large head and mop of hair atop a slim frame convincingly representing an egghead writer, Dano registers many different temperatures of doubt, frustration, inspiration, love and creativity. A sparkling personality shining through regardless of circumstances, Kazan injects earthy life into a fantasy character, capping her extremes of behavior in a wild scene in which Dano’s Calvin rapidly types conflicting commands to which Ruby instantly responds.
“Supporting performances are uniformly sharp, and the use of locations — mostly in the Los Feliz and Hollywood area — is excellent, lending the film a warm, lived-in feel.”
In a 7.6 article by The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy about the uncertain commercial prospects facing Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cinema 21 owner-operator Tom Ranieri offers a succinct analysis of what makes a hit film: “A movie has to have a spark for there to be any chance of finding an audience. Winning awards is part of the overall marketing can of gasoline. A ton of fuel with no spark equals no fire.”
My quote in Levy’s piece says that “there’s always been a huge aesthetic gap between film journos and cineastes who attend film festivals and Average Joes who buy tickets to see films.” The difference, in Rainieri’s equation, is that film festival audiences are hip and perceptive enough to spot a film with good gasoline, and that in itself is enough to warrant praise. But Joe Popcorn wants that spark, and if he senses it isn’t there he won’t show up, asshole that he sometimes can be.
David Poland‘s tweet about Beasts says it all — he thinks it’s a beautiful art film on its own terms, but it doesn’t play to the schmoes because it doesn’t entertain. I think it does “entertain” if you just open your pores a bit. My only beef was that Nancy-boy remark about Beasts starting to feel too gooey and muddy and boozy after the first hour or so. But then it pays off beautifully at the finale so I’m not understanding why people are taking shots.
Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, an unabashed Beasts lover, is also sensing this resistance.
If you really want a sense of how great or good The Dark Knight Rises plays, you need to hear from somebody like me — some non-vested, geek-despising cool customer who stands alone. Or someone like Andrew O’Hehir or Anthony Lane. Anyone who got into yesterday’s screening was/is almost certainly too heavily immersed and invested to be trusted. You need to hear from someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass and is completely ready to take a dump on the floor if the situation warrants. But who is also ready to be fair and straight.
Scratch a ComicCon geek and nine times out of ten you won’t find a shrewd analyzer of popular art or culture or aesthetic expertise. Not necessarily, I mean. What you’ll almost certainly find, I suspect, is someone who’s thisclose to weeping when something gets to him/her emotionally. You’ll find, in short, a girly girl who’s looking to wet her panties and then cry about it. As some guy who saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday (and whose reaction was captured by comicbookmovie.com) made clear.
In their heart of hearts geeks are fair young maidens singing “some day my prince will come,” except their “prince” is that one super-special, unbelievably cool CG comic-book superflick that will make them really damp and squishy.
Agreed — Chris Nolan is an exceptionally brilliant, high-pedigree, world-class filmmaker, and his three Batman films represent some kind of eternal high water mark, etc. But I think I’ve really tapped into something here. The not-so-secret heart of geekdom is basically feminine in nature. If I was a geek I would make a point of channeling Lee Marvin when I take to Twitter, just to counteract this impression. This is one of the reasons I could never be one. My traditional XY tendencies are too pronounced. On top of which I’m reasonably slim, I don’t wear toenail-fungus-exposing flip-flops, I’m not one for facial hair, and I never wear low-threadcount Hanes T-shirts.
N.Y. Times “Sweet Spot” guys David Carr and A.O. Scott discuss Aaron Sorkin‘s The Newsroom + the myths about journalism promulgated by films like Ace In The Hole, Deadline U.S.A. and All The President’s Men. Slight Problem: Times exec editor Jill Abramson has a curious conversational tonality in her larynx. I’m sorry but she almost sounds like a brilliant Kim Kardashian, or a brilliant K.K. as voiced by Saturday Night Live‘s Nasim Petrad.
N.Y. Times reporter Michael Barbaro explains Mitt Romney‘s 4th of July “tax/penalty” flip-flop to TimesCast Politics host Megan Liberman. Romney’s remark contradicts a recent statement by top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom that Governor Romney “believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax,” etc. This is all about swaying the “low information” dummies. People with a semblance of brain matter see right through the bullshit.