The perfect woman of your imagination – Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Ruby Sparks – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan and Annette Bening

What would you put on paper if you could write yourself the perfect romantic partner? What if the person you created came to life? That is the basic premise for Ruby Sparks but the film is so much more than just the exploration of love and relationships.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is an acclaimed author, having his first success as a 19 year-old he hasn’t really produced another “literary work of genius” in the last 10 years. He doesn’t have many friends, apart from his brother, and since his last relationship he has been in therapy to deal with all his issues, especially to do with his inability to put pen to paper again. He is your adorkable reclusive author struggling to create his next work of art, and then he dreams of Ruby (Zoe Kazan). She stands backlit by the sun, talking to him and being the perfect imagining of the girl of his dreams. Calvin finds his muse and begins to write the story of Ruby and their relationship. But when strange bits of women’s clothing keep turning up and then Ruby appears in his kitchen one morning, fully formed, a person, a real person, just like in his book, just like in his dream, Calvin freaks out. And who can blame him, he has just seen the living, breathing, talking girl of his dreams. And so begins the bizarre and wonderful ride of Ruby and Calvin. There is only one problem: Calvin. In his creation of Ruby, she is the perfect girl for him, but is Calvin the perfect man for Ruby? And if he isn’t then how can he hold onto her, can he keep writing and change Ruby so she will desire and want to stay even though Calvin is just an asshole sometimes?

The film is beautifully crafted from every aspect of this idea and Zoe Kazan is a “genius” for being able to create such a well thought through and produced film. I cannot find flaws in this masterful creation of a film. The more I reflect on it the more I come to love it. Calvin is the right amount of romantic, recluse, and asshole. Ruby is a character of imagination and reality combined and Kazan brings to life the dream with a sweetness and depth that captivates. There are some key moments (which I will try not to spoil here) that brought me to a convulsion of wanting to laugh and cry at the same time, the shock, horror and pain of the way we treat each other as humans when we love so deeply is conveyed with such honest power that I can not even come to grips with how Kazan and Dano were able to act so fiercely and faithfully to their characters. The pain of love and loss is one of the reasons why this film works. It may be based on a silly, unrealistic hypothesis but it provides us as viewers with the perfect amount of imagining to process on what relationships can really be like. The complexity of love and the way it can transform us and engulf us is confusing. Love is a mystery of humanity that may never be fully understood but that we will always seek to find answers to. Kazan provides us with a way of exploring the aspects of love that cause us pain: miscommunication, unmet expectations, selfishness, pride, and stubbornness. But her real genius is helping us to see the solution to our pain. The way this film is resolved is satisfying and it feels resolved with that little added hope of a brighter future for our troubled protagonist.

Thank you Zoe Kazan for writing a beautiful, unconventional love story that will continuously remind me that relationships are always about two people, not just one, and that loving is about giving as much as it is about receiving.

Go and see this film, you will not regret it for a single moment.

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Life isn’t worth living if I can’t be beautiful! – Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Howl’s Moving Castle – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Stars: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura and Tatsuya Gashûin

My dad had raved about this film after he saw it. I thought I had seen it before but it turned out I hadn’t. I know realise why my dad ranted about how wonderful this film was. There is a charm and childish dreamlike quality to this film that brings the animated characters to life.

I wasn’t expecting anything brilliant from the film, but I really should have since I’ve seen Spirited Away and Ponyo. Howl’s Moving Castle is in the same style of Japanese animation that Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for and it has the same magical and quirky sense of mystery and wonder that his other films have. And I have to say, the best thing about this film is how the script and animation ground the magic in this film.  There are just utterly unreal moments in this film where a character will come out with the best lines. For example, our heroine, Sofi, has been transformed into an old woman by a witch’s curse and then leaves her town, meets a scarecrow with a turnip as a head that keeps following her and she casually says as they are about to part company: “It was a pleasure meeting you, even if you are my least favorite vegetable! Take care, Turniphead!” – Genius! Seriously, if you can’t love crazy old Sofi then there is something wrong with you. There are gems throughout this entire film which had me giggling hours after the film had finished.

Sofi is so down-to-earth and matter-of-fact about everything but with a childish sense of adventure that gives her character wholeness and depth that you don’t really see in animated films (or at least I don’t). Her world is simple, magical, random, and at some times just plain insane and yet she deals with it as anyone would in any other world. She is compassionate, kind, hardworking, strong, and determined. She keeps her youthfulness in her aged-form and it reminds me of how I want to be when I get old. I want to be that crazy old lady who has the passion and determination to go mountain climbing at 70 or to step out of a comfort zone even at the age of 80. I want to live life with the dignity and love that Sofi shows to everyone around her.

In comparison to Sofi, Howl is vain and cursed to be heartless, always seeking something more beautiful and more magical. And yet through their interactions you see his broken humanity come into full view as he fights to save the world he lives in and attempts to save the beauty that is left. For Howl, he must learn to put aside his desire for his own beauty and to seek a beauty for others. Miyazaki seems to weave this moral of nature and beauty in an unusual way, for he both condemns and applauds the search and fight for beauty. It is framed so it is the beauty within and the beauty around us that we are to fight for, not the physical beauty of our own appearance, which just tends to cripples and destroys us.

I love how an animated film like Howl’s Moving Castle can illicit dreams and passions that I know lie dormant when I step back into reality but that remind me that I do have the capacity to be fabulous and to live a life of pure passion and adventure. Living vicariously through film means finding myself in every story and being reminded of the wonder that the world holds, and that it is waiting patiently for me to step out into it and take the opportunities that are in front of me. The great things about films, all films whether documentaries, animations, surrealist or otherwise, they help us to live and dream and to envision a world with us as the protagonist. I shall take up my part in the story of my life and live as it were a film, scripted just for me.

To make or to remake? – Footloose

Footloose - 2011 Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Footloose – 2011 Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Footloose (2011)

Director: Craig Brewer
Writers: Dean Pitchford (screenplay & story) and Craig Brewer (screenplay)
Stars: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid

There is nothing new under the sun, or on our movie screens. Whether it’s book-to-movie adaptations, comic hero films, version 2, 3, 4 or 5 using the same characters over and over again, or just Disney rehashing the same old princess story again, it seems that the majority of the films nowadays aren’t showing us anything new or creative. Don’t get me wrong, there are some gems in this (including Toy Story 3 which I prefer over the second and almost over the first or unique films like Moonrise Kingdom) but studios want to make films that will earn the big bucks, and I will pay to see those big blockbusters like everyone else.

But when it comes remaking films there seems to be complete lack of creativity in this idea. Why would you re-do something that was perfect to begin with? Or at least perfect for the original idea. It confuses me when people think these remakes will be as successful as the original, or even come close to being as satisfying. So when I hit a low point last night and watched Footloose (the remake) for the first time after delaying it for as long as I could resist, I went in with the assumption that it was never going to be as great as Kevin Bacon dancing his arse off in the factory or Lori Singer dare-deviling between the two cars with the truck approaching. You can’t beat that classic 80s recklessness. We may be stupid and reckless nowadays but the 80s kids were competing with their hippy-turned-conservative parents, we were never going to be able to beat that.

The remake wasn’t awful, it had the moments of cheesy triumph over The Man and the brilliance of gentlemanly behaviour trumping the bad boy act. But the entire time I was thinking about the original and how awesome it was. The only improvement I could see (mainly because I didn’t really remember it from the original) was the aunt and uncle’s support of Ren.

With the lack of success that Total Recall has received, along with the remake of a bunch of other films coming to cinemas soon – including Red Dawn, Point Break, Annie, and A Star Is Born – it just makes me wonder, what is the point? I know there are so many brilliantly creative people out there with fantastic ideas for films, if we invested some more money into developing them we could create a new era of fantastic films rather than rehashing films that were fine to begin with.

What do you think? Are remakes worth it? Or should we rebel against the big studios and only support original screenplays and indie films?

Stripped bare – The Terminator

The Terminator - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Terminator – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Terminator (1984)

Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher Jr. (additional dialogue)
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn

When I was 12 years old my parents took us to Los Angeles. It was a dream come true. It was my first overseas trip, we went to Disneyland, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas (not so fun as a 12 year old, but the Stratosphere was awesome) and of course Universal Studios. I was so excited. My love of film had been growing since I was a child and I was so excited to see where the movies were made. One of the things I remember most about Universal Studios is the Terminator “ride”. We all entered a room and a woman appeared on a balcony-like platform and introduced us to the ride, the way she said “Suuuuupeeeeer” had us all in giggles and then a guy ran out on another balcony saying it was a trap and not to go in. There was a moment where I stood there and thought “what if it really is a trap?” and the terror started to fill me, like it was supposed to I guess. I remember talking to my mum about it afterwards, wondering why we were so willing to go along with something we knew could be dangerous. I don’t recall her answer but it is one of the moments that has stuck with me till this day.

Since then I’ve always been a little cautious of actually watching the film, and so until a few days ago when my housemate demanded I watch it because I wasn’t a true movie buff until I did (those weren’t her words but it was the gist of it). So I finally watched The Terminator. And I don’t know why people don’t rave about it more often because it is actually a great action film for it’s time. I mean I wasn’t even born when it was made and it brilliantly encapsulates the potential terror that can come with the advancement of technology and the way experience the world through the eyes of media and the way we rely on technology. Of course there were moments when it was just a little silly and the 80s clothes are somewhat special to behold, but it was a good action film all around. And I finally understand the Skynet references that people make now.

I ended up live tweeting the entire film which I think I might continue to do for old films I watch (follow me on twitter @vicariousfilm). I really enjoyed watching it even though a lot of it was a bit gross and invasive, like the bit with his eye ball, oh my, I never want to see that again, it reminded me too much of Salvador Dali’s film. Ew. The main reason I like the film was because it was the female that triumphed over all the male wreckage. And although she was the typical damsel in distress and ended up pregnant at the end, I still felt like she was the fight through the latter part of the film. I just spent most of the time wanting Kyle to let go of Sarah Connor’s hand and let her run for herself because I had faith she’d be much quicker without his “help”. But there you have it, it was the 80s after all.

Like I’ve said previously, I grew up with an older brother and watched action films with him all the time. I attributed my love for action films to him but I really do love the hero stories they capture. I want to live as a hero, to be able to make those tough life or death decisions, to live with fear being a motivator instead of an inhibitor. I wish I was as badass as Sarah Connor and I hope if a handsome man comes and tells me my life is in danger that I would be able to. I guess we’ll see what happens when Skynet does engage humanity in war.

Is there a film that people rave about and always tell you to watch that you finally saw and it was awesome? Or are they all a little overrated?

Films I’ve Seen A Million Times – Oh The Cheese! – Get Over It

Get Over It - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Get Over It – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Get Over It (2001)

Director: Tommy O’Haver
Writer: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster and Melissa Sagemiller

There is something wonderful about overly cheesy films that can make fun of themselves. I have a particular love for them even though I know most people would probably not. It is a way of letting go of reality and living in a world where the ridiculous is accepted. It’s one of the reasons I love old school musicals like Singin’ In The Rain, Easter Parade, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It is the way it allows you to accept the fantasy and giggle and cringe your way along through it. And especially in the case of a lot of musicals, it is the fantasy of falling in love with a man that will sing and dance around you that I love to live in. I’ve always said I wanted a guy who can dance, sing, and make me swoon, pretty much just because I want to live in a musical for a day. If you combine this with Shakespeare you have an absolute winner for me.

Get Over It is just this. It’s a quarter musical, a quarter Shakespeare, a quarter comedy, and a quarter romance film. And it’s awesome. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Colin Hanks, and Mila Kunis, among others, there is a wonderful cheesiness about this film that makes me laugh every time. It is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and includes high school musical, slapstick comedy, and really random moments of unexpected hilarity along the way. The main character, Berke Landers (Ben Foster) is a guy with your usual high school problems, just been dumped by his long term girlfriend and soul mate Alison McAllister (Melissa Sagemiller), he signs up to the school musical, an adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream, to win her back from the sleaze of a boy band member she’s started dating (Shane West). Oh and his parents are sex therapists with their own TV advice/chat show. I mean it’s just comic brilliance. And with friends like Colin Hanks and his on-screen-sister Kirsten Dunst, who could imagine anything better? Parties, getting arrested by police at a strip club for being under age, public humiliation at the basketball match, a girl with an epic bad luck curse on her, getting shot by your best friend’s sister with an arrow. This movie has everything you could possibly ever want (and probably not want).

What makes it brilliant is the way it makes fun of itself which is balanced with Shakespeare’s brilliant love triangle. The comedy and music play against one another and the messy relationships that sprawl across the screen make this film so enjoyable for me. It’s also one of those moments when I relate to one of the characters incredibly closely to the point where it scares me a little, except they get the ultimate happy ending because that’s what the movies are all about. It really appeals to the things I treasure deeply, that are my insecurities, that I hold as honourable, that I hope for. I know that it plays on my imagination and makes me dream a little dream and that it isn’t the greatest film ever made by it is well made and just plain funny.

It’s my guilty little pleasure for when I’m feeling down which I know will always cheer me up and escape my negativity.

Do you have a guilty pleasure film that you watch but know isn’t that great?