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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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?

The Woman I Wish I Was – Beauty & The Beast

Beauty and the Beast - 3D Poster - from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast – 3D Poster – from IMDB.com

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White

There is something truly magical about Disney. It is the fantasy it creates of a world where issues can be overcome, where evil falls and good triumphs, where all things end in the most spectacular of ways. But the endings have never been my favourite part. I also like to see where the characters begin. And this is why Beauty and the Beast is still my favourite Disney film. Not just Disney “princess” film, but Disney film overall. And it is all because of who Belle is at the beginning of the film.

The first time you meet Belle she is walking into the village and the whole town erupts in song around her. The way she treats people through this sequence is what I love and the fact that she is strong, intelligent, polite, respectful, humble, and the same to all people. Her sense of equality breaks through the walls of the judgment she faces from the town, and even when it comes to the ghastly Gaston, she is polite and dismisses him respectfully, if only a little tersely. She is accepting of everyone and the one person she tells her true judgments to is her father, and even then she gives reasonable accounts of why she dislikes someone like Gaston.

Her whimsy, strength, sacrifice, boldness, and adventurous nature continue to be what shapes her throughout the film. When she comes up against the Beast her response is one of fearlessness and willingness to take him on and see past the harsh exterior of his beastly appearance. This is what I love about Belle. I love her character for every single moment of this film, there is never a point when I don’t like her or disagree with what she does. She is honest and kind and thinks of others as well as herself. She is encouraging and joyous of everyone and seeks to treat them as she would like to be treated. The only moment when I think she does the wrong thing is when she goes into the west wing where the Beast has forbidden her to go, but even then I would’ve done the same, just not on the first night I was there… And even then you expect it because, let’s be honest, the Beast is asking for it as soon as he says it’s “forbidden”.

Belle was my role model as I was growing up. She was my heroine of all literature. It was her intelligence and strength that captivated me and made me want to be her. I didn’t necessarily want to fall in love with a prince and live in a big castle but I did want to be strong and wise and kind.

Who has your role model been from a film, book, tv series, or other form of literature?

Films I Watch A Million Times Series – The Bourne Series

The Bourne Identity - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Bourne Identity – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Tony Gilroy (screenplay), W. Blake Herron (screenplay), and Robert Ludlum (novel)
Stars: Franka Potente, Matt Damon and Chris Cooper

There have been some blessings that have come with growing up with an older brother who loved Steven Segal and Bruce Willis films. One of those blessings was the nurtured love of action films. There is something incredibly satisfying about watching the good guy triumph over the evil, especially when the evil is the US government.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a man without memory of who he is or why he knows he knows how to do a myriad of things including speak multiple languages fluently and can take down fifty armoured guards without a second thought. He is searching for his past and dodging death as he seeks to live a future free of the command of those who once controlled him. Jason Bourne is a man not to be trifled with.

As with most action films there isn’t a lot of dialogue, but there sure is a lot of acting going on by Matt Damon and his lady accomplice played by Franka Potente. The relationship that spawned out of need turns into a relationship of shared experience. There is a wonderful crafting of this pairing that takes place throughout the film which makes it genuine and more meaningful than the sloppy creations in your B-list action films.

The story of Bourne and his adventures are based off Robert Ludlum’s popular novels but carry more of the characterisation than of the actual story in the novels. But I believe this is for the better as the complexity of the novels take away from the sharp immediacy of the films. The Bourne Identity is the first in a trilogy (soon to be added to by a fourth, The Bourne Legacy – out August 11th). The Bourne Identity begins the saga of Jason Bourne and it also is, in my opinion, the best of the films. You really ride along with Bourne as he discovers parts of who he is, where he has been, and who is after him. With the carefully sequenced and choreographed action scenes filmed mostly on handheld cameras it provides for a rocky ride but intensifies the scene and provides what would be quite a real perspective on the action. Damon’s performance is pensive and withdrawn but comes across powerfully as he expresses his character’s strength, confusion, love, and vengeful nature.

I am a little cautious about getting my expectations up for The Bourne Legacy because the Bourne Trilogy was so gritty and wonderful. It will be interesting to see where they take it and if they stick to the books that carried on after Ludlum’s death. I am very excited to see how Jeremy Renner goes in his lead role in this film (no he’s not a recasting of Jason Bourne, it’s a different character). Renner’s really becoming a new action man of film and it’s going to be interesting to see what aspects of Damon’s portrayal he picks up on and which he reinvents for himself.

Films I Watch A Million Times Series – Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Pirates Of The Caribbean – Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Ted Elliott (screen story & screenplay) &Terry Rossio (screen story & screenplay) and Stuart Beattie (screen story) and Jay Wolpert (screen story)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom

Oh the bliss that is to fall in love with a pirate! I saw this film at the cinemas with my best friend from High School. I had a big crush on Orlando Bloom due to the Lord of The Rings trilogy (yes I know, not so appealing now, but that long blonde hair and elvish tongue, yum!) but when I left the theatre I had an even bigger crush on Johnny Depp. How can you compete when standing next to something as beautiful as a pirate in the form of Depp? I still think Elizabeth should’ve run off with Captain Jack but he would never have put up with her. They will always have that night on the island though.

This was the first film that I really fangirled over as a teen. I was obsessed with everything Pirates. I bought the DVD, watched the special features multiple times, watched the film so many times through my last year of school that I can’t recall how many times I’ve actually seen it, although my DVD looks worn. It was the film I put on in the background when I was studying, when I wanted to fall asleep, when I wanted to escape into another world, when I wanted to daydream. It was fun, action packed, funny, and well crafted.

Admittedly the second and third film in the franchise were not as wonderful, and the fourth was a little strange as well, but the original is always the best – except possibly in the case of Toy Story because the third one made me cry like a baby and laugh like a little girl. Anyway… Pirates Of The Caribbean was a brilliant film because it combined all the things I loved about action films, comedies, periods and romance. The grittiness of pirates contrasted with the beauty of the Caribbean with brilliance. The humour of Depp was startling against the drama of Geoffrey Rush. The special effects were stunning. The story line well-balanced. The performances of the actors throughout the film are still entertaining and still make me giggle.

But through all of these features there is one thing that always keeps me coming back for more. It is that it is simple and charming. It isn’t a hard film to watch. It’s purely entertaining. I love that it is a fun film that I can watch over and over again. And even though it’s probably not to everyone’s taste, it is to mine. It doesn’t necessarily have a big moral story overlaying it, nor does it try to be too complicated, it just takes you along for the ride and lets you enjoy the scenery and the ebb and flow of the pirate film. This is what a great action film does for me, it tells an exciting story and allows you to enjoy it. And that’s why I’ll keep on watching it into my old age.

Do you have a film that you watch repeatedly just because you enjoy it?

Films I Watch A Million Times Series – 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You - Official Poster  - from IMDB.com

10 Things I Hate About You – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Director: Gil Junger
Writers: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, and William Shakespeare (play “The Taming of the Shrew”)
Stars: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I first saw 10 Things I Hate About You on a plane on the way to America as a 12 year old. I immediately loved it and it was always my dream as a teen to be like Kat. She was feisty, strong, had a mind of her own, and wasn’t going to be treated like a fool by anyone. It was her strength of mind that I loved most. She disregarded convention and was a rebel of a different kind. Kat rebelled against what was popular. In a lot of ways she was my first experience of indie, but it was more than that. I had never had much guts as a kid but heading into high school and becoming my own person (in my own mind anyway) was the chance to turn things around, to be a stronger woman, to stand against what I didn’t agree with, and be whoever she deemed she wanted to be. It was this that really connected me to the movie.

The relationships between all the characters are familiar to most as it is based on William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew which has had numerous renditions and adaptations. And as with most Shakespeare plays it has been done well and not so well as it has stood up to the testing of Hollywood. There are some really fantastic adaptations of Shakespeare including Baz Luhrmann’s modern Romeo & Juliet and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. However for adaptations into a new period and without the Shakespearean dialogue you can’t go past 10 Things I Hate About You. It stands on its own two feet as a good teen rom-com-drama as well as adapting a brilliant Shakespeare. The characterisation of Kat and Bianca are beautifully fulfilled by Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, let alone the performances of the young Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Patrick Verona and Cameron James respectively. It was imaginatively formed and it came together to produce a film that would continue to be enjoyed throughout the next 13 years.

This film helped shape me as a person and there have been so many moments when I have quoted lines from this film in real life and then realised that only the people who have seen it millions of times would know the significance of a line like “Sleep is good” or “Yeah, that’s a Toyota.” It also made me want to have curly long hair like Julia Stiles but that was never going to happen with my straight-can’t-be-curled-hair. It was the attitude of Kat and Patrick that I fell in love with most. It was the carefree attitude mixed with strength and loyalty that I strived for and in a lot of ways still do. It’s hard to be a people pleaser but it’s also incredibly hard to not let people’s opinions of us get the better of us and command what we do, say, wear, like, etc.

10 Things I Hate About You still makes me laugh, cry, and think hard about how I’m acting in my life. Kat is one of my heroines of literature and even though this says a lot about me and the kind of person I want to be, I care more like Bianca and obsessive like Cameron, and slightly less delusional than Mandelia, and simply awkward like Michael. It is a film where I relate to pretty much every character and they have come with me in this journey of life as influencing characters who have reminded me of what is real, what is true, and what is honest.

I lived vicariously through Kat as I grew up as a teenager and wanted to be like her. She was my role model. She had the attitude and the lifestyle I wanted. She was intelligent, driven and quick-witted. She wanted to escape to the big city. She didn’t want anyone controlling her life. She was brilliant in my eyes. I know she was never the best example or role model but I love her all the same.

What film or character did you love through your teens? Do they still influence you to this day?