Aug 13, 2012

She, the Wifey, surprisingly, liked it more

Than I did.  And, I liked Ruby Sparks a great deal.

 2012, the Summer of Young Love continues unabated.

My biggest issue with the film was a crucial scene towards the end, which confused me, and strained my normally massive threshold for a Suspension of Disbelief.  But, Renee brought up a couple of good arguments, including a crucial one that had never occurred to me while watching the film -- and, which I can not reveal here as it would spoil the movie -- and I am beginning to wrap my head around it, liking the film more and more the further I get away from it.

There is a sizable opposition to Ruby Sparks on tumblr, due to Fox Searchlight's ad campaign there, and many young women tired of Manic Pixie Dream Girl movies.  Renee hates those types of movies, too.  Movies about crazy, beautiful young women with bangs, who wear colored tights every day, with names like Summer or Ruby.  I imagine she entered the cinema warily.  But, she did know that the star, Zoe Kazan, wrote the script, as well.  Which might of alleviated her concerns somewhat.

Make no mistake, Kazan's script calls for the initial incarnation of her character, Ruby Sparks, to be just that, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Supreme.  But, there is a very important scene before her appearance between Paul Dano and his brother Chris Messina that also illustrates very bluntly that Ruby is a fanciful creation of Dano's and not at all a real person.  Messina says, "You're a great writer, but you don't know shit about women."

Kazan gently subverts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope whilst still living it large on the screen, which is a pretty canny thing to do.  (And, is probably really good for business.)

I respect those young women's opinions on tumblr.  I understand why they might not like the picture, and Ruby Sparks is certainly no feminist manifesto.  (I have already created an "alternate feminist ending" in my head that only someone like Todd Solondz could get away with.) But, the film still has valuable things to say about the nature of controlling, self-absorbed personalities; the importance of freedom in relationships; the very fragile nature of all relationships; and the risky, dangerous power of all-consuming love.

Dano, one of my favorite actors right now, does an excellent job, and he is just starting to remind me a bit of Kevin Kline, which is fine by me.  Dano's best moments are his comedic turns when Ruby makes her first appearance.  And, I love that I am seeing Chris Messina (Julie & Julia "Lobster killer, qu'est-ce que c'est!") in so many things right now.  Both of us really enjoyed Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas in their small roles, as well.

I thought the direction by the husband and wife team of Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Feris showed real panache, particularly in a sequence of scenes in the first act of the film, culminating in Ruby's arrival.  Their obligatory arcade "falling in love" montage with Plastic Bertrand's Ca Plane Pour Moi playing over it, was smashing, too.

In fact, the entire soundtrack was fantastic.  They hired an indie rock musician to do an original orchestral score, used some obvious classical choices, and some spectacular French pop songs, new and old.  I have a new favorite band, thanks to this movie, Holden, who are actually are most famous in Chile, of all places.  The soundtrack was used sparingly, too, which was such a relief. Normally, films like these have every scene plastered with pop songs.  It was nice to just hear actors' voices, playing scenes.

Ruby Sparks is really good, and Renee and I are proud of Ms Kazan, who has probably had some tough battles with Hollywood and Broadway folks, due to her relationship to her grandfather, Elia Kazan; definitely not one of my favorite persons, to say the least, artistically or personally.

It is not something we would like to own on bluray or dvd, perhaps, but I will definitely watch it again on cable when that happens, and give you an update then.


Meanwhile, I wish I had good news for you about The Artist, the film that won Best Picture, and a film that many of you have already seen, I am sure.

I will be honest, the reason I did not see The Artist, a film I was extremely excited about, in the theater, was because Renee did not want to see it, and I never found the time to see it on my own.

Well, Renee was right.

We watched it at home on Saturday night and were massively underwhelmed, the both of us.  If you are going to beg the indulgence of a modern day iToy/TMZ/Housewives culture with a two hour silent film, could you at least make it mean something? Could it not be important? Even great comedies often speak profoundly about life, most often about love.  

This film said nothing to me about life, or love, or relationships, or even its' own theme, that Pride Kills, a theme I have mined and recognized throughout my entire life.

Plus, the film seems to have been directed and/or shot by different directors and DPs.  Some shots, sequences are gorgeous to behold, only to be followed by the most pedestrian of set-ups and production design.

The dog is the best thing in it.

The original score is awful, and the dance numbers are terrible, too, particularly the last number that ends the picture.  Do you really think that there is any way that Busby Berkeley would have made a musical with that atrocious set construction behind his precious chorines? No way.

I knew coming in to this that director, Michel Hazanavicius, and his star, Jean Dujardin, had built their career to date on the Bond spoof OSS films, but I expected The Artist to be a step forward, an honest to goodness statement on the magical erotic power of Silent Cinema.  Instead, I received yet another silly, haphazard spoof film, full of references to Singin' in the Rain and Gene Kelly.

Massive let-down.

I took FW Murnau's The Last Laugh with me to bed after watching The Artist.  And that was after Renee and I watched some real dancers on YouTube, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  TCM showed a marathon of Astaire/Rogers films yesterday, which i dvr'd, but they are all available on dvd.  Watch those instead.

Here are some clips:  (one of which I have already posted here, but it is so good, I am posting it again.)  Enjoy!

All my Monday love,
Ardent Henry

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