Blue Jay was directed by Alex Lehmann in his fictional feature debut, from a screenplay by Mark Duplass. It stars Duplass and Sarah Paulson. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2016.
The film was released on October 7, 2016, in a limited release prior to being released through video on demand on October 11, 2016. (from Wikipedia)
Blue Jay (2016)
Written by Mark Duplass
Directed by Alex Lehmann
Movie of the Day
Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. The film marked the Duplass Brothers’ first film under their four-picture deal with Netflix. Netflix financed the film without seeing a script, but just reading a 10-page outline of the story. This allowed for a true independent film experience.
The film had no script. The actors were given a summary of the movie and their characters and the rest was improvisation.
Blue Jay was the first feature film for director Alex Lehmann. He also served as the director of photography and cinematographer of the film.
The film was shot over the course of seven days in and around Crestline, California. It was filmed on a canon camera without built-in recording or built-in power source.
The film’s score was composed by Julian Wass.
One of my best friends recommended Blue Jay to me. I’ve said this before, at lyriquediscorde, but any and every movie she has ever recommended to me has ended up on my list of all-time favorite movies (if you want some recommendations by her, too, you should follow her movie Instagram – breewatchesmovies.
Here are some of my thoughts on the movie, written originally after seeing it for the first time.
Nostalgia has plot holes, but oh how I have such a soft spot for it. How many times have I thought about what it would be like to run into a past love, to have a day to spend together, to talk and re-connect, and share a moment again. Not just any past love, but one that mattered, one that had real significance. But, given that opportunity, is it not potentially loaded with emotional landmines that can, or most likely will, go off unexpectedly?
This movie hit very hard. I had a nostalgia reuniting situation a few years ago, and it was full of wonder and magic and passion – at first, but eventually all it had was a hell of a lot of landmines, and boy did they go off. Would I do it again? At one time I would have said yes, but now, where I am in my life, my answer is no. Would these two characters do it again? Yes, I think they would. I really do.
This film reminded me at times of the second installment in Richard Linklater/Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy’s “Before” series, as well as Graham Greene’s book, “The End of the Affair”. The former because of the reconnecting of past lovers, and the day spent together, though to me “Blue Jay” had more hope and joy to it, even in the sad moments, than “Before Sunset” did. The latter (“The End of the Affair”) in the reveal that what you assume, and what you decide to say, is not always what you want, or mean. I do not want to spoil anything, but there is a moment where you see that things that happened, and things said, were not as true as they seemed at the time.
Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass are two favorite actors of mine, and they were brilliant in this. They had chemistry and ease and emotional deft that brought these characters immediately to life for me, and also pulled my heart around for the entirety of their day/night together. I felt so much watching this film. I laughed, I cheered, I sang-a-long, I hurt, I cried — a lot, and I felt — a lot, too.
I think what hit me the most was how lost Amanda seemed to be, in her life, and in herself. Jim is lost, too, but he seemed more cognizant of it, more recently aware. But, I felt like it was all hitting Amanda. Maybe seeing Jim joggled some of that in her; the experience of hearing her voice on the tape, coming head-on with her younger self, as well as her first love. That resonated with me as I find myself wrestling with my own lost self, and traversing my way through it.
I loved the way these two connected to music in this, and how music played a part in their relationship, and their meeting up again moments. I love the black-and-white filming of it, the way it added to the starkness of winter in this small town, and the bleakness of being lost and being back home again. And, I loved both of these characters so much. When the movie ended I wanted so much more, but at the same time was good with where they left it.
The film plays out like a play. I’d actually love to see it performed on-stage, preferably with Mark and Sarah. I can’t imagine anyone else playing them.
The choice to have the movie shot in black-and-white was a brilliant one. I think it adds to the intimacy and almost too close look into these two people’s lives. It strips away the distraction of color and just focuses on these two characters – just as a play, in a small theater, with two actors on a stark and nearly empty stage would.
“No More I Love You’s” by Annie Lennox scene
Booksmart was directed by Olivia Wilde, from a screenplay written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman. The film stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, who play best friends on the cusp of high school graduation, and changes that will separate them. They have spent their lives goal-oriented, focused, and driven, avoiding anything reckless or non-academic. They decide to break the rules on their graduation eve, and the film takes us along for the ride.
Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Movie of the Day
I was lucky to have seen a preview showing of Booksmart a few weeks ago. But, in order to both support women filmmakers and also share the movie with my daughters, we went to see it again today. What a perfect way to start June off – a Summertime feel of a movie starring awesomely talented women, written by awesomely talented women, and directed by an awesomely talented woman.
Booksmart is clever, funny, well-written, and original in its take on the teenage/coming of age/one night left/party genre. It defies expectations while still visiting those well-trodded teen tropes that we all know and love.
I love the young women in this film who are taking agency of their sexuality and sex, their life choices, and their futures. I applaud a real look at best friends-friendship, the good and the bad. I think it speaks a lot to relationships and intimacy, the give-and-take between people, and how it is to be a best friend/in a best friendship.
At times, it reminded me a lot of the best friend I grew up with. The intimacy we shared, and the struggles. It definitely made me miss her, too.
The leads in this are fantastic. I’ve been a fan of Kaitlyn Dever since the film Short Term 12, and have enjoyed her in other movies such as Laggies, and The Spectacular Now. And Beanie, she stole the movie Ladybird in so many ways, to me. I can’t wait to see what both actors do next.
I’d also be remiss to not mention the comedy brilliance, and overall glow, of Billie Lourd. I’ve had my eye on her since her stints on “American Horror Story” and “Scream”, and because of her family ties (Carrie Fisher – a forever favorite, and inspiration, of mine). Billie is outrageous in this film, in the best kind of way.
The love and laughter and awkward moments and heart in this film are what makes it so enjoyable, and what will stick with me for a long time to come. I love that there was no real difference in the characters experience with love and sex, regardless of their sexuality. It was great to see an awkward bathroom-at-a-party sex scene with two girls, sex that wasn’t “lesbian for the male gaze”, but sex that felt like real first-time clumsiness and nervousness. I like that the movie flips stereotypes on their heads, even if the film has received criticism for having everyone be “too nice” to each other (I really don’t see it that way).
All in all, this movie is great fun. A good time. Full of heart and laughter and bittersweet joy. I know I’m going to add this to my movie collection when I can and add it to my roster of movies that make me feel good.
Also, yay women filmmakers and writers and actors – if you want to see more like this go out to the theaters and support movies like this – so we can get more, and more.
Go see Booksmart right now in theaters – and take your best friends along with you!
Daydream Nation is a Canadian drama that was released in 2010. It stars Kat Dennings and was written and directed by Michael Goldbach. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to positive reviews.
I saw the film first on Netflix, in 2012, and it quickly became a favorite movie of mine.
Daydream Nation (2010)
Written and directed by Michael Goldbach
Movie of the Day
“People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world’s about to end soon anyway. Those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don’t need to last forever to be perfect.” – Caroline
A quirky town shadowed with a darkness that is reminiscent of a Stephen King novel “town”, or maybe a darker Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls), or a little lighter/a little less weird Twin Peaks. The town boasts a white-suited serial killer legend and an industrial fire that endlessly burns. Caroline (Kat Dennings), the sarcastic, well-read, whipsmart protagonist has just moved to this town and informs us at the start that this is the year where everything happened.
Caroline played brilliantly by Kat Dennings (sarcastic, well-read and whipsmart is so Kat Dennings jam) is bored, lonely and more than a little lost when she decides to shake things up in her life. She instigates an affair with her young-ish, attractive-ish English teacher (why is it always the English teacher? Played by Josh Lucas), while the resident “misfit boy” (Reece Thompson) in town pines away for her, and tries clumsily to win her heart.
I know, I know, the summary does come off as a bit contrived, and perhaps it is, but the writing, dialogue, and execution is refreshingly realistic, well-written and witty. The teacher/student affair has been done ad-nauseum (including it always being an English teacher), but in this case, we see the teacher’s side of things, what issues are going on with him that fuel an inappropriate relationship, and how both sides of the dysfunction really play out. The “lost boy”, too, is more than he seems, as is his family, especially his single-mom, who teeters on the line of a desperately lonely woman and an aggressively protective mother. Andie MacDowell is fantastic and heartbreaking, as is her “lost boy” son, Thurston, played by Reece Thompson. When Caroline genuinely falls for Thurston, it is not a moment of predictability, it is a real moment of “YES” because you see why it happens, and as a viewer, you are feeling it, too.
The last act of the movie has the most “happenings” (Caroline is right, this is the year when everything happens), and at times is slightly dizzying. It works, though, as the chaos, like everything else in the movie, is believable, and you feel like you are running through it all with the characters. The ending had me teary-eyed and wanting, desperately wanting, for the story to continue; to me, that is the best kind of ending.
Other Kat Dennings films I love: Defendor, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Thor and Charlie Bartlett.
Musically speaking (and with me, the music matters), Daydream Nation has a great soundtrack (something else I have always loved about indie movies). The soundtrack includes songs from some of my favorite artists, Emily Haines, Stars, Devendra Banhart, and Sebadoh.
“Telethon” by Emily Haines and the Soft Skeletons
Chasing Amy is a rom-com dramedy indie gem written and directed by Kevin Smith. It was released in 1997 and is the third film in Smith’s View Askewniverse series. The movie stars Joey Lauren Adams (who the movie is partly inspired by), Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and of course Jason Mewes (Jay) and Kevin Smith (Silent Bob).
The film won two awards at the 1998 Independent Spirit Awards (Best Screenplay for Smith and Best Supporting Actor for Lee). (from Wikipedia)
Chasing Amy (1997)
Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
Movie of the Day
“Since most of these people are cheering for the home team, I’m going to root for the visitors. I’m a big visitors fan. Especially the kind that make coffee in the morning before they leave!” – Alyssa Jones
I’ve always loved Alyssa (the film’s “Amy”), her spirit, her fluidity, her sense of self, her persona, her humor, and her heart. When I first saw Chasing Amy in the ’90s I remember wishing I could be like her, seeing her as brave and bold in ways, and about things, that I was shy and insecure about.
I feel closer to her now, and was once in a relationship much like the one she is in with Holden, and have had to defend my past before, too – I think she’s such an important female character (is she the first bisexual female film character?) – cheers to Kevin Smith for writing her, and for Joey Lauren Adams portrayal (and part inspiration) of her.
Alyssa is on my list of fictional characters I relate to the most. Not that I share all her experiences (some, but not all), but her way of living and loving, her take on things, and her reactions, I feel completely. This is, and always will be, my favorite Kevin Smith film, one that makes me laugh, cry and feel (a lot).
There is something about this scene, the vulnerability in it, and that moment where you know that what is being opened up will change everything. It could have been terribly cheesy, but it is not, not even at all. To me it is believable, relatable, and painful in that way that when I first saw it I watched it through my fingers, with my hands covering my eyes, dreading what the outcome would be.
I think there is this universal feeling to it. That feeling of falling into an impossible situation, and having it burn you so deeply that you feel there is no way you can keep your feelings inside any longer, and that risk, that utter and complete risk, of telling someone you are in love with them in the face of rejection.
Beyond this scene, there are so many other things I love about Chasing Amy. Alyssa is one of those characters that I relate to on an under the skin level, one of a few that I feel in a visceral way. I love how complex they wrote her friendship with Holden, and her own self-actualized journey, and reality. I love the friendship between Holden and Banky, as well, and the wit and pop culture peppered into a very real love story.
Like most of Kevin Smith’s films, the movie is hilarious, but also heartfelt. He has a knack for making you laugh until you fall over, and also FEEL in big capital letters.
Drinking Buddies was written and directed by Joe Swanberg, and was released in 2013. It stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston, and centers around two co-workers at a craft brewery in Chicago. The movie delves into the complexities of love and friendship, and the complications that can arise in both.
The movie premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. It also screened at the Maryland Film Festival that same year. (from Wikipedia)
Drinking Buddies (2013)
Written and Directed by Joe Swanberg
Movie of the Day
“That’s the problem with heartbreak, to you it’s like an atomic bomb and to the world it’s just really cliche, because in the end we all have the same experience.” – Kate
My best friend told me about this movie, recommending I see it, and she has never steered me toward a movie I didn’t end up loving. Drinking Buddies was no exception.
Seriously, if she tells you to watch a movie be prepared to add it to your “favorite movie” list immediately.
My first watch of this film hit me hard on so many levels, and in a very personal way. It is a very honest look at relationships and friendships, but also it is about finding yourself and knowing yourself, and understanding where you belong. Those are hard “knowings and understandings” to get to in life. Perhaps the hardest things we will ever do (if we choose to, at all).
There are no easy answers in the film (or in life, really). There is no actual closure, or any “everything is tied up” at the end. To be honest, I am okay with that because that’s how life is, and it makes the film even more relatable and real.
Even if sometimes I’d like it to be easy, that I’d like closure everywhere it’s needed, and want everything tied up in a pretty bow at the end (and in the middle, too), I know that isn’t reality and its comforting to have that kind of discomfort in this film. It ultimately makes me feel less alone, I think.
m rewatching the movie today and am curious how it will affect me this time around.
The cast in Drinking Buddies is incredible, and are some of my favorites – especially Olivia Wilde and Jack Johnson. I wish there were more films with both of them, especially more films of the real life/indie variety like Drinking Buddies.
Side note: Drinking Buddies is available to stream, and on DVD, through Netflix. It is also available to rent on Amazon and YouTube.
Kodachrome is a Netflix Original Movie which was released in 2017. The Film stars Ed Harris, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jason Sudeikis. The story is set during the final days of a well-renowned and admired photo development system known as “Kodachrome”. A father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good in order to develop rolls of Kodachrome film that the father, Ben (Ed Harris) has in his possession.
The key here is that father and son are deeply estranged, and the father, a well-renowned and admired photographer, is dying of Cancer. Time is running out on all counts, for Kodachrome, for the father/photographer’s life, and for forgiveness.
Written by Jonathan Tropper (Screenplay)
Based on an article by A.G. Sulzberger
Directed by Mark Raso
Movie of the Day
“No matter how good something looks, you can’t beat the real thing.” – Ben
I’ve been itching for a road trip something fierce lately, so revisiting a recent favorite road trip movie seems in order.
I love road trip movies. They are one of my favorite genres (or sub-genres) of film. I was discussing the appeal of road trip stories in movies and I came up with one of the main reasons I love them so. A typical movie is only an hour and a half to two hours in length, which is not a lot of time for real character development. But, put your characters in a car, somewhat isolated from anyone else sans a roadside gas station attendant, bartender, or waitress/waiter, and you are allowed some space and time to explore characters, personalities, nuances, and relationships. It also makes it all the more believable when bonding happens, or attraction, or even healing.
Also, admittedly I love a good road trip movie because I love a good (or even mediocre) road trip. Since life and responsibilities limit the amount of time I can hit the road for anything other than the daily commute, road trip movies let my gypsy soul live vicariously.
Kodachrome is almost completely a road trip story, from start to finish, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
It is also a movie about redemption and forgiveness, and the consequences of the “artist’s life”. Questions of family, of truth, of authenticity, of self, and of letting go of the past are all themes that weave throughout the story. And although the film centers on photography, music plays a significant role, as well.
Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is a record exec on the almost-outs. His character, at the start, reminds me a bit of Dan (Mark Ruffalo) in another one of my favorite films, Begin Again. They are both about to lose their jobs, they both love music and have an ear for it, and they are both lost internally, and to some degree externally, due to break-ups, and a past that has a hard hold on them. Matt seems to even teeter on that drinking problem that Dan (Begin Again) personifies, it just never takes full center stage in Kodachrome.
The “music business” is not the only way that music plays a part in Kodachrome, though. Mark’s record collection in his aunt and uncle’s home (Mark’s home since his mother died when he was an adolescent) sparks both memories that Mark shared with his father, as well as sparks a conversation, and connection, between Mark, and his father’s nurse, Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen).
A connection that starts to grow as the movie, and the road, unfold.
My one complaint lies with the character of Zooey. I wish they’d developed her as an individual more, instead of just affixing damage to her, and hinting at issues.
Too much of the time she felt like a plot device to both Matt, and his father, and it didn’t have to be that way. Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actor (one of my favorites), and quite capable of nuance and complexity of character. And, it was there. You could see it. I just wanted it unpacked more.
Zooey is important to everyone in this story. I wish they’d let her be important to herself in the film, as well.
Ben and Matt’s relationship is the real core of Kodachrome. There are moments when I hate Ben as much as Matt does for the obvious abandonment and neglect he gifted Matt as his father.
Other times, I feel for Ben deeply and want him to find redemption, and want Matt to forgive him. Ben and Matt’s story tugged on me because of my own abandonment issues with my absent father. I couldn’t help but root for them to heal before it was too late.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kodachrome. I loved the road trip setting, the subtext of art and the “artist’s life”, and the story of a child and estranged parent having a chance at a connection, and redemption. I loved the way Music was used and enjoyed the soundtrack, both Agatha Kaspar’s score and songs by Pearl Jam, Galaxie 500, The Indians, Graham Nash, and others.
Oh, and Live…
I even enjoyed the burgeoning, maybe love story that unfolds between Matt and Zooey, even if I wanted more of Zooey beyond her relationships with Ben and Matt. I was still rooting for them, as a “them”, somewhere down the “road”.
Side note: Kodachrome is a Netflix Original, and available to stream, and on DVD, through Netflix.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Reality Bites, a movie written by Helen Childress and directed by Ben Stiller. The film was released in 1994, my 25th year.
Today is my 50th year, and my love for this movie is still going strong.
Reality Bites (1994)
Written by Helen Childress
Directed by Ben Stiller
Movie of the Day
I loved Reality Bites from the first time I saw it in the theater (opening weekend). I have lost track of how many times I’ve seen Reality Bites. It is one of those movies that I often re-watch when I need to cheer up (i.e. “comfort food” movies), when I spend time with friends who love it like I do, or when I just have a Laney, Vickie, Sammy, and Troy Dyer craving.
1994. 25. My life had some look-a-like similarities to the characters in Reality Bites that year. I was renting a small apartment, smoking too much, drinking coffee way, way too late most nights, and rocking Laney’s (Winona Ryder) ’90s hair.
I was in flux at the time, halfway out of a relationship and halfway in one, in that on the cusp of getting back together “place” that I would find myself in, over and over again, during my twenties. I had a two-year-old daughter, and most days I had no idea what I was doing with my life.
I wrote a lot in journals, I worked at a record store, I faltered in relationships, and I had some amazing friends.
The halfway out of a relationship boy said I reminded him of Lelaina, especially in the scene in the gas station mini-mart, when Laney and her friends dance to “My Sharona”.
He told me he always felt held back, and that I was overwhelming to him. I had too much energy and enthusiasm, to an embarrassing degree. He’d go on to say I loved too big, too. That I did everything too big. I suppose I should have listened, that I should have realized that this was part of what I ended up despising, how cold and collected he seemed, how much of his emotions seemed in constant lockdown, and how much he despised any and all of my emotions.
I’ve definitely had my share of guys like Troy (Ethan Hawke). In the years that would follow Reality Bites, I would find myself falling for the intellectual slacker, the unmotivated musician, the underemployed (or unemployed), the boys who were irresponsible, often addicted, and hopelessly attractive to me. They were full of passion, good in bed, and were the kind of boys that you could have all-night conversations with, night after night after night.
“There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a… a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know… a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle… and I, I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt.” – Troy Dyer
They weren’t good at the real life shit though. They never had money for dinner, or for rent. They were afraid of commitment, or so into “us” so fast that they became unhealthily obsessed and jealous. Most of them were weak, not physically so, but emotionally, not one to stand by my side when things got rough or needed to be faced. They needed me to fix them, to be strong for them, and to take over all the things in life they didn’t want to do.
Most of them turned out to be nothing but nightmares and heartache.
And yet, even knowing that now, knowing what most Troy’s are like from first hand, and heart, and experience, I still sit here watching, at 50 now, knowing that if I was Laney I would fall for Troy, that I would choose Troy. Every single time.
I think about Lelaina now, today, on my birthday Saturday afternoon, and I still relate so much. Under skin that has lines now, and hair that grays quickly, I don’t feel all that grown-up, no, so much of me still feels like that 25-year-old who was confused all the time, who didn’t know what she wanted to be, or where. I look in the mirror half expecting to see a younger me, the me that still sneaks into so much of my thinking, feeling, and writing, but instead, I see this older woman who resembles my Mother, and my Grandmother.
“I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.” – Laney
I’m not afraid of aging, I’m not afraid of age, but I don’t feel much like this reflection that seems to be me. I think I thought I’d really be somebody by the age of 50, and 40, and 35, and 25, and maybe even 23.
Do we ever arrive at that “somebody” we think we’ll be?
Lelaina and Troy’s relationship stayed with me, and always will, as a defining kind of way to live and love. It became a flawed ideal of what I wanted out of love, and in some ways, I have found it at times, maybe not with all the elements of it, of their fictional love story, but definitely the sensibility of it. When I sit back and look at it, really take it in, I know I still want a “you and me and five bucks” kind of love. I don’t know how to not want it, no matter how naive it is, or doomed.
Maybe it’s part of why I like to say Troy Dyer ruined my heart.
Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) is more than just the stereotypical best friend character that we see all too often on film, especially in the romantic comedies and “coming-of-age” drama/dramedies. No, Vickie is more than that, she is complex, she has her own goals, her own struggles, her own insecurities, and is far more important to the story than just as a plot device to move Lelania’s story along.
I love her friendship with Lelania, and the moments we get to see this, like in the car, singing together, and at the diner, talking about life and death, and everything in-between. Their love and friendship are believable and beautiful, and at times reminds me very much of my closest friends and our friendships.
Watching it now it makes me miss having a best girlfriend close by, the kind you spend so much time with, live with, or might as well live with. I miss having that kind of confidante, someone to drive around with playing music loudly and singing-a-long to. A best friend to share my secrets with, go on adventures with, stay up late drinking coffee and making each other laugh.
Sometimes the worst part about growing up is growing apart from your friends, or being long distances away from them.
25 years is a long time, and not so long, as well. I still feel like Lelaina, but I also feel like I’m Laney with some years behind her. I’m still a mess, but I know myself more. I still have vulnerability and tenacity, I still want to create something and be something more than my “job”, and I still am full of flaws, but maybe those flaws are part of what makes me creative and make me, well…me.
And sometimes I just really want to dance around to My Sharona.
“My Sharona” by The Knack
Side note: Reality Bites is available to watch on Netflix (DVD only, US), Starz (cable and streaming), and to rent on Amazon and YouTube (US).
Before Sunrise (1995)
Written & Directed by Richard Linklater
“I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” ~ Celine
Begin Again (2013)
Written and Directed by John Carney
“I just think you have let your troubles get in the way of your entire life.” ~ Greta
Dream for an Insomniac (1996)
Written & Directed by Tiffanie DeBartolo
“Just remember one thing…anything less than mad, passionate, extraordinary love is a waste of time. i mean, there are too many mediocre things in life, and love shouldn’t be one of them.” ~ Frankie