My Favorite Things #3

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November 10, 2012 by Julia

Film: Ruby Sparks, starring Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, released 2012

In Ruby Sparks, a young, critically lauded novelist is struggling with writer’s block and depression ten years after his brilliant debut was published. He finally discovers inspiration in a girlfriend/muse who comes to him in his dreams – the twist is that as soon as he writes about her obsessively on his typewriter she suddenly turns up alive and real, just as he wrote her, in his apartment one day.

I was a little biased against this movie because of the premise and poster. Here it is –

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I know it’s too small to read, but the tagline says, “She’s out of his mind.” That’s fine, but I was annoyed by the idea of this perfectly endearing free spirit of a girl who apparently enjoys being picked up and carried places. I mean, there aren’t many real girls like that, contrary to what you see in the movies or read in novels written by men. She’s just so quirky and cute and spontaneous, blah blah blah.

Turns out that’s the point of this movie. Written by Zoe Kazan herself (who plays Ruby Sparks), the script is fully aware of the possible pitfalls or cliches it could fall into, and explores the darker side of dreaming about a fantasy girl, rather than being in a relationship with a real one. It also brings up the fascinating question of: if we possessed the power to truly change the one we love (you know, just fiddle with some of their more annoying habits, make them a little more receptive to our own needs, etc.), would we? And would they still be the person we’d fallen in love with?

There are surprisingly disturbing scenes, as well as really hilarious ones. This was an unexpected, refreshing treat.



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Song: “Choir of Angels” by Deer Tick, from the album The Black Dirt Sessions, released 2010

This is one of those songs that got to me on the very first listen. It makes my heart ache. It has an old-timey feel, like there are a bunch of guys on a cabin porch in the Catskills strumming guitars and sipping whiskey. The melody is pure gorgeous melancholy, grounded in a shuffling, rustic, rockabilly beat; the gravel in the singer’s voice tells us he’s been through some things. Sung viscerally from the perspective of someone who has just died, there is nothing morose or depressing about the song. It actually soars through the sadness, especially when a hint of that angel choir “ahhhs” in the background. There is a comment on the youtube link below that suggests John McCauley wrote the song for his grandfather, who served in the Korean war. It seems appropriate for Veterans Day. I’ve probably listened to it one hundred times this fall.

Sing choir of angels
Sing through the night
I’ll be still
I’ll be quiet

They took my body
They robbed me blind
There’s no turning back now
No use in crying

Every lonely road is behind me
That led me through the changes I don’t feel
And I lost sight of flesh and bone
Little I knew, I was going home

Sing choir of angels
Sing me to sleep
Sing soft and sweet
I’m yours to keep

I fought their battles
and I gave my life
For peace and quiet
For pain and strife

Now every lonely road is behind me
That led me through the changes I don’t feel
And I lost sight of flesh and bone
Little I knew I was going home



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Book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, published 2012

By far the most “can’t put it down” book I’ve read this year – it deserves its spot on the bestseller list (always satisfying when that happens). The plot is nearly perfect, gripping you from beginning to end with its twisty and dark psychological surprises, to the point that you may find yourself laughing and muttering aloud, “No waaaaay.” But the writing and characters hold up – it’s no guilty pleasure. Anyway, there is not much I can say without spoiling, but the premise from the first page is that a marriage between two beautiful, charismatic people has gone terribly bad, and the wife is missing. The rest of the tale is told from their different perspectives (with the help of diary entries), and we are forced to constantly re-evaluate what is really happening. Truly thrilling.


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