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'Miss Sunshine' Directors Recommend Serious DVDs

Jonathan Dayton (left) and Valerie Faris co-directed <em>Little Miss Sunshine</em>.
Ander Gillenea / Getty Images
Getty Images
Jonathan Dayton (left) and Valerie Faris co-directed Little Miss Sunshine.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are the directing partners behind the best picture Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine, a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. But when we asked the husband-wife duo to pick their favorite DVDs, they chose a lot of documentaries, including one about pet cemeteries.

The couple has worked together for years, directing commercials for Apple and Volkswagen, and videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Smashing Pumpkins.

They shared with us some of their favorite films:

This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006): A Sundance favorite, this film shines light on the secretive Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system. Dayton describes it as a dramatic and funny detective story that is both entertaining and troubling.

Visions of Light (1992): A film for film lovers, this documentary about the art of cinematography features clips from more than 100 movies. The film helps viewers appreciate cinematography. "It makes anyone who loves film a better viewer," Dayton says.

Coming Home (1978): Hal Ashby's 1978 film stars Jane Fonda as a nurse in a veterans' hospital and Jon Voight as a wounded Vietnam vet. Dayton and Faris are both fans of Hal Ashby and consider this to be one of his best works. This film about the after-effects of war resonates as truthfully today as it did 25 years ago, Dayton says.

Gates of Heaven (1980): This comical documentary about the pet cemetery business helped launch Errol Morris' career as a director. "It's a film that keeps unfolding and becoming richer and funnier and sadder," Dayton says. Faris adds that this rich character study is her favorite film. "Everyone should see this movie," she says.

A Touch of Greatness (2005): This Independent Lens documentary profiles Albert Cullum, a maverick public school teacher who encouraged creativity in the classroom. Faris appreciated the beautiful archival footage shot by Robert Downy Sr. and describes the film as an incredible portrait of an amazing teacher. "If we had more teachers in the country like him," she says, "we'd have a great country."

Half Nelson (2006): Academy-Award nominee Ryan Gosling plays an idealistic public school teacher who develops a friendship with a student after she finds that he has a drug problem. Faris and Dayton praise Gosling and Shareeka Epps for incredible performances in a film that did not shy away from moral ambiguity.

The Five Obstructions (2004): This 2004 documentary about the creative process profiles a filmmaker charged with the task of remaking his favorite film five times — each time with a different obstacle. Dayton recommends this film for anyone involved in the creative process. Faris describes it as "creative hazing" and appreciates its illustration of the struggle and the joy of the artistic process.


The Science of Sleep (2006)

The Office, U.S. Version, First Two Seasons

Mr. Show, The Complete Fourth Season


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