Review: Anomalisa

When the philosopher says, “Hell is other people,” he, perhaps, means that in trying to figure ourselves out, we are beholden to the reflections and interactions with other people. Or maybe he is talking about the modern customer service experience. In what is sure undoubtedly a high-water mark in animated cinema, Anomalisa is an utterly adult portrait of middle-age loneliness. Anonymous hotel rooms and the myriad awkward social contracts we perform daily with strangers become the grist for intimate, whisper-quiet apocalyptic storytelling. Kaufman is one of the few ‘auteur screenwriters’ working in the United States today, and much like his previous work, the idea of ‘the self’ is intelligently deconstructed by way of bittersweet cinematic creativity.

Absent are the science fiction notions (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and the weird scale (Synecdoche, NY) of his previous work, Anomalisa‘s most unconventional aspect that it is stop-motion animated instead of live action.

The team of animators working for co-director Duke Johnson deliver, on a Kickstarter budget, a film that looks as wonderful as anything from Laika Studios (Coraline, The Box Trolls) while, literally, leaving in the seams on the faces of the puppets untouched. Usually, these are digitally erased in post, but here they are thematically relevant, and left in. The miracle of artifice is miracle enough, and in one of those artistic contradictions, probably enhances the honestly of it.

The story is a beguilingly delicate, often savagely funny man-meets-lady tale that takes place mainly in the most impersonal hotel of the most boring city in North America. Cincinnati: Try the local chili, visit the zoo, slit your wrists. Perhaps the town is not truly that bad, but we get it from the weary perspective of Michael Stone, a married, middle aged man visiting for couple of days to give a lecture based on his how-to book on customer service.

Stone is wearily voiced by versatile actor David Thewlis, perhaps best known to cinema lovers as the young angry street philosopher Johnnie in Mike Leigh’s Naked. The lonely man he plays here here is the straight laced, sold-out, compromised 180 degree inversion Johnnie. Both are still lost souls though. Thewlis can convey ‘drowning in his own murk’ better than pretty much ever actor working today, and here he does it only with his voice.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.

My review of the film can be found here.

Suffice it to say, when this starts to platform release on December 30th (if you live in the US or Canada), you might want to clear some space in your calendar.

Cinecast Episode 411 – We Wanna See The Business

Despite seeing nearly 100 films combined at TIFF 2015, Ryan from The Matinee and Kurt indulge Andrew by getting out to the multiplex to see the latest Johnny Depp performance, as James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass. We have a spoiler discussion on that, but needless to say, no one was overly pleased with Andrew for suggesting it. Kurt and Ryan attempt to wrassle TIFF to the ground after 11 days of shared screenings and food. They, in part, hash out the bests, the beasts and the worsts (or in the cast of Love 3D, the wurst) of some of the films on hand.

But wait, there is more.

Ryan and Andrew have a Watch List which includes re-evaluated Spielberg, various Afflecks and a new-ish film starring Matthew Broderick. Hunker down with your favorite blankie, take out your blue contact lenses, and settle in for the show!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

 
Would you like to know more…?

TIFF 2015 Review: Anomalisa

When the philosopher says, “Hell is other people,” he, perhaps, means that in trying to figure ourselves out, we are beholden to the reflections and interactions with other people. Or maybe he is talking about the modern customer service experience. In what is sure undoubtedly a high-water mark in animated cinema, Anomalisa is an utterly adult portrait of middle-age loneliness. Anonymous hotel rooms and the myriad awkward social contracts we perform daily with strangers become the grist for intimate, whisper-quiet apocalyptic storytelling. Kaufman is one of the few ‘auteur screenwriters’ working in the United States today, and much like his previous work, the idea of ‘the self’ is intelligently deconstructed by way of bittersweet cinematic creativity.

Absent are the science fiction notions (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and the weird scale (Synecdoche, NY) of his previous work, Anomalisa‘s most unconventional aspect that it is stop-motion animated instead of live action.

The team of animators working for co-director Duke Johnson deliver, on a Kickstarter budget, a film that looks as wonderful as anything from Laika Studios (Coraline, The Box Trolls) while, literally, leaving in the seams on the faces of the puppets untouched. Usually, these are digitally erased in post, but here they are thematically relevant, and left in. The miracle of artifice is miracle enough, and in one of those artistic contradictions, probably enhances the honestly of it.

The story is a beguilingly delicate, often savagely funny man-meets-lady tale that takes place mainly in the most impersonal hotel of the most boring city in North America. Cincinnati: Try the local chili, visit the zoo, slit your wrists. Perhaps the town is not truly that bad, but we get it from the weary perspective of Michael Stone, a married, middle aged man visiting for couple of days to give a lecture based on his how-to book on customer service.

Stone is wearily voiced by versatile actor David Thewlis, perhaps best known to cinema lovers as the young angry street philosopher Johnnie in Mike Leigh’s Naked. The lonely man he plays here here is the straight laced, sold-out, compromised 180 degree inversion Johnnie. Both are still lost souls though. Thewlis can convey ‘drowning in his own murk’ better than pretty much ever actor working today, and here he does it only with his voice.

Would you like to know more…?

Remembering a Decade…2008

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

Well, this is just about it. Until our annual best of the year list arrives in early January that will account for all of the greatness that was 2009, this is pretty much the end of the decade. As we’ve looked back over the past 10 years it’s been fun to reminisce, discuss, bicker and compare. While this was maybe the easiest year in this series for all of the contributors to come to a consensus on, we had a little bit of trouble deciding between which of two films should be our fifth title on this list and which should be left off. In the end we decided that there is no absolute “rule” that says we have to have just five movies when remembering a year. So for our final bit of nostalgia (until our culminated list of top ten of the decade arrives), we give you six films from last year that really took our breath away – or at least gave us something to think about and remember. These six titles are how we remember 2008 taking shape.

manonwire-head09

Would you like to know more…?

Bookmarks for September 8th through September 24th

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What we’ve been reading – September 8th through September 24th:

  • David Lynch art installation: "Machines, Abstraction and Women"
    Hmmmm, who came up with the idea of having David Lynch speak out for Violence against women? "Shut up! It's Daddy, you shithead! Where's my bourbon? Can't you fucking remember anything?"
  • When have we not been in the midst of a vampire craze?
    Slate thinks it is better to look at the few periods of Vampire droughts as there is almost always a Vampire craze going on
  • Joe Dante on Roger Corman’s Lifetime Achievement Oscar
    “It’s about time,” says Dante, whose 3-D horror film The Hole is debuting at TIFF. “But it’s the one year they decided not to include that award in the telecast. He and (legendary cinematographer) Gordon Willis and Lauren Bacall. Three of the most interesting people, and they’re not going to be on the show. And all because they want to nominate 10 movies for Best Picture. “Why? So Transformers can get a nomination? This is an attempt to try to keep this fairly moribund idea of the Oscars alive, but it’s staid and it’s serious and it’s competing with 100 other awards shows where people get drunk and say interesting things.”
  • How to Sell a Guilty Pleasure: The CW and Its Posters | MediaCommons
    A look at CW's poster campaigns for its crop of guilty-pleasure teens-behaving-badly shows, from Gossip Girl to the Melrose Place reboot.
  • The 50 Greatest Directorial Debuts of All Time? – Cinematical
    Cinematical looks at, and generally approves of, London Time Out's recent list of the 50 Greatest Directorial Debuts of all time.
  • Charlie Kaufman talks Charlie Kaufman
  • Let’s Dance like it was 1989!
    Last Toronto After Dark 2009 Item. An interview with Romanian vampire black comedy, Strigoi, director Faye Jackson. Check out the radically new Twitch while you are at it.
  • Sadly, Tetsuo: The Bullet Man Stinks
    Reviews from around the blogosphere are not kind for Shinya Tsukamoto's third Tetsuo film. Sad, but hopefully the director will lay the franchise to rest and make more films like Vital and A Snake of June
  • The TIFF Tel Aviv Controversy
    A nice starting point to the Grayson protest on the Toronto International Film Festivals " City to City: Tel Aviv" Spotlight this year. Protests to follow.

Giamatti is Back! “Cold Souls” Trailer

Cold Souls posterPaul Giamatti’s stock has been dropping steadily for about two years now. So I kept buying. I now own the maximum of 20,000 shares and have been waiting patiently for them to rise so that I can become a fake millionaire. Is it possible that Cold Souls might be the film that brings him back to the top? Doubtful, but it’s a start.

I posted the amazing Kaufman-esque looking poster that was released just the other day and lo and behold a trailer pops up less than 48 hours later. Another sci-fi examination into the innerspace and beyond… the human soul. Looks like this will be pretty entertaining; a Sideways sort of performance in a surreal world. Check out this trailer. That final shot hit my sweet spot just right.

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Kaufman Speaks

It’s common for individuals involved with films to enter the media circus once their film is about to or has been released and though Charlie Kaufman has been in the film business for years, I’ve never heard the man speak of the films he’s been involved with.

Last week, David Poland shared an interview which, from what I gather from the comments on post, he conducted with Mr. Kaufman. I’m not familiar with Kaufman “the man” though I have seen a number of the films he has written and though Synecdoche, New York (our review) managed to make multiple appearances on our end of year lists, it’s not a film I cared for and one that confused me to the point where I simply didn’t even care to untangle. Yet, hearing Kaufman speak I can’t but reconsider my reaction and I’ve been convinced to give the film a second chance when it eventually comes to DVD.

It’s a great interview, which doesn’t start off particularly well the opening fits my limited idea of what to expect from Kaufman.

Review: Synecdoche, New York

Synechoche, NY poster

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson, Dianne West, Jennifer Jason Leigh
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 124 min


[This is a repost of my zygote-like review of the film at the premiere of the Toronto International Film Festival. Consider this a jumping off point for your own elaborations on the film, as I could not even begin to untangle the details of the film until I have seen it at least a second time. For now you decide: is this a modern masterpiece or pretension run amok?]

You are reading this because you want to know if Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York is a good film, and perhaps you want me to compare and contrast it with the great screenplays he has written, and hopefully in the process provide a categorical frame to this new commodity. What must a press screening of such a film look like, what sort of deadening halt could be felt, to pens and paper, to stillborn thoughts, as the anarchy of Kaufman’s imagination marched mercilessly through its two hours. What language other than the poetic can one even begin to articulate the activity of that fugue?

Rest assured, this ‘review’ will not give away anything, for it would be as pointless as describing a blob of colour carefully set within a Monet landscape, or quoting a line from a Beckett play, the activity of this story is one of patterns. It may take your mind an hour or two, or even days to adjust to the pattern recognition required to make sense of what Kaufman is doing with this story. So is the possible genius of the work; I’m still uncertain what happened, what I even feel about it. The dense narrative works not in scenes, nor arcs, nor traditional transitions, but everything both real and unreal, past, present and future coming together on the same cosmic stage. I was unable to understand it in the fashion I am accustom to, but after awhile the pervading ideas and emotions emerged like one of those 3-D illusions, the dissociative details forming a lived-in impression of loneliness, heartache, and death. The Russian doll ellipses, apparently random tangents, and gaping time lapses, provide just the right amount of disorientation to evoke the revelation, to have the sadness of life creep up on you and inhabit you. Would you like to know more…?

Synecdoche, New York – Fabulous One Sheet

One of the challenging delights in store for fall moviegoers is Charlie Kaufman‘s directorial debut: Synecdoche, New York (the word is pronounced si-nek’-do-kee and defined here.) It is the 8 1/2 for the current generation (ever so slightly supplanting Wes Anderson‘s underrated The Life Aquatic) and proof that Kaufman‘s particular brand of auteurism survives beyond dropping his screenplays into the hands of Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry. The film has its own very assured directorial style, a component necessary to go along with the strange and alien screenplay.

Michael’s Review Here
Kurt’s Capsule Here
Cinecast Talk Here
Trailer Here

While it has left critics and festival goers reeling from the experience, it is certainly something that plants a seed and grows in your brain. This is of course a good thing, and the film will achieve its cult status in due time. Personally, I anticipate taking it all in again, hopefully I’ll have better luck telling Emily Watson from Samantha Morton in those copper wigs.

Wow, all of this to say that a fabulous new One Sheet for the film popped up on line (The first one, a Cannes Promo One Sheet, is fine too).

A Larger version of the new One Sheet can be found tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?