Film Review : Anomalisa (2015)

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IMDB Score – 7.3

Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Metacritic Score – 88%

Directed By – Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Starring – David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.

Well, now I’m depressed.

I’ve always been perplexed and intrigued by the work of Charlie Kaufman. I always thought he was able to get down to the reality of what makes us human and what drives our emotions. I didn’t understand Synecdoche, New York but actually purchased a DVD of it in order to dive into it more. I have yet to do that. I’ve seen Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once each and while I found each of them incredibly daring and inventive, there has always been something holding me back from repeat viewings. Anomalisa will most likely join that group as I honestly don’t feel a need to see it again even though I took a lot away from it. It’s a polarizing film but ultimately a very important one.

I’ve struggled with depression and issues with apathy my whole life so the aspect of the film where every looks exactly alike and sounds exactly the same hit a chord. The use of Tom Noonan’s voice for every single character besides the main two was a brilliant move from the get go but adding the fantastic Tom Noonan to play that part was just wonderful to me. He was able to really sell each and every person as a mundane boring entity who almost attack Michael Stone with the challenge of remaining engaged and interested. Have we not all felt like that at one point or another? How many conversations do we have where we completely forget afterwards because of how routine and robotic they are? I felt the mans pain. I also think that part of the reason he was so out of touch with life is because of how selfish he was. This is something I can relate to and is the main culprit for making me feel a bit shitty after the viewing. Michael is battling himself so much that every person he comes in contact with is at the mercy of his own emotions. It’s something I’ve done for years as I try to figure out my purpose and role in life. It’s not fair to others to constantly have to hold the hand of somebody who has no idea what they want out of life. I thought the film hit that theme perfectly, honestly, and without holding anything back. It may be a reason why I feel shitty but it’s also a great takeaway from a film. I like feeling something tangible after seeing a film.

The film is also extremely intimate. We’re witnessing some very real and very personal experiences in this film. It doesn’t surprise me that the most intense and intimate moments in this film are when either one of the characters, and also both at the same time, are literally stripping away the walls we keep up to protect ourselves. The film uses the bare body a lot to kind of show how fragile and private some people are. The sex scene in the film was almost too realistic to watch. I felt like I really didn’t have a place to be there with these two characters, which is kind of funny considering they were animated. It really was a job well done by both directors to portray such a moment like that in the style in which they did.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, which was almost as bleak as the entire film, but it’s something that left a lasting impression. Do some people have a special ability to attach themselves to other people and never lose interest or love, or do people have exciting and wild first encounters that die out emotionally and we’re left with routine and robotic relationships? It kind of reminds me of a quote from the Fincher film Zodiac. Robert Graysmith’s obsession had gone down an unstoppable path and his wife has had enough. She says it was basically “a first date that never ended”. That quote stuck with me. I think some people struggle with maintaining the passion and exciting feelings they have when they first meet somebody who stimulates them. Those feelings fade and they’re constantly trying to either recapture them or find meaning in something else. My issues are a bit different than that but I feel it’s the main theme of Anomalisa and I couldn’t help but relate to them.

I’m still depressed though. A bleak film sometimes leaves bleak aftershocks. Yet it’s definitely a window into some of the less talked about but very real emotions that a large number of people deal with. I loved the honesty and intimacy ¬†of the film and I hope that Charlie Kaufman doesn’t take eight more years to give us another film.

4.5/5

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Film Review : Blue Valentine (2010)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%
Netflix Watch Instant
Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress – Michelle Williams
Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor – Ryan Gosling

Directed By – Derek Cianfrance
Starring – Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, and Faith Wladyka

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Why did I do this to myself? Why did I watch this film the day before Valentine’s Day? I’m beginning to think that somewhere deep in my brain lies a section of tissue that loves to punish the rest of my brain. I knew what I was in for yet I hit play on my DVR anyway. I don’t understand it. I’m still glad I did it because I ended up loving the film.

Blue Valentine centers around the relationship of Dean and Cindy, two people who met by chance and fell in love. That sounds nice doesn’t it? That sounds like something you can curl up in your favorite PJs, get a nice glass of wine, pop in the DVD player, and just enjoy the romance. Well, there are some great elements but what you’ll ultimately get is a punch in the face. Right. In. The. Face. This is not a film to be viewed if you have recently gone through a breakup, but perhaps it’s what is needed to put things into perspective and get the grieving process into full gear. I know it hit me hard. Relationships are tough business. The relationship we see unfold throughout the course of the film is full of intensity from where we start to where we leave off. It’s a perfect example of how we roll the dice. Some people we meet will end up being people we love forever. Some people we meet will end up being people we hate. Sometimes we’ll meet a person and both of those things will happen. It’s necessary though. It’s necessary to go through these things. Sometimes you just have to get your heart ripped out and this film did a great job ripping mine out.

Derek Cianfrance is slowly becoming one of my favorite up and coming directors. His last film, “A Place Beyond the Pines” was a slightly flawed but overall fantastic film and now that I’ve seen “Blue Valentine”, I can’t wait for what he has next. The dude is a wonder behind the camera. There were a lot of scenes in BV that were done using a handheld camera and while the term “shaky cam” could possibly be used for some, what it did ws make the film more real. I didn’t think this was possible due to the fact that Cianfrance had both of his leads improvise many scenes but the camera added an extra sense of realism to the film. Long shots covering the length of conversation kept me interested in what was being said. The way in which Cianfrance also told his story was interesting. The film jumped from the beginning of Dean and Cindy’s relationship to the present day relationship. This, at least for me, kept the relationship as a whole in view. I didn’t forget what they went through at the beginning of the film because I was still being shown the beginning of the relationship at the end. This also laid the heavy on pretty thick as we are constantly watching them in love and in turmoil. It was very powerful.

Speaking of powerful, what performances by Williams and Gosling. They had some of the best chemistry on screen that I’ve ever seen and the fact that they improvised a lot of their scenes together makes it even more fascinating. Gosling has always been a solid actor to me. He collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn have been a little off but he is a very capable actor who may have given his career performance in BV. Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role, also is at her career best. Williams in particular was incredible once the camera was locked on her face, her eyes in every scene and her facial expressions were great to watch as you could tell she was losing herself in her character. Gosling was charming and also incredibly tragic. Both were incredible to watch.

I know I shouldn’t have watched this film with tomorrow looming, but I’m glad I did. It’s a tragic story but ultimately a real one. Relationships can be brutal beasts and not every single one ends with old age and grandchildren. It’s important to remember this and this film does a great job portraying what people have to deal with when they decide to fall in love. The film also boasts great music from Grizzly Bear and an end title sequence that is unique and uplifting. Great film.

4.5/5




Film Review : Her (2013)

IMDB Score – (Currently) 8.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay

Directed By – Spike Jonze
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

A week ago I thought I saw my film of the year. Inside Llewyn Davis was a bleak and ultimately devastating story about a folk singer who can never catch a break. It was soulful and moving and really just hit me in a way that no other film this year hit me. “Her” is the complete opposite. It is soulful and devastating but in the complete opposite direction. They are my ying and yang picks for films of the year.

I’ve been a fan of Spike Jonze since seeing him wear granny make-up and swing his boobs around in “Jackass”. His music videos are some of the most memorable videos of the late 90’s and early 2000’s and his films are visceral experiences that are unique and one of a kind. This time, Jonze puts his pen to the paper and crafts not only the best screenplay of the year, but one of the most intimate and personal films I’ve ever seen. The film stars Theodore, a lonely recently divorced man who is seeking a friend. Theodore walks past a kiosk advertising a new operating system which developing intelligence and personality. The operating that Theodore purchases is named Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The film takes place in an obvious future world but instead of being a dystopian nightmare, the future we see is vibrant and colorful. Social media seems to have evolved into a living breathing entity and everybody walks about with ear pieces in their ears which reads them the news, emails, or just converses with their user. This is really all you should know plot wise as the film grips you and takes you on the ride. Two hours never flew by so fast.

Having some relationship issues of my own at the moment, the film spoke to me. It’s premise is ultimately a very strange one. A man falling in love with a computer? How silly. Is it really that silly? Who is to say that a person can’t have a connection with somebody who is not there physically. I know it is usually frowned upon, but long distance relationships do work in small amounts. Those relationships are kept through phone conversations, letters, and recently with the ability of video conversations. I know people who have gotten married after meeting on the internet. I know people who have had extensive relationships with people miles away. Samantha may be a voice of a computer but in this world, that voice has a mind and personality that only builds more and more every day.

Spike Jonze created a perfect screenplay here. It is nearly flawless in its pacing and immersing in its intimacy. I don’t know what is going on in the mans life but he wrote from the heart and it showed. The whole film radiates red like it’s the center of a beating heart. I’m not usually a huge romance fan. I have been slowly integrating and finding wonderful films of this genre and am really warming up to the idea that romance films can not only be made well, but be considered important pieces of art. Jonze created a piece of art that is directly linked to the heart. Whether we have had many or only a few relationships, we each have gone through life changing events with another person. These events and the time we spend with somebody builds our character. They make us into the people we will eventually become. This is the main theme of Her. The relationships we have with other people, whether they end badly or flourish, create the people we turn into and help us learn from our mistakes until the next person comes along. I just can’t write enough how touched and moved I was with this film after this year. I have regretted more things than I can count. I wish I could change things. I wish there were some way to do things different. This is no way though. Those things happened and it’s only up to me to make sure that the future is made with all the love and happiness I experienced along the way. That is human nature. We push on and try to maintain happiness. The film just reiterated to me that everything is going to be okay.

I’m sorry I got a little personal there. It just it me hard.

The aesthetics of the film should also be noted. It’s a gorgeous film. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema should honestly win all the awards for this. As I stated before the film just radiates red which only goes to further the emotions thrown at us by the cast. Geez I haven’t even mentioned the cast. Scarlett Johansson could actually be nominated for a supporting role in which she doesn’t appear on screen in any way. She was that good. It was just a voice but it represented one half of a completely real and touching relationship with co-star Joaquin Phoenix who was incredible as always. Phoenix, who appears in nearly every single scene dominates as a lonely man who finally finds love after going through a difficult and draining divorce. Amy Adams, who really can’t do anything wrong recently, rounds out the trio by giving a heartwarming performance as Theodores friend and neighbor. It’s a film full of just amazing everything.

Go see this film. Take your girlfriend. Take somebody who is going through a rough time or recently lost somebody they love. It is a smart, funny, and incredibly real science fiction film that produces such honest and earned emotional response. Some people won’t get past the premise, but the people who have experienced loss in their lives are going to feel amazing at the fact that we still have so much to gain and learn. It’s my top film of the year along with “Inside Llewyn Davis”

5/5




Film Review : Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

IMDB Score : 7.6
RT Score : 93%

This film from 1948 stars the always amazingly English Rex Harrison. That’s Dr. Doolittle by the way folks. Harrison plays himself and by that I mean he plays an upscale English snob named Alfred De Carter who has been told by a private investigator that he didn’t even hire that his wife has been cheating on him, played by the lovely Linda Darnell who isn’t as English. Harrison then decides he’s going to murder her but starts to envision other things as he writes his symphonies. Oh, I didn’t tell you he was a composer? Well I saved you from English snobby overload. I actually liked the film and am a fan of Rex Harrison even though I find him to be one chips short of a codpiece. I have no idea what that means. The film is extremely quirky for its time and relies on a great performance by Harrison.

3/5