Category Archives: Males

Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman

Anomalisa - Running.jpg

This is not how I am;  I have become comfortably numb

Roger Waters, 1979

Charlie Kaufman‘s latest film, Anomalisa, is an understated piece from the award winning screen writer.  In his second role as director, Kaufman is joined by Duke Johnson to produce this heavy stop-motion feature based on a 2005 play of the same name.

The film is set almost entirely over the course of one evening spent in a hotel room Cincinnati hotel where the protagonist, Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), a famous self-help author seeks to find human connection in a world where everybody else looks the same.  This is until he meets a sweet and unconfident young woman, Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh), who unlike all the other characters has a unique face, voice and a sky childish honesty.  Stone is immediately drawn to her as an escape from the familiarity of everyone that he meets that seems to be causing his feelings of isolation.  In Lisa, Stone sees an escape from his tired routine, and a reason for hope and joy.

Michael Stone: I think you’re extraordinary.
Lisa: Why?
Michael Stone: I don’t know yet, it’s just obvious to me that you are.

Despite the serious themes, the film is consistently funny, with plenty of dry-wit and dark humor.  It is through the tired eyes of the educated traveler that the all-so-familiar rituals of a bland work trip interstate are poked fun at through Stone’s frustration.  However, his desire to be left alone in peace and quiet from the hospitality staff is ironically contrasted with his need for simple human connection that he spends the whole evening and day-thereafter seeking.

Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman

In scale, Anomalisa is juxtaposed to Kaufman’s previous work – Synechdoche New York (2008) – which follows the drawn-out life and death of the protagonist: Caden Cotard.  Cotard’s desire for his life to be made significant through his work is echoed by his never ceasing attempts at grandeur and honesty in an all encompassing theater piece.  He is never content with the simple small human connections in and of themselves, instead, Cotard seeks something big and bold often at the expense of true human interaction with his family and closest friends. Anomalisa’s Michael Stone by contrast seems to have given up on the grand, and is desperate for connection, a hug – and some..

Anomalisa - Scene

That stop-motion sex scene

In a 2015 interview, Kaufman and Johnston explain how the most difficult part of the production was filming the sex scene that took over six-months.   The challenge was made even harder by trying to avoid connections to that oh-so famous Team America: World Police (2004) montage.  Too often intimate scenes in films are forced to be either funny or passionately erotic; however, here, a simple tone is carefully presented where a basic human connection is shown by balancing their genuine affection for each other with the sadness of the situation, including Stone’s adultery.  The use of stop-motion figurines paradoxically enables the directors to present somewhat ‘universal’ characters that the viewer is able to connect to without the distraction of a human actor.

The theme of not being able to being able to distinguish between faces is based on a real condition – Prosopagnosia – famously suffered from by portrait artist Chuck Close.  However, the viewer is asked to question whether in-fact everybody is actually the same, or whether Stone cannot determine the differences in their faces – perhaps due to his

Chuck Close

Chuck Close – Self portrait

disengagement from others’ lives.  Or perhaps even more so, that Stone is the only person in this fictional world that is truly alive in seeing that everyone else is the same.  Or finally, is it that Stone asks too much of the world and others?

The film ends with his wife reminding a disengaged Stone, “Don’t you realize we all love you“.  To which we are forced to question whether asking for something new, exciting and different is genuinely as important as simply loving others and being loved in return.

Perhaps the final irony of this film is that despite Stone seeing everybody as the same, this movie is distinctive in its quiet ability to capture both a person’s disconnection with the world and their desire for human’s connection.


 

Kaufman’s Filmography:

Being John MBeing John Malkovich (1999) – Disturbingly entertaining and more than entertainingly disturbing.

 

Human NatureHuman Nature (2001) – Far better than it looked; but unfortunately it watched no better than it looked.

 

 

NicCageAdaptationAdaptation (2002) – If you can tell me what it all means – you are a liar; if you can tell me you didn’t enjoy being taken on a trip down the garden path – you too are a liar.

 

CDMConfession of a Dangerous Mind (2002) – Such a perfectly unbelievable true-story, even with Clooney‘s directorial debut as a Coen brothers disciple he couldn’t do any true harm to Kaufman’s modified script.

 

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindEternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004) – Not your average rom-com – as the greater the plot twists, the tighter the knots of love and loss.

 

synecdoche new yorkSynecdoche, New York (2008) – Directorial debut and epic navel-gazing true horror film about dying without living in the quest for greatness and meaning.

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2 Autumns, 3 Winters – Film Review

2 Autumns, 3 Winters

When you’re in your early 20s your love life seems to explode every 20 minutes or so.  By the time you’ve reached your thirties, it is every five or ten years.

Patrick Marber

If you were not previously afraid of turning 30 then perhaps French director and screen writer Sebastein Betbeder’s recently released second film will have you fighting to ensure that your youth is not wasted while you are still young.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters follows three thirty-something year olds falling in and out of love.  Trying to embrace this new phase of life, each character is both shocked and regretful at how their youth has passed them by.

2 Autumns, 3 WintersThirty-three year old protagonist Arman (Vincent Macgaine) decides to make a change to his uninspired life by starting to regularly run in a local park. Looking like Bill Bailey on bad hair day, Arman meets the beautiful Amelie exercising and falls for her immediately.  Over the course of two autumns and three winters we witness a series of dates; double dates; stokes; serendipitous meetings with former lovers and former colleges; and mundane trips to the supermarket as the film paints a picture of life past the big three-zero.

Each scene is literally numbered, like a chapters in a book, as the detailed exposition of a series of eclectic, somewhat intertwined moments, show that life is unexpected in both joy and sadness.  In an underwhelming Woody Allen stylised way, the characters frequently self-narrate their conversations by speaking directly to the camera and describing their feelings—often as polar opposites to the other party in the conversation.

In a repeated motif, each of the male characters meets their love-interests during unfortunate incidents.  It is a bitter-sweet irony that only through suffering does something good seem to come these hapless hommes – all in spite of Arman and Benjamin (Bastien Bouillon) trying to control their own destinies.

2 Autumns, 3 WintersDespite intermittently offering brief moments of humour and glimpses of hope, it is unfortunate that Betheder’s directorial creativity is at the expense of strong storytelling.  Experimenting with the medium, the film alternates between grainy 16mm footage and High Definition (HD) producing a semi-autobiographical tone.  However, one cannot help but feel that too much effort has been placed in making the film seem cutesy and indie rather than allowing viewers to emotionally engage with the characters on a deeper level.

“I had trouble appreciating the vast landscape before me” exhaustedly says Amelie—perhaps best encapsulates 2 Autumns, 3 Winters’ contention about growing-up and life post 29.

This review has been published online through Farrago Magazine

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Skateboarding Renaissance

Longboarding Picture

“Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people say “There’s something missing in my life”; none of these people have been skateboarders” – Lucas Klein

Colin neatly tucks his longboard under his arm before getting into the lift and heading up to his office job as a Quantity Surveyor in the city.  Everyday he rides four and a half kilometers on his homemade longboard to the train station, followed by a short skate from the station to his office door.

Building his first board four years ago, he has since designed a number of different custom decks.  Colin loves to take his three-year-old girl for a short ride, “Initially she was a bit afraid, but now she really loves it.  When she gets a bit older, I’ll probably make her a board of her own to start learning on while she’s young”.

1080 Snowboarding - Nintendo 64Like the many others that are now rolling the streets, Colin is a part of the growing community of 20 to 40-year-old males who are picking up skateboards, despite not skating in their youth because they didn’t fit into the skate scene.

Skateboards started appearing in California in the 1940s and 1950s, and were used by surfers wanting to practice when the swell wasn’t up.  Reaching its peak in popularity during the late 1990s, skateboarding was dominated by massive commercial brands such as Globe, Vans, and World Industries.  Competitive trick boarders like Tony Hawk became household names, and computer games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater and 1080⁰ Snowboarding were a huge success.  On the back of this popularity a skate culture developed, where to be considered a skater meant wearing the popular skate gear and being able to perform tricks.

Then, in the mid 2000s skateboarding dropped out of vogue; almost as a counter response to the hyper commercialisation, marketing, branding and the pressure for skaters to perform tricks on demand.  High social and financial entry barriers discouraged the non-committed from getting involved.  However, skateboarding is currently regaining popularity in a four-wheeled youthful renaissance.  Boarding is back, and everybody is doing it: from businessmen, to construction workers, to your average, and not so average, Joe. People have rediscovered the joy of just cruising around on four wheels.

In a response to the commercialisation of skating in the 1990s, people have begun to embrace the diverse family of skateboards, many of which are hand crafted, personalised, and unbranded.  There are a plethora of shapes, colours, lengths and widths available – all a far cry from the standard black trick-deck of the 1990s.  Although there are still branded boards such as the Penny Board or the RipStik, along with other popular skate clothing brands, many of the new skaters are learning the joy of riding around without any of these logos, slogans or dollar markups.

Don Bostick - Skating - 70sOne particular type of deck that is gaining popularity is the longboard.  As the larger cousin to the skateboard, longboards began to appear in the 1970s in Hawaii as a variant to the shorter boards.  Typically over 80cm long, the larger wheelbase decks are easier to learn on and faster to pick up.  Unlike the Tony Hawk skateboards of the late 1990s, where being able to ‘ollie’ and ‘grind’ were the minimum street cred’ requirement, longboarding is far more accessible which is contributing to its growing popularity.

Not only designed for travel, longboards can reach substantial speeds downhill, appealing to the thrill seeking, adrenalin junkies.  And it’s not just blokes who are having all the fun.  Women too are joining in on the craze, often using cruisers: a slightly shorter variant of the longboard.  Designed for quick and easy convenience rather than serious speed, cruisers are the adult equivalent to the bright coloured Penny Board.

Skateboarding - Close upChris, a 24-year-old community social worker involved with youth and the homeless, recently fractured his wrist longboarding.  However, he is still unwavered, “I’d always wanted to skate, but was never able to get into it during high-school”.  However, since two of his best friends have become hooked, Chris has got on the board and hasn’t looked back.  “I get so much joy from it – it is the only exercise I genuinely look forward to”.

This article has also been published in Edition 4 of The Unknown Magazine – Available on Joomag

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