Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Year 9, Day 18 - 1/18/17 - Movie #2,518

BEFORE: Jennifer Jason Leigh carries over again from "The Anniversary Party", and I didn't have any way to schedule this for a while, because really the only thing for me to do was to find two films with Jennifer Jason Leigh in them, which wasn't an option until just last week, or find another lead-out for the other main voice actor, which wasn't possible until tomorrow's film got put on the schedule, about a month ago.  All that gives me some options, and pulls this one out of the "Unlinkable" pile at the bottom of the watchlist.  Another one rescued!

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

AFTER: My bosses, who are both animators, each had something to say about this film when it was released - they both kind of had to check it out, since it was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and is more adult-themed than your average animated film, which essentially makes it their competition. 

The issues at hand seemed to concern whether it was appropriate to film this story in stop-motion, as opposed to live-action, and whether it was a good idea to cast one actor to voice ALL of the background characters, anyone who was not the lead male or lead female characters, in other words.  Well, one boss is a personal friend of Tom Noonan, so you can guess what his stance was on that - but the other boss had a different opinion, because she thought that his voice was too boring, too drone-like.  I've spent time with Tom myself, but we're more like business acquaintances.

I have to stick up for Mr. Noonan, even though his voice doesn't really convey a lot of excitement and drama, but that seems to be the whole point.  Nearly every character's voice is supposed to be mundane, to reflect what Michael Stone is going through, he's incredibly bored by everything in his life, and all the people that he encounters.  So to have all of those people sounding exactly the same, and mostly expressionless to boot, it's obviously symbolic of that boredom.  We all may have times in our life where we've been doing the same thing, day in and day out, for too long, and we need something, or someone, to shake things up.  

When Michael meets Lisa, there's something different about her, he sees something special, and that's symbolized by the fact that her voice is different.  And this then ties back to why this story needed to be told in animation, because you can do this trick with the voices, and people get what it means.  If you tried this with live-action, dubbing the voices to all sound the same, it just wouldn't work.  

But if you ask me, the down-side is that they didn't do ENOUGH with the animation, for most of the film, the stop-motion people and scenes are just re-creating what are quite ordinary things - people in a hotel, having drinks, having dinner, having sex.  There's one dream sequence that dares to show us a glimpse of the fantastic, but this is where animation really excels, making the impossible possible.  Much like the symbolism in the voices, most of the time the animation here stuck to re-creating the mundane, and it could have been so much more.   

But maybe the theory holds, then - the dream sequence is that much more meaningful because it's so short, I don't know.  If they had done an extended dream sequence, like half an hour, and then showed Michael waking up, like the last 30 minutes didn't really happen, the audience could have felt ripped off.  So that's sort of a double-edged sword, I guess.  But hopefully this is the only time I'll ever type this phrase - after the puppets have sex, then things get really weird.

I thought that maybe "Anomalisa" was a play on "Mona Lisa", but it turns out to be a portmanteau of "anomaly" and "Lisa", since Michael perceives that she is different from everyone else.  Don't worry if you miss it, the film will mansplain it to you several times just to be on the safe side.  However, once Michael makes the decision to be with her, her voice starts to take on the same droning Noonan-like sound as everyone else's.  

Now, perhaps this is just a side-effect of Michael getting used to her voice, familiarity breeding contempt, as he seems to tire of her unusual breakfast-eating habits around the same time.  But perhaps it's a common problem when people are attracted to each other - there's no feeling quite like the one you get from having a new lover, and many people just go from one short-term relationship to another, just to experience it.  It's like a drug in that sense, and chasing that next high is deadly to any long-term relationship.  Some call it limerence, it's a state of euphoria that exists in the early stages of attraction, and there are definite chemical reactions that take place in the brain at this time, which just plain feel good.  Eventually there can be a long-term bond form that rewards a person's brain in a different way, but nothing beats that dopamine rush of new love.  

It's funny, the boss who didn't care for this film as much is now making an animated feature about exactly that, the bio-chemical reactions that take place in a person's brain when they fall in love, form a partnership bond, and then when they have to break that bond for whatever reason.  I'll report more on this as the film goes through production over the next two or three years.  

But maybe I'm way off-base here, with my interpretation of the meaning of the characters' voices being nearly all the same.  The hotel depicted here is called the Fregoli, and that's a reference to the Fregoli Delusion, which is a paranoid psychological belief that different people are in fact the same person, who is able to change their appearance or disguise themselves.  Michael makes several references to being "out of sorts", so perhaps he's just suffering from this mental delusion.  I guess that's up to the viewer to decide, in the end.

So I really don't know which boss is more correct - but my point about animation is that it doesn't have to be limited to depicting the mundane, this could have easily been a story about the first man who gets his brain transplanted into a robot body, and he works in a factory with other robots, but he's the only human/robot hybrid, and he feels out of place because he goes home every night but the other robots just power down and stay at the factory, but one day he falls in love with an attractive female robot and turns her on to things like nightlife and robot sex, and takes her into his world with him, so he's not alone any more.  Like, you can DO that with animation, that's what's great about it. 

And something that is NOT on my bucket list - eating chili in Cincinnati.  Learning that they not only serve it over pasta, and with shredded cheddar on top, but that the chili contains flavors of cinnamon and chocolate.  I'm a foodie and I like trying weird combinations, but that's just too weird, even for me. Chili in general, I think in this country we've got to get our act together.  Some parts of the country say it has to have only beans, others say it's meat and beans, and still others say it should only have meat and no beans.  I promise, if I'm ever elected President, this is the kind of thing I'd work on straightening out, right after abolishing the incredibly useless Daylight Savings Time.

Also starring the voices of David Thewlis (last seen in "The Island of Dr. Moreau"), Tom Noonan (last seen in "The Astronaut's Wife").

RATING: 5 out of 10 sex toys

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