Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 20-26: Dirty 5th Anomalisa Boy — and Those Oscar Noms

In Theaters.

 Count your blessings for movies that are still playing, movies that are being brought back, and Charlie Kaufman. Otherwise, this looks like a week that might challenge last week for sheer dreadfulness and maximum awfulness — and utter suckage. Last week could indeed go down in history. And not in a good way. This week…well, we’ll see.

Stepping away from the January moose fellation party for a moment, I suppose it is time to say something about the Oscar nominations. Even without getting into the lily-white nature of the nominations, I have to say this is one dispiriting list. I kind of expected there’d be a backlash to last year’s nearly all “art film” nominations. Let’s face it, the fact that there was no blockbuster to play to the crowd was seen as the reason for the lacklustre Oscar TV ratings. Well, that won’t happen this year — or at least that excuse won’t work for low ratings. That just means it’ll be time to blame the host, who ironically — considering the boycott over the lack of black nominees — is Chris Rock (unless he bails). I’m not entirely convinced that just because lots of people went to see The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road it follows that those same people will watch the show. As for the extreme whiteness of it all…considering Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in The Hateful Eight, Will Smith’s (an actor I normally don’t like) performance in the not very good Concussion, the performances of Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in the little seen Tangerine (which hasn’t played here), RJ Cyler in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Shameik Moore in Dope — well, it seems pretty sketchy, yes. (I can’t say anything about Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq because I haven’t seen it.)

 

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First up this week is Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa — opening Friday at the Fine Arts. It is the only film opening that I have seen, and Justin Souther’s review for it is in this week’s Xpress. It is, I think, safe to say that it’s the best thing opening this week — even if I haven’t see the other three. The Oscar-nominated (Best Animated Feature) Anomalisa is apt to slightly disappoint fans of his Synecdoche, New York, but may sit better with those who found that expansive (even sprawling) first film too impenetrable to like. The animated Anomalisa — while fully as existential and quite possibly even more disturbing — is much more straightforward in terms of plot. It basically deals with a public speaker, Michael (voiced by David Thewlis), on a lecture tour, who — following a disastrous encounter with an old flame in the hotel bar — meets one of his biggest fans, Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh). She’s different from everyone — or so he believes. She’s so different, he thinks her an anomaly, hence the name Anomalisa. The thing that makes this damaged, shy, young woman immediately different for the viewer is that she and Michael are the only characters in the film who aren’t voiced by Tom Noonan. Everyone else — including Michael’s wife, his son, his ex-flame, etc. — is seen as a kind of gigantic, endlessly interchangeable other. Not surprisingly, these two individuals enter into an affair, but…well, there’s where the film’s point lies and to say more about it would be a disservice. Mostly, it might be said that the film is about our perception of other people and the difficulty (impossibility?) of true connectedness. It’s not a lot of fun, but it is undoubtedly a powerful — somewhat depressing — work that should be seen. And, no, despite being animated it is not for children. The themes are too dark, would likely bore children, and then there’s stop-motion sex…

 

5thwave

 

The unknown realm starts with J Blakeson’s The 5th Wave — starting Friday (with the mostly obligatory Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. So who is J Blakeson (other than someone too cool to need a first name)? Well, he made something called The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009), which indeed disappeared before making it to the provinces. Sony describes it this way: “16-year-old Cassie Sullivan tries to survive in a world devastated by the waves of an alien invasion that has already decimated the population and knocked mankind back to the Stone Age.” Cassie is Chloë Grace Moretz. This appears to be based on some best-selling YA trilogy by someone named Rick Yancey. I’d say it looks like yet another YA trip to dystopia and the sub-genre that Mr. Souther has dubbed “Sad Teens.” Oh, my.

 

The-Boy-Lauren-Cohan

 

Then there’s William Brent Brown’s The Boy — starting Friday (without Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina. (My guess is opens elsewhere, too, but no one else has admitted this yet.) What is it? Well, the studio insists it’s “a frightening thrill ride directed by William Brent Bell starring Lauren Cohan (TV’s The Walking Dead). Greta (Cohan) is a young American woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote English village, only to discover that the family’s 8-year-old is a life-sized doll that the parents care for just like a real boy, as a way to cope with the death of their actual son 20 years prior. After violating a list of strict rules, a series of disturbing and inexplicable events bring Greta’s worst nightmare to life, leading her to believe that the doll is actually alive.” Fine. That sounds at least interesting. However, this is PG-13 horror in January. Bad sign. Then there’s the director. Setting aside my basic skepticism of people with three-barrled names (Paul Thomas Anderson to one side), Mr. Brown gave us the dismal The Devil Inside four Januaries ago. In his favor — sort of — I admit to having enjoyed the silly Stay Alive (2006), but I lay that as much at the feet of a rowdy Friday night teenage audience, who took it in the right spirit. This looks more serious-minded and probably less fun — and I’ll likely see it Friday morning without benefit of teenage audience.

 

dirty-grandpa-movie

 

Last up is Dan Mazer’s Dirty Grandpa — starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. This needs little description. It’s an R-rated raunchy-com with Robert (Just sign the check) De Niro as the title character — behaving badly and age-inappropriately to delight the easily delighted and to make life hell for grandson Zac Efron. Maybe it will be better than I think. I may never know. This has Justin’s name all over it.

Now, this week we lose Youth, which is a misfortune of considerable note. We also lose The Danish Girl, which is not. The Fine Arts is splitting Trumbo (4:20, Late show Fri-Sat 9:50) and Carol (1:20, 7:20). The Carolina is holding a full set of Carol, and bringing back Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Room (Oscar has much to answer for), and Spotlight — all on split-shows that I don’t have times for yet. Also worth noting is that they’re cutting The Hateful Eight to one show a day, which is very unfortunate indeed.

Special Screenings

 

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The Thursday Horror Picture Show running Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1973) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 21 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is returns with Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 22 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghosts (2006) on Sun., Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper. and Charles Laughton in Marion Gering’s Devil and the Deep (1932) on Tue., Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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86 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 20-26: Dirty 5th Anomalisa Boy — and Those Oscar Noms

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    I haven’t heard of today’s new Netflix Streaming options, but most of them have performers I usually like. Isla Fisher is in a horror film called Visions, Charlotte Gainsbourg in Asia Argento’s Incompresa and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet; The Past) in something named The Cut.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        You know, I’ve never seen any of her directorial efforts.

        • Ken Hanke

          Neither have I, though we just saw her acting recently in The Church.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            And that was the first I’d seen those, err, talents on display as well.

          • Ken Hanke

            Well, she’s in xXx and Marie Antoinette, but I can’t say I remember her in them. I do remember her is Dad’s Dracula 3D, which is unfortunate. Actually, it’s unfortunate that I’ve seen it all.

          • Ken Hanke

            Worth noting (though I’ll watch it anyway) that this Visions thing is from Jason Blum and the number of films with his name on them that do not involve James Wan or Leigh Whannell are…slight. I do like Isla Fisher, though.

    • Xanadon't

      Let’s not leave out Jessica Alba’s triumphant return to the horror genre with The Veil. You can’t just keep something like that secret, Edwin.

    • Matt

      You might try Katiyabaaz; it just started streaming on Netflix a couple days ago.. It’s a documentary from India about Kanpur’s electricity problem. Check out the trailer on youtube. For anyone wanting a dose of real India the footage here can’t be beat.

  2. Xanadon't

    I hope Chris Rock doesn’t bail on what he has dubbed the white BET Awards. He’s likely to be the best thing going for this year’s show.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            And now he’s saddled with arguably the least exciting slate of nominees since that year.

          • Ken Hanke

            ‘Tain’t exactly a pulse-pounding array.

          • Me

            I hope he mentions the Sean Penn incident from the last time he hosted.

      • The Real World

        I agree, as well, about Rock.

        And thank you for the phrase above, “utter suckage”. It has a certain ring to it.

  3. NFB

    Can anyone offer serious speculation on why “Anomalisa” is an animated movie other than it is another attempt by Charlie Kaufman to say “oooh, loook at me, look at me I’m clever and different.”

      • NFB

        Yeah, I get that, to a point, anyway.

        But there is usually something just a little too smug and self satisfied about much of Kaufman’s work for my tastes. Perhaps there is a genuine reason the move is animated, and I’m open to that being the case. But given what I have seen of Kaufman’ work I am skeptical that it is anything other a smug, self satisfied gimmick.

        • T.rex

          I think he is great. Even the criminally overlooked CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (Clooney’s directorial debut) was awesome.

    • Ken Hanke

      I don’t think there’d be any point to do this film in live action. More, the necessary conceit of having all but two characters speak in the same voice is much better done with animation.

      I would concede a smugness to Mr. Kaufman’s work — the ones directed by Spike Jonez.

      • Me

        I like them all, but to me the ones with Spike Jonze are funnier and less self serious.

        • Ken Hanke

          “Self serious” is that the new, acceptable term for pretentious?

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      The identical facial design conformity also wouldn’t work in live-action.

      • NFB

        OK. Fair enough, but are either of those factors — only three actors and identical design conformity — necessary to tell the story?

        As for the Kauffman/Spike Jonez collaborations being more prone to smugness I’d say that could be the connection, although may not an airtight one for me. I enjoyed “Being John Malkovich” quite a bit but found the non-Jonez “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” skirting a bit too much toward the smug, although not nearly as much as Jonez’s “Adaptation.”

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          I would say those two factors are pretty essential to telling the story. I suppose Kaufman could have had flesh-and-blood actors wear identical masks and overdub Noonan’s voice, but I don’t think it would have been as successful.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Now, I’m not saying that the content wholly justifies the animation, just that it seemingly works better with it than without.

        • Ken Hanke

          I don’t think there’s any point to the movie at all without the characters all being the same.

          For me it’s strictly the Jonez’ films. I have no fondness at all for Being John Malkovich, though it strikes me as more smart-ass than smug. (Smug is more David Fincher to me.) And I have no issues with Eternal Sunshine, though I haven’t seen it years. I haven’t seen Adaptation in years either and I plan on keeping it that way.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Too bad all this Anomalisa chatter didn’t happen on the film’s review.

  4. T.rex

    Very VERY upsetting list of nominations this year.
    1. No Will Smith for Concussion. Great performance in an ok film.
    2. This one really makes me angry. No Samuel L Jackson for Hateful 8.
    3. Now this one makes my head explode. Not nominating EX MACHINA for best picture. WTF!! Bridge of Spies was good, not that good. I guess they had to have a token Spielberg film to nominate.
    I will still watch and enjoy and smile when Revenant wins best pic. People need to save their breath about “boycotting”, its just a silly award show. It is not going to solve problems or cure cancer. Tall actors have been screwed since day one. All we get to play are monsters and freaks. Where is our boycott?!

    • Ken Hanke

      Kinda funny that you’re pissed about the “boycott” while at the same time being cheesed over Samuel L. Jackson and Will Smith not being nominated. How tall are you anyway? I can think of a lot of tall actors.

      I do hope The Revenant does not win.

      • T.rex

        Im cheesed that those great performances were not nominated but a lot of great performances weren’t.
        I am 6’8″. That is freak tall to Hollywood.

        • Ken Hanke

          Sorry, I think there’s some merit to the white-centric complaint.

          I’d say 6’8″ is pretty tall period. But 6’6″ didn’t kill Clint Walker’s career,

    • Big Al

      “Ex Machina” for best picture?

      No.

      And this in spite of my man-crush on Oscar Issac.

      • Ken Hanke

        It would have been a better choice than four of the choices.

        • T.rex

          Let me guess your four… Bridge of Spies, Room, Martian, Revenant.
          Am I close?
          I agree that three of these should not be nominated.

          • Ken Hanke

            Yep, those are the four — from worst to least obnoxious: Room, Bridge of Spies, The Revenant, The Martian.

        • Big Al

          I will take your word on that. The only one I saw was “Brooklyn”, which I enjoyed but do not consider Oscar-worthy. I saw “Ex Machina” at home on DVD and I am convinced that had I seen in in a theatre, the pace of the ending would have put me to sleep.

          Frankly, 2015 was a horrible year for films for me. There were only a few that got me interested in getting to a theatre, and of those few, “Star Wars…”, “Man From Uncle”, Jurassic World”, “Ant Man”, “Learning to Drive” and “Clouds of Sils Maria” made my “fun enough to be worth a ticket” award. The only film that wowed me enough to (maybe) consider agreeing to Oscar worthiness was “Mistress America”, but even that would be me joining a bandwagon, not actually putting it forth myself. I thought “Youth” was an intriguing project that ultimately failed to meet the hype that preceded it, as did “Spectre”.

      • T.rex

        Ummm, yes! It was a fantastic picture and a rare gem, an intelligent sci fi film.

        • Me

          Don’t forget relevant, with all the talk of experts being concerned that AI is getting too smart for its own good.

        • Big Al

          I agree the concept good, but the execution was disappointing and in the end, very slow and boring.

    • Me

      If anybody has Showtime they are premiering the doc from earlier this year about National Lampoon tonight at 9pm.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I don’t believe we’ll see it in local theaters. I think highly of Spike Lee as a filmmaker (and a person), so I went ahead and bought a digital copy on Amazon. It’s on DVD and Blu-ray Jan. 26 and will be free to Amazon Prime subscribers starting Feb. 4.

      Really, it should have been nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

      • Ken Hanke

        It is high on things I want to see. Mebbe I’ll try to figure out the damned Amazon Prime…

  5. Ken Hanke

    Say, you know that Visions thing with Isla Fisher? Wonder why you never heard of it before? Watch it and you’ll know.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      B-b-but its director made Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter!

      • Ken Hanke

        It’s more indifferent than actually bad. This is one of those pictures where the villain tells the heroine, “You still haven’t figured it out? You really are stupid,” and it is impossible to disagree.

  6. jason

    why is it that everybody in Michaels life has the same mans voice??? Weird and hard to decipher whom he’s conversing with at times…. Anomalisa

    • Ken Hanke

      That’s really kind of hard to answer without saying too much for people who haven’t seen the movie.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Jason, what’s your theory on why all the voices (and faces) are the same?

  7. JasOn

    Micheal; during his dream indicates that she’s the only other/ different person in (his) world…. from what I’m understanding Michael was severely depressed; correct? Always looking for what he considered was the bigger better deal yet always ended up regretful with whom he was with.

      • Ken Hanke

        Think of it as a self-realization version of Shaw’s line (from Major Barbara), “Like all young men, you greatly exaggerate the difference between one young woman and another,” taken to a broader extreme with a mid-life crisis thrown it.

        • Matt

          Ken, that line has made my day. I gotta get more Shaw into my reading list.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Yes, and with the Carolina closed I suddenly have a free day.

    • Matt

      Close enough. This is the best time to catch up on movies and books….unless I trip and break my reading glasses.

      • Big Al

        You just described 2015 for me, although it would be TV series rather than movies. It was also a great year to discover live plays. I am sad that the weather (and a concurrent Bronchitis) have kept me away from the Fringe festival. Hopefully the power will stay on.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I can’t say I have a free day, since there are several things I could or should be doing, but maybe I’ll finally watch Godard’s Band of Outsiders, which has been sitting here taunting me.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I will not probe what madness prompted me to sit through Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, but I did. (The option was working.) I doubt I’ll make that error in judgment again, though, yes, I have seen worse.

  10. Xanadon't

    I think I made it 6 minutes into that one before losing patience with it. I settled on Last Shift instead. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a micro-budget overachiever that I found well worth my while.

    • Ken Hanke

      Let us say simply that I didn’t hate Last Shift, but further than that I cannot go.

  11. Ken Hanke

    The Scottish-Irish Let Us Prey is at the very least interesting, but aspects of it leave a bad taste.

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