The Lobster – It Is Better to be Dead or a Wild Animal Than Single

…At least that is what the dystopian society in The Lobster believes. So profoundly in fact, that this truth – as it where – hinges entirely on the preposterous vision of an entire subsection of society dependent on the “rehabilitation” and matchmaking of single folk. From the hilarious and dark mind of Greek director Yargos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, AlpsThe Lobster is just as deliciously strange as Lanthimos’ previous films. Juxtaposing the banal: awkward small talk with strangers, stiffly dancing with a potential match at a singles mixer, sitting down to breakfast in a hotel alone; with the extraordinary: what lengths one will go to to find a potential mate and well, being turned into a wild animal if one’s match is not made. (Don’t worry, the characters comically get the choice of what they want to be turned into.) The actors do an amazing job (especially John C. Reilly) with delivering the purposefully emotionally stunted dialogue, and the cinematography is stunning. The use of chiaroscuro is brilliant -contrasting bright colors is some scenes and matching dour, muted grays in others.  The music perfectly highlights the tension in some scenes and the awkward levity in others. Despite the high quality production value, I wasn’t sure if I liked the film after the first viewing. I had to really think about it, mull it over and digest the message, the harsh, biting satire. I found it a bit disturbing, but also completely nonsensical in some ways. I even re watched some scenes. Then it occurred to me – the fact that I was thinking about it so much, trying to understand it is proof alone that it is a well done film. Most films drift away in my memory – usually as soon as the very next day. This one stays. It sits in your belly like something that disagrees with it, churning almost sickly, causing you to examine your own society and the pressure for a perfect relationship. I heartily recommend, but urge to go in open minded, and willing to think a little.

Anomalisa – An Anomaly Of A Film…

…Which seems to be a very intelligent joke. The brainchild of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptaion, Being John MalkovichAnomalisa  is a  stop-motion animated film that revolves around the main character Michael’s  (voiced by David Thewlis) comfortable yet boring life. Emotionally numb and lacking in emotion, he robotically trundles through his comfortable upper class life, until he meets a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She awakens in him unrecognizable feelings propelling the story forward. The film itself is achingly beautiful – a viewing is worth just the production value alone. The stop-motion animation is so intentional, so deliberate that I was constantly reminded that nothing was accidental. The lighting, the background, every movement down to eyes blinking was meticulously calculated. For this reason I recommend the film. It truly is an experience to watch, and adds a richness to the niche of artistic film. However, its glaring fault lies in the story. It seems the metaphor this film hinges on – tragically revealed in the last scene – has been stretched out from what would be a perfect 20-30 minute short to a slow burning, not much happening 1 hour and 30 minutes. The first scene in a taxi cab and later a  love scene (yes, there is one. And no, it was not creepy – rather tender and intimate) was much, much too long.  If the script was performed by real actors – I guarantee it would not have gotten an Oscar nomination. It pains me to say this as I am huge fan of Kaufman’s and really wanted to like it, but to me it seemed like an elegant way of showcasing stop – motion animation technique and production. My advice is to definitely watch the film – but focus on the technique and ridiculous amount of work that went into producing it. Don’t get too caught up in the story or you will inevitably feel disappointed. So, I recommend – as a rental, and without too much expectation. Just get lost in the beauty of the art, and you will enjoy it just fine.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Still The Most Romantic Movie

Recent research tells us that our memories are flawed. They are reworked again and again in our brains, synapses are rerouted, clipped, ad infinitude until our memories are only shells of the truth encased within. Despite the unreliability, memory is indeed the essence of our humanity, the reason behind our motivations, happiness and sorrows. Anyone who has ever known a person to suffer from Alzheimer’s can tell you this. But is there implicit memory – memory so deep that even as the memories we can access change, warp and grow – that remain always the same, always constant – forming who we are at our core? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  would argue emphatically that yes, yes this is true. Even though long term love and commitment is so hard, so trying that few are able to retain it – the love that it all grew from remains. Deep inside, constant, burning forever in us – unchanged. It will lead us to the same person again and again, no matter if we try to fight it. The best romance is tinged with a fateful ruin – doomed for disaster, destruction, sacrifice. And even better if it is laced with a  little science fiction. Another film that has stood the test of time and only gets better with age. I heartily recommend.

The Walking Dead – Beauty is in the (Grisly) Details

I was, let’s say a little pissed off disappointed by the season 6 finale. So, I turned to the graphic novel that was the basis of the tv show. The pictures are breathtaking they really add a whole new dimension to the story of Rick Grimes and his “people” – others who have banded together to attempt survival in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. At many times throughout the book, the pictures would show a panning out – so the reader sees the entire gruesome scene – or is forced to pause and reflect on what just occurred. This moves the dialogue and story  long quite nicely. Even when the story was revolving around character development , it marched along at a quick clip. The action was quick and I found myself often excitedly turning page after page, unable to put down the heavy volume (comics 1-48 printed on thick paper. I propped up the book and read it on a table as it was so heavy). I just put Compendium 2 on my library hold list, I can’t wait to see what happens next, and to continue to compare the story arc between the book and show. I especially can’t wait to see what this whole Neegan mess is all about… I heartily recommend.

Ghost World – Truth and Decision

Let’s go back in time, shall we? Lets go way back – to when Thora Birch was still getting decent roles, ScarJo was just starting out and seemed well, less glamorous and more teenager-ish, and Steve Buscemi had not risen to the heights he would in Hollywood. To the release of Ghost World. I saw this gem on Netflix and immediately pushed play. Didn’t have to think twice. It is one of my favorite coming of age films, and it has stood the test of time. I know it is a good film when a 15 year difference between viewings does nothing but solidify my feelings about it. Ghost World is based on a short graphic novel of the same name by Daniel Clowes (which I also recommend). It is a quiet film, that meanders along, revealing Enid, the main character and her best friend Rebecca as they finally graduate from High School and have to start thinking about whats next. The event they had been waiting for their whole life ends up being, well, a big bummer. Enid, however, doesn’t take this very well at all. The film is a accurate reflection on the passage of time, friendship, art and growing up. Yes, it is dark. And yes, it is a tad depressing. But this is reality. It is how one deals with these truths that determines how life will ultimately turn out. I heartily recommend.

Goosebumps – Fun For The Unjaded

The modern world is a scary place. In the information age, this is something we are constantly being reminded of. Sometimes the pull of childhood memories is too strong to resist, beckoning into a sweet, innocent place where such ideas as evil ventriloquist dummies are actually the scariest thing one has read or could possibly imagine. Enter Goosebumps, a perfect diversion after a long week of adulting. Oh, how I loved Goosebumps when I was a child! There was no better (and still isn’t) escapism then getting lost in a scary story. However, with most adaptations of books, I read I try to go into the film with an open mind, and not a fan girl chip on my shoulder. It can be pretty disappointing (ahem, more like soul crushing) when one is so invested in a story it has become a sort of reality, and the film representation is not even close to it. Choosing Goosebumps that evening I was looking for a mood boost, a reminder of simpler times. It delivered. Now, it was not amazing, or mind blowing, but it worked. It was sweet and funny. Jack Black does an excellent job, as well as the rest of the cast. It was fun and silly, and short. And best of all, it featured Slappy the Dummy. For a good time, I recommend.

Still Life With Woodpecker – Romance, Humor and Philosophy Coexist

Still Life With Woodpecker is a risky endeavor: a book that tries to pack so much in, well, it shouldn’t work. But it does work. This is probably why Tom Robbins is hailed as one of the greatest contemporary fiction writers. A good friend was shocked I hadn’t read his work yet, so I hurriedly got myself a copy from the library. I will admit – at first I wasn’t too keen on the story. Robbins story was hard for me to follow, he bounces between the love affair between the protagonist and antagonist while interrupting intermittently to discuss his new Remington typewriter in a type of  stream of consciousness like soliloquy. I felt it came off as a bit pretentious, and the main story bored me a little – mostly because it seemed to be a superficial, formulaic romance story. However, my cynicism eventually gave way to an interest – an interest in how through a seemingly simple story Robbins had managed to get me to reflect on consumerism, individualism, and if romantic love truly exists or is a fleeting farce. I recommend – but only if one is in an open mindset.