Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, 2015)

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One of the last major 2015 releases to find its way to Seattle Screens opens this week at the Guild 45th (we still have 45 YearsArabian NightsIn the Shadow of Women and Knight of Cups to come over the next several weeks), with the release of the latest film from Hollywood’s favorite self-loathing narrative-tangler, Charlie Kaufman. Teamed with co-director Duke Johnson and producers Dino Stamatopolous and Dan Harmon (among others), Kaufman has adapted his own play into a stop-motion animated film about a man (voiced by David Thewlis) who travels to Cincinnati for a conference. Lonely and depressive, he first tries to reconnect with an old flame, then finds himself attracted to a woman in the hotel. She catches his ear (and eye, eventually) because, unlike everyone else (besides him) in his world, she doesn’t look like Michael Ian Black and she doesn’t talk like Tom Noonan: she’s the voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh. A touching night of human (well, puppet) connection is followed by some explicit puppet sex, followed by a nightmare and then a nightmarish world. Like all of Kaufman’s films (both as a director and a screenwriter) it’s an uneasy mix of weird humor and sadness, and like all of them Kaufman refuses to give us the happy ending.

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Wild Tales (Damián Szifron, 2014)

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Two of the nominees for this past year’s Academy Award for Foreign Language Film see Seattle Screens for the first time this week, with the Grand Illusion showing Germany’s Beloved Sisters while the Seven Gables opens the Argentine film Wild Tales. It’s somewhat of an identity shift for the two venerable U-District theatres, because (as Charles Mudede points out on The Stranger’s blog) as one would expect to find the lushly costumed biopic of a famous poet thrilling the aged crowds of Landmark’s living room while the none-more-black revenge tale sextet would find a natural home on the GI’s genre-freaky calendar. But times change and with today’s diminished Landmark (a mere three first-run screens, down from 24 when I started working for them oh so many years ago), tough programming choices must be made. Not having seen the German film, I’m pretty sure Landmark made the right call, as Wild Tales is the kind of movie that should be a decent hit, if it can find its audience.

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