My honest-to-God preference as to who should be the 2016 Democratic nominee for President? The person I’d be the most confident about and happiest with? Barack Obama. Seriously — a Rooseveltian third term would be an excellent thing. After Obama I’d like to see Jon Stewart run. Seriously. I wish he’d announce right now and go for it and see what happens. I realize that Bernie Sanders seems weak outside of his base. He doesn’t seem to connect with African Americans and Hispanics as much as he needs to. But I like him a lot more than Hillary. We’re unfortunately stuck with Hillary. I’m going to vote for her because even with her baggy eyes and pissy moods and secretive nature she’ll be a far better option, policy-wise, than Donald Trump or Jeb Bush.
In the wake of my Anomalisa riff, here’s my 5.25.08 Cannes Film Festival review of Charlie Kaufman‘s Synecdoche, New York: There’s no way around saying that Charlie Kaufman, the director-writer of Synecdoche, New York, is a gloom-head. A brilliant and, in his past screenplays, hilarious one (by the standards of dryly perverse humor), but a gloom-head all the same. Who, for now, has put aside his sense of humor. The problem with his film, which I loved in portions, understood the point of and was intrigued and somewhat amused by in the early rounds, is the damn moroseness of it.
And the title is impossible. I would actually say commercially suicidal. I finally learned how to pronounce the damn thing — Syn-ECK-duh-kee — but if the folks who wind up distributing believe that average moviegoers are going to do anything but run in the opposite direction when this puppy opens, they’d best think again. Titles should always convey something that your average dumbass can understand — this one doesn’t. And they sure as shit can’t be tongue-twisters on top of this.
I nonetheless said to myself during the first 50 minutes or so, “This is my kind of deal.” Okay, maybe into the first hour. Smart-guy material, wise and witty, at times almost elevating, at times surreal, performances that strike the chords just so.
But it began to wear me down. I could feel my interest ebbing. This had something (okay, a lot) to do with the archness and obsessiveness of the characters caught up in various fickle head trips and never saying “uncle.” I didn’t hate what was going on — it’s an imaginative Alice in Wonderland-type thing — but I found myself wishing nonetheless that all these dithering neurotics (Caden especially) would get over themselves and…I don’t know, go rob a bank or move to rural China or something. The story tension in Synecdoche, New York is zilch.
Charlie Kaufman‘s Anomalisa, a stop-motion animated drama about “a man crippled by the mundanity of his life,” is going to play the 2015 Toronto Film Festival and also (maybe, hard to say) Telluride. The voice actors are Jennifer Jason Leigh (Lisa), David Thewlis (Michael) and Tom Noonan. Duke Johnson is the co-director but Kaufman is the sole author of the screenplay and therefore, one presumes, the guy who thought up the title. Which reminds you of another unspellable, not-easy-to-pronounce, all-but-impossible-to-remember title, Synecdoche, which was a morose, somewhat arresting 2008 film that Kaufman directed and wrote. I honestly don’t remember much about Synecdoche except for the capturing of a certain feeling of middle-aged lethargy and not one, not two but three shots of a toilet bowl.
Ken doll contemplating existential gloom in Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa.
No one and I mean no one outside of Kaufman’s immediate circle (friends, family, attorney, agent, therapist) is going to remember Anomalisa. It’s barely pronounceable, all but impossible to remember and kinda difficult to spell. Go up to Tom Luddy or Todd McCarthy or Kris Tapley during the Telluride Film Festival and say “what’s the name of Kaufman’s film again?” and they’ll probably say “uhm, aroma…animal…Animal Crackers for Lisa?” And totally forget Joe Popcorn — he’s going to take one look at the lobby poster and go “anomawhassa?” It’s actually quite simple. It’s Anomaly + Lisa. But nobody’s going to give a shit, trust me.
In this morning’s Toronto announcement story (“TIFF vs. Telluride: Intrigue Intensifies, Plot Thickens“) I failed to highlight two films that appear to warrant special attention — Hany Abu-Assad‘s The Idol, which appears to be more of a lighthearted, less melodramatic film than Abu-Assad’s widely praised Omar, and Sebastian Schipper‘s Victoria, which premiered at last February Berlinale and which just popped a trailer.
Otherwise the just-announced Toronto galas and special presentations that nobody is particularly interested in (at least for the time being) are as follows:
GALAS: Beeba Boys (dir. Deepa Mehta, Canada, World Premiere), Forsaken (dir. Jon Cassar, Canada (World Premiere), Hyena Road (dir. Paul Gross, Canada, World Premiere), Lolo (dir. Julie Delpy, France, World Premiere), The Man Who Knew Infinity (dir. Matt Brown, United Kingdom, World Premiere), Remember (dir. Atom Egoyan, Canada, North American Premiere), Septembers of Shiraz (dir. Wayne Blair, USA, World Premiere), The Dressmaker (dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia, World Premiere).
With the exception of Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next, the films announced the morning as galas and special presentations at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival were expected. (Where did Moore’s doc come from? I hadn’t read squat about it until this morning.) It’s welcome news, of course, that Tom Hooper‘s The Danish Girl, Ridley Scott‘s The Martian, Brian Helgeland‘s Legend (the launch of Tom Hardy‘s Best Actor campaign), Moore’s doc, Jay Roach‘s Trumbo (the launch of Bryan Cranston‘s Best Actor campaign), Stephen Frears‘ The Program, Roland Emmerich‘s Stonewall, Carey Fukanaga‘s Beasts of No Nation (definitely not looking forward to this one!), Rebecca Miller‘s Maggie’s Plan and Peter Sollett‘s Freeheld are getting the red-carpet treatment as either world or North American premieres. Looking forward, champing at the bit.
But what has my attention are the Canadian premieres, which are indications that the films in question will play Telluride first.
I’ve been hearing for a few weeks that Thomas McCarthy‘s Spotlight would play Toronto but not Telluride, and then last week Spotlight costar Mark Ruffalo disclosed to Italian journalists that the film would debut at the Venice Film festival. But this morning TIFF announced that Spotlight, to be screened as a special presentation, is a Canadian premiere. TIFF wouldn’t describe it as such if it wasn’t being premiered somewhere else on the North American continent before TIFF begins on 9.10, so…right? Okay!
John Crowley‘s Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight, 11.6) has also been called a Canadian premiere, but it’s been forecast all along that this tenderly rendered period romance (which debuted at last January’s Sundance Film Festival) would play Telluride so no biggie. The launch of Saoirse Ronan‘s Best Actress campaign, you bet.
It’s just been announced that the 40th annual Toronto International Film Festival will open with Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition…which Fox Searchlight recently decided to remove from award-season consideration by giving it a release date of 4.8.16. Before that curious announcement it seemed to make sense that the solemn-sounding Demolition, a drama about loss and recovery starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Namoi Watts and Chris Cooper, would open later this year and maybe kick up a little dust, especially given that Vallee’s Dallas Buyer’s Club and Wild were in the Oscar derby in 2013 and ’14. But no. And now the opening-night Toronto booking has people scratching their heads and going “what the…?”
When was the last time that an earnest, serious-minded drama from a name-brand director and a major-league U.S. distributor was given an opening-night TIFF slot without a subsequent opening before the end of the year? Obviously FS decided to bump Demolition because they felt it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi award-season quality, and we all know, of course, that TIFF opening-nighters have often been softer-edged, easy-on-the-sensibilities fare. At the very least this makes Demolition one of the most interesting, essential-to-catch TIFF openers in recent memory. Everyone attending the screening will be saying to themselves, “Okay…we’re about to see a film that Fox Searchlight didn’t think was good enough to compete during award season, and now we’re only minutes away from discovering what that shortcoming was.”
TIFF’s opening-night presentation of Demolition, brought to you by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders.