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Anomalisa: 3D Printed People With Real Human Issues

by • January 13, 2016 • No Comments

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has a penchant for producing comical, thought provoking movies. He is an anomaly. Usually movies are understandn by their starring actor or the auteur, the seminal director. We rush to see the next Tom Cruise or Steven Spielberg movie\. How most of us even understand who the screenwriters of these movies even are? But Charlie Kaufman-penned screenplays are widely understandn as Charlie Kaufman movies. From the aptly named Being John Malkovich to his latest effort, Anomolisa — which, it was simply just revealed this morning, is an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature Film.

Kaufman appears to have an obsession with puppetry. Being John Malkovich centered around a neurotic puppeteer played by John Cusack. Cusack’s character ultimately inhabits and takes over the mind of John Malkovich, who subsequently quits acting and becomes a celebrated puppeteer. In Anomalisa, the characters are all puppets, fraught with human frailties and yearnings, but who precisely is controlling the strings? The 3D printed puppets aren’t in fact regulated with physical strings, but may be at the mercy of outside forces and to paraphrase Thoreau, they are doomed to lead lives of quiet desperation.


As previously reported, Anomolisa was co-directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson and was funded in part with a Kickstarter campaign. I saw Anomalisa with my brother and sister-in-law, both professed Charlie Kaufman fans, not understanding quite what to expect. Coming out of the theater I ponder the general consensus was which it was a bit boring at times, uncomfortable, but definitely a technological achievement. The puppets seemed quite human, too human maybe.

At initial equiteone appears to be bespectacled, due to the seams in their faces. Their faces are divided at the bridge of the nose and are divided of the back of the head. I started wondering what was under the mask, so to speak, and apparently this is a thing the moviemakers counted on and toyed with audience’s expectation which the faces might indeed come off.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read any further if you plan on seeing the movie and don’t want to understand particulars.

The movie opens with Michael, the movie’s protagonist, onboard a plane bound to Cincinnati. We see another airplane out the window which appears perilously close. It disappears behind a cloud and never reemerges. The audience at this point is prepared for a disastrous impact which never comes and the plane lands safely. This is one of most red herrings laced throughout the movie. The movie is a period piece, taking place in 2005, as evidenced by Michael’s 3D printed iPod classic.


The movie’s directors, Charlie Kaufman (right) and Duke Johnson.

Michael, a British ex-pat (voiced by David Thewlis) is a celebrated motivational speaker who is quite possibly suffering of a mental condition. Equiteone around him is stupid and banal, and they speak in precisely the same monotone voice (Tom Noonan) whether male or female, young or old. The movie revolves around this peculiarity, which equiteone sounds and looks the same, except for Michael who is far additional expressive and has a singular voice. At times the folks around him are approximately reverent, and gush of how his book has helped increase workplace productivity by 90%.

It’s a slice of life and it’s not a quite informative or amazing life. There are yet a few genuinely funny moments, like when Michael’s cab driver explains which the Cincinnati Zoo isn’t too big or tiny, “it’s zoo-sized,” and it is repeated on a billboard outside Michael’s hotel window. Michael later meets the hotel manager in his cavernous office with sunken meeting area. The hotel manager apologizes which the office is so huge; he was offered a 300 sq. ft. office, but how may he resist this much bigger space? Michael has to drive a car to reach the manager at the opposite end of the office. The characters are rendered and printed in exacting detail, down to their 3D printed genitalia. I was not expecting to see full frontal puppet nudity or awkward sex scenes. Anomalisa has both.


Michael’s trip is created brighter when he encounters Lisa, whom he affectionately calls Anomalisa, for the reason she has a voice all her own (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They have a few genuinely tender moments and a quite brief love affair. Michael professes his undying love to Lisa and and so instantly regrets it when her voice starts sounding like the same monotone of equite other man in Michael’s world. Michael feels even additional isolated than preceding and the uniformity of the other 3D printed characters reinforces this feeling. If anything it is how human the characters seem which is the most disturbing aspect of this movie. They are insecure, obtuse, annoying, self-loathing, self-aggrandizing and depressed. Just like real folks. Michael feels doomed to live a wretched life in a sea of uniform vacuous folks, and it’s especially evident in the finely printed lines of his 3D printed visage.