Review: ANOMALISA

Charlie Kaufman’s done it again, guys. Apart from being my favorite screenwriter, he’s been venturing into the directorial world as of late. Check out my review for his latest film, ANOMALISA.

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She

She still forgets her keys on the counter, and she still tends to rush out the door to work without having made lunch. But she loves her job, and she loves her friends, and though she wishes she had more time for the things she loves to do, she still thinks her life is pretty all right.

imageShe says she’s going to change her morning routine. She’s been saying this for about two years, and each day she gets a little more discouraged when the little things distract her and prevent her from fulfilling this goal. She talks about starting her own business, but she fears failure. She has this unending feeling that it could all be stripped away from her — not just the job, not just the comfort, but her pleasures, her relief, her dreams. She grasps at these things with white knuckles, in hopes that it will somehow buy her time.

She isn’t too far from the truth. It could all disappear at any moment. This is a rare thing, but even an infinitesimal possibility is still labelled as a possibility. At night, her heart ambushes her head, makes it worry and revisit bad memories and impossible scenarios that play over and over in her mind, never to be fully resolved. These moments of over-analysis creep into the daylight hours.

This is a daily struggle, and this fact looms over her like an impending wave. But then she gets a text from a friend, or runs into someone she knows at the store, or she gets home after a particularly good night, and a wave of relief washes over her, the warm calm that one feels when things are all right. These pleasant experiences are what she lives for, and what keeps her pressing forward. These small kindnesses, bestowed upon her by those she esteems, are the eye of her storm, and she takes pride in the fact that she’s found those from whom they come.

She’s a little like you and me. Maybe in some ways more than others; but her name has a ring to it that, at the right frequency, sounds a lot like “everyman”. She will correct you: “It’s ‘everywoman’.” She holds her head up high, if only to show her companions in life that they are doing a good job, and so, in return, shall she.

Re-reactions

“I’ve found that one of the pleasures and terrors of writing for an audience is that the book that someone reads is never quite the book you wrote.” – John Green

When 8 different directors set out to make 8 different films, which were then nominated for this year’s Best Picture for the Academy Awards, I’m sure they weren’t purposefully gearing up for yet another all-white Oscar show. Sure, they could have been intentional about not making their own films predominantly white, but this derived big picture was not on their minds.

When Donald Trump decided to have three adolescent girls perform a dance at his most recent rally, I’m sure his perception of the general public’s reaction was much different than the actual general public’s reaction (though exactly how he failed to see what we saw remains a mystery).

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And yet it is still a surprise to the actor when that opposite reaction pops up.

 This happens all the time in improv. The things that happen on stage are instantaneous; there isn’t a long, arduous process behind each scene, deciding whether a joke is PC enough for its audience — a line just pops into your head, you say it, and then you and your scene partner must make of it what you will. Sometimes that heat-of-the-moment line works perfectly; other times, it falls flat; and on the rare, awkward occasion, the entire room goes silent, and the air fills with the audience’s electric incredulity of what just happened. But the majority of the time, the performers don’t actually condone what their characters are doing. The line is meant to trigger a response. Just maybe not the response they expected.

I actually find it kind of nice that people react differently than I expect them to. The specific way that they react may not always be nice, but the fact that people are still able to surprise me is often refreshing. It’s a really cool thought that people’s circumstances and personalities and mental capacities drive them to disagree with one another. We aren’t all on the same wavelength, and that’s okay! The world would become a very stagnant place if we were.

But what I’ve been trying to work on as of late is my reaction to the reactions of those around me. My re-reaction. Analysis: is this a situation in which getting offended would actually benefit anyone? Will my retaliation stretch someone’s worldview, or only agitate it? There are definitely some circumstances in which speaking your mind is a good thing; but inversely, there are moments where you could quite possibly make matters worse. This is not to say that honesty isn’t important; but there is a certain amount of tactical effort involved in the construction of community.

It’s a lesson in being comfortable with the way you fit into your surroundings. I can be a socially anxious person, so I tend to take people’s reactions to me far too seriously. So I’m working on reacting positively to negative reactions. I’m working on being okay with someone not being okay with me. It’s not the end of the world for heads to butt, but it is certainly better if you know how to patch things up afterwards.

The Contentment of the Discontented State

Guys, space is so cool.

I have been (slowly) reading “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan, a book that purposefully makes you feel very small, but in a very good, very enlightening way. It’s amazing how a little space talk can get you lost in a world of awe in mere seconds; and sometimes, it’s not just space talk, but… um… people-talk? Talk about the people who like space talk, that is, and their interactions with others. Which leads me to a fascinating passage in the first chapters of the book that was all about “Copernicans”.

Before the world had completely conceded that the Earth was not, in fact, the center of the universe, there was a heavy divide between the religious and the scientists who followed Copernicus’ studies: scientists basically had to say, “Well, of course we don’t believe the Earth revolves around the Sun — but if it did, then this is how it would work.” Every new bit of information that they discovered had to be framed within the concept that this wasn’t actually the truth, just a crazy idea that would be really cool if it was the truth.  It had to have been incredibly difficult to live side by side with people who wouldn’t listen to any new version of the truth.


Ah, the concession that there are just some things that we cannot prove… yet. But the world shrugged it off as a feeble excuse for being wrong.

It’s funny how the tides have turned. Back then, religion was the lens that the world looked through; and so anything contradicting what was seen through that lens was disregarded because it was not cut-and-dry: there’s no visible proof of your theory, so it’s not true. Today, science has made giant leaps, and it is now the predominant lens that we look through; so when someone says they believe in God, there always seems to be that backlash: well, you can’t see God, so you have no proof. People always take sides, making the issue about being right, not about discovery and education.

If I had been alive during the sixteenth century, I probably would have thought that the scientists were grasping at straws. This is not because I would have seen the geocentrists’ truth as concrete, but because I would have been satisfied by the first piece of information that came to me. This was what I did growing up: I grew up in a Christian household — not that I’m saying this is strictly a Christian practice — and questioned evolution (and the validity of non-Christians’ beliefs) because of what I learned first. Fortunately, since my childhood I have been pressed to look past the information before me and seek more; like a scientist, I discovered that maybe there was more to life than what I was initially taught. Does that invalidate the beliefs that I had and the journey that I took up until that discovery? Not at all. But there is now certainly a hunger for more information, to learn about something on every level, if possible.

 I’ve probably mentioned “Seven Blind Mice” on this blog before; but just in case I haven’t, I will relate it now. This was a children’s book that I adored as a kid, based off of an old folk’s tale about seven blind mice who discover a strange object. The first mouse, bold and brave, investigates the object. After a few moments he returns, saying, “It is a pillar! It has a thick, sturdy base that reaches to the sky.” The second mouse goes to check, but returns and says, “No, it is long and thin, like a snake!” The third sets out and, upon returning, says, “You are both wrong. It is a rope; I swung from its tassel.” The fourth mouse conducts its investigation and decides the object is a large fan, vast and thin, and swaying in the wind. The fifth mouse says it is a spear, sharp and strong; the sixth: a rock, large and lumpy.

The seventh mouse, pretty fed up at its companions’ contradictory answers, goes and investigates the object itself. It runs up and down the object, scampering over every inch of its surface, and after a few moments, returns, saying, “It is not a tree, or a snake, or a rope, or a spear — it is not any of those things, it is an elephant!” Each mouse only concerned itself with one part of the elephant — the foot, the trunk, tail, the ears, the tusks, the back — and therefore were not able to discover its true identity.

While to me, the story has always mostly closely related to the wars of religion, in this case it also illustrates another point: there is always something more to discover. If people had been content to believe that the universe revolved around the Earth, or if scientists had given up after a few pitfalls, then our world would be very different today. But instead, the human race loves to learn; and each day it discovers a new part of the elephant.

This may inspire a frustration that we may never know truly everything. But I challenge you to think about it this way: do not be content with the knowledge that you have. Never find satisfaction with only knowing part of the story. Instead, find contentment in the discontented state; rather than lamenting that you still don’t see the whole picture, be encouraged that there is always more to discover. Be it the universe, the people around you, or yourself, the world is bristling with discovery. And damn it, if that isn’t half the fun of living life.