5 Questions: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson on Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman, left, and Duke Johnson. Photo courtesy of Viacom

Charlie Kaufman, left, and Duke Johnson. Photo courtesy of Viacom

Writer/director Charlie Kaufman has long been known for his quietly gonzo sensibility. His career highlights include grappling with both the comically metaphysical (Being John Malkovich) and the emotionally metaphoric (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), as well as a predilection for questions of the self and the reality we choose to inhabit (Synecdoche). But even Kaufman’s most ardent fans – and they are quite legion – weren’t quite ready for his latest project: Anomalisa, a stunningly beautiful stop-motion elegiac about a miserably lonely corporate speaker (voice of David Thewlis) finding a potential life-partner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a weekend work trip to Cincinnati. Working with co-director Duke Johnson (Community), a young veteran of the medium, Kaufman creates another one of his indelible portraits of the fragility of the human soul, only this time with small, remarkably articulate dolls. The two men, in town for a sold-out screening of the film during the Philadelphia Film Festival, spoke with Ticket about making puppets emotionally gripping, their choice of cityscapes, and the intricacies of stop-motion sex. Read more »

10 Best Movies of 2015

best-worst-movies-2015

This year was a rich phantasmagoria of features and strong performances, capped off by a slate of better-than-average prestige pictures into December. Some years we get lucky, I guess. Here’s one critic’s take on the best the year had to offer (and the worst, which you can skip to here). Please note a couple of these films have not actually been released yet. Their opening dates are listed where applicable.

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5 Questions With Malvern-Raised Director Adam McKay

The economic meltdown of 2008 came from a number of factors, but the single most glaring one was the banks’ reliance on the subprime mortgage loan. Some years before the collapse, one group of canny investors bet big on the eventual housing market meltdown, a maneuver that ended up making them very, very rich. The Big Short, a fact-based drama based on the book by Michael Lewis, comes from Malvern-raised director Adam McKay, known primarily for his work with Will Farrell on comedies like Anchorman, and Talledega Nights. While the film is concerned with serious, mostly dry, material, the Temple alum infuses it with amusing asides, fourth-wall breakage, and other comic staples. Here, he talks about how he made high-finance approachable, the way DraftKings emulates Wall Street, and the one piece of advice he learned about playing the Market.

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5 Great Dysfunctional Family Movies on Netflix Streaming

We’re very quickly charging into what is the most family-intensive season of the year. Thanksgiving’s cattle drive draws together crazy aunts, grumpy uncles and too-cool-for-school cousins from all over the globe to sit at a table while packing carbo bombs into their mouths and relentlessly talking over one another. Maybe you are blessed enough to have a family that is loving, supportive, and totally in sync with your needs; for the rest of us, here are five dysfunctional family movies available on Netflix streaming that should make you feel a lot better about your own brood.

August: Osage County (2013)

We might as well start this list with one of the more exhaustively dispiriting offerings: John Wells’s adaption of the Tracy Letts play is loud, brutal, and only occasionally relenting (mostly in a tacked-on “happy” ending for co-star Julia Roberts that literally makes no sense in context of what came before it), but it also features a stellar cast, including Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Meryl Streep — each pitted against one another in an emotional sort of Hunger Games. Just do yourself a favor and kill the picture immediately right after the last shot of Streep up on the stairs looking bewildered in order to preserve the vibe of abject misery.


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10 Films You Need to See at the Philadelphia Film Festival

Philadelphia Film Festival

Traveling to film festivals throughout the year, I’ve seen some of the best and most intriguing films of 2015 in theaters all over North America. Now it’s Philadelphia’s turn to get a crack at ‘em. Running from October 22nd to November 1st, the Philadelphia Film Festival has culled an exciting and varied line-up for its 2015 edition. My list is by no means comprehensive (there are some 100-plus features playing at the fest, many of which could well be tremendous) but it does represent a batch of films you absolutely should be adding to your screening calendar. Here, 10 films not to miss, in alphabetical order:

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5 Best New Movies on Netflix Streaming

Having just returned from the Toronto International Film Festival, I can confidently report there will be some pretty good stuff coming to screens over the next couple of months, but for the impatient, there are still some quality offerings available right in your own living room. Here are some of my picks for the best and most interesting flicks on Netflix streaming this month.

Boogie Nights (1997)

If I may, here’s what I wrote about Paul Thomas Anderson’s breakout film when it was first released in 1997: “Boogie Nights lovingly recreates the look and mood of that most innocently tacky and self-fulfilling decade and spins a lush Scorsese-like tale of loss and redemption, chronicling the (ahem) rise and fall and rise again of a talented porn actor. Much time and attention has been paid to the look of the film, from the outfits which were meticulously recreated and found in vintage clothiers, to the music, to the actual mood and tempo of the times. Behind it all is the twenty-six year-old wunderkind writer/director Anderson, in only his second feature. It is a tour de force from this immensely talented artist, standing far apart from his contemporaries in scope and almost astonishing in its dramatic credibility. This film establishes it’s young creator as a new cinematic force to be reckoned with.” If you ignore the last sentence ending in a preposition, it seems just about right on.

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5 Best New Movies on Netflix Instant

netflix instant

Mayor Nutter has suggested treating this weekend—when the Pope and an estimated 1 to 2 million of his most devoted followers (and almost just as many Port a Potties) descend onto Philly—like a winter storm. That means one thing: Start using the words “hunker” and “down” in the same sentence and cozy up on the couch with a few good flicks. To help you decide what to watch, I present you five of  my favorite new entries to hit Netflix instant streaming this month.

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5 Questions With Best of Enemies Director Robert Gordon

WILLIAM BUCKLEY;GORE VIDAL

Gore Vidal (facing) and William Buckley in Best of Enemies.

Best of Enemies is a documentary celebrating the fabulous enmity and erudite verbal brawling between liberal author Gore Vidal, and his arch-nemesis, conservative scholar and writer William F. Buckley Jr., on a series of ABC news specials during the 1968 political conventions. Co-directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom) came across the unedited footage back in 2012 and knew instantly they wanted to make a movie out of it.

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5 Best New Movies on Netflix Streaming

best of netflix

To be fair, there were back-to-school sales as early as June (which, if I were a kid, I would be enormously offended by), but now we’re truly coming into the homestretch. Summer’s winding down folks, time to flip up the dark glasses and peer into the frigid grayness to come off in the far distance. I mean, not to bum you out or anything, but you have a month left of low-key, relaxed-office, quasi-vacation time left before the grind begins anew and with depressing vigor. Maybe it’s a good time to stock up on some fine visual entertainment before the onslaught, hey? Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month.

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Rebecca Ferguson on That Time She Leapt From a 120-Foot Building With Tom Cruise

Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.

Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation.

Rebecca Ferguson, the lovely 31-year-old Swiss ingénue who stars alongside Tom Cruise in the latest Mission: Impossible film, Rogue Nation, doesn’t scare easily. On her first full day on set, in location in Vienna, she had to jump off a large building while being wrapped around Mr. Cruise, facing her fear of heights, and her fear of accidentally crushing the ribcage of the most famous movie star in the world. The espionage thriller finds her jetting around on a high-octane motorcycle in Morocco, holding her breath underwater for minutes at a time in order to save Cruise’s character from an underwater centrifugal chamber, and beating the living hell out of a bunch of turned-agent thugs all over the world. In Philly to promote the film, she happily plopped down on a couch in a posh suite at the Ritz Carlton, and held forth on the responsibility she felt toward the franchise, doing her own stunt work while suffering from vertigo, and what it was like to work with the aforementioned Mr. Cruise.

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