At the movies: The Girl on the Train is really Emely Blunt's show, giving a performance that outshines the writing and direction by a mile, though I will admit that for most of its 2+ hour running time, I was presented with a more than competent melodrama, told using what I assume is the book's structure, revealing the sordid details of three women's lives asequentially. The film is, after all, an indictment of memory, presenting a narrative that is partly, or perhaps even entirely, unreliable. That feeling of unsure discovery is more interesting than the eventual solution to the disappearance/murder at the heart of the story, and The Girl on a Train is yet another film released this season that doesn't quite know what to do before the credits roll and opts for a trite coda. Had I run out of the cinema a couple minutes before the end, I would have been more happy with it.
DVDs: What do you say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of which this was my first experience? (I know, I know, the stars just never aligned before.) With winks to American Gothic early on (and other works of art later), this adaptation of the stage musical very much embraces a new American paradigm, exuberant and pansexual, where the Americana of its protagonists is traditional and demure. And while there's some amusement to be had before he shows up, the movie only really kicks off with Tim Curry's electric, fearless performance. Part of the 70s theatrical surrealism, in the same company as Tommy and All That Jazz, while also embracing the B-movies of the 50s and 60s (Barberella by way of Plan 9 from Outer Space), with a rocking, memorable soundtrack, TRHPS is chaotic to say the least, but loud and unapologetic about it. Give in to the camp, and don't ask too many questions... This thing's a lot of fun.
Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa is another deep, textured and yes, depressing film from this inventive genius, and just about the most mundane-looking stop-motion film you've ever seen. On the surface, the story is extremely simple: A depressed aging customer service expert goes to Cincinnati for a conference and falls for a young woman staying at his hotel, something told with all the realistic awkwardness this real moment would provide. Now. There's something really odd about this universe, because except for the protagonist and the title character, all the characters have a single voice and basic face. This has the effect of flattening the world and describing the lead's boredom and highlights his nascent feelings for a unique soul, but it has a real basis you might discover by looking up the name of the hotel which refers to the rare Fregoli delusion manifest in someone who believes that different people are in fact the same person. But let's go deeper. Since the character is in customer service, specifically call centers, the film becomes the tragic story of a man who only relates to faceless voices who all blur into one after a while, and the dehumanizing nature of such enterprises, which tend to turn people into robots. While I thought Anomalisa, like Kaufman's other films, could be wryly funny at times, it's still unlikely to brighten your day. (Therefore?) I really liked it.
Netflix: In Bone Tomahawk, Kurt Russell is a sheriff who takes a four-man posse (including the charming and hilarious Richard Jenkins, best thing about this movie) to recover Patrick Wilson's wife, taken in the night by a tribe of cannibal troglodytes. Despite that high-concept description, this is really more of a character piece, taking its sweet time getting us to the monsters as we delve into the men's back stories, personalities and group dynamic while the cross the desert. Once we get to the trogs, they're a pretty fearsome bunch, the third act punctuated with some terrifying moments of violence. But while the plot may turn a little conventional at the end, it's still done with idiosyncratic flair, several images staying with me a week later. Bone Tomahawk may ask genre fans for their patience, but it's rewarded.