Michael Stone (voice by David Thewlis) and Lisa Hesselman (voice by Jennifer Jason Leigh)
You go to Google and look up this disorder and you get, “The Fregoli delusion, or the delusion of doubles, a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise.” Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman liked that as a concept, became fascinated by it, and it led to his writing 2015’s “Anomalisa,” a stop-motion adult animated comedy-drama film directed and produced by Kaufman and Duke Johnson, based upon Kaufman’s 2005 play of the same name. I had read about it and had seen the trailer. I had rented it and then found myself with a quandary: I had lagged on my video viewing and was looking at a mounting rental fee. So, I sat down then and there and viewed it, a quite random thing to do but time quite well spent.
Everyone else (voices by Tom Noonan)
Similar to the main character, Michael Stone (voice by David Thewlis), I find the human comedy we all live in to often leave one scratching one’s head. Well, we all feel like that to some extent. But it’s when you get into specifics that we could be talking about a full blown existential crisis. This is what Michael Stone is going through. And maybe you’ve already gotten a chance to see the movie but, I must say, getting yours hands on a DVD or Blu-ray is well worth the effort. The extras are engaging: plenty of discussion on acting and production and plenty of Kaufman. That’s where I picked up the connection to the Fregoli delusion. It is at the Hotel Fregoli where our story takes place. And to hear Kaufman talk, as well as the rest of the creative team, this feature came close to never seeing the light of day many a time. The special stop-motion process nearly killed everyone with the expenses and sheer labor. But you wouldn’t have gotten this unique film without this grueling process. Sounds like a dilemma tailor-made for Charlie Kaufman.
You can say that this film is a perfect companion piece to Kaufman’s celebrated “Being John Malkovich,” from way back in 1999. It is very much a commentary on the absurdity of life up until proven different and, even then, there are still no guarantees on happiness. There’s more likely a guarantee on sadness than happiness, according to Kaufman. What gives our hero, Michael Stone, some hope is a connection he stumbles upon during a sales seminar where he is the featured speaker. He falls in love with Lisa, a call center representative (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh). On the surface, Lisa seems basically average but Michael is taken with her quirky personality. For Michael, everyone else he encounters is literally a slight variation on the same theme. And here is where Tom Noonan comes in as the voice of every other conceivable character in the film besides Michael and Lisa. So, there you have it: a love story with that sardonic Kaufman vision.
“Anomalisa” will prove to be a most rewarding experience even if you don’t consider yourself necessarily a fan of stop-motion animation since this film does everything possible to subvert your expectations. You lose yourself in this story, root for the characters, all the time made aware that you are looking at essentially little puppets on a stage. But these are highly sophisticated maquettes with the eerie quality of evoking very human emotion while retaining their puppet quality. There are seams to each of the character’s faceplates that are left visible to drive the point home. And you can enjoy various other details to this animation process when you check out the extras section. It is certainly a film I would see again.
What will it be like when they arrive? It’s a question that’s been asked over and over again, from H.G. Wells to Steven Spielberg. What sets “Arrival” apart is that this new sci-fi film starts where most of these first contact stories end: this is a film about engaging with an alien race from some other world in some rather in depth terms. In the process, we humans may learn more about ourselves and the very nature of reality. It’s rare that a movie really hits me on such a visceral level. Part of it has to do with its steady and realistic pace. 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” set the standard. In recent years, we’ve seen a trend towards more contemplative sci-fi. In this case, it’s what the movie has to say about how we perceive reality. The aliens have got a much different take on that.
“Arrival” screenplay by Eric Heisserer
Director Denis Villeneuve is known for pulse-pounding thrillers with a quirky sense of style (Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy). For “Arrival,” the trick was to find the right balance of the theatrical with the compelling and cerebral quality of the original short story by Ted Chiang. I strongly encourage you to seek out Chiang’s story. You will find it to be quite moving with a different set of parameters at home on the printed page. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer succeeds in taking the beauty and nuance of Chiang’s work and finding something comparable in a Hollywood screenplay. Heisserer addresses every aspect of the original story. He amplifies the plot and adds action where it makes sense. Read my interview with Eric Heisserer right here.
“Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang
Part of this story is about communicating and connecting. How do we do that? The answer lies somewhere in language. Amy Adams plays the role of an exceptional linguist, Dr. Louise Banks. She is assigned to crack the alien language. Jeremy Renner (Ian Donnelly) is assigned to crack the alien math. And Forest Whitaker (Colonel Weber) is there to monitor. There are many others behind the scenes. In fact, there are twelve of these massive alien pods that have landed on various spots across Earth. But our attention is mostly on these three main characters, and our eyes are especially on Louise.
Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks
By the time that Louise has been enlisted, the alien site in Montana has been joined by an organized U.S. government contingent. And initial contact has been established: a crew enter a portal and make their way to a screen that separates them from a couple of Cthulhu-like creatures. While incredibly strange-looking, they also seem benign. Louise’s breakthrough is to authentically reach out to them. In time, these “heptapods” emerge from the language barrier to reveal a whole other way of looking at reality. Amy Adams delivers an exquisite performance as the one person who really gets it, in the same spirit as the Richard Dreyfuss character, Roy Neary, in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
“Arrival,” directed by Denis Villeneuve
“Arrival” is one of those special gifts from Hollywood that are still very much possible. This movie ranks right up with 2014’s “Interstellar,” starring Matthew McConaughey, as Cooper, in a somewhat similar struggle involving a parent and a child. Eric Heisserer says that his screenplay pitch went through 100 rejections from producers before it was green-lit. Well, his persistence most certainly paid off. This is definitely the perfect holiday movie, date movie, perfect all-around movie.
“Arrival” went into wide release as of November 11th. Visit the official site right here.
Eric Heisserer is a screenwriter you want to follow. He is known for “The Thing” (2011), “Final Destination 5” (2011), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010), and “Hours,” (2013) his directorial debut, starring Paul Walker.
You will see his work this year in “Lights Out,” a supernatural horror film directed by David F. Sandberg; and “Arrival,” a sci-fi thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve. “Lights Out” is in theaters starting July 22, 2016 (USA). “Arrival” will open wide on November 11, 2016.
In this interview, we chat about storytelling and we begin with “The Dionaea House,” an online project that launched Eric’s professional screenwriting career with its sale to Warner Bros. in 2005.
I don’t think you can sue a fictional character for having said something that came from her fictional mind in a work that is fiction. Can you? Well, Paul Brodeur is going to take a stab at it. Actually, he’s targeted some deep pockets that are everything but fictional. Paul Brodeur is a science journalist who was a staff writer at The New Yorker for nearly 40 years. In the film, “American Hustle,” the character Roslyn (played by Jennifer Lawrence) tells her husband, Irving (played by Christian Bale) that “microwaves take the nutrition out of food.” “That’s bullshit,” Irving replies, and his wife shows him a magazine and says, “It’s not bullshitt. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur.”
Brodeur claims that this exchange between fictional characters, in a work of fiction, has damaged his career since he’s never actually stated that “microwaves take the nutrition out of food.” The solution, of course, is to sue the companies that produced and distributed the film, Columbia Pictures, Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures.
Good luck with that, Mr. Brodeur. Personally, I tend to think that microwaves do take the nutrition out of food. So, sue me.
FAMOUS MONSTERS #272 HISTORY OF SCI-FI (NEWSSTAND)
Consider this scenario: A man finds himself apparently the sole survivor of a world-wide pandemic. He searches for more survivors and a cure. Sound familiar? Well, welcome to the source: Richard Matheson’s groundbreaking 1954 Sci-Fi classic, I AM LEGEND. Or about this scenario: A world-wide plague has wiped out most of the population. Survivors fight for what little resources remain. Again, sound familiar? Well, go back even further to another source: Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking 1826 Sci-Fi classic, THE LAST MAN. Starting to see a pattern? You get a look at a wide variety of Sci-Fi interconnections in the latest issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS, #272. Half the issue is a tribute to writer Richard Matheson, who passed away in 2013, and the other half is a brief history of Sci-Fi literature.
Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg’s “Duel,” written by Richard Matheson
One of the great writers for “The Twilight Zone,” Richard Matheson, passed away this year. As we observe that fateful date in Dallas, November 22, 1963, I think of how one man created art out of the processing of his emotions from that event. You might find this to be a surprise but “Duel,” the short story about a man fighting for his life against a demonic semi-trailer truck, that went on to become Steven Spielberg’s first major movie, has its origins in the Kennedy assassination. It’s not a direct link. It’s more based on a significantly deep dark feeling of despair and dread.
I recently reviewed “The Night Projectionist” here at Comics Grinder and that has led to this interview with its writer, Bob Heske. Let me tell you, “The Night Projectionist” is a must-read, whether or not you’re into horror, simply because the story is so well crafted. Bob Heske is a writer, first and foremost. It’s that skill, along with a passion for horror, that makes him so good. Now, let’s explore more of Mr. Heske’s works including a movie project, the supernatural thriller, “Blessid.” We’ll begin with this brief press statement seeking support for “Blessid” at Indiegogo (http://www.indiegogo.com/blessidthemovie):
My name is Bob Heske and I am the writer/producer (and partial funder) of Blessid. I am a screenwriter with IMDB credits, a graphic novelist and indie comic creator. My IMDB credits include the award-winning short film WAITING (starring Richard Schiff, Izabella Miko and Earl Brown). Most recently I wrote the critically praised graphic novel THE NIGHT PROJECTIONISTwhich has over 11,000 “Likes” on Facebook and has been optioned for film by Myriad Pictures. Blessid is important to me because, quite frankly, it’s a film with an important message. Being a horror guy, it has its dark elements but the ending will move you — I promise — and you will be glad you joined us on the indie-making journey.
COMICS GRINDER: “The Night Projectionist” is truly something unique. My connection with you is my review of this graphic novel that you wrote with artwork by Diego Yapur. I wanted to ask you about the initial reaction to the book. And, well, let you make your pitch.
BOB: First off, thanks for your solid review Henry. Overall, the book has gotten very strong reviews (4 out of 5 stars) and we appreciate the time individuals like yourself take to review the work of independent artists like myself and Diego, represented by the folks at Studio 407. It helps a lot in giving our work credibility and building our fan/reader base.
How’s the book selling? It’s selling okay, more so in the digital version at comiXology and Graphicly but also doing okay in print at local comic shops and most prominently on Amazon. For example, it’s first month out THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST was Studio 407’s biggest selling comic at comiXology.
My pitch? If you like a vampire tale that brings hard core gore and blood by the buckets with an original story line and some ass-whupping art, you will love this book. It’s entertaining and a quick read … and at a retail suggested price of $12.99 (you can get it for less in many places) it’s a blood-curdling steal. My recommendation is to buy it in paper but I’m a comics purist.
COMICS GRINDER: The idea of a movie coming out of this is really exciting. Anything you can tell us about that?
BOB: Back in 2009 when issue 1 came out, the publisher (Studio 407) shared office space in the same building with the folks at Myriad Pictures. Myriad saw some of the issue 1 galleys and was very impressed. In short, they saw the potential and the comic was optioned. As luck would have it, Diamond raised their sales threshold the very month THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST issue 1 came out making it near impossible for independents like this book to be picked up for issue 2 in Previews. Hence, rather than rolling out THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST in 4 one-shot books, Studio 407 took a breath and took it’s time in getting the book done right. We lost some marketing momentum in building an audience but in a short time we are getting that audience back. We have over 11,000 LIKES on Facebook and continue to rack up strong reviews. As for the movie, I think THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST would be even stronger as a film and would make a cool vampire franchise worth watching. As of now, fingers crossed for the project to pick up steam, get funded and get developed. Stay tuned!
COMICS GRINDER: I am intrigued by your background. You are a screenwriter and have branched out into writing comics too. You’re establishing yourself quite well in horror and yet you began with comedy. Tell us about your development as a writer.
BOB: Well, I just hit 50 so it is a long, slow arduous road. I’ve had many contest-winning feature and short film scripts, a fistful of options, and a few scant credits. Some of my best work has come very close to being produced only to have the funding fall through or finish second to another script the producer fell in love with. While I wait for THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST to be made (I am not only writer, but also co-creator of the story — Think Stan Lee and Spider Man), I have created a few micro budget films that I hope to make in the next 1-2 years. Life really is short and if you wait for others, you’ll be left disappointed and only have yourself to blame. In this era of DIY filmmaking and self publishing you need to grab the bull by the horns and make it yourself.
I started writing comedy and have a few short and feature gems waiting to be made (and that I will sell to the right talented director/producer for cheap!). In fact, that is what attracted my wife (aside from my sparkling personality and manly good looks — ah, no!). After we got married and had kids, I started writing horror non-stop. She said, “Whoa buddy … what have I created here?!”
COMICS GRINDER: You’re a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. Tell us how that came about.
BOB: The New England Horror Writers Association (NEHW) is a talented, supportive, ultra cool group of New England horror writers that are as fun to hang out with as they are to read (their books). I just reached out to them and they brought me on board. I’ve done a handful of writers events with them and always have a nice time (although I never sell as many books as I’d like). If you are from New England and are getting into writing horror, check them out at http://nehwnews.wordpress.com/tag/horror-writers-association/. Membership is free and you get out of it what you put into it. I truly wish I could hang out with these guys more!
COMICS GRINDER: Among your movie projects, I was quite impressed with a short film entitled, “Waiting,” starring Richard Schiff. It has such a creepy vibe and manages to compress so much into a short film. People need to see this and I will make sure to post the IMDB link where they can see it. Would you talk about it, how this came about it?
BOB: Sure! “Waiting” was based on a short film script I wrote called THE WAITING ROOM. Of all the short scripts I’ve written, this was the one that got the best initial reaction. I had submitted it into 2-3 contests where it was either being considered as the winner or was going to be the winner but I had to pull it because it was optioned. The short film “Waiting” (seen in its entirety here) won some awards and is a very cool adaptation of my original short script. It was co-written and directed by Lisa Demaine (who bought the rights to the short script from me) and stars Richard Schiff (Toby on the hit TV show “West Wing”), Izabella Miko and Earl Brown. It was filmed by a crew consisting of several Emmy winners and the production value is top notch. It played in several film festivals and did very well.I eventually did a graphic tale version of my script THE WAITING ROOM which is in my BONE CHILLER graphic anthology that won a Bronze medal for horror at the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2009.
COMICS GRINDER: “Blessid.” Please tell us about this project.
BOB: BLESSID is an amazing script that I wrote and am now producing as a micro-budget film. It will shoot in the Fall in Massachusetts. It’s about a disturbed young pregnant woman searching for the will to live who meets an enigmatic immortal that has moved in next door. Throughout the movie, the audience is curious about the 2028 year-old guy and what his life experiences have been and his insights on modern times. But BLESSID is really about the young woman looking into her past and, ultimately, finding forgiveness for herself to get over a tragedy that happened that was beyond her control. We have an amazing, committed crew on board and some very talented actors we are bringing in from Los Angeles including David Fine (The Pursuit of Happyness), Rachel Kerbs (Splinter), Chris DiVecchio (Wolf Moon) and Gene Silvers (The Whole Banana). We have just added a producer named Amy DePaolo whose short film “Ordinary Man” was accepted into Sundance this year. And we are seeking to get a recognizable TV/Film actress on board too. The director is a guy named Rob Fitz who has over 10 years experience on big budget film sets as a maekup artist and horror effects specialist. Rob also wrote/directed/produced the ultra low micro-budget film “God of Vampires” which has become a cult classic in New England and among hardcore horror circles.
COMICS GRINDER: Is there any news about “Unrest,” with Eric Roberts you can tell us about?
BOB: UNREST — a psychological horror tale in the vein of “Last House on the Left” meets “Stir of Echoes” — has had a lot of interest from directors and actors that I’ve shared the script with. The problem was that the budget needed to make the current script was more than I originally intended (~ $400,000). I am making BLESSID now for $80,000 and will circle back to UNREST if (I mean “when”) BLESSID is successful. Both scripts are fresh, entertaining and unique in their respective genres. Once again, if there are any director/producers out their with funding in place but in need of a killer script, contact me. 😉
COMICS GRINDER: You mention some influences in connection with “Unrest,” a UK indie from 2008, “Eden Lake” and “Stir of Echoes,” from 1999, with Kevin Bacon. Would you share some thoughts on horror movies, or movies in general, that have inspired you?
BOB: Anyone who has ever visited my “cold blooded chillers” website (www.coldbloodedchillers.com) — and there are nearly 50,000 of you — knows that my brand of horror veers more toward “the monster who lives next door” (aka, serial killers, psychopaths, femme fatales and evil kids) than vampires, werewolves and zombies. Full disclosure: Yes, this interview did start with me talking about a vampire graphic novel I wrote, but that is out of the box for me. I am more drawn to tales of suburban murder and malice, as the tagline on my cold blooded chillers website attests. “Eden Lake” is one of those tortuous tales about teen hooligans tormenting a couple on romantic holiday that chills the blood in your veins. “Stir of Echoes” is just a well-acted film with some smart, squeamish effects and the best hypnosis scene in film ever. It’s a ghost story and mystery wrapped in one and I love to watch it every now and again. The horror films I like most combine story, suspense and characters. Some recent examples I liked were “Absentia” and “Midnight Son” which were both made for well under $200,000.
COMICS GRINDER: Anything else you’d like us to know that we can anticipate from you?
BOB: Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I write a web column called IndieCreator on www.investcomics.com. Jay Katz, the principal behind InvestComics has been absolutely phenomenal to me, and I’m glad to call him a friend (although we both live in separate states and have only conversed — many, many times — over the phone). If you love comics, you should check out www.investcomics.com and read Jay’s weekly Hot Picks.
COMICS GRINDER: And where can we visit you on the web?