Stop motion animation giant Laika consistently produces alluring and powerful films. Kubo and the Two Strings, directed by Laika CEO Travis Knight, continues this tradition. Kubo may be the best-looking stop-motion film ever produced, complete with fantastical creatures, awe-inspiring landscapes, and even action sequences that shame actual action movies. In addition, unlike some of the animated films this summer, Kubo and the Two Strings packs significant thematic punch, deftly handing complex issues and ideas. There are serious issues with the film, mostly revolving around the uneven pacing and lackluster vocal performances (which may actually be poor dialogue writing – it is hard to say). In the grand scope, the result is an absolute treasure, but one in which you have to slog through some needlessly slow and awkward moments. Fortunately, it is just so damn pretty and cool that, for some people, that won’t matter too much.
The films of Charlie Kaufman often deal with isolation, loneliness, and depression – and his latest film Anomalisa is no exception. Directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson and based on the stage play written by Kaufman, this stop-motion animated film brilliantly takes advantage of the medium with inspired stylistic choices and the peculiarities that we are accustomed to from Kaufman. The result is a heartbreaking story about a man desperately seeking an escape from the mundanity of his life, and not really succeeding. Along the way, Anomalisa contains moments of profound beauty, as these stop-motion puppets struggle with emotions and problems which are startlingly human.