With ‘Anomalisa’ Pick-Up, Paramount Joins the Oscar Party

The studio finally has something to play with this season. A brilliant film finds a home. Win/win.

Paramount Pictures went into the Toronto Film Festival this year with awards personnel in tow for the first time in a while. The reasoning was simple enough. Sure, the studio would be looking for commercial plays, as ever (it dropped $12.5 million on Chris Rock’s “Top Five” just last year). But with Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” firmly set for 2016, “The Little Prince” holding until next year as well and Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” not likely to be ready in time, they needed something to play with in the awards season.

The problem is, by the time acquisition titles make their way to Toronto, there is generally a reason they haven’t been picked up. It can be everything from quality to just being a difficult sell. Movies like “The Program” and “The Dressmaker,” starring Ben Foster and Kate Winslet, respectively, could have been insinuated into the conversation. But given their critical response, that seems unlikely.

I casually mentioned to someone at the studio that they should go all out and pick up Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s “Anomalisa,” which I saw in Telluride and found to be brilliant. Never in a million years did I think they would do it, though.

It’s actually an interesting fit for both. Kaufman and company were looking for more than they were being offered by other studios. Paramount is in a position to offer more (they reportedly dropped $5 million), and now they get a shiny new prestige pic. So they don’t have to rest all their hopes on a dubious “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” campaign — which I’m all for, by the way, but we all know how far that will go.

Anomalisa” is now set for a limited Dec. 30 release. It comes into the season already a prize winner, having scooped the Grand Jury prize in Venice. And now I’m positively fascinated to see how it will play in the season. It’s such a brilliant and bold study of mundanity, as profound a meditation on seeking a personal connection as Kaufman has ever conjured. I can only hope the animation branch, at minimum, latches on.

Beyond that, I’ll certainly be banging the gong for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, the works. It’s easily one of the year’s best films and my hat’s off to Paramount for taking the dive. Welcome to the party.

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