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This is the best film I have seen all year, and I saw just about every
good film to hit theaters in 2013. I think it's because it is so
representational of what it's like to be human.
There are so many things that make this movie special, but I'll just mention a few.
1. The score is INCREDIBLE. The music paired with the beautiful sound design make you FEEL the movie. Sure, you see everything on the screen, which is already beautiful, but then that music hits you and the emotions just start to run. I laughed, I cried, my brain got all tingly. It was an emotional roller coaster, and the score assisted in that so well.
2. The script. I knew how this movie was going to end 30 minutes in. And unlike most who would then say that it's predictable and not worth watching, I consider that awesome, because it means that the script is tight enough to tell a good story with a believable arc. Every scene in this movie is straight up powerful! Like it will fill your heart with sadness and happiness and pain and guilt and confusion. And then rinse and repeat. For 2 hours. It moves through all of the most complex and interesting questions that we should be asking ourselves about what it means to be a human being. About what it means to be alive. This film is about all that life is. And after the screening, as well as during, I found myself questioning things in my own life that either don't make sense or don't have to make sense. Like love and thoughts and emotions. They're all so natural and yet none of us truly understand how they work. In my opinion, moreso than any other film this year, Her has the perfect mix of complex ideas, story, and character development. One of the best scripts ever written.
3. Cinematography. My personal favorite shot to see and use is the extreme close up. And that shot was all over this movie. The reason I love it so much and believe it works so well is because it allows you to see the emotions of the character so plainly. Like their face is right in your face, so you just have to look at it. And that's where Joaquin shines. He delivers such a powerful and emotional performance and the close ups are there to capture it all. They also make great use of the natural backlighting of Shanghai, and the colors all fuse to make it a really pretty movie. I'd say the cinematography is on par with Drive and/or Lost in Translation in terms of the style. It looks like every shot was photographed with the intent to make it the most beautiful shot in the film. And I admire the DP's work. He did a really great job.
More than anything though, this film just made me feel. Everything about it was so beautiful. I didn't want it to end. I felt like the film was controlling me - playing with my mind as if it were a joystick. And that's just something you don't get every day. Very rarely am I awe- stricken by a movie, and this film made my jaw drop. It is without a doubt the best film of the year, and upon just one viewing, one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time.
Science fiction has been dominated by 'space westerns' for so long that
the occasional concept- based story situation hits a big number on my
personal richter scale.
What does it mean to be human? And if we create near-humans what is our responsibility to them and what is their relationship to us? These themes underpinned Blade Runner and Spielberg's A.I. And Sci Fi of the 50s and 60s dealt with machine self awareness. None of the films that touched on this subject in the past presented it so thoroughly, intimately and believably.
Her is in the near future, but everything we see is within reach now: the isolation and starkness of the "business district," the oppressive scale of the architecture (with thin, clumsy attempts to soften its sterility) and the need for continuous connection to remote voices.
A personal assistant that learns independently and takes initiative for its hapless user, "Her" is at once the ideal tool and who knows perhaps closer to the next level of evolution.
Pitch perfect performances and direction kept me in the story. As others have said, the locations, cinematography and even music shine in the fabric of this film. Spike Jonze is a master story weaver at the top of his game. Joaquin Phoenix is utterly credible as are all the other leads. Even Scarlett Johansson, who has not always seemed a strong actress to me performs utterly convincingly.
It's an adult-themed film in more ways than one, but especially in the best way: it makes you think about a reality that's right around the corner.
Talk about closing with a bang. Spike Jonze's long-awaited original
film about a writer that falls in love with his operating system is not
only the best film to play at this year's New York Film Festival; it
very well could be the very best film of the year. "Her" is the finest
writing and directorial endeavor of Spike Jonze's career. And then
there's the towering and crowning work of Academy Award nominee Joaquin
Phoenix who proves once again, he's the finest actor working today,
hands down. You can't find a more dynamic and compelling story about
the human connection and where we're headed as a society.
When "Her" opens up, it snaps you immediately into the story. Phoenix plays Theodore, a writer for a website that makes letters for just about anyone. As he tries to find life during the midst of his divorce from his wife Catherine (played by a beautiful Rooney Mara), Theodore finds solace in a friendship with a new OS (operating system) named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The two develop a relationship in a world where OS's are becoming the norm with society.
Jonze's has never been the conventional director as we've seen in his other brilliant efforts "Being John Malkovich" and "Where the Wild Things Are." Jonze sets out to tell a story and deliver all the intricate details for us to understand each character. His focus on Theodore, giving him a real sense of loneliness without falling into cliché character ticks and beats that we've seen countless times in other romantic films, Jonze constructs a real man living in a world where technology has taken precedent over human connection.
Christopher Nolan should take notes from Jonze on the assembling of female counterparts in a story. Catherine and Theodore's friend Amy, played by the always dependable Amy Adams, both feel genuinely authentic. Mara, who's already delivered one other powerful performance in "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" earlier this year, is finely utilized. She shows once again that she's a true professional, with limited screen time (many in flashbacks); she can staple herself in your memory.
Amy Adams is always the sprinkle on top in all of her films. As "Amy," the awkward friend and neighbor who sympathizes more with Theodore more than she'd like to, Adams expertly executes. With four prior Oscar nominations to her credit, her stunning portrayal is just another fantastic pin to add to her credits. She could find traction during the awards season if the film hits in the right way. That's also part to the petty Oscar rules about rewarding voice performances because if that wasn't the case, Scarlett Johansson would be on stage holding an Oscar of her own next March. As "Samantha," Johansson has never tapped into the essence of her abilities as an actress the way she does in "Her." As an OS, full of wonder and curiosity, "Samantha" is essentially a child. Learning at a rapid rate and studying the behaviors of the human mind, she looks at the world through the eyes of Theodore. Johansson holds our hand in through the tale, even when her voice isn't on screen. This is the type of work that could convince the Board of Governors to rethink the eligibility of an acting performance. This is a masterful work that I'll remember for years to come.
And then there's Joaquin Phoenix...oh, Mr. Phoenix. Fresh off his historic performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" just a year ago, I didn't think he could impress me so soon and yet here we are. His sensitive and perceptive take on the role is what films are all about. It's one of the best things that 2013 has offered and a performance that could land him his first Oscar. I think Phoenix himself was impressed with the work he and his colleagues have accomplished. At the press conference, he actually gave an answer to one of the questions from the audience. If anyone was in attendance at the conference for James Gray's "The Immigrant" - a prickly, disengaged Phoenix put on his sunglasses and put the microphone on the floor. This is a performance that you can identify with. He's not simply awkward for the sake of being, he has baggage and connection issues. There's sincerity in his words and mannerisms. A getaway in a cabin, alone but with "Samantha" encapsulates everything about Theodore. Phoenix achieves the impossible and is an instant Oscar contender.
But "Her" isn't just about the writing and performances; it's an all- around technical marvel. Most notably the Production Design of K.K. Barrett, who has worked on "Where the Wild Things Are." Our story takes place in a futuristic (though never said how far ahead) Los Angeles and with shooting overseas, Barrett captures the clout of the city and its inside counterparts. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema's use of colors and smooth palettes are things of a dream. Affectionately snuggling up to Phoenix as he whispers the sweetness of words to "Samantha" or the sweetness of a new letter at work, Hoytema has quickly become one of my favorite DP's, especially following "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Let the Right One In." Arcade Fire and Karen O. are simply magic in their music that accompanies our story about love. A modern yet classical composition that in key scenes could move you to tears.
"Her" is one of the best love stories I've witnessed in some time. Charlie Kaufman will always have the honor of penning my favorite love story of all-time "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" but Spike Jonze and "Her" are giving it a true run for the money at the moment. Warner Bros. must know what they have with a limited release in late November; this...
Read More @ http://www.awardscircuit.com
Spike Jonze's latest feature 'Her', set in the not-too-distant future,
tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) who finds himself falling
in love with 'Samantha', an advanced operating system voiced by the
sultry Scarlett Johansson. It is clear to see why this film was chosen
by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2013: the visual
style and extensive use of pastel colours is a triumph in itself, and
the acting, editing, costumes and screenplay are all worthy of
I went to an awards screening of 'Her' and was pleased to find out that the film was not at all what I was expecting. It has such a distinct style, and Joaquin Phoenix carries the film with tremendous grace as the complicated and sensitive protagonist. The film is mostly Phoenix alone with Johansson's voice (reminiscent of Sandra Bullock in 'Gravity' or Robert Redford in 'All Is Lost' - two other 2013 films mainly revolving around one solitary character), but the audience never feels abandoned by the lack of other characters as we begin to forget that 'Samantha' is just really just a computer.
'Her' is a complex film with a much deeper meaning that lies beneath the surface. A beautifully crafted motion picture, this quirky love story is sure to resonate with you once you've seen it. It is an extremely interesting (and realistic) look at the future - Jonze's quaint and poignant film is a must-see! 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, I want to list the positives in this movie, because there
are several. The concept of falling in love with an AI is a great one.
The cinematography and use of color in "Her" is really beautiful. The
acting is uniformly good. Particularly Amy Adams, who plays an
understated role as a nerdy girl next door who may have feelings for
Theodore; despite a relatively quiet part, she completely inhabits Amy,
making her feel like an actual person. Joaquin Phoenix does a great job
(as usual) with Theodore, and Scarlett Johanson makes you believe she
really is a computer with a heart. But I wanted to highlight Adams's
performance; especially alongside her much larger role in American
Hustle, she deserves a few big wins this year.
That being said... I have to admit it, I got a little bored watching this movie. If you forget that Samantha is a computer and think of her as a human being, which is easy to do, this movie is basically a series of relationship conversations between Joaquin Phoenix and a camera phone. The pace is surprisingly slow, and since the "girl" has no body, it's difficult to visually show their relationship. You have the requisite "quirky" scenes with Phoenix running through the subway, playing a ukulele, sitting on the beach fully clothed. The rest of the movie is basically talking. Samantha expresses lots of deep ideas about being a computer, but they are never visualized. This can work to great effect -- the scene when Theodore and Samantha "make love" to a totally black screen is the most brilliant one in the movie, even if it goes a little over the top. But you feel like Jonze missed a lot of chances to show us what the characters are saying about love, and life, rather than just have them tell us via voice-over. It broke a golden rule: "show, don't tell". The plot never really moves, and the concept starts to lose steam. There's a totally unnecessary video game subplot that I won't even bother to go into. The movie's observations about love and life were fairly obvious, as well, even veering into sappy. I hate having to write that, because I felt like the movie's heart was in the right place, and it had so much potential. But it just wasn't as interesting as I had hoped.
There is a lot to like about "Her", and despite its flaws, I would still recommend it as one of the better movies of the year. I just think it could have been a lot more than what it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While the idea behind the movie is sorta-kinda unique (Smart House,
anyone?), the actual romantic plot line was so poorly executed I
couldn't even believe it.
I tried to sympathize with Samantha, really I did; at first her character seemed very promising. But it turned into the most stereotypical, bland romance ever. The number of times Samantha and Theodore sighed only to have the other ask "What's wrong?" followed by "Nothing, I'm fine" was way too painful. The interactions between the two of them were so plain and boring and predictable that I found myself not caring about either of these characters at all.
By the end of the film, when Samantha decided to leave, I wasn't even upset, or interested, or anything. It didn't feel as though anything significant had changed or happened.
I'm sorry but two hours of watching Theodore talk to Samantha/himself was really hard to enjoy.
Don't even get me started on the sex/cyber scenes. I understand what they were going for. But again, just about everything in this movie was so awkwardly executed, that simply knowing what they were intending to portray was not enough.
TL;DR I just don't know what to say. The previews for this film made it look really interesting, something that might get you thinking... but ultimately it was a depressing movie all around, honestly a waste of potential, this could have been something great; instead it became a weird and melodramatic story. They could have replaced the AI Samantha with a real human being and in the end not much would have been different. I'm not sure why this film has been getting the praise it has, it was cheesy, it was awkward, it was obscene at times, it was simply not enjoyable.
"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our
humanity." Albert Einstein
No better romance is on the screen in 2013 than Spike Jonze's insightful Her. It's about a writer in the future, Theodore, who falls in love with his new operating system (gravelly, sexy voice of Scarlett Johansson), just as he is reluctantly divorcing Catherine (Rooney Mara). The always complicated paths of love make sense as we witness the Platonic relationship develop, sans flesh and sans insanity that usually comes with that flesh.
Her is a simple film that offers a view of love I never thought could come from a machine and its software. Although critics will cite the theme as a screed against the distancing of technology and our growing isolation from each other, and they will be right, I offer the sub theme that only when we strip ourselves of sensual bonds can we see the purity of emotional love, an essence of which Plato would have approved. Yes, although technology is mediating our lives at a rapid pace, we fall back to a personal drive to love and be loved that is physical in its best form but understood best if we can distance ourselves from that physicality.
This delightfully intimate and non-violent film from acclaimed absurdist director Spike Jonze is more emotionally involving than even Enough Said (one of 2013's best romances) because the interaction between the software and the man is all verbal, no glimpse of the gorgeous Johansson allowed. Although this intuitive OS does allow mind sex, even that activity is abstract, allowing us to realize how connecting with a live human is in the mind still and one of life's great gifts, orgasm or not.
Her allows us to witness the evolution of love separate from the encumbrances of physicality. Released from the bonds of appearance, voice is the seducer, not in rude sexual nuance but rather in the care that comes from love of the mind, not the body.
K.K. Barrett's production design, Austin Gorg's art direction, and Gene Serdena's set decoration are memorable: full of comfortable light, much glass overlooking the city, and modern but warm furniture both in LA and Singapore. These artists understand that the fusion of technology and art is not a battle but a collaboration that further helps us understand the intricate workings of human emotion.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke
I've been a fan of Spike Jonze's films since I first saw Being John
Malkovich. Although the wonderful script deserves some of the credit
for making that film so great, it was immediately clear to me that
Spike Jonze was a director with a fresh and imaginative perspective.
His next film, the 2002 meta-comedy Adaptation, confirmed this with its
dry wit and multilayered narrative. Now, after a slightly less
successful (but still enjoyable) adaptation of Where The Wild Things
Are, Spike Jonze has written and directed his most complete and
poignant film yet, Her.
The story, taking place in a near future when people spend more time talking to their computers than they do to each other, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a lonely man whose job is to write heartfelt personal letters for people not willing to do it themselves. Theodore happens to see an ad for a new computer operating system that is programmed with a personality, and decides to give it a shot. His new operating system Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, is not only intelligent but also charming and understanding, and she and Theo quickly fall in love.
It's understandable if that premise sounds bizarre on paper, but in execution Her is far more sweet than creepy. The film radiates warmth and intelligence, and there is a fair amount of witty humor to ensure that it never becomes too self-serious. It has an engaging style similar to that of Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation. Like in that film, there's a certain poetic yet whimsical quality to the dialogue in Her and both the main characters are plagued by feelings of loneliness.
Beyond the romance though, Her has a lot to say about modern society's obsession with technology. The people in this futuristic vision of Los Angeles walk around talking to their computers and ignoring each other entirely, not unlike people today staring at their cell phones rather than talking to those around them. Needless to say it's not a wildly original message, but it's communicated in a unique enough way that it works.
I've seen Her twice now, and the more I think about it the more I feel that Spike Jonze has crafted the best film of 2013. Her is equally heartfelt and heartbreaking, a deeply personal and thoroughly enjoyable futuristic love story.
At the heart of every truly great science-fiction film there is an emphasis on character that aims to reflect on some element of the human condition usually intended to open our minds to thought provoking predictions or eerily warn of an impending reality. We've seen numerous examples of these contemplative films throughout the very existence of cinema stemming all the way back to Fritz Lang's haunting futuristic piece Metropolis and has inspired countless others in its thoughtful wake as seen in memorable cinematic creations such as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, and even Duncan Jones' Moon. Never to be a director to back away from experimental presentation or psychological study, Spike Jonze's Her fully embraces this reflective science-fiction quality by peering into the deep sociable aspects of the human psyche giving us more of a prophetical reality than a fictional reflection. In his latest film Jonze creates a disconcerting yet equally endearing romance between a secluded depressive and his female operating system with an evolving consciousness, basically a HAL-9000 homage from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, that brings to light a commentary on our dependency of programmed living and our need to maintain sociability when direct communication avenues have been stricken from life's normality. Rarely do ambitious films meet idyllically with their inquisitive potential, but Jonze has fashioned a delicately profound science-fiction contemplation that is depicted through the thoughtfulness of character alone that brims with wry humor, authentic pain, and charming revelation. Through the use of beautiful cinematography, impeccable production design, and subtle yet evocative performances, Her becomes a multilayered film experience where its character study of an isolated man afraid to become vulnerable again blends harmoniously with a truly unconventional yet naturally heartfelt romance. Jonze's affinity and ambition for presenting psychological challenges, as he has done before with Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and especially in Where the Wild Things Are, finally collides with emotionally piercing conveyance within Her making it as thought provoking and as it is undeniably sweet. If the sole purpose of the science-fiction genre is to expound on societal, moral, and deeply psychological aspects of our human condition than Her fits soundly within that genre's capabilities by capturing our condition's essential need for sociability and love uncomfortably linking it with our antisocial dependency on technology.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I first saw the trailer for this movie I thought the idea looked a
bit silly. But with the hype and hoopla, the Golden Globe Nominations,
the Oscar Nominations, well, hey, I could have been wrong.
Unfortunately, I wasn't. This (so far) is the most overrated film of
First the good things. The cinematography was wonderful, and I overall liked the look and feel of the film. No loopy, shaky, out of place camera sequences. Just long and subtle movements, deft editing and beautiful pictures. Well done. The other thing I really liked was the fact that the technology, although elegantly advanced, was very well founded. You could definitely see how we could there from here, and that lent a great deal of credibility to the film.
However, I failed to see the point of it all. About 30 minutes into the film, I really thought I could have been wrong, and I saw some glimmer of hope. But the utterly ludicrous plot (presented straight forward and without apology) of a man falling in love with an operating system was just too much. I found myself laughing at unintentional humor and riffing on the film ala MST3K. There was nothing touching or romantic about any of this - it was just as silly as the trailer. Same old story. Man falls in love with computer, computer breaks up with him and runs off with the toaster. The film comes across as pretentious and bloated. Way too self important to really connect with me. Some scenes were embarrassing. The "sex" scene comes to mind as well as the "double date" with the other couple. I laughed until I stopped.
On the acting side, Amy Adams was fine in her limited role, but Joaquin Phoenix seemed to be channeling nerdy Johnny Galecki from The Big Bang Theory. All I could think of was that "this is what Hollywood thinks modern men are like."
In what is shaping up to be an off year (IMHO) for films, this is my least favorite of the films nominated for Best Picture that I've seen. But that's only because August:Osage County was not nominated for Best Picture!
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