About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Her -- See Her!

Rather to my surprise, Her turns out to be a great science fiction film, every bit as worthy of your attention as Gravity.  If you read my blog, there's an excellent chance that you have an interest in science fiction, and so you really really do need to go and see Her.

Why a surprise?  I like Spike Jonze's Weezer videos, but his previous feature films haven't been favorites of mine.  Being John Malkovich was a nice concept but petered out, and Adaptation I thought was just plain bad.  I've disliked these or thought these overrated enough that in my mind I've given Spike Jonze credit for other bad films by people he worked with on his own bad films.   While the coming attraction for Her made it look interesting, I just thought of Adaptation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or other dreary critics darlings.

Color me wrong!

Take your Mac worship to the next level, and imagine that Siri has a crush on you, that you have a crush on Siri, and that your conversations with your computer go another level or two in intimacy.  That's what we've got here.  Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, downloads the latest OS for his computer.  It asks for a few pieces of information in order to get to know and serve him better.  The sexy, sultry, but accessible voice of Scarlett Johansson starts coming out of the box, and it's pretty much love at first phonic. 

The lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix is amazingly good, a career best.  It isn't natural to fall in love with a computer voice, but everything, every word and note of Phoenix's performance, is real and believable.   He's just a guy, a very relatable guy.  His job is writing nice letters for other people, and he's kind of ready to have something nice happen to him.  Didn't happen with his ex-wife.  Can't happen with the girl next door, who's in a relationship.  It's not like he's trying to fall in love with his OS, but when it starts to happen he's ready for that.  There are a lot of good performances vying for a Best Actor nomination.  Tom Hanks alone has two of them, and Bruce Dern in Nebraska and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave and Robert Redford in All is Lost.  At least seven worthy performances and only five people can get on the ballot.  This performance is up there with all of them.

Scarlett Johansson is spot on perfect as the voice he falls in love with.

But the movie isn't great sf just because of the acting.  It's the vision of the world that's fully realized, and which works very nicely.  It wouldn't be enough just to have the idea of someone falling in love with Siri.  I haven't given Siri a spin on my new iPad, but I've got enough Apple love in me when I think of my iPad, or even think of how I first fell in love with an Apple when someone in my dorm turned one on and we saw how it smiled at us...  It's all the other little touches in the world.

Twombly writes letters for a website called beautifulhandwrittenletters.com which to me is just about the epitome of computer age personalization.  (For a dissenting view, theawl.com).  In a world where almost all my Christmas cards are email attachments that do nothing for me emotionally and a lot more to use up wireless data on my iPad, why not this.

The production design, the costume design, the apartments people live in and the places they work in, they all look just a little bit in the future.  Not what we have today, but not some rocket-ships-whizzing along vision of the world.  Walk across a pedestrian bridge and the security cameras on the lighting stanchions are just perfectly there.

Play a videogame, and it's a perfect example of a game that could be played tomorrow, but not quite today.

I could believe in this movie.

When the movie gets away from its central relationship, it loses a little something.  I didn't buy the relationship with the ex-wife, I didn't quite see what was there between Twombly and his neighbor.

The movie is around 15 minutes too long, and I did start to feel the weight of those extra minutes.  If it could have lost 15 minutes of some of the stuff that didn't work it would be just about perfect.

It is time to start filling out the Hugo Nomination ballot, and this will certainly be going on it in the Dramatic Presentation - Long Form.

SF Signal considers this one of the best sf movies in recent history as well.

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