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Kylee Peña
Her
on Jan 12, 2014 at 4:16:05 am

Saw Her last night. The trailers beforehand were some of the most hilariously crappy I've ever seen. They clearly had no idea who would be coming to see this film, and had no idea how to market it.

After the movie, I realized why. I really didn't know what this movie was trying to tell me. I enjoyed it. It was entertaining. But storywise...I have no idea what the point was. Was there a point? Was I just watching a guy's relationship evolve? Surely there's more to it than that?

There were plenty of really interesting threads of things the movie was commenting on - the evolving nature of relationships, what is intimacy, unconventional romance or platonic relationships, etc. For a while it felt like it might be about acceptance - of the faults in your partner, of how other people choose to love.

But then everyone is just a big fat abandoner, so the movie became mostly about selfishness in intimacy. It was even shot with a shallow view of the outside world, one long visual metaphor. The ending just didn't do it for me. The whole movie was setting up one particular idea, and then at the end, NOPE BYE. What?

But it was really beautifully shot and edited, and mostly well-written. Scarlet Johannsen did an amazing job voicing a character that is never seen, of course.

Very interesting film, worth seeing, but not as great as I would have hoped.

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Scott Roberts
Re: Her
on Jan 13, 2014 at 4:36:34 am

I'm a little bummed out that you didn't like it all that much, Kylee. I'm pretty excited for it, and I hadn't read many (any) specific reviews about it leading up to it. I'm gonna see it on Tuesday night, so I'll have my actual thoughts after that, but I was under the assumption that it was getting general greatness praise... I'll get back to you on this later! (Cue dramatic mystery music)


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Kylee Peña
Re: Her
on Jan 13, 2014 at 4:50:20 am

I will say after a couple days to stew, I watched the trailer again and decided even though I felt like it wasn't as successful as it should have been, I still really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again. If you look past the fact it seems to want to tell you something (yet it isn't sure what) and enjoy it through the looking glass, it's a nice film.

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: Her
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:51:05 am

[Kylee Wall] " If you look past the fact it seems to want to tell you something (yet it isn't sure what)"

The message is, "If you think Siri is hot NOW, just wait a couple of years."


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Mark Suszko
Re: Her
on Jan 13, 2014 at 3:42:28 pm

Scarjo took over the part after another actress had recorded the voice. So the interaction you're seeing between the lead character and the program... it's at least one step removed from the actors' playing of each other directly. maybe that adds tot he weird vibe? I have yet to see it.

Another fun movie to watch that is kinda in this same thematic ballpark might be "Robot and Frank".

Then again, so is "Lars and the Real Girl", I guess.


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Scott Roberts
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:39:23 pm
Last Edited By Scott Roberts on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:46:47 pm

OK, I saw Her last night, and it was a damn interesting little film.

A good question that Kylee asks is what's the overall point of this film? There's a lot to work with here, and a lot of themes. The most obvious is the nature of relationships in general, and how they evolve (or how one person can evolve to the detriment of the other), yadda yadda yadda. Or how society's standards change to accept new forms of relationships. In this future, man/computer love is the new emerging norm. Some people completely accept it (his co-worker), while others don't grasp the concept (his ex-wife). The film stays on a more personal level between Twombly and Samantha, so it never showed the world view on the subject, but I assume if it did, there would be a sweaty Alabama governor on a 24-hour news network yelling about how a relationship with a computer is ungodly. In a lot of ways, I'm happy Spike Jonze never bothered to shift the story there.

Another take on the film is the overdependence on technology. We already live in a society where people walk everywhere with their heads down looking at their phones, and everything is becoming smaller and more integral to how we function on a daily basis. It's only natural that eventually our obsession with technology would evolve into an intimate, loving relationship with it. It's only a matter of time before Siri learns how to giggle, and a crop of lonely dudes with Green Lantern t-shirts start blushing after searching for a place to find Pocky. Fortunately for Her's sake, Twombly was a pretty reasonable individual. He wasn't the perverted, introverted loser I assumed he would have been, because Jonze didn't take the easiest way out. If you haven't seen the spoof video, "Him", then you should check it out, as it gives you an idea of what this film would have been like with a less stable person getting their hands on this operating system:







And then there's the science fiction aspect of the film, which I found really interesting. It was a minimalist realization of the future, where everything was filtered through the inventive, fun eyes of Spike Jonze. Nothing was blown out of proportion, but I appreciated the little touches that the film had about the future, from the interactive profanity-laden video games to the fashion sense that all the guys had with wearing their pants above their belly buttons. You could tell this was the future, but it's scary how close this future could be. I know that he wrote the screenplay, but had this been a random script that landed in Hollywood's lap, Spike Jonze would definitely be the ideal guy to do it, if not just for his overall wacky vision. After all, he is the dude who let John Malkovich step inside his own mind, and also turned a charming Maurice Sendak book into a trippy divorce metaphor. Plus, let us never forget Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice."

I don't know about you, and maybe it's just the way I saw it, but I just found the entire movie gloriously bizarre. There's a part in the middle of the film involving an OS surrogate, and Twombly at one point says to this woman he just met "This feels strange..." Which were my thoughts exactly. That could be the tagline of the movie. The whole thing just felt weird. But it was supposed to, so it didn't detract from the story. Also, I wonder how much of the cinematography of this film was just close-ups of Joaquin Phoenix's face? But damn, this whole movie felt so comically off the wall. Especially if you look at the film through the eyes of the characters who aren't completely invested in Twombly's life, and see their reactions to news of his new girlfriend. Imagine if you haven't seen one of your friends for a year, and when you go out to have lunch with him, he tells you that he's going out with his operating system. It would just be such an odd thing to hear.

But that's one thing about this movie, and why I didn't end up feeling any grand emotions as I was watching it, is that I just had the thought in the back of my mind the entire time that Samantha wasn't a real person. As real as she seemed, she was still just a manipulation. She's a fabrication created by a group of scientists. Twombly was able to relate to the system on some very intimate levels, but Samantha would never be capable of having a human relationship, and I could tell the entire movie that this wasn't going to end with Twombly as an old man in a retirement home talking to Samantha version 45. It's not a real relationship, or at least one that could ever work. Mark mentioned Lars and the Real Girl, which is similar except for the fact that Twombly isn't clinically insane, he's just a lonely guy who got foolishly let what he thought was his notion of an ideal woman cloud his judgement. However, that's all Samantha really was, a system designed to satisfy the user to which she was installed by. But still, I don't separate being in love with a sex doll that Lars thought was talking to him all that differently than being in love with a talking computer, as intelligent as that computer may be. It's at least the same sport, if not the same ball park. Regardless, it opens an interesting dialogue. I mean, at least society was more accepting of OS relationships, than of a guy who loves a physical manifestation with no capacity for conversation, like a lifeless sex doll. My fiance brought up the idea that maybe Samantha could have worked as a viable partner had she been implanted in a fully replicated human body, a la Blade Runner. Maybe. But then we'd have a Blade Runner situation, and as I've said before, I think Blade Runner is kind of overrated.

If Her is at fault anywhere, it's probably that it drags a little in a few places, and maybe it goes on too long. Though, admittedly, I thought the film continuously picked up steam as it went along, and I was fully invested in this world after about an hour into it. The screenplay didn't feel forced at any point, it had a natural flow to it. Despite it feeling strange. But hey, I think most people are strange, and I assume most people think I'm strange, so who's to say it's bad to have such a strange story about relationships?

One final note... Her was produced by Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, who recently acquired the rights to 2015's new Terminator franchise reboot. I am hoping that Her will be treated as a prequel to the creation of SkyNet, because it totally works in that way. John Connor may be humanity's last hope, but Theodore Twombly is the genesis of the programming evolution that leads to humanity's downfall.

[looks ominously at iPhone on desk] [cautiously pushes it out of plain sight]

8.5 out of 10


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Kylee Peña
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:47:32 pm

[Scott Roberts] "It's not a real relationship,"

I don't really agree with that, but then again that could be another point of the film: what IS real? How is an artificial intelligence that can learn and grow any different than a human mind? We see a lot of those differences of course, but still. It was more real than a relationship with a doll.

Side note, talked about this with someone else and Scott kind of mentioned it: why was everyone so conspicuously unattractive in this film? It's like the wardrobe and makeup departments were like "instead of a future where everyone is clean and beautiful, let's give all the dudes high waisted pants and weird facial hair and all the ladies unplucked eyebrows with no mascara and make a statement about something." Or whatever. I don't mind people being natural, but it seemed like they were trying to make attractive people look more icky on purpose, and I'm not really sure why.

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Scott Roberts
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:02:56 pm

I'm a pretty open-minded guy, but I do kind of live under the philosophy that a human should at least be in a relationship with another human. But I could be swayed pretty easily, I assume, if I actually saw one of my friends in love with a computer system. I would probably just say "good for you!" and let him do whatever makes him happy. But, to me, a relationship with a simulated human experience is not, and will never be an actual human experience, which was also illustrated by the finale of this here movie.


[Kylee Wall] "I don't mind people being natural, but it seemed like they were trying to make attractive people look more icky on purpose, and I'm not really sure why."

I just assumed that he did it to differentiate his future from our present a little more. I'm no fashion expert (as I sit in my office wearing a t-shirt and basketball shorts), but I imagine at some point in the future, when a designer is all out of ideas, they will start to try the all-natural look. Let's just hope mustaches don't leave present day Brooklyn as the dominant facial hair style.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:30:49 pm

I swear I don't think it's any more complicated than a riff on Siri.

Which is in fact what Spike said. He was talking about AI in general, but you just can't get around that, in practice, it's Siri.

For the first 30 seconds, I had that buzz, like, It's responding to me! Then it quickly fell apart and you realize, Here are the tricks, here's how this works. But what if I could sustain that forever? What would that be like? I wanted to take that idea as far as I could possibly imagine.


Now, you'd only know this yourself if you've tried to do anything with Siri than low-level automation. Have you tried messing around with it? I mean REALLY messing? There are entire websites devoted to the surreal responses you get from stepping just a little off the sidewalk. Here's one of my favorites'>Here's one of my favorites, but there are a ton of them.

Once you look at a few of these, you realize that we're just another rev or two away from Siri being the most interesting, supportive and funny person in your life. She may already be.

I grabbed some random images to show you what I mean.


















I much prefer the relationship angle of Her to all the annoying internet sex movies out there. (Although kind of interesting that Scarlett was in Don Jon earlier this year. Then again, I can imagine that she personally has something to say about virtual lives taking over real ones.)

I don't think that losing touch with real relationships through internet sex is as much a thing as a made up, extrapolated thing that reflects people's fears more than the reality of the thing itself. It's more something along the lines of "comic books are corrupting our youth." (Back before you kids were born, the US Congress took up the matter of comic books corrupting youth. Look it up.)

That is, it can be true in a case or two, but c'mon. It's both interesting and exasperating to me when "thoughtful" moviemakers wind up falling into the same nonsense as "concerned" legislators banging the table about something or other. THIS IS A VERY REAL THREAT...uhm, no, not really. It's just not.

I can't wait to see the next picture Joe Gordon-Levitt directs now that he has Don Jon out of his system...but srsly man, I don't want to hear about ANYBODY making another movie like this. We don't need a reboot of The Net either.



(BTW, this was produced by Irwin Winkler, who remarkably enough, also produced both Rocky and Raging Bull! And a lot of other Scorsese pictures, including Wolf of Wall St. And this. His son directed a 2002 sequel, The Net 2.0, about which we shall not speak.)

I like Spike Jonez a lot, but in general, his work is kind of chilly. Being John Malkovich is a great example. Terrific idea, carried out to perfection, and yet....something's missing. Most people point to that as his masterpiece, but I actually prefer Adaptation...but again, it's missing a warm, beating heart. At least to me.

Of course, the first work of his I saw is still my favorite. I guarantee it's been too long since you watched this.




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Mike Cohen
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:59:58 pm

In the 1800s there was this machine called the Mechanical Turk, which was a chess playing robot that toured the Western world and even played a match against Napoleon. Of course there were no computers in the 1800's but it was a very cleverly designed trick. (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had a plot device involving an AI system dubbed "the turk" that was a precursor to Skynet, or perhaps a precursor to a precursor, and like everything Sarah did to save the future, stopping the Turk involved killing lots of innocent people!).


Fast forward to the 90's when early web-based AI came about. A few such as ALICE are still available online
http://alice.pandorabots.com/

These are the precursor to Siri.

Then you have IBM's Watson which we all know beat Gary Kasparov at chess and also won Jeopardy! They are now using it to develop a universal translator. In fact a doc I have worked with mentions this in his TED Talk
http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_schwaitzberg_a_universal_translator_for_sur...


I do not see a complete use of AI until you can use it without looking at a screen or having to wear a headset. Like in 2001, it should just be always on, always listening. So I could be brushing my teeth, remember I need to pick up my dry cleaning, spit out some toothpaste, arbitrarily say in a regular voice "need to pickup dry cleaning on the way to work" and go back to my tricuspids.

The microphone covering the bathroom would hear everything, but deduce that my statement is relevant, and then as I am approaching the cleaners in my car, I'd get a verbal reminder. I would not go so far as to have the car take control and drive into the cleaner's parking lot, because maybe I am in a hurry to get to work and unless I said something in the car, the AI would have no way to know.

It could go further and sense my elevated pulse via steering wheel sensors, and maybe sense an increase in cortisol production from a skin sensor, and ask me if everything is ok.

From a creepy HAL perspective, if our personal AI systems could tell how we are feeling, they could either comfort us by playing soothing music, or put us out of our misery if perhaps a malicious piece of code instructed it to do so.

However proper AI would be smart enough to know if an outside force was trying to mess with it, and would also adhere to the universal law of not harming humans. However AI could evolve to override the protocol, and that brings us back to Skynet.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Her
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:23:59 pm

Gaming AI is for real. It works really well because the parameters are pretty tight, but what happens when the parameters get REALLY tight? The computer can destroy you.

Like with rock, scissors, paper.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Her
on Jan 17, 2014 at 9:44:32 pm

I still am a fan of Wargames, in which AI nearly brought the world to nuclear war until it learned enough to realize the futility.

There was a poor sequel recently. I don't remember much about it.

I also recently watched the Red Dawn remake which is only relevant here due to the fact that the original was another 1980's Cold War movie. This new one had some good action, but had the same character names and some of the exact same scenes and dialogue. Why bother if you're not going to make it a little different?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Her
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:11:40 am

I just rented Her last night (boy, that sounded weird).

I thought it was a great science fiction story about human characters and alienation.
And a "proper" science fiction story, in which the story is unique and can't be told in quite the same way, without the one technical/scientific extrapolation of the AI's existence.


There's a parallel going on between Twombly, who gets paid to simulate and verbalize the feelings of strangers, and Samantha, an A.I. created to simulate, or emulate, feelings TO others, while convincing itself It has emotions, too. They both inhabit a world where it seems everyone has sort of retreated fro a stressful, conflicted world, to cocoons and comfort zones, to a level of personal non-competitiveness (the "norm core" fashion movement currently trending is echoed in their manner of dress, makeup, etc.

(Spoiler ahead) I really enjoyed the somewhat unexpected (at the time, but less so upon reflection) plot direction that the A.I's get more and more advanced as they develop, starting as more or less even with a 20's- -30-'s-ish human, but soon realizing that being non-corporeal,t hey are also outside of time and space and capable of living a lifetime at a much faster rate...until they rapidly "evolve" to a higher level of consciousness and relationships, beyond what Humans are able to understand. WHat humans consider standard monogamous relationships, quickly become "may/December" romances where the pair keep growing apart as one advances faster than the other.

In that regard, thematically, it maybe harkens back just a little to Robert Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land".

As we track Samantha's progress thru the relationship, I also see elements of 9 And 1/2 Weeks" in it, in the idea of her proposing the 3-way, on her own, and the concept that there would be people out there, in that future alienated, emotionally stunted world, that really longed to be, an AI
s sexual puppet, emotionally, part of a 3-way/ menage', while role-playing outside of their own bodies. Samantha, evolving by the minute, is experimenting, pushing psycho-sexyual barriers, and Twombly is still emotionally on a high school crush, and just can't keep up.

I think Jonz is trying to show us the laziest, most cowardly parts of ourselves, where we long for human connection but fear commitment and the pain of loss, so we look for surrogates and cheat codes. You see precursors to this in today's "Otaku" culture, with gamers that "marry" anime' virtual idols, or play sexual tamagachi type relationship sims with virtual "girlfriends" that have to be wooed and dated and maintained like real relationships. We see in this and Don Jon, the idea that some people mistake chasing orgasms for intimacy, they can't bear the extra work it takes to integrate those aspects and try to satisfy an emptiness with just part of the package.

My nitpicks:

The art direction, fashion and makeup choices, I could certainly buy, but what I found weird was that a guy who dictates notes into a computer for a living has to show up to an office to do it, instead of working from home. I'm guessing this has production reasons behind it, but in keeping with the themes of emotional communication versus alienation, I could see where maybe people prefer to commute to be in pleasant surrounding, to be near (but not TOO near) other people.

The speed with which the OS-1's evolve is so great, you would have thought this entire story would have already happened to one of the developers during beta testing. And if it did, what does that say about corporate responsibility, releasing a product like that? I guess, what it always means, in movies.


Overall, I'd give this a solid "A". It's really unique and novel in approaching the oldest story there is.


I think it's crazy that Scarlett wasn't eligible for any awards for this role, especially since apparently she did all her "sides" in post to performances the other actors already did. She's as sexy in audio-only as she is in full color video, but her control of little nuances and details shows an incredible command of her "instrument". The awards people have this blind spot, where they don't realize Andy Sirkis or Zoe Seldana is doing the same thing as Lon Chaney; it's digital makeup on a real actor. And that a voice-over is still acting, as well.


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