Thursday, January 30, 2014

HER - 5 nominations


Best Picture - Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay, Producers
Music (Original Score) - William Butler and Owen Pallett
Music (Original Song) - "The Moon Song," Music by Karen O, Lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze
Production Design - K.K. Barrett (Production Design), Gene Serdena (Set Decoration)
Writing (Original Screenplay) - Spike Jonze

Her is the sweet and innovative story of a separated, almost divorced man, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who writes letters for hire at a company called,  He buys a computer operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson ("Samantha") which not only serves as a virtual assistant, but can simulate a person so well that she becomes more like a companion. Eventually, the two "fall in love."  The film is set in the future - not so far in the future for flying cars and jetpacks, but far enough in the future where there are clearly advances beyond where we are now.  Also far enough in the future where falling in love with one's operating system is not jarring to the majority of the people who learn of his relationship.

What makes a person a person is explored deeply, as well as the difficulty of pursuing human relationships where one of the partners is limited by humanity and the other has no limitations at all, save the lack of a body.  In many ways, the film is a drama, as Phoenix's character experiences loss through his divorce and struggles to understand authentic relationships.  In others, it is a comedy both because there are funny moments and even when you feel something about the relationship as a viewer, it's hard not to stop and think, "this is happening with a computer."  To share more of the plot would spoil so many pieces of the film that I will leave it at that for the description of the story.

Both of the lead characters were so wonderful and sympathetic in their own ways.  Observing the maturation process from just being born to "adult" for the Operating System/Johansson is mind boggling. In many ways, Twombly's emotional maturation parallels that of the OS. But his development examines his ability to connect and not just what it means to develop autonomy.

The production design is quite brilliant because it meets the challenge of setting the film in the future, but not far enough in the future to justify crazy changes in the scenery and settings.  So the advancements appear significant, but subtle.  I predicted this nomination from the moment I saw the film.

The film is innovative, and is arriving at just about the time when it's due, when interaction with technology is on the precipice of outmoding personal relationships.  It's not that the idea is so radical for where we stand with technology and social media in our society, but that it's explored so emotionally and rationally at the same time is what makes Her truly impressive.

The score is beautiful and is a standout, as the composers created music that an Operating System would make, were it/she attempting to understand and simulate what imagination and art produce.  For the record, this is the second year in a row where a nominated Best Song is sung by Scarlett Johansson (last year's Chasing Ice documentary received its only nomination in the Best Song category).  "The Moon Song" is perfectly blended into this movie, and I was very touched when it was sung.

Her was absolutely one of my favorites this year, and I can't wait to see it again.

Haven't seen the film?

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