The two kinds of people that make lists

If you don't like Her, that's fine, but you should feel guilty about not liking it.
Reported on 22nd of February, 2014

Her is so good I don’t mind that everyone else likes it. It won the best award you can get: Oscar for screenplay. This is usually given to the one that the Academy members actually like, but don’t want to admit that they do, and includes The Candidate, Network, Melvin and Howard, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Fargo, Talk to Her, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. All these films were way better than the Best Film winners of the same year, and are the ones we remember and watch now.


22 February 2014 @ The Dukes @ Komedia

$26.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Unfortunately, this year’s awarding of Best Script to the increasingly reprehensible Birdman over the obviously excellent Nightcrawler either means that we are entering a dark period in history involving a mass conspiracy aligned against me and my peculiar version of art, or that I am flat out wrong. Fortunately, if I am wrong, that means I’m stupid enough to believe the first one.

Her is a personal film to me, as it is about the transcendence of love. The amazing moment where Ms. Scarlett Johansson reveals that she is in love with many other people simultaneously (something that sends Mr. Phoenix off the deep end of jealously) is a philosophy that I actually espouse. Not so much open marriages as the additive concept, that love is not a zero sum game. The more we love, the more we love, which would be a pretty wonderful deal if anyone was paying attention.

It’s a movie that I would like, even if it wasn’t any good. Like K-PAX or Bright Lights, Big City, which are probably not so hot, but totally are because they remain unabashedly on the subject of love and redemption. As such I should not be trusted…huh. Don’t even need to complete that sentence.

Mr. Phoenix's work is so damned transcendent, it's like watching a special effect.

The jealously on Mr. Phoenix’s part is another reason I should like this film and not anyone else. I like that Mr. Phoenix’s jealousy is his problem. This is the companion piece to the also excellent Enough Said, also of 2013, the second best year in film history. It is a film, despite being about so much, just about one thing, and Mr. Phoenix, just as Ms. Louis Dreyfus was in the same year, is willing to go embarrassingly far into his character’s mistakes.

Here’s the thing. You should like the film anyway. It is masterful filmmaking, restrained and instinctual at the same time. The free love sequence in question, for example, occurs during the terrifying reboot sequence, where Mr. Phoenix erroneously believes that he has lost Ms. Johansson forever, only to find something worse (for him, anyway) has occurred. It other words, it’s a set-up for one surprise that leads, organically mind you, to another one.

You should furthermore like it because you like acting. I love actors, but am fussy. I’m less impressed with, say Ms. Blanchett’s showiness in the utterly forgettable Blue Jasmine over Ms. Louis-Dreyfuss’ inhabitation in the above Enough Said. If the actor finds a way to show me into the character (that I could be him/her), that’s the accomplishment, often overlooked by mechanics and excess. This is why actors often cynically win for going cripple: because we know it was a performance. We can prove it.

Mr. Phoenix’s is a great film performance (once again, not even nominated). What is further forgotten is that when you are in a film, you somehow wind up on some type screen or other. There are performances that are tailored to this medium only. Ms. Amy Poehler’s turn in the otherwise unfortunate Inside Out (yes, I’m the person that doesn’t like it. All my inner characters are evil, or whatever is convenient for you to believe.

Oh, I see why that film is so popular), Mr. Jeremy Irons’ work in Dead Ringers, where you could tell not only which twin was which, but when one twin was pretending to be the other and of course, Mr. Andy Serkis, in almost motion capture he does. Finally, Mr. Eddie Murphy’s turn in Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. See it again. I know how it was done, I just don’t understand how it was possible.

I had to wait until February? I have got to move to France.

I had to wait until February? I have got to move to France.

Her takes places almost exclusively as a close-up of Mr. Phoenix, and mostly as he reacts to others. No reason to minimize Ms. Johansson’s work, especially because she was so excellent, and different, in Under the Skin and the ruined by its porn-is-bad-because-relationships-are-automatically-good Don Jon. It’s just that Mr. Phoenix’s work is so damned transcendent, it’s like watching a special effect.

There are many films that I personally do not care for, but which I acknowledge are excellent filmmaking, such as Frances Ha, Margaret, Rio Bravo or even Forrest Gump. If you don’t like Her, that’s fine, but you should feel guilty about not liking it.

There’s a detail that to me distills it all. It’s not that Mr. Joaquin Phoenix’s character was considerate enough to add a safety pin to his pocket so that his OS could see the world as he walks about. This is a swell detail, and would be accomplished enough as a part of the world, and a part of the character’s world. But what elevates this to greatness is that the filmmaker never explains the behavior. Restraint, and the willingness to let the audience fill in the gaps makes that small act of tenderness that much more moving. Watch it again. If you don’t like it, learn from it.

Come on. The best futurology since Syd Mead. Even Matrix copied Blade Runner. Here’s a film that doesn’t.
Speaking of honesty (both Mr. Phoenix’s and Mr. Jonze’s), flipping through the news, and stopping on the pregnant celebrity nude pix. Not that I’ve ever done that.
I wasn’t joking. Pregnancy. Dis-gust-ing.
Any other filmmaker would have had them go to the roof to kill themselves. This one just has us think that way, and makes us embarrassed by it.
On the other hand, death and nihilism gets Oscars. Better luck next time, Jonze.
Total Profits

Some missteps.

The lesson from All You Need Is Kill, put your mistakes at the beginning:
The PBTRNP that his job is writing letters for someone else. This is attachment to the surprise from the first draft. Should have been jettisoned.
Then girlfriend montage (she’s so pretty and here are my memories). Come on.
Total Losses


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