Nominations: Picture, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design
There are plenty of opportunistic inferences to be made about technology and the days that lie ahead in writer/director Spike Jonze’s new film, beautifully and simply titled Her (and none of those include the equal amounts of excitement and horror at the idea of high-waist pants becoming a normality of fashion). It’s the story of Theodore Twombly, played by the magnanimous and intense Joaquin Phoenix, a recent divorcee grasping at the straws of life, living alone in L.A. until his newly purchased operating system that calls herself Samantha, vocalized by the sultry Scarlett Johansson, who begins to swiftly rearrange his life, occupationally, socially, and emotionally.
The core of the commentary isn’t really anything new, as people have been making metaphorically loaded movies about Man’s relationship with the constantly evolving technology of his world, whether the view is that humans will be forced out of the world like with the Terminator franchise, or that humanity will no longer be exclusive to humans like in Blade Runner. Jonze’s approach with Her is far less pessimistic and far more applicable to the world’s current socio-technological climate. It ultimately calls into question whether or not contact with the artificial is better than with the actual – Jonze allows this idea to strike chord and leave a resounding resonance, and though offering his audience a variety of possible answers to this question her never forces you to see any of them as the paramount solution. If Her had been made with such an agenda in mind, the movie would have floundered miserably. But the story waltzes along under a glowing light of simplicity, and through the apt lens of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, like most other doomed romantic dramedies of today – other than an obvious few moments of suspended disbelief, it wouldn’t be much different if Samantha were a physically present character. That’s the heart of this movie, that it feels completely real and not all that far away from the truth or, for that matter, the realm of possibility; it wouldn’t be a farfetched notion that, especially with the way people are with their smartphones now, in the future computers will be breaking as many hearts as flesh and blood.
Though Her is open and honest enough to win over most of the people who see it, that also left it as a big target for plenty of other feelings from confusion to lighthearted mockery to flat out disdain…as AMPAS is run by old white men, voters will likely opt to choose a more comfortably watchable movie, like American Hustle or possibly Nebraska. This movie does deserve an extra bit of consideration though, even if most viewers won’t be able to find it in them to try and understand what Spike Jonze is saying, if only because of its bravery in being creative and unique. Not enough filmmakers are making movies like this, i.e. with a direct personal vision, and on that merit alone Her should receive its due objective appreciation from the appropriate people, whether they love it or only respect it.