“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”- Arthur C. Clarke
“Any barely Competent Technology– is infinitely Superior to Humanity. Does your Coffee-Maker work? That means– It is already more Functional than your Family.”- Blurbarella
Cousin Franz: Director Spike Jonze went lonesome when he wrote the script for 2013’s acclaimed sci-fi romance “Her,” but he kept the ethos of frequent collaborator Charlie Kaufman. Moments from “Being John Malkovich” and especially “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” are subtly reproduced here. “Her” doesn’t force us into Kaufman’s mind-bending labyrinths, but it keeps his cynical / romantic dynamics. They’re there in the interactions between cheesy-love-letters writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and the surprisingly (some would say unconvincingly) large number of beautiful, brilliant women in his sad-sack life: his ex-wife Catherine (Mara Rooney); a desperately-down-for-sex blind dater (Olivia Wilde); Ted’s best bud Amy (Amy Adams, failing badly at being unglamorous); and “Samantha,” the sultry, supportive, Scarlett Johansson-voiced Operating System who makes Theodore rediscover the meaning of love.
But the quintessential Kaufman scene here is one in which “Samantha” the software uses a surrogate human to “experience” sex with her beloved proprietor. It makes one wonder if Jonze e-mailed his bud for help at a crucial moment of screenwriter’s block. “Her” is fantastic, if one can get past a performance by Joaquin Phoenix that can easily divide viewers- like every Joaquin Phoenix performance ever. Also divisive? The trope of the hordes of women who practically quiver with lust in the presence of an awkward, anti-social, depressive nerd with questionable taste in fashion.
Hank: Awkward, anti-social, depressive nerd with questionable taste in fashion? I’m sure you couldn’t relate to some kinda creep like that, could you, Cousin Franz? Anyway, this is a great movie, but I don’t need an artificial starlet zealously prying through my e-mail! Babe already does that! Kidding, kidding.
Beatricia: Yes, Hanky, I’m sure I have nothing better to do than to riffle through an inbox dedicated to spam from Rogaine.com. As for “Her,” it is a beautiful drama that asks poignant questions about what it is to be human and “real.” Most filmmakers would have devolved this into a cyber-thriller in which a deranged, jilted computer turns on her human lover, freezes his bank accounts, fills his browser’s history with freaky horse porn, and then unleashes a swat team upon him. I mean that it could have looked a lot more like Luc Besson’s “Lucy.” But instead, “Her” takes on the topic of artificial intelligence subtly, with an approach that is neither technophobic nor technophiliac. Call it “techno-accepting.” I also appreciated the movie’s nod to the everlasting, Zen-sending soul of Alan Watts. I’ve been trying to push his work on the kids, in particular “The Way of Zen” and “The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.” But they don’t look enlightened so far.
Tracey: Exhibit 35,000 in the Case “Male Objectification vs. Women”: Here’s Scarlett Johansson transforming into a LITERAL object for the pleasure of movie audiences. Next on her resume: the indie rom-com “Public Affairs,” where she plays a woman cursed to become a toilet in a public bathroom, but who learns to embrace her crappy situation with pluck and determination. Will she fall for the shiny, silver-fauceted sink that’s all wet? Or will she realize she should be with the rustic but loyal plunger that solves all her clogging problems? Will Karen O. sing a ukulele song about it?
Trent: Yo, I would be downloading all my love to the Scarlett Johansson computer so hard she would get pregnant with a 2.0! Sexy operating systems are wasted on Joaquin Phoenix. What a milquetoast! I’m not sure where the term “milquetoast” comes from, though. I imagine someone dropped their toast in their milk and the toast got all soggy and ruined. Soggy and ruined and intolerable. Yup, that describes Joaquin Phoenix.
Grandpa Felicius: It comes from Caspar Milquetoast!
Trent: “It Came from Outer Space”! Are we shouting old movie names?
Grandpa Felicius: No! CASPAR MILQUETOAST? H. T. WEBSTER?
Tracey: The dictionary guy?
Trent: Nah, I think Grandpa Felicius means the ’80s sitcom.
Grandpa Felicius: Why I never…Is this what progress signifies?!? They all know the Web but they don’t know Webby?!?
Trent: Is Webby a… Cartoon spider you see in your dreams, maybe?
Grandpa Felicius: You insolent ignoramus! Not to know H. T. Webster! I can’t even flare my nostrils or inflate my lungs, I’m so mad! Unplug me from the world at once, I won’t stand another such display of rank ignorance!
Beatricia: Well, according to Alan Watts, we CAN’T unplug from the world, because we ARE the world.
Trent: That’s some deep dish pizza right there, Mom.
Blurbarella: “To– Be– Continued.– The Mystery of H. T. Webster– Will It Be Solved? Do I Sound– Like Scarlett Johansson? She is Not– All That.”
4 Out of 6 Cherries