Born to parents of Mexican descent, Luis Valdez spent his childhood as a migrant farm worker. After graduating from San Jose State College he spent a year with the San Francisco Mime Troupe which culm...
Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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Does the world really need rival films chronicling the life, agony and artistry of legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo?
Jennifer Lopez clearly does not think so. The actress-turned-singer-turned-fashion-statement has decided against portraying Kahlo in a Francis Ford Coppola-produced biography, opting instead to negotiate a $10 million paycheck for the crime drama, Taking Lives, according to Variety.
Lopez's decision means she will not square off against Selma Hayek, who will portray Kahlo in another version of the artist's life-this one from director Julie Taymor. Alfred Molina, Edward Norton, Ashley Judd and Geoffrey Rush will costar in Taymor's production, which Miramax recently greenlit.
If Lopez signs on for Taking Lives, she will play an FBI profiler assigned to track down a serial killer known for assuming his victims' identities. Production is scheduled to start in the fall or following the threatened actors' strike, once it is averted or settled. Jon Bokenkamp adapted the screenplay from a novel by Michael Pye.
The future of Coppola's Kahlo biography, a United Artists' production that has Luis Valdez attached to direct, remains unclear. Lopez was in discussions to star in the film but had not signed a deal, according to a Coppola spokeswoman, who did not know the film's status.
A United Artists spokesman did not return calls for comment.
Kahlo overcame polio and a serious car crash to become one of Mexico's most famous artists. She married Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, but boasted of many affairs with both men and women, including Communist leader Leon Trotsky. In 1953, she fell into a deep depression and became suicidal after she had her right leg amputated below the knee due to a gangrene infection. She died in 1954 of unknown causes.
This past year, Lopez has established her box-office appeal while enjoying front-page status because of her relationship with onetime beau, rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs, and the flesh-baring gowns she wears to award ceremonies. Combs--who was recently acquitted on gun and bribery charges--announced in February that he and Lopez had ended their two-year relationship.
Despite drawing lackluster reviews, The Cell and The Wedding Planner each earned approximately $60 million at the U.S. box office. Lopez made history in January when The Wedding Planner opened at No. 1 during the same week that her second album, J.Lo, landed in the top spot on the Billboard charts. Her next film, Angel Eyes, will open May 18. She plays a Chicago police officer who must deal with past secrets when she falls in love.
First play produced, "The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa"
Wrote first screenplay and made film acting debut, "Which Way Is Up?"
Film directing debut, "Zoot Suit" (also writer)
Broadway directing and writing debut, "Zoot Suit" (transferred from Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, 1978)
Off-Broadway directing and writing debut, "La Carpa de los Rasquachis"
TV directing debut, "Corridos! Tales of Passion and Revolution" (also actor and writer)
Founded El Teatro Campesino (also artistic director and actor); toured US and Europe with company
Born to parents of Mexican descent, Luis Valdez spent his childhood as a migrant farm worker. After graduating from San Jose State College he spent a year with the San Francisco Mime Troupe which culminated in a cultural exchange trip to Cuba. Upon his return to the US, Valdez returned to his hometown of Delano and joined Cesar Chavez's United Farmworkers. There he formed a workers' theatre company, "El Teatro Campesino," which developed original material in the form of short agitprop skits called "actos." "El Teatro Campesino" also produced several short films of their plays.<p>After several years with "Teatro Campesino," Valdez decided to expand into more conventional theatrical venues. He wrote and directed the musical drama "Zoot Suit," which opened in August 1978 in Los Angeles and was an immediate hit. On a budget of $2.5 million, Valdez filmed the play. Released in 1981, "Zoot Suit" is based loosely on the infamous Sleepy Lagoon case in 1942 Los Angeles. Daniel Valdez (Luis' brother and the talented composer of the film's musical numbers) plays the leader of a gang of 'pachucos' (streetwise Chicano kids wearing zoot suits) named Henry Reyna, who is arrested and convicted by a racist court for a murder he did not commit.<p>Valdez' second feature, "La Bamba" (1987), was tremendously successful in both mainstream and Hispanic markets. To chronicle the life of the first Mexican-American rock star, Ritchie Valens (ne Valenzuela), Valdez used the classical Hollywood narrative style, and some reviewers criticized him for becoming too conventional. Valdez responded that his style was appropriate for communicating the theme of acculturation to a national audience.<p>Valdez wrote and directed for TV an adaptation of his play, "Corridos! Tales of Passion and Revolution" (1987), a series of vignettes based on Mexican-American folk ballads. Using both English and Spanish dialogue, "Corridos" raises the consciousness of Chicano and non-Chicano viewers who usually have little contact with Mexican-American history.
married on August 23, 1969
San Jose State University
Founding member of the California Arts Council.
Writer, Actor and Director of the United Farmworkers Organizing Committee.
Valdez is a board of directors member to the Theatre Communications Group.
He is a lecturer in Chicano history and theatre, University of California in Santa Cruz.
He is also a lecturer in theatre arts at the University of California in Berkeley.
Valdez has received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant (1977)
He was awarded a honorary Doctorate of Arts from Columbia College in Chicago.