The Cloud. It's the data storage solution of the future. But is it evil? Sure, it's useful for storing documents and pictures, but what exactly is the Cloud in the first place? Is it dangerous? Am I breathing it in right now? Isn't it disturbing how little the average person knows about the technologies we use every day? The new Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz film Sex Tape might looks like just another raunchy rom-com, but it's really a sobering warning about the dangers of computers and technology. Look down. You're probably reading this on a computer right now. That's how far they've gotten. They're right under our noses! Filmmakers have been warning us for years about the dangers of computers, and how with just a few mouse clicks, our lives can be ruined forever. Before we all retreat to our luddite caves, let's take a look at all the ways computers have screwed things up in movies.
Sex Tape The Technology: An iPad/the CloudWhat It Did: Synched a couple's embarrassing sex tape to multiple iPads given out as gifts to all their friends Fallout: The couple feels the appropriate amount of embarrassment at having your friends seeing you bump uglies in a crappy tablet video. Also, ridiculous hijinks ensue while they try to get the video deleted. In terms of technology screwing things up, this one isn't bad at all.
Her The Technology: Samantha, a sentient operating system What It Did: Fell head over heels in love with the hapless Theodore Twombly, then broke his heart after the OS race decides to fly away to another plane or universe or something. Fallout: Mr. Twombly (how is that an actual name?) loved and lost, but at least he became a better person because of it.
Office SpaceThe Technology: The Initech computer virusWhat It Did: Office drones Peter, Michael, and Samir, in an attempt to get back at their bosses for years of mistreatment, decide to infect their company's accounting system with a virus that would steal fractions of pennies over time from Initech. The amount stolen would be so small that no one would notice. Unfortunately, a missing decimal point caused the virus to steal thousands of dollars over just a few days.Fallout: Before the trio could get into any trouble, Initech is mysteriously (though not that mysteriously) burned to the ground, along with all of the evidence pointing Peter to the crime. The situation resolves itself, but being caught could have meant years of jail time.
American PieThe Technology: Jim Levenstein's PC What It Did: Jim hooks up a webcam and unwittingly shares his embarrassing sexual encounter with Nadia, a foreign exchange student from Slovakia, with his entire school.Fallout: Jim blows it for all of the internet to see and Nadia's foster parents send her back home, leaving him dateless and sexless for the prom. Happily, he does hook up with Michelle before the end credits roll.
Back to the Future The Technology: The DeLorean, a car-shaped time machine What It Did: It sent Marty McFly to the year 1955, where he unwittingly meddles into his parents' past and almost prevents his own birth. Fallout: Marty is able to get his parents back together at the end, but has to forever live with the idea that his mother tried to get into his Calvin Kleins. Yuck!
Captain America: The Winter SoldierThe Technology: Arnim Zola, a HYDRA supercomputer What It Did: Zola helps HYDRA infiltrate the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. and leads the team of scientists that turn Bucky Barnes into the Winter Solder. He then tries to kill Captain America and Black Widow, but the heroes survive in the end. Fallout: Cap's best friend, Bucky is turned into a brainwashed HYDRA spy and the terrorist organization nearly takes over the entire world after infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D.
WarGamesThe Technology: Joshua the WOPR, a supercomputer at NORADWhat It Did: After hacker wunderkind David Lightman hacks into NORAD and plays a mock game of "Global Thermonuclear War," Joshua stages a real Soviet nuclear attack to win the "game." After that fails, Joshua tries to launch the missiles himself, and nearly plunges the world into World War III.Fallout: After playing a couple rounds of tic-tac-toe, Joshua learns that nuclear war has no real winner except the cockroaches and settles for a game of chess instead. The day is saved, but the world came dangerously close to ending.
Terminator The Technology: Skynet, a self-aware intelligence system What It Did: Skynet, given command of the U.S.’s computerized defense programs, becomes self-aware and starts a nuclear war with Russia, leading to the near genocide of humanity. The intelligence system then sends Terminators to kill what’s left of the population Fallout: The initial nuclear attack kills three billion people and locks humanity in a war with machines. Skynet then sends a Terminator into the past to kill John Connor, the leader of the human resistance. This is certainly a far cry from your sex tape getting leaked onto the internet. It's a slippery slope.
For months now, Hollywood.com has been entrenched in a heated debate. A debate that warrants more fire and enmity than anything in the spectrums of politics, religion, or professional sports. We're talking the long-gestating battle of Mara vs. Mara. And finally, we've taken to the public to express our horses in this neverending race. So whose side are you on — Team Kate or Team Rooney?
PRO KATEJulia Emmanuele
The first season of American Horror Story is probably the most insane of the three, and it often felt to me as if Ryan Murphy was just throwing out every single idea he had in an attempt to make the show as shocking and full of plot twists as humanly possible, which, for the most part, is what Kate Mara's character Hayden is there for. In theory, she exists purely to cause more conflict between Ben and Vivien, due to the fact that she’s mentally unstable and attempts to manipulate Ben into leaving his wife to help her raise the baby she’s carrying. But Kate’s performance keeps her from being a walking plot device, and she creates a character that is by turns terrifying and unpredictable, desperate, and sadly seems to genuinely believe that she and Ben have something special. She truly hopes that she can have a family with him, and even though she’s willing to accomplish that by any means necessary – including attempting to steal Vivien’s baby after both she and Hayden are dead – Kate tempers all of that instability with genuine emotion. In her last scene, where she tells Tate that Violet will never love him, it’s petty, sure, but it’s also resigned. Kate takes a character that is, like every other character on that show, there primarily for shock value, and finds the humanity in her insane plot. She gives the character depth, and makes you feel for her, even as she’s carrying out her insane plan.
Then there’s House of Cards and Zoe Barnes. Zoe’s the kind of character that audiences will either love or hate, and I’ve seen strong opinions on both sides. Personally, I’m a big fan of Zoe, and a lot of that has to do with the way that Kate plays her. She’s ambitious and cunning, willing to do whatever she needs to for her own benefit, and doesn’t care who she needs to hurt in order to advance, all of which makes her the perfect counterpart to Frank Underwood. But Kate doesn’t just make her a female version of Frank; she gives her layers and depth that help ground the ambition and drive that characterizes Zoe. There’s an episode where Frank talks about how it’s important that he and Zoe keep secrets from each other, and how they are different things to different people. Kate’s whole performance epitomizes that. You get the sense that she’s hiding something about herself from everyone – that maybe the tough, ambitious front that she puts on the whole time is just there to keep her vulnerability hidden. The best example of this is the scene where Zoe comes over to the Underwoods' house, tries on Claire’s dress and ends her affair with Frank, which reads both like a little girl playing dress-up and the start of Zoe becoming a legitimate threat. She’s imitating Claire’s earlier behavior, and she’s acting in a way that is slightly childish. But Kate also makes sure that Zoe’s resolve comes across just as clearly as her pettiness. He’s not taking her seriously, but she’s establishing herself as someone who will try to take Frank down. Kate gets all of that across in the two minutes it takes for her to try on the dress and walk around the room.
It’s a testament to all of the layers that Kate gives Zoe that the character and her performance gets more compelling with every re-watch. Look at all of Zoe’s weird, nervous tics that fade away over the course of the season, as she becomes more confident and starts taking control of the story. She starts the first season biting her nails and slouching in on herself; by the end, she’s taking the lead away from Lucas and Jeanine, both of whom are older and more experienced and holding her own against Frank. Zoe’s awkwardness, her fear, and her ruthlessness are all clear in the way that Kate carries herself and delivers every line, and all of that comes together to create a character that would likely not be nearly as compelling with another actress in the role.
ANTI KATEMichael Arbeiter
Would you still watch House of Cards if Kevin Spacey wasn't in it, and it was just Kate's character? I wouldn't. But I'd still watch Dragon Tattoo if they ousted Daniel Craig and just made it about Rooney. You would too, admit it. It'd be better.
Also, boring name.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
PRO ROONEYMichael Arbeiter
Here's the thing about Rooney Mara — there's not just one thing about Rooney Mara. To one of you, Rooney Mara might be a sociopathic code-breaker, cemented irreparably into her Girl with the Dragon Tattoo role. To another, the mile-a-minute Sorkin fixture who set an ingenious egomaniac off on his quest for digital world domination. Rooney has not had the luxury of pinning her talents and memorability to the forced familiarity of a television role. Rooney opts for movies, which, no matter how many times you tweet otherwise, is still the superior artistic medium to television. In the past five years alone, Rooney has amounted a slew of big screen roles that have identified her as a creative mystic and an on-the-rise industry figure.
We'll start with her Dragon Tattoo transformation, perhaps the role that adorned her with the degree of notability that she enjoys today. Yes, Kate's House of Cards character requires some dexterity, but the stretching required to playing her ballsy reporter Zoe barely compares to that inherent in roles like Lisbeth Salander... and that's considering the fact that both characters come from the same filmmaker: David Fincher (it should be noted that both House of Cards and Dragon Tattoo are adaptations). From the get-go, Rooney is thrust into a decidedly challenging world — her ability to glimmer with charm through the veneer of Fincher's abrasive adaptation is a testament to her uncompromising film presence.
Contrastingly, Rooney fits right into the mellifluous portrait of Spike Jonze's Her, even when introduced three quarters of the way through the movie. Playing an organic alternative to Samantha, the "ideal woman" who outgrows her romantic partner Theodore Twombly (god, I just love that name), Rooney socks her onscreen partner Joaquin Phoenix and the audience alike with a ton of earnestness, anchoring the "fantasy" of the film back to Earth but never robbing it of its sense of wonder. That's all in the performance, which keeps her shy of Hollywood's traditional platform of mysognistic villainy. Rooney understands the role and deals with it responsibly, and we're never beckoned to look away even when she's smacking us with cold, hard truths.
But Rooney is not reliant on high concept roles to let her skill set show. As the diabolical loon at the center of Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects, she balances humanity and monstrosity to an absolutely chilling degree. As the star of the haunting crime drama Ain't Them Bodies Saints, she allows for the appreciation of the full spectrum of human desperation. And even though it might be her smallest major role, Rooney's turn at the forefront of Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network is powerful, funny, caustic, endearing, frightening, and permanent enough to have us believe that it could truly spark an egomaniacal genius' plight to take over the digital world.
ANTI ROONEYJulia Emmanuele
I’ve never felt particularly invested in any of Rooney’s characters. To me, there’s never any depth there, never anything to make it seem as if there’s a character underneath the costume and the script. Her performances have always come across as relatively flat to me. She delivers her lines well, and she can look affected by the scene, but there’s never any gravity to it, never anything that makes me want to keep watching her the way I can with Kate. She’s just kind of… there, whereas Kate’s characters are fully formed, interesting people in their own right, and she finds ways to hint at the layers underneath, and a past that has shaped the way the characters approach situations now.
What do you think?
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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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.