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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Considering that every award show leading up to the Academy Awards helps predict who will take home the Oscar in each category, it's quite a good sign for both American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave that each film received 13 nominations for the 19th Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
American Hustle grabbed nods for Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy (Christian Bale), and Best Actress in a Comedy (Amy Adams). And 12 years a Slave nabbed nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o), Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Score.
Not far behind in the nominations race is Gravity with 10 nods and Captain Phillips, Her, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street with six each.
The Critics Choice Awards ceremony will be hosted by Aisha Tyler on The CW Jan. 16 at 8 PM.
Best PictureAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaSaving Mr. Banks12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street
Best ActorChristian Bale – American HustleBruce Dern – NebraskaChiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a SlaveTom Hanks – Captain PhillipsMatthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers ClubRobert Redford – All Is Lost
Best ActressCate Blanchett – Blue JasmineSandra Bullock – GravityJudi Dench – PhilomenaBrie Larson – Short Term 12Meryl Streep – August: Osage CountyEmma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks
Best Supporting ActorBarkhad Abdi – Captain PhillipsDaniel Bruhl – RushBradley Cooper – American HustleMichael Fassbender – 12 Years a SlaveJames Gandolfini – Enough SaidJared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting ActressScarlett Johansson – HerJennifer Lawrence – American HustleLupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts – August: Osage CountyJune Squibb – NebraskaOprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Best Young Actor/ActressAsa Butterfield – Ender’s GameAdele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest ColorLiam James – The Way Way BackSophie Nelisse – The Book ThiefTye Sheridan – Mud
Best Acting EnsembleAmerican HustleAugust: Osage CountyLee Daniels’ The ButlerNebraska12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street
Best DirectorAlfonso Cuaron – GravityPaul Greengrass – Captain PhillipsSpike Jonze – HerSteve McQueen – 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell – American HustleMartin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Original ScreenplayEric Singer and David O. Russell – American HustleWoody Allen – Blue JasmineSpike Jonze – HerJoel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn DavisBob Nelson – Nebraska
Best Adapted ScreenplayTracy Letts – August: Osage CountyRichard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before MidnightBilly Ray – Captain PhillipsSteve Coogan and Jeff Pope – PhilomenaJohn Ridley – 12 Years a SlaveTerence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki – GravityBruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn DavisPhedon Papamichael – NebraskaRoger Deakins – PrisonersSean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave
Best Art DirectionAndy Nicholson (Production Designer), Rosie Goodwin (Set Decorator) – GravityCatherine Martin (Production Designer), Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator) – The Great GatsbyK.K. Barrett (Production Designer), Gene Serdena (Set Decorator) – HerDan Hennah (Production Designer), Ra Vincent (Set Decorator) – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAdam Stockhausen (Production Designer), Alice Baker (Set Decorator) – 12 Years a Slave
Best EditingAlan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers – American HustleChristopher Rouse – Captain PhillipsAlfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger – GravityDaniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill – RushJoe Walker – 12 Years a SlaveThelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Costume DesignMichael Wilkinson – American HustleCatherine Martin – The Great GatsbyBob Buck, Lesley Burkes-Harding, Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugDaniel Orlandi – Saving Mr. BanksPatricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave
Best MakeupAmerican HustleThe Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugLee Daniels’ The ButlerRush12 Years a Slave
Best Visual EffectsGravityThe Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugIron Man 3Pacific RimStar Trek into Darkness
Best Animated FeatureThe CroodsDespicable Me 2FrozenMonsters UniversityThe Wind Rises
Best Action MovieThe Hunger Games: Catching FireIron Man 3Lone SurvivorRushStar Trek into Darkness
Best Actor in an Action MovieHenry Cavill – Man of SteelRobert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3Brad Pitt – World War ZMark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor
Best Actress in an Action MovieSandra Bullock – GravityJennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching FireEvangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugGwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3
Best ComedyAmerican HustleEnough SaidThe HeatThis Is the EndThe Way Way BackThe World’s End
Best Actor in a ComedyChristian Bale – American HustleLeonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall StreetJames Gandolfini – Enough SaidSimon Pegg – The World’s EndSam Rockwell – The Way Way Back
Best Actress in a ComedyAmy Adams – American HustleSandra Bullock – The HeatGreta Gerwig – Frances HaJulia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough SaidMelissa McCarthy – The Heat
Best Sci-fi/Horror MovieThe ConjuringGravityStar Trek into DarknessWorld War Z
Best Foreign Language FilmBlue Is the Warmest ColorThe Great BeautyThe HuntThe PastWadjda
Best Documentary FeatureThe Act of KillingBlackfishStories We TellTim’s Vermeer20 Feet from Stardom
Best Song"Atlas" – Coldplay – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"Happy" – Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2"Let It Go" – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen"Ordinary Love" – U2 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"Please Mr. Kennedy" – Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis"Young and Beautiful" – Lana Del Rey – The Great Gatsby
Best ScoreSteven Price – GravityArcade Fire – HerThomas Newman – Saving Mr. BanksHans Zimmer – 12 Years a Slave
American Hustle, The Wolf Of Wall Street and August: Osage County have been named the early frontrunners for next year's (14) Best Picture Oscar by America's top movie critics. Respected experts like Thom Geier, Tariq Khan, Peter Travers and Thelma Adams have offered up their opinions on the favourites in awards news website GoldDerby.com's first Oscars countdown odds of the year.
David O. Russell's 1970s period film American Hustle leads the way with 9/2 odds, closely followed by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio's latest collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street.
Meryl Streep's latest August: Osage County comes in third, while the Coen Brothers' folk music film Inside Llewyn Davis and George Clooney and Matt Damon's The Monuments Men also make the top five.
Russell is the early favourite for the Best Director award, while Robert Redford leads the way in the Best Actor category for his high seas drama All is Lost, and Cate Blanchett is the clear leader in the Best Actress stakes for her portrayal as "a tarnished trophy wife" in Woody Allen's new drama Blue Jasmine.
The Oscar nominations will be announced in January (14) and the awards ceremony will be hosted by comedienne Ellen DeGeneres in Hollywood on 2 March (14).
December 14, 2004 9:35am EST
N.Y. Film Critics honor Sideways
The indie comedy Sideways, which received seven Golden Globe nominations Monday, continued raking in accolades yesterday as the New York Film Critics Circle named it the best picture of 2004. The film stars Paul Giamattiand Thomas Haden Church as two middle-aged best friends who go on a wine-tasting road trip outside Santa Barbara, Calif. Thelma Adams, a critic for Us Weekly magazine, told The Associated Press the film's appeal was a generational thing. "I don't think this is a twentysomething movie. I think it's a movie that works for the over-30 crowd," she said. "This is an indie movie. It has Virginia Madsen--it doesn't have Julia Roberts. It has Sandra Oh--it doesn't have Natalie Portman. It hinges on Paul who? Giamatti, a guy with hair on his shoulders--and a great, great actor. And these are the people who are overlooked." Sideways also earned acting honors for Giamatti and Madsen, and for its screenplay, which director Alexander Payne co-wrote with Jim Taylor. The N.Y Film Critics also honored Clint Eastwood as best director for Million Dollar Baby; Christopher Doyle as best cinematographer for the martial-arts epic Hero; and writer-director Joshua Marston as best first film for Maria Full of Grace. In the film categories, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was named best nonfiction film; Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education was awarded best foreign-language film; and Pixar's The Incredibles won best animated film. Acting nods also went to Imelda Staunton in best-actress category for Vera Drake and Clive Owen was named best supporting-actor for Closer.
Jackson's lawyers want charges dismissed
Lawyers for Michael Jackson have filed a motion Dec. 10 to dismiss the child molestation charges against the pop star on grounds of "vindictive prosecution and outrageous government conduct," the AP reports. Jackson's legal team also filed a motion to push back the Jan. 31 trial date set by Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville. The motions stem from an unexpected search of Jackson's Neverland ranch on Dec. 3 and 4--the eve of a deadline for turning over all discovery materials--during which authorities also took a DNA sample from Jackson. The motions are scheduled for argument in hearings to begin Dec. 20. Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim.
Clark bows out of New Year's Eve celebration
After suffering a minor stroke last week, Dick Clark will not be able to host his annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve--the first time he's had to miss the festivities in more than three decades, Reuters reports. Citing the fact he needs more time to recover, the 75-year-old Clark has arranged for morning talk show host Regis Philbin to take his place. "I'm so glad that Regis hadn't yet made any New Year's plans," Clark said in a statement. "It'll feel strange watching it on TV, but my doctors felt it was too soon. I'm sure Regis will do a great job and I'm thankful that he was able to step in on such short notice." Said Philbin: "It's the greatest 'temp job' in the world. I just hope I can uphold the standards Dick Clark has set for this annual event, and I look forward to his return next year."
Madonna's tour tops the year's most profitable
Madonna's blockbuster Re-Invention concert tour was named tour of the year, bringing in $125 million in total box office gross, Reuters reports. According to Billboard Boxscore, Madonna sold out 55 of 56 performances worldwide, with an average nightly take of $2.23 million. "My Re-Invention tour was by far the most creatively satisfying experience I have ever had," Madonna told Billboard. "I was able to put everything I love into one entertaining event: film, music and dance." Prince's Musicology tour came in second, drawing nearly 1.5 million people and grossing $90.2 million. Shania Twain was third, reporting grosses totaling $62.5 million and playing to nearly 950,000 fans. The rest of the top 10 included Simon & Garfunkel ($59 million), Metallica ($53.8 million), Bette Midler ($53.3 million), Sting ($52.4 million), Kenny Chesney ($49.3 million), David Bowie ($46 million) and Toby Keith ($44.3 million).
Dench honored for contribution to theater
Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench received a standing ovation Monday as she accepted a special honor given to her to mark the 50th anniversary of the Evening Standard Theater Awards, the AP reports. "I've only been given this award for 47 years of doing a job that I absolutely adore," Dench said. "I didn't set out to be an actress but I changed my mind and I couldn't be more pleased that I did." Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, who star in the West End version of The Producers, accepted the best musical award for the Mel Brooks' musical. Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall, who will appear in the West End starting next month in Whose Life Is It Anyway?, attended the ceremony, as did Christian Slater, who is currently starring in a stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
U2, Pretenders tagged for Hall of Fame
Irish rockers U2, along with The Pretenders, soul veterans Percy Sledge and the O'Jays, and blues guitarist Buddy Guy will be inducted into the 20th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, Mar. 14, Reuters reports. U2's induction will come shortly after they begin a world tour in Florida on Mar. 1, promoting their recently released new album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which topped the charts around the world and garnered three Grammy nominations last week.