Thursday, January 23, 2014

NEW WEBSITE

Hello, friends. Well, it's been real, but the time has come for me to mosey on over to a new space. I've had Film Forager since the fall of 2008 and I've loved the challenge of writing about every film I see, and the community that I was able to move into through film blogging. I will still be writing about film, but I also want to start doing some art writing online, and I wanted a site that was a little more professional-looking. Don't worry, I'll still be as dopey and run-on-sentence-y as usual, but maybe I'll try to vary my vocabulary a bit more. And I won't be writing about every movie I see anymore, just the ones I want to write about. Which I think will improve the overall quality of writing, really.

I would appreciate it if you followed me over to my new space, alexkittle.com. It's pretty nice over there, and I'll be adding new features over time. Most of my Film Forager posts have moved over there, though the formatting and linking is still a bit off. Gradually fixing all the old stuff, and looking forward to moving forward with all the new stuff! I have so many fun things I want to write about! For now this blog will stick around without updating, not sure when I'll actually delete it. Not for a while, surely.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alex Makes Art #whatever

So yeah I kind of stopped making art, it seems? No, not really, but I did slow down with my art production a whole lot in my final semester of grad school. Now that I have a stupid Master's degree I want to make art all the time because I finally have a lighter schedule. And no full-time job, still. (GOOD THING I GOT THAT DEGREE, HUH?) Anyway, there are actually a few artsy things I've made in the past month or two that I neglected to share here (most are on twitter or facebook, though), so I'm just going to do a master post of what I've done recently. Several were gifts for friends or commissions, some are just for fun and in my etsy shop, and a few are works made just for exhibitions at UFORGE Gallery, where I work. Also, I have a solo show going on there right now, glimpsed in the photo above. Check it out if you're in the Boston area.



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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Seen: On film at the Brattle Theatre.

Weirdly, I haven't caught up with the Marx Brothers. I saw Duck Soup years ago, that one episode of I Love Lucy when I was a kid, and that's about it. An unexpectedly free night and some Marx Brothers screenings at the Brattle lined up perfectly to make my first film of 2014: A Night at the Opera. A wacky musical farce, the film stars Groucho Marx as Otis B Driftwood, a fast-talking business manager who worms his way into the opera scene, making some enemies along the way. He teams up with theater agent Fiorello (Chico Marx) and stage assistant Tomasso (Harpo Marx) on a cruise from Italy to New York, all in a wild gamble to make down-on-his-luck singer Ricardo (Allan Jones) an opera star and reunite him with his love Rosa (Kitty Carlisle). A lot of silliness ensues, and sometimes people break out into musical numbers.

Oh goodness, well, I guess you generally know what you're getting into with a Marx Brothers movie, as far as I can tell, and that boils down to a zany affair. You've got Groucho spouting clever one-liners, Harpo clonking jerks on the head in wide-eyed innocence, and Chico doing his fake-Italian thing. They disrupt all manner of snooty-rich-people events, because fuck rich people, and cause general shock across the board through their wild antics. Overall this is a ridiculous, funny movie that allows each brother to show off their talents while following a basic plot outline so the action keeps moving. For me it wasn't 100% successful as a comedy because some of the bits don't quite work or are drawn out too much (Groucho and Chico's over-elaborate reading of a contract sticks out as the worst offender), and the romantic subplot between Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle is mostly dull, but there are so many scenes that had me laughing out loud that they must be doing something right. I absolutely loved the crowded ship bunk scene, my goodness, who knew that throwing a bunch of people into one tiny room could have me in stitches. I was also very impressed with Harpo's gymnastics at the end, some death-defying rope tricks going on there.

Though I knew the story centered around opera, somehow I didn't realize this would be so... musical. Now, you know me, I love musicals, but I've never been a huge fan of opera, and I generally enjoy musicals more when the songs serve the story somewhat. Here, the prolonged serenade between Rosa and Ricardo when the ship is departing was just boring, and the multiple performances of opera numbers on stage were a bit much. I did like the impromptu sequence with Ricardo singing on the ship's deck during some totally unexplained folk festival(?) that involved bouncy costumes and heaps of spaghetti, especially since that allowed Chico and Harpo to break out into delightful piano and harp solos, respectively. But I could have done with fewer operatic sequences, I'll be honest. Some of them just slowed things down, and took me out of the film's otherwise fast-paced comedy. A minor complaint though, and one that betrays my own naive preconceptions; this is a vaudevillian 1930s comedy about the opera, so really why wouldn't it have a strong musical component?

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Naturally, I went home and watched my favorite madcap comedy set on a boat, The Impostors.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, from my personal collection. Originally a gift from my friend Ben.

On New Year's Eve my plans were unexpectedly canceled, and I ended up staying in by myself and it was actually really nice since honestly I've always found it to be kind of an annoying holiday. The only bad thing was all the technology in my house decided to stop working that night so my plan to watch some expiring Netflix instant movies didn't pan out, and I couldn't use our projector. In the end I decided to watch one of the many dvd's I own but have never seen. The Adventures of Mark Twain promised to be a bit of claymation weirdness, which seemed a good way to end the year. The film is inspired by a remark from Twain that since he was born under Halley's Comet, he'd go out with it too (and he did indeed pass away the day after the comet returned in 1910). In this fanciful tale, the aging writer travels to meet the comet in a magical airship, accompanied by three if his own creations: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher. During their journey the kids hear some of Twain's stories and interact with some of his weirder characters.

I've gotta say I really didn't know what I was getting into with this, and I think that worked out just fine. I'm not too familiar with Mark Twain or his work, and what I have read is the more folksy or mainstream stuff, so I did not expect all the full-on weirdness from his stories. The film starts out kind of dull, with Tom, Huck, and Becky chilling with Twain as he spouts adages and talks about a leaping frog contest. As I sat there unsure if this movie was actually interesting, it took a turn for the better during a funny segment about Adam and Eve, taken from his parody of Genesis, "Extracts from Adam's Diary." By the time we hit the section about Captain Stormfield's arrival at a version of heaven for disco-dancing aliens, I knew this movie was for me. It's funny and imaginative, strange and adventurous, and cleverly broken up into different visualizations of Twain's short stories. The most memorable segment comes from his last manuscript, left unfinished when he died, and it's got a terrifying demon/angel/alien creature who shows the children how fucked up humans are. This movie gets surprisingly nihilistic for a supposed "family" feature, but I guess with such a fatalistic premise it shouldn't be a shock.

While I enjoyed the bizarre script and goofy storytelling, it was the animation that won me over. This was apparently the first full-length claymation feature, and the extreme talent on board is obvious. There is more expression and feeling in these clay faces than I've seen in any recent CG-animated film, and I just loved the animation style. There are some beautiful landscapes, and lots of really fun little moments. Twain's airship has some great effects and painstaking attention to detail. The sequence with the Mysterious Stranger is dark as hell due to its unsettling visuals, while the whimsical shenanigans of the kids are made sillier by their exaggerated character design. Regardless of anyone's opinions about Twain and his writing, this film is more than worth it for the animation alone. I'm still thinking about the end sequence where Twain merges with the comet and becomes this big, beautiful yellow cloud that encourages the children to fly the ship themselves. And there are some lovely things done with water. And seriously, the facial expressions: just excellent.

I may have been a bit bored at the start but I'm so glad I stuck around for this oddball bit of entertainment. The animation is wonderful and the writing is equal parts funny and darkly bizarre, which I appreciated. I kept expecting an awkward moment when the kids would discover that they were just characters in Twain's books but somehow that never happened. I guess a juvenile existential crisis would have been a bit much even for this movie.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I wanted more stop-motion adventure, so maybe something like James and the Giant Peach.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Sapphires (2013)

Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.

Loosely based on the real-life singing group (and written by the lead singer's son), The Sapphires follows four musical Koori women- three sisters and their cousin- who tour Vietnam in 1968 to perform for American troops. They are accompanied by their drunken manager, Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd), who is generally useless but seriously believes in their talent. While traveling the young women experience various ups and downs: the oldest, Gail (Deborah Mailman), fights to protect everyone else in an unfriendly environment; her sister Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) embarks on an affair with a handsome soldier; Julie (Jessica Mauboy), the youngest, suddenly finds herself in the spotlight due to her strong singing voice; and their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), struggles with her conflicting identities as an Aboriginal woman who was forcibly raised in white society due to Australia's aggressive anti-aboriginal policies.

With a fun, soulful soundtrack and a really likable cast, The Sapphires is a darned enjoyable musical that also offers a glimpse into a specific historical moment that I admittedly know little about. It is made clear early on how these girls have grown up: as Koori in a country that resents their people so much that the government sought to eradicate them through forced indoctrination and child-stealing (of course, to an American this does sound familiar). Gail and her sisters are strong-willed, incredibly motivated, and fiercely loyal to their family and community. They take a stand against the racist rules of their country by refusing to be ignored, and their efforts to be heard are rewarded with a terrifying but significant opportunity to perform for huge crowds in Vietnam. What's interesting about this movie is that, while the protagonists' struggle against prejudice and hatred is of course a major factor, the story never leans on it as a defining plot point. This is about individuals whose Koori background is integral to their identity but not their defining feature, resulting in a multi-layered and often lighthearted script that explores how these women react and adapt to their unique situation.

While I think in many ways this is History Lite, I was so charmed by The Sapphires that I didn't really care. It balances humor and romance (led by Dave and Gail's adorable interactions) along with tragedy and social commentary, peppered heavily with excellent musical sequences. I loved the cast, especially O'Dowd and Mailman in the leads. It's a little cheesy at times and seems so intent on keeping things upbeat that the more seriously emotional points aren't always effective, but I did enjoy myself immensely. And now I'm encouraged to learn more about this moment in Australia's history, and indeed more about USO performers in the Vietnam War. Yay learning!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Another musical about a girl group, perhaps? I still haven't seen it but I imagine Dreamgirls might fit. Or maybe Linda Linda Linda. Alternatively, there's The Boat That Rocked for another look at a real life rock music thing in the 60's, but with mostly white British dudes. And Chris O'Dowd again.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Innocents (1961)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from netflix.

When I fell in love with The Haunting a few months ago, several people recommended The Innocents, another atmospheric horror movie from the 60s, though with fewer gay undertones and more children. Deborah Kerr stars as Miss Giddens, new governess to orphaned children Miles and Flora. Provided for by their wealthy uncle but rarely shown any affection by him, they live in a large country estate with various servants and caretakers. Miss Giddens is instantly smitten with her precocious charges, but feels there is an unfriendly presence in the house. After hearing about the recent deaths of the previous governess and a domineering valet, she becomes convinced that their ghosts have remained on the grounds and are exerting a dangerous influence on the children. Knowing their uncle will not want to be bothered, she sets out to save the souls of Miles and Flora by herself.

With ghastly apparitions and seedy undertones, The Innocents is as much as horror story as it is a twisted morality tale. Miss Giddens- a prim minister's daughter who delights in the naivete and prepubescent bliss of children- is a force for Christian rectitude. She senses something unholy, some evil brought about by the distasteful sexual escapades of the two dead lovers, and is convinced their ghostly carnal desires are infecting her innocent charges. These kids have seen more than their young eyes deserve, and it's clear that their experiences have forced them to mature quickly in some ways. How much of that may be the workings of two nefarious ghosts is hard to say, since most of the paranormal activity is only witnessed by Miss Giddens herself, who may just be overwhelmed by prudishness and a sudden (totally understandable) aversion to children. Of course, it all seems very real and I was willing to believe Quint and Miss Jessel were actually haunting this house, especially since their apparitions were pretty damned scary. Miss Jessel's appearance in the marshes freaked me the fuck out. Their sordid tale and Miss Giddens' reaction to it oozed spooky scandal, and regardless of the "reality" I was into it.

I loved the melodramatic flare and moody camerawork, the effective use of candle lighting and the antebellum costumes- it is a beautiful film in many ways. It is also unpredictable, and fairly horrific in its conclusion. Its suggestive sexuality is weird and unexpected as the script toys with this idea of promiscuous adults partially inhabiting the bodies of children. While I really appreciated all of these factors, I found I wasn't wholly absorbed by the film. Maybe it was the pacing, which was too gradual and seemed to miss certain beats, or maybe it was all the unresolved issues. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something that keeps me from all-out loving The Innocents, though I can readily say I was really impressed by it.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well the aforementioned The Haunting is indeed a good pairing! Also, for more creepy stories with kids and big mansions, there's The Orphanage and The Others. Finally, for something more film noiry, I feel like Night of the Hunter would be an interesting pairing because of its similar themes of children's supposed innocence and adult influence.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Frozen (2013)

Seen: In 2D at the Kerasotes Showplace theater in Secaucus, NJ.

Growing up I was a bit of a fairy tale nerd, and Hans Christian Andersen was one of my favorite storytellers. Mostly because of how much I adored his story "The Snow Queen," an exciting adventure wherein a brave girl journeys across the land to rescue her male best friend, who's been captured and brainwashed by the titular evil queen. I'd followed the ups and downs of Disney's adaptation of the story, which radically changes the central plot and only includes white people, and of course is titled Frozen, something ambiguous and un-girly. The marketing was terrible but Idina Menzel and positive reviews had me curious. The story centers around two princess sisters, one- Elsa- born with deadly ice powers that she is forced to hide from the world, and the other- Anna- born with regular boring human abilities. During her coronation Elsa freaks out and accidentally encases her kingdom in perpetual winter, and it's up to Anna to save the day with the help of Kristoff, a goofy ice picker.

Focusing on two cool (ha!) ladies and the bonds of sisterhood, Frozen is an enjoyable adventure with some progressive themes. The characters are fun and interesting, the setting is lovely, and the magic is awesome. The landscapes are gorgeous and the effects are really beautiful, with Elsa's versatile power showing itself in a range of visually-striking ways. I wish I could whip up a sexy ice dress for myself, just to hang out in (although it seems unlikely she would give herself stilettos for walking around in an ice castle, I mean really). I liked that romance was more of a subplot because Anna's relationship with Elsa was paramount. Especially since the romance, while cute, seemed hypocritical after Kristoff berated Anna for getting engaged to a guy she just met (but I guess that was part of the point?). I also liked that the ideas of good vs evil were more of a gray area, making the story more about acceptance and understanding than black and white moral codes.

While overall I can say I did like Frozen a lot, there are various things nagging at me that keep me from loving it. For one thing, I generally find it off-putting when movies start out as musicals and then forget about it halfway through. It works in Mulan because it's basically a commentary on the soldiers' mentality before and after they're confronted with actual battle, but that's the main successful example I can think of. In Frozen, there are several songs in a row in the beginning, and they're cute but kind of forgettable and a little too casual in their lyrics ("for the first time in forever" makes me think of something you'd hear in a pop song, as opposed to a fantasy musical, but that's me being nitpicky, I don't know). There is one stunning sequence, and for some reason it's Idina's only solo, but I think that's the only song that truly stands out. I thought the snowman's song was funny, but that's primarily because it's a silly concept, not because the song itself is especially memorable.

My actual biggest issue is the animation- specifically the character design. I am so sick of these pasty, plasticine figures with their huge eyes, pouty lips, and doughy cheeks, it's just ugly. The female body types are all the same, the clothing moves like clay, and everyone only has like 3 facial expressions. I've never been a bit proponent of CG animation, it's always looked kind of gross to me (especially human figures, which is why I think Pixar is most successful with characters like Wall-E or the Toy Story toys), but this one got to me more than usual for whatever reason. Maybe it's because I found myself truly appreciating the landscapes and architecture, which were wonderfully rendered and made the uninspired character design even more apparent. Honestly the most visually appealing part of Frozen was probably the trailer for The Boxtrolls that preceded it, because I am so fucking psyched for more stop-motion animation from Laika.

Anyway. I did enjoy this movie, and I'd like to see it again. I'm so glad there's a story that focuses on sisters, similar to how I loved that Brave was about a mother-daughter relationship. I'm also excited that one of the protagonists is basically a lady X-Man, with all the magic powers, isolationist angst, and gay metaphors that come along with being a mutant. Rad. Oh also the so-called "twist"? Is that really a twist? Both the thing with Hans and the thing with "an act of true love" were pretty easy to spot early on, but I'd had multiple people telling me there was a big twist at the end so I spent the whole time waiting for it all to be taking place in a kid's snow globe or something.

ONE FINAL NOTE: I feel like no one's talking about how this movie was co-directed and written by a lady, specifically Jennifer Lee who also co-wrote Wreck-It Ralph. I know we don't need to ruminate on gender things all the time, but I just think it's really neat since so few women write or direct Disney films. You're awesome, Jennifer!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I've seen a few people comment that this kind of a version of Wicked, which is fair, and I totally wanted to listen to the Wicked soundtrack when I got home. There are also parallels to Enchanted in its commentary on "falling in love in one day"-type fairy tales (and Idina again!). It would also pair well with Tangled, not only because the characters look exactly the same, but because they both have plucky heroines who escape their confinement, and they probably take place in the same universe or whatever. Not gonna get into that.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Flirt (1995)

Seen: On my laptop, originally rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

Months ago I was taking a train down to my brother's graduation, and I started watching Flirt, the one Hal Hartley movie I'd been unable to find during my Hartley craze sophomore year. Then the train ahead of me derailed somewhere in Connecticut and I was ferried about from train to train for a very long, very unpleasant night. So I never finished Flirt. Last week I was on another train on the way to NJ for Christmas, and I decided to test fate and watch Flirt again. And it WORKED. Basking in his own love of repetition and theatricality, Hartley places the same story in three different settings, considering how nearly-identical scenarios would play out in New York, Berlin, and Tokyo. When one person prepares to leave for an extended stay in another country, their lover must decide whether to go ahead with a long-distance relationship or embark on a new romance with a friend who is separating from their partner. They move around their respective neighborhoods, looking to friends and strangers for advice on what to do, and each walks into a violent situation at the end.

Working in a number of his regulars (Bill Sage, Parker Posey, Martin Donovan, Karen Sillas, Elina Löwensohn, Miho Nikaido, among others), along with some new faces, Flirt is a fascinating exercise in storytelling possibilities. The premise sounds kind of dull: a bunch of people wandering around moaning about their love problems three times in a row. But, as with most Hal Hartley films, I found myself captivated. Each segment is unique, though linked by circumstances, and I was ever-curious about how events would play out. In New York the events take place primarily in a bar, with Bill Sage aching over two women and seeking advice from strangers in the bathroom. In Berlin, ultra-stylish Dwight Ewell wanders around the city as he is forced to choose between two men (one who is married), interacting with varied denizens and merging languages. Finally, in Tokyo, Miho Nikaido is a theater student torn between a fling with her married teacher and her long-term filmmaker boyfriend (played by Hartley himself!).

While linked by their supposedly flirtatious natures, the protagonists in each story are wildly different, as are their contexts. Hartley not only hints at cultural variables affecting each story but also individual personalities, so that each tale manages to be unpredictable. I loved Dwight's attitude, but was surprised when his confrontation with his love interest's wife morphed into a dangerous seduction. I loved the juxtaposition of performance art and realism in Miho's story, a fun commentary on Hartley's noted theatrical style and intentionally stilted dialogue and blocking. I of course also loved Bill Sage's section, mostly because he's really attractive, even if he has a terrible 1995 haircut. It's a strange little film, beautiful in many ways and one of the director's more daring features. I was a little frustrated with the anthology structure mainly because I wanted more time with these characters, and their stories all felt cut short. But of course it's amazing because Hal Hartley is amazingggggg. Lovely soundtrack, too, as usual.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: After every Hartley movie I only want more Hartley, that's just the way it is.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Wuthering Heights (2012)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from netflix.

I remember reading about this film years ago, as there was something of a furor surrounding Andrea Arnold's decision to cast a man of color in the classic role of Heathcliff, a part usually played by a white dude even though he was written as "dark-skinned" and likely Romani. I never really loved Wuthering Heights but I applauded Arnold's casting and was intrigued to see her version of the story. Set in an isolated farm house along northern England's moors, the film uncovers the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw (Shannon Beer and Kaya Scodelario) and her sort-of-adoptive brother Heathcliff (Solomon Glave and James Howson). A homeless black boy, Heathcliff was found by Cathy's father and taken into their home because it was "the Christian thing to do," but he is never fully accepted by his new family or their neighbors due to his unknown background and somewhat wild ways. Though they are inseparable as children, Cathy eventually is pulled into the well-to-do world of their neighbors the Lintons, and when she agrees to marry their son Edgar, Heathcliff runs away in despair. He returns after a few years a grown man, and endeavors to once again become an integral part of Cathy's life while also seeking revenge on her hateful older brother Hindley (Lee Shaw).

Filled with despicable people who turn everything into a life-or-death melodrama, Wuthering Heights is actually kind of ridiculous depending how one looks at it. The only thing I really remembered about the book was that I felt bad for Heathcliff even though he was a jerk, I hated everyone else, and I had to make a family tree to keep all the characters straight. Also the frame story was unnecessary. Arnold wisely cuts the frame story, leaves out some characters, and ends her film before the events of the book actually end, thus trimming the plot down to its basic components: two people who are unhealthily obsessed with each other. She casts inexperienced unknowns to varying success, and zeroes in on small, intimate moments to tease out her story. It is completely told from Heathcliff's point of view, and his perceived "otherness" is clearly delineated. He overhears snippets of conversations and cautiously watches others' lives unfold, all from a removed standpoint. After he runs away from his enforced baptism, he is never fully included in the life of the Earnshaw household, always made aware that he doesn't belong- for reasons of his skin color, unnerving silence, and unseemly origins.

The real star of this story has always been its memorable setting, the vast and mysterious moors in which Cathy and Heathcliff roam as children. Arnold's thoughtful handheld camera and quiet takes depict a beautiful, tragic landscape with foggy skies and howling winds. She takes her time with the narrative so that she can linger on these natural elements, and the viewer is invited to consider how these breathtaking but lonely settings influence and reflect the protagonists. I'll admit I wasn't particularly engaged by the love story- mostly because I don't really like any of the characters- but I was wholly taken in by the visuals and by Arnold's pensive style of storytelling. The cast is capable (though the children aren't great), and the casting of a man of color in the role really emphasizes the theme of difference and ostracization so central to the development of Heathcliff's character. Also James Howson is like, a total babe. Mhmmmm.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Unsure! Maybe the other recent Brontë adaptation, Jane Eyre?

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Her (2013)

Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Theater in Cambridge.

With as many ways to communicate as there are ways to shut ourselves off from physical human interaction, it is not difficult to imagine a future like the one shown in Her. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sensitive writer unable to move on after his wife (Rooney Mara) leaves him. He's put off signing the divorce papers for a year. Unsatisfied with his self-isolation but unable to sate his emotional needs with actual people, he buys a new operating system that is designed to act like a human being, learning and adapting to suit the personality of its user. With a funny, flirtatious air and a seemingly genuine interest in Theodore's well-being, the self-named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is easy to like. The two gradually find themselves in an unexpected romance, with both sides questioning the validity of their feelings and the possibility of true love with a mechanic intelligence.

At times funny and at others uncannily sad, Her is at heart a touching, relatable romance despite its futuristic premise. It isn't so hard to imagine a person falling in love with a computer, especially one as adorable as Samantha. This is definitely one of those "write about our future to comment on our present"-type of stories, with Jonze pondering the ramifications of our technology-obsessed world and our ever-changing means of interaction. Theodore is convinced he's felt all he's ever going to feel, he's lived as much as he's going to live, and it is only through a "pure", inexperienced presence like Samantha that he finds new reasons to keep on going, new ways of thinking and feeling. Their conversations are interesting for their blend of realistic banter and inhuman considerations, and it is Samantha's constant evolution that ultimately becomes the major factor in their relationship. She surpasses Theodore in sweeping, indefinable ways, so much so that she cannot even find the language to communicate with him anymore.

The film moves from eccentric love story to existential drama in its last act, and while I found that aspect of it fascinating, it didn't quite fit with the rest of the film. The pacing is strange all over, skipping ahead at some points and moving laboriously slowly at others, so that by the time it made its thematic switch I actually thought the movie was about over. Maybe if there had been less of a focus on Sad-Sack Theodore listening to depressing music and feeling sorry for himself (though I understand the character is something of a parody of that archetype), and more of Samantha being a genius renegade computer or whatever, it would have flowed more smoothly for me. Also while I'm thinking about its negatives let me point out that Her has a definite case of white-people-itis, as if future Los Angeles would be so fucking homogenous? As if it is now? Come on. Get your shit together, Spike Jonze and also most other filmmakers. I do think the high-waisted pants and hipster mustaches were good trend-spotting, though. Definitely our future fashion.

Overall I did find Her a really intriguing, and even moving, film. It's funny and well-written, with a fantastic cast and surprisingly sweet love story. Of course I loved Johansson's endearing vocal performance as Samantha, as she so fully embodied this form-less character and gave her a very real personality. Phoenix and Mara are strong as well, though I was hard-put to believe they "grew up together" when she's so clearly at least 10 years younger than him. Whatever. My favorite was actually Amy Adams, in a supporting role as Theodore's friend who, after a rough divorce, also gets a smart OS that ends up becoming her best friend. I like Adams in general, but I think this is the most down-to-earth I've really seen her, and I just connected with her performance and character. I kind of want a side-movie all about her friendship with her computer, actually. Let's do that.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: A sad mustachioed man falling in love with an artificial woman naturally reminded me of Lars and the Real Girl, which I liked. At the end it gets kind of Blade Runner-y in its themes, so that works too.

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