Her (2014)

Genre: Comedy, Sci-fi, Romance

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

Rating:★★★★★

Her is certainly one of the most connecting films I have watched in recent years making me experience a bundle of emotions from sadness to inspiration. The story along with the script, characters and acting is a real credit to the amazing writing and visual direction by director and writer Spike Jonze who has really created something special. It’s hard to find faults in one of this year’s big Oscar films and it certainly deserves its reputation and plaudits and in some respects deserves more as Joaquin Phoenix gives a simply great performance as the lead character along with the rest of cast.

Set in a futuristic time, technology is thriving and as a civilisation we are thriving with it. We follow Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) a New Yorker and letter writer who amazes us along with everyone else with his compassion, charm and romance however to our surprise we find that he is actually a lonely man in the final stages of a harsh divorce. Spending his nights choosing between the dilemma of internet porn and video games Theodore is hooked when he sees an advertisement for a new operating system OS1 labelled “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness”. Upon installing his newly purchased OS1 he is matched up with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice behind his system, a programmed conscious who can evolve just like Theodore himself. Being his only and new founded company Samantha becomes more than an operating system for Theodore and the two together fall in love.

It is amazing to watch how an operating system voice with only audible presence can have a huge impact and connection to not only Theodore but us as an audience. However after falling in love and forming a relationship the obvious problems form as Samantha is only a voice but there is more than it first seems which causes harm for our main characters. Despite Samantha’s pure and high intelligence helping Theodore in his work and everyday life, he still finds conflict within himself, finding himself mostly withdrawn at times and alongside the ongoing divorce he gets pulled down. As for Samantha finding and discovering new things and feelings isn’t always good and the popularity of OS1 and relationships seem to grow and grow along with the operating system’s intelligence proving to be a disastrous thing.

Spike Jonze has written possibly one my favourite scripts of all time and one of the most diverse screenplays. The whole concept in itself is unique and this unconventional romance is somewhat refreshing and certainly pleasant. At times I was in tears due to the witty and hilarious comedy, by far one of the most entertaining scenes this year to watch is Theodore’s encounter with a lost alien whilst playing a video game. On the other hand at times there was some real emotional pain and heart-felt sadness when you could see the despair in Theodore and even the sorrow in Samantha’s voice as the story closes. It was too inspirational, showing sometimes the message of just doing what makes you happy or as Theodore’s friend Amy says “you know what, just fuck it”. It was a story that slowly grew on me than eventually took over and became amazing, the only flaws are the slightly perverted moments but those can easily be overlooked. It was also inspirational as one day I hope to be able to write a screenplay or script with such emotional impact and connection with the audience as Her achieves.

The cast give fantastic performances and for me a big surprise was how the role of Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore was overlooked by the Oscar committee as it was truly great. Instantly we felt for our protagonist, we felt his harsh and deepest emotions and when happiness approach him it approached us, and that was due to a combination of excellent writing but even better acting. Scarlet Johansson although only a voice was brilliant, I think it needs to be pointed out that it must be harder to communicate emotion with only tone available yet it was completely believable. Amy Adams too as Theodore’s friend Amy was very believable, apparently Jonze made the actors spend forced time together in a locked room to make them all form a connection. It was an idea that really worked as the dialogue and delivery was so real it felt like it wasn’t even acting.

Jonze’s direction too was great along with the cinematography, a flurry of scenery shots of New York’s skyline and coast beaches hogged the screen and it was awe-inspiring. The shots were mainly long and simple but so beautifully crafted as it created a warm glow and feeling. At times it was the simplicity which made the emotion stand out the most.  Along with Best Motion Picture, Original Screenplay and Production Design, Her achieved two nominations for its achievement in score and music something I found joy in. Not only are the scenes where a happy Theodore and Samantha sing together made up created songs pleasant to watch, but it is pleasant to listen to with such a beautifully lyrical song made. The “Moon Song” is something to listen out for within the film.

Her is hard to fault, maybe the perverted scenes were unnecessary but at times it did show us Theodore’s character and his struggle, however it is something that can’t and really shouldn’t bring down this film at all.  Jonze’s creation is a real treat to experience, leaving you somewhat sad not only due to the story but that the film ended and with it the experience and our time with Theodore and Samantha who we bond with an amazing amount. It is a film worth-while to watch and one worth the huge reputation and praise; it is Her’s ability to be outstanding in so many aspects that makes this film complete and something real special. Easily watchable, entertaining, inspiring and emotional it is a film which is firmly making its way as a modern great alongside a personal favourite.

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My Take on The Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations were released today after much wait, anticipation and speculation on which big releases could and should be accredited one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Here is the list of nominations with my own thoughts regarding who I think should and will take the award, applause and glory.

BEST PICTURE

12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street.

12 Years a Slave should and probably will be accredited and named The Best Picture at the 86th Oscar Ceremony after stunning its audience and collecting much praise and plaudits.

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell – American Hustle, Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity, Alexander Payne – Nebraska, Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

This should be a close contest between Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave in my perspective as they were the two visual highlights out of the bunch. Cuaron behind one of the best visual experiences in cinematic history whilst McQueen refreshing and brilliant techniques captured so much in 12 Years a Slave.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale – American Hustle, Bruce Dern – Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio -The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club.

12 Years a Slave’s Ejiofor should deserve to win Best Actor however with the heaps of praise and success from McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club It could be stolen away.

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams – American Hustle, Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock – Gravity, Judi Dench – Philomena, Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Amy Adams is the majority’s choice to take claim to the Best Actress award but giving the performance of her career in Gravity it would be much deserved if Sandra Bullock took the glory.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

American Hustle – Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, Blue Jasmine – Written by Woody Allen, Her – Written by Spike Jonze , Nebraska – Written by Bob Nelson, Dallas Buyers Club – Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Spike Jonze’s Her, I hope will get named the Best Original Screenplay ahead of American Hustle after failing to amaze me and reach expectation.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Before Midnight – Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Captain Phillips – Screenplay by Billy Ray, Philomena – Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, 12 Years a Slave – Screenplay by John Ridley, The Wolf of Wall Street – Screenplay by Terence Winter

12 Years a Slave absolutely amazed me, especially with its accurate adaptation, brutal realism and factual accuracy so this would be a strong shout for this award, however Captain Phillips was truly special so I wouldn’t be surprise if it stole the show here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle, June Squibb – Nebraska, Julia Roberts – August: Osage County, Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence although only playing a minor role stood out amongst others in American Hustle and should easily be credited as Best Supporting Actress.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper – American Hustle, Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street, Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto apparently gave a wonderful performance in Dallas Buyers Club but I can’t see anyone accept Michael Fassbneder winning and deserving this award after his performance in 12 Years a Slave.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

Frozen will most likely scoop The Best Animated Film award up after becoming a huge favourite, however I could see close competition from the great, Despicable Me 2.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

I could see best cinematography being between Inside Llewyn Davis and Gravity but I couldn’t say which way.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Michael Wilkinson – American Hustle, William Chang Suk Ping – The Grandmaster, Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby, Michael O’Connor – The Invisible Woman, Patricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave

American Hustle really did show off its excellence in this department and it should surely be credited by picking up the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen, Cutie and the Boxer – Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher, Dirty Wars – Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill, The Square – Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, 20 Feet from Stardom – Nominees to be determined

The Act Killing is my favourite for this category.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

CaveDigger – Jeffrey Karoff, Facing Fear – Jason Cohen, Karama Has No Walls -Sara Ishaq , The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life – Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall – Edgar Barens

BEST FILM EDITING

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten,  Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse, Dallas Buyers Club-  John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa, Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger,  12 Years a Slave –  Joe Walker

Gravity should have this one firmly in their grasp!

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium, The Great Beauty -Italy, The Hunt – Denmark, The Missing Picture – Cambodia,  Omar Palestine

It was a big surprise to not see Blue is the Warmest Colour given a nomination for this category.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Dallas Buyers Club – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa –  Stephen Prouty, The Lone Ranger –  Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

Dallas Buyers Club would be my favourite for this award however again its a surprise to see American Hustle not getting nominated.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

John Williams – The Book Thief, Steven Price –  Gravity,  William Butler and Owen Pallett –  Her,  Alexandre Desplat –  Philomena Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr Banks would be my favourite and a winner that would be much deserved.

BEST SOUND EDITING

All Is Lost – Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns,  Captain Phillips – Oliver Tarney, Gravity –  Glenn Freemantle , The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug –  Brent Burge, Lone Survivor – Wylie Stateman

Captain Phillips has amazing score but I was very impressed by Lone Survivor it would be more than deserved if they were awarded Best Sound Editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Captain Phillips –  Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro,  Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug –  Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson, Inside Llewyn Davis –  Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland,  Lone Survivor – Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Again this for me would be between Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould,  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds,  Iron Man 3 –  Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick,  The Lone Ranger – Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier, Star Trek Into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

I would like to see The Hobbit be accredited this award after the amazing appearance of Smaug however it would be no surprise to see Gravity make way with another victory.

I did miss out a few categories however these are the Oscar Nominations, there were a few shocks and surprises but I’m sure there will be plenty more upon ceremony night! I would appreciate it if you could comment below your thoughts and your favourites for the Oscars 2014.

American Hustle (2014)

Genre: Crime, Drama

Director: David O. Russell

Writers: Eric Singer, David O. Russell

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence

Rating: ★★★★

American Hustle has made a huge impact on the film world and community earning itself respectful plaudits and nominations by the dozen. It certainly has one of the best and most-talented acting ensembles in which each give a refreshing and different performance. The story however is where I struggled mostly, but since reflecting the words brave and seemingly clever seem most fitting. American Hustle is enjoyable but nowhere near having special and faultless-like qualities as speculated and first hoped.

The film establishes itself in a world of con artists and corrupt business men following one in particular, the brilliant Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who lives scamming the equally greedy, selling fake art along with owning a string of businesses he survives. Rosenfeld meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) a sly and lonely British woman who seduces her way into Irving’s world of cons and scandals. Later down the line they cross paths with a FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) wild and deranged he leads them into danger and a world plagued with powerbrokers and mobsters as they attempt to pull off a big-time con.

Irving Rosenfeld’s struggling relationships with fling Sydney and scatty wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) starts to cause problems with the con and things get far too dangerous than ever imagined. Political operator Carmine Polito then enters the frame and finds himself in-between the two corrupt worlds of cons and cops. As things develop in everyone’s lives the con looks to be exposed with its success lying in the shaky hands of Irving’s unstable Rosalyn.

American Hustle has a great introduction, but only for those that were hooked and intrigued by the concepts and world laid out in front of them. A great in-depth opening act really lets us know the characters, the plot and the plan but it doesn’t grab you as much as it should and could. You find yourself slightly bored awaiting action and consequently for some, you don’t take in the information and this is dangerous as American Hustle adopts a very interlinking plotline that you can easily lose yourself in. Once developed it gets much better, the action is brought forward and it sets up some tense scenes as the con leads our ensemble to mobsters and criminals. As I said the story didn’t grab me, not at the beginning and not enough during the middle, however it was the ending that shines. The con comes together appearing much clearer, a big plot twist is introduced and everything is wrapped up nicely making lots of sense and giving great closure. It is then when you appreciate the story, the con and the writing from duo Eric Singer and David O. Russell.

Where most praise however has been and should be directed at, is the casting ensemble that makes up American Hustle. Christian Bale shows once again how versatile and amazing he is, whilst the duo that made up award winning Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence display yet another award winning performance. Amy Adams also makes a great statement for her talent and future career. I can easily see one of these brilliantly captured performances being rewarded and marked with an Oscar nomination or even the win come February’s ceremony.

David O. Russell should also be given credit for producing such a fine display and quality picture whilst plaudits should be directed in the pathway of the music department for the score too. However an obvious and much talked about success is those of the make-up department which transform the group completely surely leading them to Oscar and award glory.

I’ve seen a lot of five stars and special labels surrounding American Hustle but for me it doesn’t pitch that high. It tries to be too “sexy” and “clever” at times and this plays against my liking whilst it lacks a little action too. Nevertheless I believe it was entertaining and rather enjoyable, with great scenes and some funny scripted moments. American Hustle was boosted and saved by its all-star cast so credit to David O. Russell for picking some familiar faces as it paid off once again. Easily watchable, clever and funny American Hustle should be seen, especially to witness a great acting display.