Friday, February 14, 2014

//SPCL: 'Her'- This Would Have Been A Great Review If I knew What The Fuck Was Going On

This is another one of those instances (that have been on the rise) where I've found it difficult to fully grasp, what should be, easy material to analyse. The topic in question here happens not to be a mathematical problem, an unresolved political issue, dawning idea or anything of the sort. What I'm trying to figure out is nothing more but the underlying structures of a 2 hour Romantic/Sci-Fi. This movie is not limited by the fact that it is absolutely fictional- a documentary-type prediction of the near future would've been just as sentimentally sweet but ultimately Jarring (to me at least).

And we know this is the very near future because everyone is still using those pesky flat computer screens modern Sci-Fis usually hate and Los Angeles is stuck in Asian-nerd fashion hell. Not that it's a sin to set a sci-fi in the very near future- but why is it that I'm finding it hard to believe this almost-utopian post-DNA Computer L.A. is only two disastrous fashion trends away? Before I get into this movie I have to state that I do not, ultimately, think this is a bad or good movie but rather that I'm still undecided about a movie about Joaquin Phoenix sexing his phone (also note that spoilers are essential to this review).



It sounds like a joke, right? I thought so too. Her  is, indeed, about, Theodore (Phoenix), a middle aged man-boy getting over a heart-breaking divorce in a time of an overwhelming loneliness epidemic. He gets a new O.S. that is voiced by a self-aware and intelligent interface called 'Samantha' (Scarlett Johansson) based on the relationship he has with his mom. She falls in love with him, him with her, she cheats on him and leaves his ass to join what eventually becomes Skynet (Whom you can actually chat with here). I'm not knocking this guy for falling in-love with an 'artificial' entity, you are indeed reading the words of someone that prematurely confessed his love to a terribly coded A.I. called Jenny at the tender age of 10- I could have swore it, then, burnt out my P.C. because I got angry at it for not reciprocating. I probably shouldn't have admitted to any of that.



I watched this documentary recently (video posted above) where this woman interviews two middle aged Japanese men on their relationship with two A.I. in a Nintendo game called Love+ (No Affiliation to the super-awesome record label Kalibr+). I remember the look on her face as one of them tried to decide on whether he'd chose the video game over his wife if he was confronted with the choice. In the words of Olivia Wilde's character in the movie: 'You're a creepy dude'. She was thinking it, Anita was thinking it and even I, who once confessed his love to an .exe file, was thinking it. Even if you're the furthest thing away from sober, it's hard to not feel like Spike Jonze is trolling you. It made me wonder what it would be like to watch the movie without sound. The movie's sensationalism lies purely in the made-up world around it. I would have guessed, from the beginning shots, that the movie took place in China but, alas, only a few parts were shot there in order to help give the feel of this 'utopian' future Jonze dreams of. Ironic seeing how just in Neighboring Japan, home of the two otakus, Spike's Utopia actually exists- accurate to the level where the country is experiencing a depressing national birth-rate. It's safe to say that this is where he would have set the film if he wasn't afraid it being compared to Lost In Translation, directed by his former-spouse (what I would deem the spiritual predecessor to Her).

It also safe to say this movie does not lack in the feeling-things department or a number of predictive areas. Yes, the world being envisioned- that of a large Big-Bang Theory convention filled with commitmentphobes, sure enough, mirrors much of today's world. An incoming future will only hold more small gadgety thingies for us to fidget with, people will find less reason to relate to each other and the basic task of creating handwritten love letters will become a niche-form of art privy to a few old-fashioned super-hipsters. To ice the cake, the idea of Samantha being a reality soon isn't even so stupid. Hell, a quick search on A.I. will show that companies are pouring Millions, if not Billions into developing A.I. IBM has already set Samantha's father, Watson, off the leash. And he's been lounging about doing some stuff: beating people at Jeopardy, financing on Wall Street.... oh and curing cancer.

 No, where this movie truly breaks down is the moment you realise the whole pseudo-economic foundation the premise is built on is absolute hogwash. We are still talking about a future that is just another Star Wars movie away. Midst all the bubbling socio-economic tensions, the idea that Spike Jonze sees people out there willing to pay money to have someone else write their letters is laughable. I'm not an expert on the matter but with the current trend of disparity between classes, it's almost impossible to imagine that the world that will see singularity emerging will be that of romantic lonely geekism and not of structural violence. That is why Jonze couldn't go into further detail concerning the globe and the only thing we know of the world is that India and China are merging together (How would that even work? there's, like, countries between them). It's hard to devise a Utopian premise that is so close without it looking like denial and wishful thinking in script. I can give Spike a break and deduce that maybe Spike's world kept the not-L.A. world a mystery because things are falling apart internationally and only the city of angels is feeling the calm breeze. A conspiratorial fan theory like this is the only thing that can give credence to this grand love story.

I love Being John Malkovich  and Where The Wild Things Are as much as the next person but this movie lies way too beyond the emotional-porn threshold for me to take it seriously. With beautiful cinematography, set design, costumes and a blooming Indie soundtrack made for us flannel-shirt wearers this movie works as another one of those snuggle-in-and-fall-asleep movies. But let's not kid ourselves into trying to connect it to ideas that 2001, Ghost In The Shell and Blade Runner haven't already tackled in thorough detail with better dialogue and clearer sights. In the end, it's hard to not to like this movie as it is hard not to be turned on by Johansson's voice but this movie also makes it hard not to think about how stupid theodor looks when he's on a date with a phone.

Further reading:

http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/emospark-first-a-i-home-console
http://mashable.com/2012/03/07/watson-wall-street/
http://www.businessinsider.com/best-artificial-intelligence-smart-preschooler-2013-7
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/technology/the-rapid-advance-of-artificial-intelligence.html?_r=0