*Her*

by on December 29, 2013 at 7:55 am in Film, Web/Tech | Permalink

As I tend to find Jonze’s work contrived I didn’t expect much, but I was bowled over by what is a must-see movie for anyone interested in tech or the social sciences or for that matter cinema.  Two of its starting premises are a) we as humans now face shadow prices which lead us to deemphasize the physical world of things and live in a world of information, and b) if we are going to have AI, which consumes real resources, which Darwinian principles will govern what kinds of personal assistants survive or do not?  Will they enslave us, will they be our dogs, our friends, our trading partners, or something else altogether?  This movie is the single best place to start on that question.

The rest is, as they say, solve for the equilibrium.  I found the dialogue, performances, and cinematography very strong.  The skyline blends Los Angeles and Shanghai.  The movie toys with the viewer in a clever manner as to whether it is about the future, the present, or both.  Several of the scenes (reluctance to spoil prevents further specificity) were some of the best and most creative and most conceptual movie-making I have seen, ever.

The “sources” for this movie, whether Spike Jonze is aware of them all or not, include Cyrano de Bergerac, various Mermaid legends, Blade Runner, Spielberg’s AI, 2001, Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, Philip Pullman, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, Pinocchio, Girard and indeed Shakespeare on the triangulation and intermediation of desire, Electric Dreams, Battlestar Galactica, Annie Hall, and even the Mormon doctrine of the Holy Ghost, as well as Jonze’s previous movies.  This is perhaps the most accurate review (some spoilers) I have seen.  This too is an insightful review, but the spoilers there are massive.  Best is not to read either but just to go see it.

Definitely recommended, for me this was one of the cultural events of the year.

Ray Lopez December 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

I rarely watch movies and don’t have a TV, but how is “Her” different from this film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lars_and_the_Real_Girl ?

Seems Hollywood is once again recycling stuff.

Brandon December 29, 2013 at 8:56 am

You’re right. It’s probably exactly the same. All those rubes with televisions just consuming the same recycled crap!

KWA4250 December 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

“Lars and the Real Girl” is about a man who apparently believes his sex doll is a real person. He suffers from some apparently deep-seated psychological issues, and the movie explores how he, his family, and the people in his small town react to this behavior.

“Her” is about an artificial intelligence that, at least from the trailers, is undoubtedly real. The AI does not appear to physically exist, but is instead a piece of software that interacts with the main character through various devices. As Tyler describes above, this sounds nothing like “Lars and the Real Girl.” While the movie business loves to recycle ideas (it’s hard to believe how many Spiderman and Fast and Furious movies we’ve had since 2000), this does not fit that particular bill.

Gabriel E December 29, 2013 at 10:44 am

Next time you mention, “I rarely watch movies and don’t have a TV”, you should probably know that you sound like a douche.

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

Alternatively: with Americans watching almost five hours of television programming A DAY, you may care to recalibrate your definition of “douche”. (I worked for NBC as an associate producer for three years, which cured me of watching TV for the rest of my life. The therapy was painful, but I’ve not returned to television viewing in over ten years.)

prior_approval December 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

But MRU is totally worth it – 5 minute clips, even shorter than the segments between commercials of broadcast product.

Though the idea of selling something is identical. (Whatever happened to the interest in India once Walmart packed up its bags?)

KWA4250 December 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm

“Douche” is wholly appropriate for someone exhibiting a smarmy sense of superiority based on entertainment choices. Makes me think of this quote from stuffwhitepeoplelike: “The number one reason why white people like not having a TV is so that they can tell you that they don’t have a TV.”

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/26/28-not-having-a-tv/

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

If you insist on lexical latitudinarianism, by all means let’s be thorough and agree that “douche” must also be entirely appropriate for both 1) someone exhibiting a smarmy sense of populism in his advocacy of entertainment choice and 2) someone imputing a smarmy sense of superiority to those making non-populist entertainment choices.

Mark Thorson December 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

That’s only true for vegan white people, not white people in general.

Ray Lopez December 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm

@ my haters:
I’m better than you. Let’s consider the facts:

1) I and my family are comfortably in the 1%, (see the comments from TC’s Christmas Card post for details). I was millionaire by age 30. Semi-retired by age 40. Lived in a half-dozen countries, independently wealthy. Currently in the Philippines.

2) I am 6 foot, 165, fit, and can run a 10k in under 50 minutes. Can you even walk 10k, obese TV-watching American? I have an excellent outside shot in basketball. I can palm the ball. The other day, not having played hoops in over 10 years (I prefer jogging) I sunk 2 out of 3 from the three-point line. Impressed the basketball-crazed local kids (Miami Heat is popular here, LeBron James came to Manila earlier this year), who play a mean game of hoops in just flip-flop sandals.

3) At my peak I had an IQ of 140. It’s dropped a bit now but still no doubt higher than yours.

4) In my professional capacity I’ve brought to market products that are now household names. Nuff said since I operate in a small world (I’ve shook hands with billionaires).

5) I play chess, with an Elo of 1900. TC can beat me but you can’t.

6) I’m good looking. When I walk down the street, this is what I see: everybody stops just staring at me (in this small town I’m about the only white guy, except for a few NGO westerners), and they shout out: “Hey Joe!”. Very cool.

7) I read lots of books, I code, and I don’t own a TV. “Friends”? Do they still have reruns? “Breaking Bad” was the best TV show ever? You mean it’s good TV to kill people in creative ways? (I saw some Youtube clips).

8) My relatives–God willing I shall follow them–live to a ripe old age. Two of them got to 100. Rest mostly late 80s and 90s. Those Greek genes? Or is it the miracle Med diet? I think it’s genes not oil.

9) I speak three languages, two of them fluently. My Spanish is bad, and though I can say a few words in Tagalog and Thai, I don’t count them. How many languages do you speak, insular, obese, TV watching white Virginian? Southern count? Ya’ll come back now, hear? LOL.

10) Let’s face it: I’m better than you. But in real life I smile a lot and am mild mannered. I found over the years that Americans are unusually aggressive, especially the poorer whites like some of you from Virginia, and there’s nothing but downside in even joking with them. Why bother? I’m wealthy, fully vested, and in the 1%. What can you possibly do to or for me except to try and bring me down from hate and envy? So I always am extra nice to my social inferiors in real life. Sorry, that’s probably (statistically, with apologies to any of my equals here in MR), you dear reader.

An Alpha High School Jock Laughing Through Your AP English Presentation on Heinlein December 30, 2013 at 3:05 am

@ Ray Lopez

Didn’t you say in another post that you couldn’t get a date…at all? Who cares about all your ‘accomplishments’ — you’re just another invisible incel.

I, on the other hand, am a robust, high-t, low inhibition badboy with a perpetual tan, hooded eyes, and 8 inch wrists. As an extravagant power puncher, one blow from me would surely crumble your pathetic ectomorphic frame into the dirt.

So come at me, bro.

msgkings December 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

Well, Ray, if you don’t think your ‘no TV’ superiority stuff didn’t make you sound like a douche, this pleading SuperRay selfie of yours definitely did the trick.
A general rule of thumb is if someone feels like they have to loudly boast about themselves to total strangers, they are either very insecure about something, or exaggerating, or both.

Bernard Guerrero December 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I am Spartacus!

Ray Lopez December 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

@msgkings – it’s lonely at the top. By definition a “general” rule of thumb fails for a 1%-er like me. And I can’t get a date because I’m choosy.

msgkings December 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Oh Ray…maybe take a few plays off, stop talking for a while…

Tom January 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm

So, Ray, in your Philippine pond, I take it you’re a very big frog indeed?

But seriously, you should use that as your email signature.

valuethinker January 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I went cold turkey off TV about 20 years ago. Moved house and didn’t buy a new TV (you have to pay an annual license fee hear of about $150 USD).

It was nothing less than that I was using TV as junk food. I’d watch *anything* no matter how bad. A time sink (like the internets ;-)).

I *do* watch TV series that make it to DVD and get them from netflix.

Movies I’d watch more of, but it’s expensive to go out and I never seem to find 2 hours free at home.

I do recommend going TV-less. You’ll wonder how you ever found time for it.

Thor December 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm

The next time you react to someone who has more sense — or less time left to waste in life — than you do, you should probably know, etc etc…

Das December 30, 2013 at 5:46 am

‘Murica: Not watching TV makes you a douche.

dsgntd_plyr December 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

Congrats on missing the point. It’s talking about not watching tv. As in “look at those rubes and their idiot boxes.” That’s the problem.

valuethinker January 1, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Gabriel E

Or you are projecting. Don’t assume the OP is making a value judgement of you.

FWIW I gave up TV because it was my junk food– junk time. I’d watch any cr-p. So I gave it up. It really does improve your quality of life. But I had to physically get rid of the damned box, I couldn’t just leave it sitting there, turned off in my living room.

You’ll also listen to more radio and there is really good stuff on radio. Classical music for one.

Charlie December 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I never read books or view art, but comment frequently on how stupid they probably are.

JWatts December 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

+1

Rahul December 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm

+2

So Much For Subtlety December 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Come on, you had to go for Lars and the Real Girl?

Everyone knows when you’re talking about robosexual love stories (Not that there is anything wrong with that) the go-to film is Cherry 2000. Perhaps some of Melanie Griffith’s finest work.

I mean, Stuff White People Like, OK. Fine in its place. But here at MR I like to think that the dialog is more refined and elevated. And we go straight to video. Every time.

Jack Reacher December 30, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Ray Ray-

Next time you feel like slamming poor white Virginians, remember, it’s because of them
you are able to live comfortably in the Philipines.

jr

Bill December 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

I am waiting for the other movies in the series called Him and the one following called It.

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

And meanwhile, Evgeny Zamyatin has already written WE (thus far spared the fate of cinematic translation) . . . .

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 10:45 am

–but let’s not forget the 1950s B/W SF classic, “Them!” (the giant ants with their pools of formic acid).

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 10:58 am

–then there was the Hammer Films vehicle for Ursula Andress from 1965, “She”.

Bill December 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

+1, Edward, you are on a roll.

hammerhead December 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Or the trilogy “Me”, “Myself”, and “I”

Edward Burke December 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Beatle Harrison covered that (sufficiently?) with “I Me Mine” on “Let It Be”.

Bill December 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm

OK, how about the box set of:

Me, Myself, and I, She, Him, Her, We, Them and It–Oh, and Let It Be.

mike December 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Don’t forget Me and You and Everyone We Know

Bill December 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

The music for this boxed collection will be played by the band called the

Who.

bdbd December 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

“Y’all” should be funny, but won’t be released for several years

bdbd December 29, 2013 at 8:58 am

Haven’t seen it yet, but will. Would also love to be able to do a comparison of the Scarlet Johannson version and the Samantha Morton version.

Guan Yang December 29, 2013 at 9:27 am

Where to start reading for Shakespeare on the triangulation and intermediation of desire?

Tyler Cowen December 29, 2013 at 9:41 am

See this book, http://www.amazon.com/Theater-Of-Envy-Shakespeare-Carthage/dp/1587318601, and any Shakespearean play with romance and disguise, some Mozart/da Ponte too.

Bill N December 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

For a specific recommendation I would start with “Much Ado About Nothing”, it is accessible, rich in the theme, and has a very good movie version by Branagh. Read the Cliff or Spark notes to follow the plot and the first levels of analysis.

tt December 29, 2013 at 9:37 am

when saying the title say it as someone from arrested development.
“Her?”

dirk December 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

You have significantly underrated Jonze’s previous work.

AC December 29, 2013 at 10:55 am

I’d predict that the society in the film also suffers from sub-replacement fertility.

mike December 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

What, you didn’t like Being John Malkovich and Adapation? Also this quote sounds introspective and makes me like Jonze and want to see the movie:

“[on the origins of Her (2013) from his long-ago encounter with an artificial-intelligence computer program] For the first 30 seconds, I had that buzz, like, It’s responding to me! Then it quickly fell apart and you realize, Here are the tricks, here’s how this works. But what if I could sustain that forever? What would that be like? I wanted to take that idea as far as I could possibly imagine and feel.”

mike December 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I believe with a 50% probability that this is just hipster contrarian posturing

wait December 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I’d really love for Tyler to explain how Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are “contrived.”

Tyler Cowen December 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I like *Being JM*, not Adaptation.

wait December 30, 2013 at 10:23 am

Understandable, but what’s contrived about Adaptation?

Ethan December 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Well now I HAVE to watch it.

nottorrance December 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Jonze has an even strong connection to the world of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie than most people suspect, as he is related to the Speigels of the Speigel catalog company which was sort of pervasive and iconic in the U.S.A. right before and after that general era, if memory serves. Also, other possible non-spoiler-to-mention influences on this movie are the Wilson soccer ball as filmed by Robert Zemeckis in his Robinson Crusoe movie from a few years back and the extensive genre of twenty-something robot maids in Japanese anime.

anon December 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Tyler, two things:

1) Who persuaded you to see it? Your wife?

2) I want to see Tyrone’s review.

Bernard Guerrero December 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I second #2, we need more Tyrone on pop culture.

hammerhead December 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Go figure…. “She” is on tomorrow night (January 1st) — 2am, Turner Classic Movies. Ursula Andress…. mmmmm

FredR January 12, 2014 at 8:23 am

I don’t understand the appeal of this dull, dispiriting, and diminishing movie.

FredR January 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

The basic drama of Theodore trying to “grow” to achieve closure with his ex-wife was tacky and tacked-on, in exactly the same way Cuaron pere et fils tacked on some tacky personal growth issue to Gravity. As for the AI stuff, the movie didn’t take seriously at all what interactions between a human and a creature capable of thinking a million times faster would look like or be. The movie to me was narcissistic navel-gazing, blithely unaware of the incredibly degraded vision of humanity (as a little mouse getting its emotional diaper changed daily) it was putting forth.

Thehova January 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Isn’t that sort of the point of neatly every film on AI. Humans can be manipulated.

I loved it. Stunning visuals.

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