Every day, from now until the weekend of the 2014 Academy Awards, HeyUGuys will be publishing an article championing one of the nine films in contention for the coveted Best Picture Oscar. We will be collecting them all here, where you can find the previous articles.
Chris Haydon dissects the 2013 futureshock from Spike Jonze, a one-sided multi-faceted jewel of a romance poignant in its terrifying believability.
A recent trend at the Academy Awards is the inclusion of the ‘underdog’ film which somehow works its way into the nominees for Best Picture. Last year it was Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and the year prior offered Terence Malik’s The Tree of Life. In 2014, the film everyone should be rooting for is Spike Jonze’s utterly impeccable science-fiction romance Her which has about as much chance of taking home the statue as Leonardo DiCaprio does.
Out of the nine nominees this year, only four have original screenplays and a mere three aren’t based on a true story or drawn from factual accounts. One of them is Gravity and the other is Nebraska which too is much of an outside bet, but sitting on the edge on the step anxiously staring into space is Her – undoubtedly the best film nominated in the campaign – one that bursts with originality, intelligence and social relevance; a picture penned and captured by an American auteur whose previous works have been nothing but a celebration for independent cinema, and this is just one of the reasons why Jonze’s film should win Best Picture come March.
Her is the complete package; a harmonious marriage of script, directing and performance – everything the Academy voters desire when selecting the rightful winner, and whilst they always lean towards real life human struggles (half the reason why 12 Years a Slave will run riot), to deny a film which provides all the ingredients for greatness of awards success is just plain wrong. Jonze’s portrait of loneliness and love is something we can all relate to, regardless of the subtext and futuristic setting. Theodore Twombly (played to pinpoint perfection by human chameleon Joaquin Phoenix) is a recently separated man longing for a connection. He finds that emotional response in Samantha (expertly cast and voiced by screen siren Scarlett Johansson); a personal voice-command OS (operating system) which he has installed in his apartment to aid him with work scheduling.
Yes, on paper it sounds like Jonze has made a flick film about an introvert who falls in love with Siri on the Apple iPhone, but the film offers so much more than this. His picture speaks volumes about the way we as humans connect with each other; in a world controlled by smartphones, tablets, Facebook and Twitter, we are more connected than ever before – in fact you are ‘never alone when you’ve got a phone’ as the saying states, but when you take a look around and gain true clarity, we are actually more isolated than ever before. People can’t even go out for lunch or to the pub without mindlessly staring at Snapchat or Instagram; we even feel the need to take pictures of our food and share it for Pete’s sake. This is the culture Jonze so expertly tackles, but rather than painting it in apocalyptic grey and ash-black like the depictions of our future we are so accustomed to, he weaves a candy-coloured dream; a neon-soaked nirvana which sheds light on something truly dark.
The concept of Theodore falling in love with Samantha is so brilliantly plausible that it shows just how much talent Jonze has as a filmmaker, and more importantly a scribe. His screenplay is brimming with ideas and questions, yet its laden with laughs and moments of sheer ecstasy which makes Her a truly joyous screen experience. Out of the entire Best Picture selection, only two films can actually be considered as fully uplifting; Payne’s old-age dramedy and the film in question. Sure it’s brilliant to see Sandra Bullock fend off space, or Solomon Northup overcome a desperate dozen years of brutality, but audiences must endure the bad before the resolution. Whilst Her isn’t always the happiest of tales, and concludes quietly and in a sense coldly, it is always visually, thematically and aesthetically pleasing for the spectator.
If you study the film as an audio-visual piece, Jonze offers just as much flair and excitement as any CGI-pyrotechnic cavalcade. The primary shooting location choice was Shanghai which truly showcases vibrancy and wonder. The towering buildings dressed in LED lights, the purple-green skylines which awash the rows and rows of glossy glass, and the warming red colour pallets which drape our cast and much of their surroundings make Her a real feast for the eyes as well as the heart. However, his film looking good borders on irrelevance for Jonze who knows the key for filmic greatness is character and narrative – the two most vital assets for any true filmmaker, and something which is so frequently clouded by gigantic budgets and techno gimmickry.
Her has been cruelly snubbed in many categories this year – Phoenix and Johansson should have both been selected in the Leading Actor/Actress ballots, and the dizzyingly euphoric cinematography was worthy of a nod – but the film has been recognised for the exceptionally atmospheric score from Arcade Fire and Karen O, and Jonze is rightfully amongst the Best Original Screenplay nominees which is undoubtedly his for the taking. Most importantly though is its inclusion for Best Picture which shows compassion and respect from the Academy voters and they really should take the plunge and be crazy enough to grant it that shiny gold naked statue.
As cinema becomes ever more reliant on remakes, adaptations and sequels, we are gifted a movie like this – a diamond in the rough which will be revisited and resourced time and time again. Her is 2014’s Lost in Translation or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; a film which stamps and cements the sheer quality found in the busy heart of independent filmmaking, and giving it that Oscar will only do favours for the industry in years to come.