I saw Her last summer and really enjoyed it. And since then, it has stayed in my mind, raising lots of questions. This morning I ran across this piece in the New York times and it raised even more questions.
But here’s the thing that doesn’t seem to come into the equation whenever I hear about the notion of “will machines become human minds?”. While folks speculate about whether or not you could actually have a machine with a human mind – as Samantha in HER does, they rarely consider the question of wondering. Wondering about stuff that you have never seen before, or even know if it exists or not does not seem to be in the cards. How could a machine create a new thought about something that isn’t there. What would be it’s reference point? Actually there are many aspects of something that isn’t there that come to mind (at least to my mind – which I assure you is somewhat human):
Deciding that you like something, or not. Choosing to do something because it makes you happy, and conversely choosing to not do something because it makes you sad. Creating an entirely new thing – something that no one has ever even thought of – just to name a few.
I’m not worried about computers becoming real live thinking machines – mostly because they would still leave the realm of art to us poor humans. Ah now that’s a fascinating thought.
This notion of a a group of pictures or a single picture that was the very best is pretty tricky. Firstly, when I went through a list of the films that made the critics “Best” list – I saw at least another 10 films that I didn’t get to see at all. How good were they?
Such is life. OK so here’s my list. Some of the very best were all about the money – Blue Jasmine, and on the other side – Wolf of Wall Street – and then all over the place – American Hustle, Dallas Buyer’s Club and Nebraska – perhaps the strangest of them all. I especially liked Nebraska because it was so real. But I think overall in the group I probably liked American Hustle the best (although Blue Jasmine is the only one I saw twice)
Without any question the toughest movies of the year were all about race. 12 Years a Slave, Lincoln and the toughest, saddest, movie of the year- Fruitvale Station. This trio of films were all superb – in really different ways – each on more intimate. Lincoln of course was great to see the politics of America. 12 years was stunning in the brutality that was visited upon so many people. But when you see what happened to one man over a 24 hr. period, it really hits you that not much has changed.
The next group of films were kinda crime related – Prisoners, Mud, The Heat and American Hustle. I suppose Wolf fits in there too, and also Blue Jasmine, and of course Fruitvale Station, and sure, 12 Years.
The next Group – Love and Relationships. I really enjoyed Enough Said, and Her. Her was so strange – and hopefully NOT prophetic. Of course all (good) movies are about relationships so Blue, Hustle, and Mud are in this category too.
And finally, Family pictures – Nebraska, Blue Jasmine, Enough Said, and Mud.
So there’s my list. I realize that I forgot the best special effects movie of the year – Gravity, but they don’t generally make my list. Besides, it scared me too much.
Went to see the last film in my own little Christmas Holiday Film Festival – the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And what can I say – I loved it. But then again, I’m a sucker for sentimental movies about the oppressed, and normal. It was a very sweet love story between Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, and of course Walter Mitty’s famed secret life. Do you remember the short story by James Thurber? Of course not – you aren’t old as the hills (well some of you are) but I do. The henpecked husband who has wild and fanciful flights of fantasy (too many “f”s?) This version is much less beaten down – more just really average – but still somewhat paralyzed in his daily life. Anyway – go see it – it was definitely the most fun I had in my film festival. An joyful and very woofable 4 Paws.
Last night, after a wonderful day of “tasting”, I decided that the perfect ending would be a movie. I had a choice – Sherlock Holmes or Tom Cruise’s new action thriller. I chose Mission Impossible, and am I glad I did! What a treat! Now I am familiar enough with movie trailers not to trust them to really show me what or how a film might actually be, and so I had seen the trailers to this film and was not intrigued at all. It was just way too fast, too mindless, too unending. But the film is not that at all. It’s a wonderful combination of suspense and action, and enough space between huge gigantic effects that you could breath. I was stunned by the end of the film how short it felt, when it was actually over 2 hrs long. OK, so here’s the plot: Tom Cruise is in a prison – in Moscow, and some folks are getting him out. After they do that, they discover that they need to stop a really bad person from stealing a nuclear bomb, and detonating in order to start a nuclear war. This of course means that they have to go to lots of interesting and exciting places – like Dubai, and India. But enough about the plot. The plot isn’t really all that important. What made the film for me was the excellent balance between action, fighting, crazy impossible devices, and crazy impossible encounters. Oh and what makes it fun is that the devices – the impossible devices that are supposed to give you the most amazing powers in the world – they keep falling apart and failing. I loved it. It adds terrific suspense, and like that.
Now the only thing that didn’t really work for me was the actual climbing and stuff up the outside of this really really tall building. Tom Cruise explained how he trained like crazy to be able to climb around on the outside of this film and like that, but it was so impossible to believe that he was really doing this stuff – I mean it was just beyond belief that anybody could do this stuff – even knowing that he had a safety harness and was wired up to the building, it was just too insane – it had to be done with computers – CGI (computer generated images)
So here’s my verdict: 4 big and fluffy paws! Run, don’t walk to see this film, and take along a chew toy!
Michelle Williams channeled Marilyn Monroe. That’s the only way she could have nailed it so hard. Wow! She was really excellent, and everybody else in the cast was excellent too! Eddie Redmayne as her by chance confidant does an excellent job too. 4 fuzzy and very fluffy paws! A warm and bittersweet film about unrequited love, and the power of publicity to play on a person’s weaknesses. Highly recommended.
I was looking forward to this film for a while since I had seen the original in Swedish. I wish I could say I liked it better, but there were some problems, so I give it 3 paws and a yawn. Here’s the issue. Most Swedish films are, how shall we say, dark? Lots of blues and greens and grey. But the Hollywood folks were not about to be outdone by a Swedish thriller – no they were determined to make it darker than dark. Everybody’s is grey, with green or blue skin, and nobody is allowed to smile. Ok, I’m exaggerating – there were in fact a couple of smiles, but they were just to show that these are actually humans.
Speaking of which – what is with the opening credits? Remember all those Bond pics with the liquid women who were naked and dissolved into other women and men and guns? Well, now they dissolve into tubes and wires and chocolate and all kinds of crazy stuff – and the question is: why? What the hell does this have to do with the film at all? The answer is, thankfully, nothing.
As for the film itself, it’s very close to the original film (full disclosure: I haven’t read the book) which I assume is pretty close to the book. A few changes here and there, but they didn’t really change the essence. But they did decide that we definitely need more sex, and more vicious sex. It’s tough to watch, and definitely not sensual. But does it advance the story? Not really. It was, again, Hollywood’s way of showing that if Sweden can do, then we can do it harder, more violent, and more unforgettable.
Finally, why did you get rid of the lead actress’s eyebrows. I saw Rooney Mara on Letterman the other night, and she’s beautiful. In this film, she looks like an android, and for what reason? The original had an amazing actress, Noomi Rapace, who is also quite striking. The story shows you that this girl is seriously damaged, brillant, and enigmatic. So why do you also have to make her look so strange? I don’t know. I mean, she’s plenty strange all by herself.
Anyway, it’s a pretty involved thriller. Daniel Craig is excellent. Christopher Plumber is also excellent, and I think Rooney Mara will go far.
I give this potboiler 1 paw – and a dirty forgetful paw at that. OK so somebody had an idea for a film – how about a girl who escapes from a cult, and then goes to live with her sister. Now let’s put in about 10 plot points (given a new name; has to eat after the men; forced sex; breaking into houses; shoots kittens; killing house owners) and then have a girl sit around for the entire rest of the movie and look spacey. In other words, 15 minutes of film, 100 minutes of filler. It was awful.
Last night as I was watching the first 7 minute montage of all of the best picture nominees, I was stunned when I realized that 2 of the best picture nominees were not included – A Winter’s Bone (4 paws) and Rabbit Hole (which I haven’t seen) As the piece went on, and little jokes were made about the films, I kept waiting for at least a nod to these other 2 pictures – Anne Hathaway laying bloody in a barn – joking about her makeup, or James Franco in a grief support group talking about his dead dog – something! But it was not to be. Then after 3 hrs of the most mind-numbing poorly written jokes and Kurt Douglas having grabbed the spotlight, holding on for dear life, the show closes with another Best of Picture montage with The King’s Speech as the background for pictures from the other 9 movies. Previously all ten films would have a short trailer for itself. This year, they all got to bask in the glory of The King’s Speech. I was very disappointed in the way they treated these other really good movies. Of course the Oscars have been wildly overblown for years, and since Billy Crystal stopped hosting, there isn’t even something funny to watch in between. But this year was truly awful. Get some young folks to host it and suddenly it will be fun to watch. Probably not. In any case, I give it 1 paw.
Now if you want to spend some time with a wonderful, difficult, and very strong movie – watch Winter’s Bone – 4 paws.
I just finished producing an hour long documentary for KAXE radio in Grand Rapids, MN. It’s called Ranger in my Heart, which happens to be the name of a song written by Tim DeMillo. In the show I asked the question – what really IS a ranger, and how has the meaning of ranger changed over the past 100 years. For those of you who might not know – and there are a lot of you, the Range that I am referring to is the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota.
Radio has always been a huge love of mine. Being a musician and a sound artist it’s only natural. In fact this is how I got into documentary work in the first place. I always had to work like a dog to do photography, but I enjoyed working hard to learn the art of shooting. Sound was different. It just happened. Ken Mills said my work always has a “wall of sound” quality, and I like that. Tim DeMillo told me I have a 3rd ear – actually an “inner ear”. Who knows? But even with all that, the real and total truth is that without Jamie Lee writing my scripts – it wouldn’t mean much at all because she is what makes these shows come alive.
Jamie, I could not do it without you – that’s just the way it is.
In any case if you could like to listen to Ranger in my Heart – an hour long documentary – just click the player below. Thanks!