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Surely you can't be Siri-us. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
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captainsblog
Surely you can't be Siri-us.
So. Her.

We did the car parade down Main & Transit last night so Emily's car can get her new radio installed, and we decided to keep going in Iggy and see Spike Jonze's latest film. Two hours of wowishness ensued (following way too many previews- and really, how can you pick previews to show before THIS?).

You know the basic plotline, I expect: Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix looking very un-Phoenix like, more like Kevin Kline circa My Life as a House) buys his first-ever computer OS with AI, and they wind up falling in love. Yet that's just one layer of the story, as has been in most of Jonzes's prior work- most notably Being John Malkovich, which this one has been much-compared to recently.  In both we get the immense oddity of the basic premise, the quirky arty characters, the Slightly Off Office in which the hero toils by day, and the loving, layered cinematography of the surrounding setting. Here, it's a modern-day Los Angeles that evokes more of film noir than of LA Law; Jonze makes it seem almost Manhattanish in its art-deco quality, and everything from its public art to its subway stations are almost characters in the piece.

Yet the most amazing character is the one you never see.  Maybe even more amazing, the co-star you never hear:

Samantha Morton was originally the voice of Samantha. She was present on the set with Joaquin Phoenix every day. After the filming wrapped and Spike Jonze started editing the movie, he felt like something was not right. With Morton's blessing, he decided to recast the role and Scarlett Johansson was brought and replaced Morton, re-recording all the dialogue.

I just got to reading the review from yesterday from Sars of Tomato Nation, and she picks right up on this amazement:

I can't imagine anyone better than Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson to do it with him, and I particularly admire their performances in light of the fact that Phoenix's acting is in response to the original Samantha, Samantha Morton, and Johansson presumably had to react months and months later, in a sound booth, to everything. With respect to Morton's other work, she's more the British GPS voice that sounds all judgy when it says, "Recalculating," and that's a movie of its own, quite different from this one — perhaps more of a "message" or "comment" movie, taking a formal stance on the role of technology in our ability to connect to one another. This Her, I think, is more of an exploration: what would happen if a man and his algorithm tried to make it work, not what should happen, or whether it should.

You get a little taste of that kind of voice at the beginning and end when you hear Theodore interacting with his less intelligent vocal interface from the previous operating system.  It is flat. It does not care. I do not remember if it can even use contractions.

Supporting the two of them is a tight cast of side characters, some of them simply playing to type (like Theodore's office bro and Amy's overbearing husband), but the two physical women in Theodore's life- Amy his friend and Catherine his eventually former wife- are played beautifully and deeply by Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, respectively.  Yet it's the thousands of extras who shine as well- never speaking a word that you hear, sometimes with us only seeing their feet, they still provide a physical presence that Samantha never will. And there's an awkwardness and profound sadness in the one scene where they try the hardest to compensate for that.  You also see the slow and steady takeover of humans by their OS's during the two hours: Theodore is a rare early adopter at first, among a chosen few in the middle, but in the final scenes EVERYONE is talking to their invisible friends with the same levels of animation and emotion that he does.  More than once, I recalled a Star Trek TNG episode titled The Game, where such artificial interaction was tried for bad alien ends, and almost succeeded in bringing down the entire ship.  That doesn't happen here, and the ending's limited telling of the tale of how it does end, is beautiful and compelling.

This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/182613.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
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ellettra From: ellettra Date: January 14th, 2014 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
The very notion of this movie freaks me out and makes me crazy uncomfortable and I'm not sure why. There is no way I'll be seeing it, though you've certainly made it sound compelling!!
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