Thoughts and analysis of “Her” by Spike Jonze

HER

This post was originally going to be a review of the film, sticking to my usual structure of going through cast, directing, writing and so on. But then I decided against that, because this film was different. It was a film that had me thinking constantly whilst watching it. The issues that were raised were very profound, and thought provoking, making difficult for me to actually give it a rating because I liked and disliked it on different levels.

It’s hard to describe the film to someone in basic terms without using the sentence “a man falls in love with his operating system”, because that it’s too basic, there is so much more to the film than just that. It’s not just about a lonely man who falls in love with a piece of technology, it’s about the human condition and what it actually means to be a human. I’ve never really been a fan of Spike Jonze so I did approach the film with caution, but I’m overjoyed to say that it completely raised my opinion of him as a writer. It is fantastically written, with a strong premiss and an even stronger screenplay the film is held together very nicely. I did have some concern because I have disagreed with the Academy’s choice for Best Screenplay in the past, but as someone who takes a great interest in script writing I would argue that this year’s choice was very well deserving and it’s the option I would have picked.

Firstly I would say to anyone who is thinking of watching the film it is very delicate. It’s set in the future with a glimpse in to the scenery you would expect to see in a science fiction film so visually it is very pleasing, particularly the use of colour and the prominent red throughout. However the film relies very heavily on the screenplay. There’s a lot of sequences where people just talk, but for me that is never a problem if it’s done well. In the case of “Her” I would argue that it is done very well. The characters are three dimensional and you develop a genuine connection with them, so when the character of Theodore, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix, gets hurt then you feel sympathy for him. Jonze has added depth to the script so you develop this sense of pathos for both Theodore and his operating system, Samantha.

As I said before the film did raise some interesting points, and I actually started to keep a note of them as they occurred, for the purpose of going through them in detail. They’re linked to them film so if you have seen it you may understand a little bit more about it, if not then I promise there are no spoilers to follow.

Do we actually feel genuine emotion? – as Samantha points out her emotions are just pieces of programming that she has been designed with, so that could mean that humans are the same. If you think about it we are taught about different emotions as we grow and what their meanings are as a way of explaining how we’re feeling. So without being taught what they mean would we even experience feelings like love or hatred? And that’s what worries Samantha, the idea that she’s not actually feeling anything and it is all just down to design, it just made me think that maybe as humans we’re like this too.

Will technology actually get to be like this? Will machines talk to us in such an in depth manner like Samantha did to Theodore? – it was actually quite surprising just how fluently the operating system could talk, as if it were in a conversation. In turn this had me thinking, we’ve already got technology that speaks to us; Siri talks to us on our iPhones, escalators tell us to stand still and hold the edge, self service machines tell us to scan the next item, so will this go further in the future? I actually imagined being in a grocery shop and hearing a self service machine talking to a customer about the items they were buying, and it did give me a bit of a chuckle but again made me worried that this could happen. Some technology is designed to remove human contact, but we could take a step back again maybe.

People look worried when they see a man in love with his operating system, but we already have relationships like that today so it’s not all that bizarre – I was talking to people about the film before watching it and they all said the same thing “he falls in love with his computer? That’s a bit weird isn’t it?” If I’m being totally honest I don’t think it is weird. We live in a world where men and women have actual platonic relationships with a life sized dummy or doll and they can’t actually speak, so why can’t a man fall in love with something that can speak? In the film Theodore falls in love because his computer can speak. Surely that’s more normal than people who get married to their cars? But on the other hand, who’s to say what normal actually is?

Why do people get jealous when their partners talk to other people? – as the film develops we see it turn in a rather “Ruby Sparks” styled manner to the focus of the people in the relationship wanting to talk to others. As with most films that explore this topic it ends with either person being jealous, and it just had me thinking about why people get jealous in that scenario. We live on a planet with over seven billion other people who inhabit the surface, it’s an almost certainty that the person you love will have to interact with them at some point. For Samantha in the film it is different because she can listen to what her partner is saying and who he’s saying it to so paranoia can manifest somewhat, but with every day couples I can’t understand people who want their partners to talk to them and them alone.

“How can he be in love if he can’t see her?” – this is a question several people have asked me since watching the film and the answer is simple; it’s because they talk. I really liked how the film draws upon the point that physical appearance isn’t the most important factor in a relationship. I admire the character of Theodore because he is able to fall completely in love and maintain a relationship just by talking, which I think shows the true reality of what love is. I’m not understating the influence of physical attractiveness but Theodore clearly shows how language is key to falling in love. It’s not just about fancying someone, it’s about someone making you feel safe, making you smile, making you laugh, making you feel like you can be yourself around them and be accepted for who you are. I admit the scenes of phone sex are a misuse of the English Language, but aside from that he is a very clever man, with an impressive vocabulary and even more impressive ability to articulate.

The ending to a love film doesn’t always have to be happy – now for those who know me well enough you’ll know that if a romance film is done well then I will love it, I will absolutely love it, and one of the key factors that made me like “Her” so much was the ending. Now it’s not a spoiler to say that it has an unhappy ending because that’s just my own interpretation, but I rather liked the lack of poetic justice. I think it’s more realistic to show an ending that’s unhappy because too many romance films have happy endings that don’t represent life realistically. For me, I felt that “Her” presented the harsh reality and cold truth about love and relationships, but that only made the film more special.

What does it mean to be human? – I know it’s a bit heavy for a Tuesday morning, but the film does address the issue of the human condition and what it actually means to be human. It is an interesting topic and one that is explored in great depth within the film, to the point of Theodore and Samantha discussing the functions of a sigh. During conversation Samantha sighs quite heavily, which Theodore questions because he discusses how humans breath because they need oxygen, Samantha is a computer so why would she need to breath? It just makes you realise how tiny little things, like a sigh, can show just how human we all are. It reminded me very much of “Prometheus” in which the robot character of David fails to comprehend fear, excitement and most importantly the concept of faith. He even wears an oxygen unit when on the surface of the planet because he feels that it would make him appear more human, which again makes me wonder what it means to actually be human. All of the factors on the outside like smiling, laughing, crying they’re all just packaging. It’s more about how you feel.

What is our purpose? – it’s difficult to think about for us humans, whereas Samantha has a full understanding of who made her, why they made her and where she comes from. It makes me feel quite lost as a human because we don’t know why we’re here or how we even got here. It’s a chilling thought, but as Amy Adam’s character says in the film “I’ve come to realise we’re only here briefly, and while I’m here I want to allow myself joy, so f*** it”.

As I mentioned previously I did like the film and I’m not ashamed to admit that I liked it because I would say that it is a good film. It’s the first film in a very long time that made me think so much about different issues so it was quite a special experience for me, It’s delicate and well thought out with a terrific script, but I wouldn’t say it’s perfect. I know a lot of people didn’t like it and I can admit that it has got problems, which is why I want to view it for a second time to see if I feel the same way.

For the time being my opinion of Spike Jonze has improved and my opinion of the film is standing very tall indeed. I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for a good film. Regardless of whether you are interested in love films or not I would suggest watching it either way, you won’t be disappointed.

It was just refreshing to see a film that had a really good script as the most important element, and there are lines within the film that redeem it in my opinion. In fact I will leave you with the line from the film that I liked the most:

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt” her poster

Instagram and Tumblr – I’m glad The Who didn’t t-t-t-talk about our generation.

Taking a break from the usual discussion of film for once, although I do have some work coming down the line that should be up very soon.

If I remember correctly it can only have been a couple of months since I wrote an entry that was a little bit different from my usual jumble of film talk. I wrote an entry that was outlining the reasons why I dislike the social networking site Instagram, and I wish I could say that post had all of the reasons but I was holding back quite a bit. It’s only recently after reading through that particular post again that I realised just how much I dislike social networking sites that rely on photos.

Instagram was just the beginning for me, I’ve already talked of how annoying it is. You get constant updates of small details of someone’s life that honestly you could live without. If you like receiving updates on what someone is drinking, what colour underwear they’re wearing, what page of a book they’re up to, and what their legs look like when they’re in a bath tub then by all means sign up. But if you can take a step back and realise that it’s all just nonsense then I would stay well away. Trust me, having been a part of it for nearly a year you come close to drowning in the sea of hashtags. People will pile hashtags on to a picture if they think it will get them more likes, even if some of the things they tag aren’t even in the picture. You’ll see a picture of someone’s coffee from Costa and it will be swiftly followed by an army of meaningless hashtags; #coffee #costa #drink #liquid #hot #girl #browneyes #blonde #young #breathing #oxygen #blinking #human #skin #drinkingonacoldday #england #earth. It’s just rubbish. We depend so much on how many likes we get on a picture it takes our attention away from things that matter, you know, things that genuinely exist, not just a picture of a love heart with a number next to it. And I know just how ridiculous it is because I used to be part of it. Luckily those days are behind me now.

But the stupidity doesn’t stop there I’m afraid.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “are you on Tumblr?” which I can safely say I am not. Why would I be? I’ve had a glance at tumblr when friends have shown me the site and there was nothing appealing from my point of view. From what I saw it’s a site that has fallen victim to an increasing problem, which is essentially a computer virus consisting of teenage hormones. It’s a technicolour splattering of meaningless statements, pictures and videos that should really be quarantined in a corner of the internet that is difficult to reach. Scrolling down the news feed or whatever it’s called, all you see is pictures of kittens, porn and idiotic quotes that were clearly written by the same overly emotional fifteen year old. And that last one is the main problem for me; the quotations.

I’m all for quotations as most people will know, I think they’re a brilliant source of motivation and inspiration, but they have to mean something. The sort of quotes I like are ones said by truly inspirational figures like Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali. I don’t take inspiration from a fourteen year old from West Berkshire who got dumped after two weeks of awkward hand holding in the playground. The sort of quote I’m talking about are things like “you can separate two lovers by distance but you can never break the bridge that connects their hearts no matter where they are in the world” Now I’m not sure about anyone else but after reading a quote like that I can’t help but feel on edge. Ever stroked a dog’s fur the wrong way? That’s how every inch of my skin feels. Firstly I would just like to point out that their choice of words is very annoying. Lovers?! It’s a social networking site, not a Jane Austin novel! I also think the whole basis of the quote is stupid because it’s suggesting that someone that young has found someone they are genuinely in love with. I hate to be pessimistic but you haven’t, you’ve just managed to find someone you can stand seeing for longer periods of time before moving to University. I know what some people are already thinking by this point; if I don’t want to see this sort of quote then don’t go on the website. The sad thing is I don’t go on the site, the quotes are somehow being leaked on to Facebook. Honestly they are the sort of posts that make me re assess the situation and consider the possibility that updates about Farmville weren’t actually that annoying.

It’s worse when a quote from someone famous circulates the site and leaks out on to Facebook. The amount of times I’ve seen the same Paul McCartney quote “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian” which annoys me to a certain extent. Firstly I don’t think it’s true, mainly because we’re well aware of the horrible affairs that go on in the world but we still consume such products because we choose to. We’re not being force fed meat after being horrified by how it’s prepared, we’re choosing to eat it because it’s become part of our balanced diet. Secondly it relies entirely on the assumption that everyone lives within a certain radius of a slaughterhouse, which is a contextual factor needed for the exercise to work efficiently. Most of all for me however is that I don’t think the quote means as much as people think it does. This is mainly because the situation that the quote suggests sounds rather pointless. If you genuinely need somewhere that is called a “SLAUGHTERhouse” to have glass walls, then you’re not doing the best of jobs at reading. The word “slaughter” is suggestive enough and implies the nature of activities that occur within the building so why bother suggesting that we need visual evidence in order to allay our doubts. Let’s not go wasting money on an exercise that could be eliminated by simply showing people a dictionary definition of certain words. I understand that people interpret the quote differently, but there’s a difference between quotes that mean something and those that are over used until we think they mean more than they do.

The dependence that our generation has on social networking scares me. Likes on a picture of our new socks mean so much to us, and we seek advice from quotations that are about as poetic as instruction for cup o soup. I’m sure that Tumblr has more than that to it, but after going on it  couple of times and being bombarded by so called philosophical quotes and animations of porn it opens a lot of questions as to what has happened to our generation. They call it a blog which is fair enough, but if you’re interests don’t span much further than cats, porn and sentences that have as much use a swimming lessons for fish, then I don’t think a blog is really for you because it requires a certain level of creativity and imagination.

Safe to say I’m sticking to this site, Facebook and Twitter firmly for the foreseeable future. That way I can stay how I am for as long as possible without having to re create myself so that my identity suits the trashy new format of social websites. I shall end this post on a positive note, with a quote from Abraham Lincoln that sums up my views about online identities quite nicely:

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”

Instagram – One Of The Reasons Why People Annoy Me

I thought I would make a change from posting about film and attempt to talk about something different. As a teenager I can see the benefits to social networking, I think in some cases it’s brilliant. It allows me to communicate with people without having to walk to their house just to inquire as to how they’re feeling today. But sometimes I have to admit I get annoyed by it very easily.

It seems that in today’s world there is a very small amount of things people keep away from the public eye. In a way I miss the days when people were only just starting a Facebook profile, because it was the days when people barely posted anything, in fear of being mocked or judged by others. Those days were brilliant, the days where you got the basic facts about how someone was and what they were doing without being bombarded by pointless information. You could scroll through your news feed and see statuses like “I am in Spain at the moment. I am very Happy”. But now we have this strange situation where every thing is splattered across social networks. You’ve got where someone is, how they’re feeling, who they’re with, what colour socks they’re wearing, what drink they’ve got, it’s just getting out of hand. I know people have the freedom to post what they want, and quite rightly so, but sometimes it does seem a little excessive to be posting constantly. 

I’ve got less anger towards Facebook and Twitter because they bring me a lot of fun, through reading arguments or indeed being involved in arguments. However there is one form of social networking that annoys me to the extent of wanting to throw my phone at a wall, and that’s Instagram. I’ll say it now because I don’t want to seem like I’m being a hypocrite; I have an Instagram account and I used it for quite a long time. Nowadays my account is still open and I have the odd flick every now and then, but other than that I do not use it. Anyway, the concept is quite basic and could work nicely, if people didn’t use it for absolutely everything, and I mean everything. If you want to share a picture that your friends can see, then at least make it a picture that is worth sharing. The idea of having a photograph for me, is to capture a memory that you want to keep hold of, like on holiday or at a gig or whatever event you hold close to you, because it captures what you consider to be special and important moment that you will possibly never live again. It seems as though the concept of a picture has changed, now it seems to be something for you to get ‘likes’ on. 

Drawing on the point I made earlier about the first days of Facebook when people barely posted, and how now they post everything, Instagram is the epicenter of this nightmare. You’ve got people posting pictures of everything so that you know every tiny detail about them. ‘This is the page of the Jodi Picoult book I’m reading’ ‘I’m on the 43rd minute of an Adam Sandler film’ ‘my underwear is blue today’.  It’s even gotten to the extent now of people posting pictures of them selves in the bath! When did this start happening? When did somebody decide ‘you know what I actually feel like invading my own privacy’. Do people need to know you’re in the bath? And furthermore do we need pictorial evidence to allay our doubts? There wasn’t masses of people questioning the situation, thinking ‘maybe they’re just sat in a puddle’. It’s gotten out of control really,  I’m dreading the day I see my first snap of someone on the toilet. You may laugh at that but you’ll stop laughing eventually when you realise it will happen.

The worst thing about Instagram for me is that it’s ruining Holidays for people. Instead of going to another country and experiencing another culture, we’ve got people sat on their phones trying to decide which filter to use on the picture they have just taken of their flip flops. It just amazes me how someone can have a different country, a different culture right in front of them, and yet they would rather take a picture of themselves with their tongue out and caption it “got my sunglasses on!”. I would understand it if they were taking pictures of the country they were in and taking in the amazing views, but if you’re just taking the same stupid pictures that you take at home it seems a bit pointless. I can understand using a social network from abroad because it lets your contacts know that you’re still alive or that you’re having a good time, but if you are constantly using one whilst away then it somewhat negates the benefits of going on holiday. It makes sense wanting some pictures of yourself on holiday because they hold quite good memories for you, but there’s a line people cross that becomes excessive. There are some people I just wish I could shout at “you are in a beautiful country that is so much different from the one you live in, put your silly little phone down and appreciate where you are”. 

If you ever get Instagram you will soon find that the bane of your life becomes the hash tag. That thing is everywhere! Literally, for quite a dull picture that doesn’t have a lot of elements you’d be surprised how many ‘hashtags’ people can squeeze in. And that’s where two problems lie for me, the first is that the idea of a hashtag is that people search under that category to find pictures of that nature. So why would you need to hashtag quite a ordinary thing such as ‘#coffee’? As if there are coffee enthusiasts worldwide searching for their update on people’s caffeine intake. It just seems silly to take pictures of something that in all likelihood people have no interest in and it’s something that you come across on a daily basis. Problem number two is that people don’t know when to stop with hashtags, they overload a caption with to the extent of labeling things that are not even in the picture. You’ll see a big paragraph of ‘#girl #young #teen #blond #blueeyes #newnails #curlyhair’ which just leaves you baffled because it’s a picture of their mug of tea on a table. Are we that desperate to get ‘likes’?

Perhaps I’m just old fashioned in my views? Maybe the point of a photograph is not to capture a moment that is rare, maybe it’s now all about capturing things you experience on a daily basis, like putting socks on or brushing your teeth. I hope that’s not the case. I still can’t understand why someone would want to see a picture of something so dull like your feet, or new gloves, or the sandwich you’re having for lunch. If you took a picture and the caption was “got my new socks on” I would consider the possibility that you have quite an empty life. If however you posted a picture and the caption was “got my new socks on… and I’m on the moon” then I would take an interest and feel jealous that I’m not part of this memory. 

As I have said before I have an account, and I will admit I have fallen victim to some of the things I have mentioned (not to such an extreme extent luckily) so I can’t act completely innocent in this grand scheme of shit. I used to post pictures of the most tedious rubbish that sprang to mind “look here’s my cat” “here’s the new film I’m bought” “here’s the Neil Diamond song I’m currently listening to”.  I will say it, it’s only after you’ve looked at it from an outsider’s perspective that you realise just how stupid it all is, and it makes me feel like an idiot because I was part of it for a good seven months. There are people that post pictures of themselves three or four times a day, which to me kind of shows that they must have quite a boring life. 

The situation only gets worse from here though, camera phones are the main way we view things in today’s world. They give people the freedom to post pictures of whatever they want and post them however many times they want, but then on the other side of the coin I have the freedom to express my opinion however many times I like. In the future if any large events happen they’re not going to be viewed normally, they’re going to be viewed through the screen of a smart phone, with a filter on them to make them look slightly darker with a hint of black and white, and a pretty frame. I can’t wait.