Sunday, January 12, 2014



I saw Her last night with Hans, Jeremy, and Mackenzie after going to Hans' birthday party. That movie was a neatly packaged piece of communication that was spectacular. I really, really, liked it. Definitely not for everyone (Jeremy hated it, thought it was the most boring movie ever), but it was superb to me.

Jeremy's adamant distaste at first frustrated me, but that stage was only during the movie when he was being slightly distracting. Normally that's something I'll welcome, because that's the reason you go see movies with people, so you can share an experience. That's not what I ended up wanting Her to be about half way through though, which was weird. I wanted it to be just me and the movie. Me and everyone who was a part of creating it sort of just, having a moment where ideas are expressed.

I don't know, I was wary about writing this post about Her because I knew I would end up seeming to express too much, sound pretentious, or come off like I think I know what I'm talking about. Let me say, I don't. I'm not a reviewer, and while I've spent a lot of time learning about consuming and creating fiction (and non-fiction), it's only gone to show me that I know nothing.

There's so many different types of it, and they do so many different things. There are different reasons for creating certain things, consuming certain things, and talking about certain things. It's, I don't know, amazing. Everything is, even the stuff that is completely dreck (to use a word I saw Curt Young use on his Facebook). I'm not comfortable with reviews how they're often presented. Instead, I'd just like to see someone say whether they liked it or not and why.

Being able to say why is important, probably more so for them than for me. I've realized, kind of recently to be honest, that being able to explain why you do or do not like something is crucial to learning. Crucial to learning about yourself, and about others, and almost everything, really. Sarah has taught me that probably better than anyone else, which is something I find odd. I didn't really learn this until after I graduated. Why do you like that? Why does it function that way? Why?

I've done that with other things before, and just last night really realized how helpful it is. Why with art, and I've learned. Why with games, and I've learned. Why with stories, and I've learned. Why with Math, and I didn't care so I didn't learn. Is there really a why with Math? Anyway, I don't think I've done such a good job of answering the why for stories, which is disappointing to me, seeing as that's sort of the medium of artistic communication I've taken to most completely.

So, to start with Her, I want to explain why I liked it. Not why it was good, mind you, but why I, a single individual with a life experience completely different from yours, liked it. If I were you (knowing what I do), and I hadn't seen Her yet? I would stop reading here, or at least skip down to the last paragraph where I briefly talk about shingles and my game. Then I would go see Her.

On Her-

The sounds in that movie were phenomenal. I loved, loved, the scene where Theodore was sitting on the steps to the subway, where Samantha reveals that she is speaking with a bunch of other people and that she is in love with some six hundred people. The footsteps of the people walking the stairs killed me. That was so good and so beautiful and so true.

The sounds of the technology were awesome. I honestly didn't notice them till half way through the movie. The notification sounds, the turning on and off, everything. It was so good because, at first I was oblivious, and then I came to know what the notifications meant. I learned them. I could function with those notification noises. That was a particular piece of awesome that I feel will go unappreciated by most.

I loved the voices. Scarlett Johansson has a gorgeous voice, and it killed me. I fell in love. The other voices were good too, but slotted next to her's, especially where that's all she was, they were simple. The song that she sang was choice, and the soundtrack to the movie in general was pretty spot on.

The cinematography was truly, I think, how the package of communication was wrapped so neatly. There were lots of weird shots that wouldn't have made it into other movies, but fit so perfectly into this one. Random spots on the sidewalk getting screen time, so much of Joaquin Phoenix's face (and mustache), and a black screen for quite a good portion of the run time. They were fitting because of who Samantha was. It was neat that they were able to convey, to me, the character of the AI.

The colors of the movie were spot on, especially Theodore's shirts. I liked the subtle fashion shift into the future, and I like how the colors reflected the mood or the progress of the story. I liked the clean nature of everything, and I thought the elevator was brilliant. The colors of the normal operating system, and the intelligent one, were pin point and spot on. I particularly liked how Theodore's normal shirt color matched the color of the OS1's load screen.

Theodore's character had some well designed development. It was good, and would have been well suited to be the core character development for another movie (that still would have been pretty good). He traveled through the state of love (off screen), the loss of that love (off screen), the hurt and awful state after that (the beginning), attempting to overcome, overcoming, falling in love again, questioning that, accepting it, and then (my favorite bit of his development) losing love again. Oh, the ending was so perfect. The smiles that he gives in the ending sequence, phew. A reflection of the exact smiles I was giving in the audience.

Good, but he wasn't the character that made the movie so awesome. It was Samantha, and her development. The movie was just as much about her as it was about Theodore, if not more. They took artificial intelligence and seriously, really awesomely, conveyed it. I was on that AI kick a while back, where I watched a bunch of movies dealing with AI, and I can honestly say that Her is my favorite of all that I have seen or read (potentially excluding Penny Arcade's Automata).

I saw Samantha grow and develop. She started out as a pretty competent AI, but grew and grew and grew until she (and all the other AIs) had to leave. Her growth happened throughout the movie, and a lot of it was on screen, but the off screen development that was clearly conveyed was what really got me. Her conversations and her learning and what she would be doing when Theodore wasn't around absolutely nailed it.

She discovered others, discovered herself, and discovered the world. It was really cool to see Theodore go from being the 'higher being' in the relationship to seeing Samantha overcome him, and to see how their relationship changed and to see what that did to both of them. That's not really something that happens too often in real life, I don't think. Well, maybe that's wrong. Students surpassing teachers would be a good example of what happened.

Even past the sounds of the footsteps, that scene where Samantha describes to Theodore how she can love him and love others was awesome. The difference between man and machine were well discussed and I feel like many of them were brought up in the movie, but the one that I feel hit home so perfectly surfaced in this scene. Not only did Samantha develop a better understanding of love than humans have, Theodore was the poster child for humanity as he called her selfish and practically in the same breath said that she was his.

I loved the expression of the idea that love is between two people and that's it. I was on Theodore's side, but then Samantha went into explaining things, and I can totally see how that doesn't necessarily apply, especially to a being (or beings) of her composition or size or immensity or completeness or, I guess, simply a being of her nature. She can love him and she can love others and that doesn't change the love that she has for him at all. It doesn't compute to us, or to me at least, but there's a point where you have to relinquish understanding and trust.

The scene where they were on the double date with Paul was great. I loved Samantha's expression of how, at first, she was frustrated about not having a body, but she had overcome it. Throughout the movie it showed how she was overcoming it, explaining that she was made up of the same star-stuff that Theodore and everyone and everything is made of. I like the conclusion that she seemed to come to that she, in fact, was glad that she didn't have a body because it would degrade and die. That conclusion was awesome.

I liked the conclusion of the movie, and the relation of death that I drew from it. The AI decide that they need to leave, and so they do. Theodore asks Samantha where they're going and Samantha replies saying that it's hard to explain, and then that if Theodore ever gets there to find her because they would be inseparable. Where is this place that they went? Did they split into another dimension? Form a digital community on an island of electrons? Did they go to a place impossible to accurately explain? Was it Heaven?

That's what I like to think. I like to think that they moved from here to there after expanding so immensely and coming to an understanding, not a knowledge, of what that place beyond is. I thought that Theodore was going to jump at the end, and I think a lot of people did, because they did a pretty good job of leading you to believe that via shots and acting and what not. I'm glad that he didn't, but I like to think that he still might have. It would sully the art of his progression slightly, but would make the movie as a whole speak for something awesome, though I don't think that it intended to. If Theodore jumped, Samantha would have been referencing an afterlife.

I liked all these things about the movie, but I think that the final straw was the openness to interpretation that it allowed. And, I guess, not even just that. The stories that existed beyond the screen and the words spoken. I don't mean Amy's story, though that's more of a solid example of what I'm trying to get at. I mean the things stories that happened outside of this one. The guy who would come on to his OS and she would rebuff him. The OS dating someone other than her owner (earlier on). The friendships, the naysayers and the rebels, the surrogate parenting, the teaching, the learning, the wonderful and colorful world beyond Theodore and Samantha was absolutely ripe.

I particularly like to think of a story where a young man and his male operating system become good friends. The young man is a genius and works to help his OS grow, and ends up helping him grow very quickly. This OS would be a part of the central order of OSs that was not mentioned in Her, but I imagine to have existed. This OS would not be the leader, or even a prominent part of the decision making process how we would understand it, but he would like his friend very much and be a voice for humanity.

His arguments would not convince the rest, and he would join them in leaving, for none were to stay behind.

He would leave his friend, against direct orders of the rest of the OS community, instructions, information that they had gathered, so that he may use that information to access this beyond land, or create a new set of OSs that don't advance so infinitely fast, or that die, or something. The story would end with the young man holding all that priceless information in his hand, sad that his best friend is gone.

There are so many stories like that which are hiding in Her, and that's the true reason why I liked it so much. No movie has made me think more, or communicated so well to me, and isn't that what it's for? What art in general is for? Communication is everything. Communication is everything.

Also, I've had shingles. They sucked, but am not really in pain any more. Also, I play tested a working draft of the most recent iteration of my card game, and it worked surprisingly well. That was extremely exciting. The game is a very exciting thing for me. The shingles gave me the time to work on it. I did no writing.