Friday, July 04, 2014

Seen in June, 2014 

scene from Her, image via Wired

The summer is in full force here in Toronto (unequivocally, a full frontal assault, you might say) so where are all the summer movies? I feel like I've been watching a lot of television. Oh wait. The World Cup. Okay that makes sense. TV always on - but watching grown men chase a ball around a field. Here's what I did see.

I’m So Excited
Usually I'd be so excited to see a Pedro Almodóvar comedy about a disparate group of passengers aboard a plane that may crash land due to a stuck landing gear, but I have to say, I wasn't that excited and wouldn't recommend a film named for a disco song used as a musical number during the film that otherwise has nothing more to do with the story.

Our Idiot Brother
How or why do I keep watching Paul Rudd films? You can never be sure if Rudd is being sincere or satirizing the very character he is playing. In this film, Rudd plays Ned, a stoner idealist who is simply out of place in the modern world. Ned is surrounded by three more successful and ambitious sisters who while trying to help their brother never really realize he doesn't need changing but just needs to find a place where his naive kindness isn't a liability. So basically nowhere – there is nowhere left in the world where being nice and honest is an asset. Also, don't bother with this very uneven film (uneven because it has laugh-out-loud moments with Steve Coogan and Rudd together followed by scenes that are akwardly bad and flat).

The winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Rightfully so. This is a near future piece of science fiction. There's no unexplainable time travel or space flights or hover cars or even hovering skateboards, just a lonely guy who falls in love with his operating system. I wouldn't be surprised if this film was inspired by simply watching how many of us appear to be in love with our phones. Our protagonist, Theodore, writes correspondence for other people. Not e-mails but "real" letters. His mastery of this form has not helped him overcome his own lonely existence. Recently separated and delaying signing his divorce papers, his ex-wife accuses him of not being able to “connect emotionally”, which I’m guessing, many men are accused of. Speaking from experience, I think it would be easy to just coast through your days with electronic correspondence as your only contact with other people and who wouldn't fall in love with a computer who sounded like Scarlett Johansson? There's so much to this movie that goes beyond its premise and plot, it can’t be easily explained. On a side note, much has been written about the interaction design in this film, which is to say, the lack of interaction design. As someone who works in this field, I can say a lot, and I mean a lot of concepts start out this simple but it’s very hard to see ideas like that through. To anyone who uses a smartphone knows, applications are getting simpler and sparser all the time so the technology of this film seems realistic and reminds me of an episode of the BBC series Black Mirror I can't predict the future but I'm pretty sure this film will be studied by students of tomorrow wishing to learn the zeitgeist of our times. They will find it in our devices and how we bonded with them instead of each other.
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