HER (2013)



Love, philosophy and artificial intelligence.

Call the culture police-there’s been a robbery, well a few actually, of Oscar nominations.
Spike Jonze not being recognised by Oscar for directing and Joaquin Phoenix for his incredible acting skills.

This is not the first time this has happened for either of them. Jonze won best screenplay this year and was the film was nominated for Best Film but no Best Director nod. Strange.
Joaquin was snubbed by missing out on a Best Actor nom, a massive crime.
Now, some might say that award ceremonies are a bunch of back-slapping sycophancy fests, and that may be true, but when such incredible work is left in the dark it begs the question, WTF? It has won plenty of awards at other ceremonies so, why no Oscar recognition in the major categories?

Spike Jonze has written and directed an incredibly beautiful, profound tale about a writer, Theodore Twombly (played with soulful sensitivity by Phoenix) who has recently come out of a relationship and strikes up a new one with an O.S..
Yes, that’s right, an operating system (voiced with wonderful texture and depth by Scarlett Johansson).

Therein lies the premise.
The O.S. is an artificially intelligent program that learns and adapts as it lives, and a relationship akin to a deep human one is born.

It asks questions and challenges the audience to leave their prejudices at the door. If this relationship is making someone happy, both the human and machine, what is the problem?
Just because it challenges the norm, does that make it wrong?
History is full of these kind of events that buck the system and thank goodness.

The exponential growth of Samantha, the O.S., is also fascinating working on many dimensions and layers. When and where does technology end and life begin?

The beauty of art is the way it asks questions, sometimes subtly and others blatantly, both are valid but satisfy different tastes. Jonze opts for the gentler approach, no less emotional, but definitely more of a feminine one. The divine goddess rears her head again.

This is pretty much the best love story made in many years. It is similar in tone to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is no big surprise, seeing as Jonze had worked with Kaufman twice already and apparently introduced Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman; they clearly share similar sensibilities.
There is great support from Chris Pratt, whose star is definitely on the rise, Amy Adams, always bringing interesting work to the table, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde.

Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson create a beautiful, real, layered relationship whilst sharing no screen time together. That is incredible.
The powerful illusion of cinema. Art at its finest.




CHEF (2014)



After the massive successes of his Iron Man films where Jon Favreau proved to the studio system that he could helm the big budgeters with confidence and make a LOT of money, this is a welcome return for Jon Favreau making simpler more intimate films.
‘Chef’ or How Carl Casper got his groove back is a feelgood comedy of sorts, there are no serious dramatic stakes here, more a man simply doing what he can to reclaim his mojo.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a very successful chef at a popular restaurant in L.A. but finds himself in somewhat of a creative rut, some plot contrivances happen and he goes on his journey. It is a light-hearted film that doesn’t break the dramatic bank

The cast are all clearly having a blast especially John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale both of whom lift most of the films they appear in. The best scenes are in the kitchens where the actors engage in a playful dance that is filled with charm and fun.

The rest of the supporting cast do really well, the legendary Dustin Hoffman, a histrionically toned down Sofia Vergara, the ever sexy and stalwart Scarlett Johannson, the brilliant Oliver Platt and Sir Robert of Downey Jr are all a delight to watch. Amy Sedaris has fun with her scene as a publicist and she manages to hit all the right tickles. Emjay Anthony dials down any emotional blackmailing playing Favreau’s son and thus the scenes between father and son work nicely.

The things that stood out were the music, the food and the power of twitter.
There is a plethora of really fun music, especially very cool renditions of A Message to Rudi, Oye Como Va, Sexual Healing and of course, El Michels Affair’s quality version of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M.
Music and food go together here beautifully and the clear love and attention when it comes to the food preparation is in full effect. And twitter. Yes, there are simplifications but the gentle comment on the world of social media is here played out fairly intelligently, most effectively the generational understanding (or lack of) and the sheer possibilities of it.

Unlike most other feelgood films, there are few emotional manipulations, Favreau keeps it as real as he can within the parameters of the undertaking, which he also managed to do with Elf.
All the actors plum for real over caricature with their performances and the film benefits greatly from it, creating some lovely moments reminiscent of the repartee he had back in 1996 with Swingers.

It is a fun, entertaining film that will put a smile on your face and have you racing to the nearest quality restaurant. Eat before you watch.