Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Inspired by "Her"

Illustration by Melissa Cruz

It's not often that I'm moved by a film these days. Since the rise of long, serial television dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, the level of depth that can be reached in a two hour cinema experience pales in comparison to the character exploration that actors are given the chance to pursue in the hours and hours that make up a television season. It seems to me that movies ought to expend their energy on telling smaller stories-- stories that offer a window into something pure and simple and just out of reach-- something like a dream. So it was a delight and a true pleasure to have the opportunity recently to view Spike Jonze's Her at the historic Cinerama Dome at the Arclight Hollywood.

The movie touched on themes of isolation, surrogacy and detachment and made a powerful impression on me. Even today, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine someone falling in love with an operating system, or that people could become so detached from human interaction that they believe that it's acceptable to simulate sex involving a dead cat. I found the isolation crippling; in an early scene, Joaquin Phoenix's character, Theodore Twombly, asks his phone to play him a melancholy song-- in spite of him standing in an elevator surrounded by people. There's no true reason for him to feel isolation except for the walls he has built around himself. The visual tone was stunning, a pastel pastiche of a not-too-futuristic but connected and fully developed Los Angeles. The walkways and expansive public transportation system serve to highlight Theodore's detachment-- he can travel from the mountains to the ocean in a sprawling metropolis full of people doing the same thing and still he feels alone. Even the cool, muted fashion choices seem apropos-- as stated in a New York Magazine review, "When you live so much in your own imagination, communicating through screens and ear pieces, who needs innovative clothes?" The staid fashion choices serve to make Scarlett Johansson's Samantha all the more alluring.

I didn't realize until the credits rolled that my favorite band, Arcade Fire, had not only written the score for the film, but had also been nominated for an Academy Award for their efforts. Unfortunately, it's also the only nominated score that isn't available for purchase (and as of now, it appears that there are no current plans for release), though you can stream the soundtrack online for the time being here.

The soundtrack was so moving that I immediately came home and put together a playlist of songs inspired by the score and the general themes of the film. In the score, I heard the desperation of Ben Folds, the lo-fi murmur of Washed Out, and the classic AOR smoothness of Atlanta Rhythm Section. Sometimes touching and often desperate, the songs reflect my interpretation of Theodore's loneliness and desire to connect.

And for the non-Spotify users, here's a YouTube playlist.

Last of all, I'd like to leave you with one more video, also directed by Spike Jonze, for Arcade Fire's performance at the first YouTube Music Awards of their song "Afterlife" from Reflektor, my pick for Album of the Year in 2013.

Please enjoy, and if you do, link to and share my blog with your friends and family. Thank you!

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