In class we watched Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt & Scarlett Johansson’s voice. As your first blogging assignment, you’ll be writing a short (250-500 words) reaction to it answering one (or more) of the following prompts:

1. Voice-over
Jonze had originally cast Samantha Morton as the voice of “Samantha,” only to recast her once he begin editing the film. What do you think appealed to Jonze about Johansson’s voice? What does her presence add to the film? How would you describe her performance? What about the other voice actors in the film (Jonze as the “Alien child”, Kristen Wiig as “SexyKitten”)? What makes a good voice performance and how might it be effectively used in a medium that so depends on visuals? Can you think of other examples of films that used voice-overs to this extent (narrators, interior monologues, etc.)?

2. Film’s argument
Much was written about the film’s message and argument; is this a film about technology or a film about people? Does it need to be one or the other? What is the film trying to tell us about our relationship with technology and the way it becomes an active participant in the way we build and maintain intimacies? What are your thoughts on the way the film seemingly proposes a disembodied, accommodating female who you own and control as the perfect mate?

3. Visuals & Colors
In designing how his future world would look, Jonze and his director of photography, Hoyte Van Hoytema came to the conclusion to minimize the presence of the color blue, for it seemed the go-to color for futuristic dystopias. How does Jonze’s color-scheme carry over the many themes of his film? In what way is this color-choice in keeping with the story of Theo and Samantha? How do colors and lights bring up emotions for viewers? Can you think of other films that use colors (or lack thereof) to produce similar effects?

4. Score & Soundscapes
Jonze recruited Arcade Fire to score his film (listen to it here). How would you describe the music you hear throughout the film? What does it add to the world Jonze is creating? How does this score differ from other film scores and why might that be? How does this add to the way technology (and keyboards) work in Jonze’s film?


HER 02

Jonze’s film has already inspired a couple of video essays, two of which we’ll be discussing next week. Please watch them before next class with the following questions in mind:

– What is the purpose of Morton & Lee’s video essays?
– What is each video essay arguing? What is the point of these two video essays?
– Why do Morton & Lee choose to make their claims in the form of a video essay? What’s the advantage of doing so?
– What do the differences in both of these video essays tells us about the choices Morton & Lee made when creating these video essays?
– Why is Morton’s video essay titled “L.A.I.”?
– What is the point of Lee using Siri for various portions of his video essay?

L.A.I. from Drew Morton on Vimeo.

Siri Says HER Should Win 2014 Oscar for Best Picture from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo.


About Manuel Betancourt

Manuel is a New York City-based writer, editor, and critical thinker. He's a pop culture enthusiast and an eternal Buffy fan. His work has appeared in Film Comment, TheAtlantic.com, Backstage Magazine, Vice, INTO, Esquire.com, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Catapult, among others. He's a regular contributor to Remezcla and Electric Literature. | @bmanuel
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  2. mjb514 says:

    I believe this is defiantly a film about people, and the direction we are heading. It does not have to be one or the other, but I believe the importance lies on people. People control technology, for human are the ones who invented it. Yet it seems as if we are letting it control us. This film is giving us a peek into our future, whether we want to believe it or not. “Her” is an utter warning of the lack of personal communication future generations will endure. In this generation, people have relationships online without ever meeting the person on the other side. Many swear they “know” the person they are communicating with, yet they never commit to meeting in person. This online dating, where individuals are continuously being “catfished” has become a normalcy in our society. Just as well, in “Her” the idea of having a personal relationship with an OS became an everyday situation. The idea of a disembodied perfect mate is a scary thought indeed. This movie shows how people are so addicted to technology that they can’t hold a real relationship. The characters in this film needed everything to be about them, and that’s what an OS would do for them. The people of this society lacked the desire to work on a real relationship, and make compromises and scarifies with a real partner. The world within “Her” is a scary and pathetic one in my opinion, and terrifyingly it may be what our future holds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mjb514 says:

      #2 Film’s argument


    • michaellamberty95 says:

      I completely understand your approach to the fear of technology taking over in the future, and the unusual emotional attachment of that people have to their technology. If this existed in the future and people did begin to rely on technology to fill their emotional needs, would any positives come about, or would it just simply be “Pathetic?”
      Would this be considered Infidelity?
      would it become socially acceptable throughout the years?
      Would we experience it the way the film portrayed?


  3. michaellamberty95 says:

    When we were initially introduced to “Samantha”, there was a familiarity felt with her identity. Emotions were immediately conveyed and felt within the tones of her voice, or her simple gestures toward the main character. Johansson captured the ability to cause one to zone out and away from the idea that a human “Samantha” never actually existed. Her ability to commit the level of emotion that she had, helped Jonze blur the lines of actuality and sci-fi by selling genuine feelings to the audience. Her ability to convince both the main character and the audience of an unusual love between a human-being and a computer program most likely was a huge reason for her appealing to Jonze. Conversations were everything in this movie, which heightened the significance of each interaction. Every interaction required more for the audience due to the lack of the usual visually-stimulating presence of a physical character, but the power despite the lack thereof was important in this movie. A connection had to be made with the audience, and Scarlett Johansson’s voice did just that. All in all, the voice acting was casted very well. Other characters like, “Alien child”, or “Sexy Kitten” were both characters whose voices were fully committed to their parts. Full, blown-out commitment to the character was a theme that all of the voice actors stuck to in the movie. There was nothing that was ever unsure of natural about the way that they communicated within the movie, even though there was no physical presence involved.Another movie that I thought of with the continuation of this sort of narrative, fim-making style, was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don John”, which featured narration of the main character’s thoughts throughout the entire film (also featuring Scarlett Johansson).


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