Her

Posted by Dan Billings on February 17, 2014 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

I use my cell phone almost all day. I am constantly reading, searching, texting, communicating, and playing with it. I try to dedicate at least an hour a day where I am not within five feet of it. And that is hard. I want to play music out of it or do something at all times. I find it to be the most important gadget I have ever owned. The only thing that I don’t do on it is write. I go to my desktop computer for that as I find the keyboard and the large monitor refreshing.

I wake up with the phone feet from my face. I shower, watch WGN Morning News, and jump into my car where it speaks to my phone through Bluetooth technology to let me listen to a podcast or Pandora. When I get to work, I may text on occasion, but my eyes are glued on my two screen setup, unless I have to write on paper or I’m in a meeting. I jump back into the car where it resumes playing whatever I was listening to 8 hours earlier. I get home and turn my desktop computer on or the television on and have my phone in my hands or within a few feet of my fingers. And when I go to bed, I set my sleep app to track my movements. It’s a totalitarian device – from cradle to grave. Yet five years ago, I did not even have a Smartphone. Today, it is the thing I grab if I have a minute of downtime.

HerHer plays on this phenomenon. Within a course of a generation, we went from dial-up connections and chat rooms to constant Wi-Fi and apps. Spike Jonze envisions a world where we have a “friend.” The extent of that friend seems to depend on the needs of the individual and the person sets the limits. But as you see people walk around, everyone is talking to themselves. There is not a group of people who travel together in the entire movie. There are couples but they seem strange in the world. They are almost unsettling.

I posit that that is the point of the movie. Personal relationships are unsettling and we fear that reality in an age where we don’t have to interact that way. We can telecommute to the office, ask Siri questions, be rejected by a potential suitor with a computer screen between you, and IM/text all night long. If we didn’t have physical needs, I wonder how many people would explore the world.

We have all had the experience where we are at a restaurant and we notice a child playing with a device and someone will comment on how bad it is for the child. We have all had the experience where a group of people will sit down and immediately start playing with their devices instead of interacting with each other. We have all seen two people walk by us in what seems like a pairing but they are talking to two separate individuals through their phones or listening to separate music. Her shows us why we are uncomfortable with all of this when we see it but we don’t notice it when we live it. It is an uncomfortable movie, but within minutes of it ending, I saw three people turn their phones on.

Joaquin Phoenix’s character longs for his soon-to-be ex-wife and the past they shared, but at the same time, he has changed his entire perspective on what he needs based on this devastating event. He writes letters for other people for a living because everyone has disconnected from their feelings. He dreams of his wife but stays in his home playing video games, talking to strangers through his computer, and eventually falling in love with his OS. No matter how much you may have liked Windows XP, I will assume you didn’t have sexual feelings about it.

Hotter OnlineWhen I began dating, I used online programs and the first thing I noticed was that the same people seemed to have joined all of them. They seemed to not even want to move past the stage of chatting in emails. They would flirt with me and put butterflies in my belly but then disappear. A few months later, they may return. In some instances, they remembered talking to you but I assume that was because they didn’t delete their chat history. They lived online and continually looked for something more because the Internet provides you with a cornucopia of options. In theory, there is no end to what you can get or expect to get. There is always something coming around the corner. And perfection exists – and we must find it.

There is a subculture of digital personalities so we create our own image of perfection. We craft a persona on Facebook, Twitter, dating sites, and other online arenas. Many of us like to put positive feelings out there about our lives, children, houses, and jobs. We express all of the best of our lives. Others love to dwell on the negatives and use Facebook and Twitter as a release. But we craft what we want to say very carefully. We respond to certain people but not others. I think we love having such control in the image we put forward. We love having a group of people to commiserate with and to join in our joys.

Her gives us our own individual promise of what we perceive Facebook to give us. Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) gave Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) someone he felt he could trust unconditionally though he had no reason to believe that. She was created based on his desires and conditions. She was created for him just like we create our online persona for ourselves. I believe that is why Amy (Amy Adams) has an OS who is a best friend for her and someone that she was left by her husband who left her for a simpler life.

I love the Internet. I love that I have a place to post what I write. I love that I can then post this to Facebook. I know I am walking into a trap though. I know what is new and exciting today will be useless tomorrow. One day, Facebook will be a deserted island with all of these pictures and posts looking like the remnants of the Minoan culture. And I will want to write and be apart of the next thing. I would buy an OS to be my friend. I just hope I don’t lose sight of my real friends. I just hope I don’t lose sight in the reality of life and not the perfection that we have come to expect from the Internet and our online personas. Because even what you think is perfect today may not be tomorrow. And shockingly, there is nothing wrong with that flux.

Horrible things happen to people and they can happen to them without 100 people seeing the melancholy and expecting cheering up. Great things will happen to you in your life where there will be no one to celebrate or “like” it. You will fall in love. You will lose love. You will regain love. But most of all you will grow. You will fail and you will be hurt by people.

But if you want to live in a world where no one is hurt, then online is perfect for you because you can choose to ignore the hurt and the loneliness. You can try to find a little perfect corner where you will succeed – but it isn’t real. It isn’t life and it will never be perfect. It will shift and it will change. And you will need to know how to honestly react to it. It won’t just be logging off.

Les Miserables

Posted by Dan Billings on February 19, 2013 under Broadway Baby, The Multiplex | Read the First Comment

My mom introduced me to the music of Les Miserables when I was growing up. Mandy Patinkin sang I Dreamed a Dream. And I needed more. PBS shows a concert special. I wanted to watch it. I would walk around singing Stars for days. I would sing Who Am I? as I walked to school. So, when I heard there was going to be a movie, I was excited.

Movie poster

Movie poster

I have seen the stage production twice: once on Broadway and once in Madison. It is a beautiful story of justice and basically death. Politically. I hated Javert, but musically, he was my favorite. His story is one of pride and belief in the system. But the system is broken. A man who is tracks his entire life is not whom he believes him to be. But seeing the man on stage alone singing some of the most beautiful songs I ever heard made the musical.

On a movie screen, it is a different production. It is not the stage production and you can’t go into it thinking you are going to see a stage production. Movie musicals are different. A camera is different than a stage. It isn’t worse. It is different. Rob Marshall understood that when he made Chicago. He used the tricks of moviemaking to make the movie something special. Tom Hooper filmed Les Miserables like someone who sat only in the balcony for a stage production. He was always on top of the actors. You were there with them face-to-face, which is not what you get as a viewer of the stage production. It is always a separation.

Overall, this doesn’t help the story. I cried more than usual, but that is because everyone looked so much more sad than I am used to from the stage. But for the love story of Marius and Cossette, I got it with the movie. I understood their story so much more. Marius was annoying on the record or in the theater. But I understood why Cossette fell in love with him. I appreciated that aspect of the film. Eddie Redmayne added something to the character that I never saw before.

Redmayne as Marius

Redmayne as Marius

I read a lot of bad reviews of the movie and I will say that it is not as powerful as it is on stage. It is not shot in a way that is very welcoming. It loses a lot of its heart and its soul due to its styling. Master of the House is creepy and not very funny. It reminded me of how Tim Burton filmed the funnier parts of Sweeney Todd – something was missing. Russell Crowe is not a strong baritone and I didn’t connect to Javert as I would have loved to. I didn’t understand the premises behind his solos. It is a little sad that I didn’t see that on film.

But I have seen it. If I watch the Les Miserable concert (the one before the Nick Jonas one), I get that despair and fear and anger out of that Javert. Each staging will change how you feel about the story.

It wasn’t as good as Lincoln. I loved Silver Linings Playbook. But it was a good movie experience. And I introduced John to something that is really important to me. Worth the price of admission.

Updated: watch this fun video on Christine Pedi imagining what Les Mis would be like with different people playing roles:

The Dark Knight Rises

Posted by Dan Billings on August 29, 2012 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

I was not that big of a fan of The Dark Knight. It was a little too dark for me. I thought the story was really well done and I liked the first two hours, but the last hour with the introduction of Two-Face didn’t work for me. And in the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, the continuation of the Harvey Dent story still didn’t work.

It’s a pretty cool poster

Spoilers…
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Avengers Penance

Posted by Dan Billings on May 2, 2012 under Off the New Comic Rack, The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

To alleviate the guilt I will have when I see The Avengers, I will follow David Brother’s post and donate to The Hero Initiative.

Here is the idea: So how about this: You’re probably going to go see The Avengers and, judging by the early reviews, you’ll probably enjoy it. How about – as a thank you to the creators who brought you these characters in the first place, who gave you something to enjoy so much – you match your ticket price as a donation to The Hero Initiative?

As creators who did not get their fair share get sick or need help, The Hero Initiative provides them with assistance.

See the movie! Help out!

UPDATED 5/16/2012: I saw The Avengers last week and just donated $10 to the Hero’s Initiative. The movie was alright. Nothing more to say.

John Carter: Better Movie Than Critics Say

Posted by Dan Billings on March 14, 2012 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

When I was growing up, I read a lot of Hardy Boys books that were written more recently called Casefiles. They were more pulpy than the old Hardy Boy books – less smugglers. But I never got into old fashioned pulp. I turned to Agatha Christie novels and noir books instead. And that has always been my wheelhouse since. Sci-Fi novels also missed my eyes. I would read a few but I didn’t gravitate to them like I did with anything crime-related.

But when John Carter first had trailers, I looked into the story. I didn’t read the books because I assumed it would be very different, but it had a pedigree I liked. Disney does movies pretty well, generally, and to have Andrew Stanton attached, who directed Wall-E, one of my favorite Sci-Fi films ever, they had my money. So, I went on Saturday with John.

We both loved it. It was a great mix of science fiction, western, and love story. There were also mysterious elements that made it even better. But it was also Taylor Kitsch that sold me on the movie. Tim Riggins is one of my favorite characters in television history, so I may even see that Battleship movie against my better judgment due to Peter Berg’s involvement as well.

John Carter is a former Confederate soldier, like Jonah Hex, who is out west trying to make a life away from his soldier days. He gets pulled in by the U.S. Army to fight the Apache and ends up finding a cave that is a doorway of sorts to Mars. But he doesn’t realize this at all – even when he can jump due to different gravitational pulls. And he arrives in the middle of a war. It’s a setup that seems familiar and the story isn’t surprising or twist-filled, but it has enough interesting characters and plot points to really create a successful story.

The imagery is also beautiful. I didn’t see it in 3D or in IMAX but it doesn’t seem necessary. All of the long shots of Mars or the battle scenes between different airships were amazing. The solar panels that provide power to the ships shined. The moons provided a nice backdrop. And if nothing else, the aliens were all pretty cool.

The best way to figure out, in my opinion, if a story works is if you want more. I immediately downloaded three John Carter novels to read. So, take that as a yes!

Star Trek

Posted by Dan on May 24, 2009 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

startrekposterPreface: I have never seen a full episode of Star Trek. I have never seen any of the movies. I know about as much about the characters as anybody who has a deep knowledge of pop culture and spends every Wednesday in a comic shop. Well, probably not compared to those guys, but in short, I know the names, I got an idea of the picture, and I know a few of the catchlines. (“I’m a doctor, not a …”, “Live long and prosper”, “Beam me up…”)

Yet, I really enjoyed this movie. The bad guys didn’t seem all that tough, but I did like seeing Kirk get punched by just about everyone but the Russian kid. Halfway through the movie, I wanted to punch him.

It was very entertaining. I laughed often. More often than I was probably supposed to, at least judging by the lack of laughing by my fellow movie goers. I like the Russian kid named Chekov. I also like the plays he writes later in life, if it’s the same person. Simon Pegg is still a genius as well. I didn’t know he also did a Scottish accent. And Dr. Bones was hilarious. I believe I did laugh (and was supposed to…I was in a lame theater) whenever he spoke.

However, the little love triangle between Uhura, Kirk and Spock didn’t really do anything for me. Thought it was a bit lame.  Love…who needs it?

I look forward to the next installment. And the best rating I can give it was: I never looked at my watch.

I’ve Loved You So Long

Posted by Dan on under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

lovedsolongposterIf you have a heart, this movie will affect you. The acting is superb and the story is fantastic. After fifteen years of separation, two sisters are reunited. One has become a popular professor at a French university, married with two small children, who all live in a beautiful house with her husband’s father. The other has been in prison.

Kristin Scott Thomas shows, through mainly facial expressions, all of the emotions of returning to society after being imprisoned. The other actors, specifically the actress who plays her sister, the actor who plays her parole officer, and the actor who plays a colleague of her sister, shine and add many layers to this rich story.

Throughout the movie, you learn her past. You piece together why she was in prison throughout the movie, but by the end, you are not as concerned with that portion of the story as with if her will readjust to society. I had multiple tears in my eyes as others accept her for her past and learn not to judge someone for where they have been, but instead, for what they can do.

Made in France (yes, with subtitles), I felt incredibly sympathetic for this character even as I found out her past. I hope in real life I would be as sympathetic to real person.

I believe I will add this movie to my collection soon. I believe it deserves multiple viewings. I would most likely force people to watch it though. Highly recommended.

Into The Wild

Posted by Dan on April 25, 2009 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

I have had this movie sitting on our DVD player for about a month now from Netflix. I just couldn’t get the 2.5 hours to watch it. I also was not too enthusiastic about watching it.

I read the book before the movie came out. And I have the same thoughts about the movie as I had the book. None of my criticism is movie related.

I do not believe in the philosophy. I have a different worldview from Alexander Supertramp or Christopher McCandless. At one point in the movie, he comments to Hal Holbrooke about the inferiority of human relationships over one’s relationship with adventure and nature.

But we would not even know his story if it were not for the human relations. I believe all we are are our human relations. When I die, I am pretty sure my experiences and what I have learned dies with me. It is not passed on to someone else or to anything without me giving it to someone else. Read more of this article »

The Visitor

Posted by Dan on March 15, 2009 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

The VisitorI wanted to see this movie for Richard Jenkins’ performance, but ended up really liking the entire story. It was a bit heavy handed with its critiques of the immigration policy in this country, but some heavy handedness may be useful in the discussion. Overall, a good movie with a gentle plot and an interesting academic (yes, he is searching for a real purpose, but get over that).

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Man on Wire

Posted by Dan on March 8, 2009 under The Multiplex | Be the First to Comment

man_on_wire_ver2

Fantastic look at a man trying to achieve a personal goal; no matter the consequentes.  On August 7, 1974 (8 years before I was born), Phillipe Petit crossed the gap between the World Trade Center. This documentary shows trials and tribulations of the impossible task with the people involved and spectacular videos of his test runs and previous feats.

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