Our Smartphones, Our Selves: Why 'Her' Deserves The Best Picture Oscar

Mar 1 2014, 11:33am CST | by

Our Smartphones, Our Selves: Why 'Her' Deserves The Best Picture Oscar
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

A few weeks ago, I went to grab lunch at a takeout food spot near the office. It’s the sort of place where you move down an assembly line, telling the servers behind the counter what to add to your plate at each station. Immediately ahead of me in line was a woman about my age looking intently at her phone. Over her shoulder, I saw that she was scrolling through photos on Instagram.

She reached the first station and looked up. Rice or greens? “Greens,” she said, barely looking up, and resumed scrolling as she shuffled to the next station.

Protein? “Chicken,” she said. Resume scrolling and shuffling.

Three sides? “Uhh…Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potato.” Scroll, shuffle.

Then it was time to pay. The woman handed over her credit card. As she waited for the cashier to return it, she scrolled through a few last Instagram photos.

I don’t know why this scene made such an impression on me. Like you, I probably witness something like it every day.

———

Twenty minutes into watching “Her,” Spike Jonze’s film about a man who falls in love with the Siri-like artificial intelligence program that manages his digital devices, I thought, How the hell is this going to work as a two-hour movie? Specifically, how did Jonze think he was going to keep viewers’ attention for that long with a narrative that mostly involved a man interacting with a wallet-sized piece of plastic, glass and metal?

That Jonze succeeded — that “Her” is not just watchable but visually beautiful, emotionally honest, resonant, funny and deeply moving — is exactly why I’d like to see it win Best Picture at the Academy Awards this weekend.

If the Oscars were like the Winter Olympics, and the Best Picture category was figure skating, “Her” would be heading into judging with a huge advantage, having selected for itself a program with the highest difficulty and then pulled it off flawlessly.

In fact, the Oscars are a bit like Olympic figure skating, but mostly in that an inherent conservatism in the judging tends to encourage the same sorts of acts year after year. In skating, we get “Carmen” and “Bolero”; in film, it’s period pieces and tales of triumph over disability. Politics and politicking also play a bigger role than they’re supposed to in both competitions.

The plugged-in prognosticators seem to think it’s a three-way race for this year’s Best Picture award, among “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “American Hustle.” “Gravity” was absurd but boasted some technically bravura sequences. “American Hustle” felt like too many other ’70s crime capers and didn’t leave much of an aftertaste.

As for “12 Years a Slave,” well, this is the part where I admit that I haven’t seen it yet. I know. But even without having seen it, I’m willing to grant that it has that most crucial quality in a Best Picture: It is Important. By almost every critic’s lights, it’s thoroughly deserving of the Academy’s recognition.

It’s hard to compete with slavery for Importance. But “Her,” in its own ways, is an important film, too. In the low-stakes context of early-21st century Western culture, the relationship between humans and their technology may be the most important subject going. The way that smartphones have not only entered the fabric of our lives in the last few years but come to dominate it — what could be a bigger story than that?

That “Her” succeeds as well as it does is due to a sneaky bit of misdirection. Watching Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore lose himself in his phone and his video games while the flesh-and-blood people around him fade out of focus, we know there’s a lesson in there for us somewhere.

But when it arrives — spoiler alert, for those who haven’t seen “Her” yet — it’s not the one we’re expecting. Theodore’s mistake isn’t falling in love with something that’s less than human. Just the opposite. Although she’s only an operating system, Scarlett’s Johansson’s Samantha ultimately achieves a fuller, richer humanity than Theo himself, because, unlike him, she’s willing to do the difficult, scary work of making authentic connections with people who understand her. The phone is only the form factor; Samantha is very much a person. Theo’s mistake is in using technology to avoid doing that work./>/>

“12 Years a Slave” may have something important to teach us about our past, but “Her” has something important to say about the present. Are we listening — or are we too busy distracting ourselves with our screens?

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Mummy wearing jewellery unearthed in Egypt
London, Nov 23 (IANS) Spanish archaeologists have discovered about 4,000 years old female mummy wearing rare jewellery in Egypt.
 
 
Exercise and fasting could boost brain's functions
Washington, Nov 23 (IANS) Exercise along with occasional fasting is good for boosting the brain's neurons, shows a new research.
 
 
One infant dies in Pakistan hospital
Islamabad, Nov 23 (IANS) One more infant died due to lack of oxygen in an incubator and negligence of the hospital administration in Pakistan, bringing the number of such deaths to 19 in the past five days.
 
 
American whiskey faces challenge in whisky-gulping India
Washington, Nov 23 (IANS) For the most part Indians love things American, but when it comes to their tipple, the world's largest whisky drinkers usually go for Scotch or their very own home-made brands.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

14 killed in Afghanistan bombing
Kabul, Nov 23 (IANS) At least 14 people were killed and 35 wounded Sunday in a suicide bomb attack at a volleyball ground in Paktika province of Afghanistan, a source said. "The blast occurred late in the evening....
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi GP, World Championshi
Abu Dhabi, Nov 23 (IANS) Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton comprehensively won the season ending Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and in the process also clinched the drivers' World Championship for the second time here...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Iraqi forces attack IS-held towns
Baghdad, Nov 23 (IANS) Iraqi security forces attacked two towns held by the Sunni radical group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala Sunday, police said. Security forces backed by Shia militias and...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and Sam's Club Black Friday 2014 Sales are Live
The big retailers cannot wait this year and launched Black Friday 2014 sales as early as Friday. These sales are the real deal offering deals that are advertised in Black Friday 2014 Ads. On Friday Walmart Black Friday...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown
 
Pune FC seal semifinal berth in King's Cup
Thimphu, Nov 23 (IANS) Pune FC thrashed Assam State Electricity Board FC 5-0 in a third round Group-B encounter to seal their place in the semi-finals of the 2014 King's Cup at the Changlimithang Stadium here Sunday....
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Australia the team to beat at World Cup: Vaughan
London, Nov 23 (IANS) Former England captain Michael Vaughan Sunday said that having hit upon a rich vein of form against South Africa, Australia have emerged as the front-runners and will be the team to beat at the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Taylor Swift to receive Dick Clark Award
Los Angeles, Nov 23 (IANS) Singer Taylor Swift has been named as the first recipient of Dick Clark Award For excellence at 2014 American Music Awards (AMAs). The 24-year-old, who is enjoying a great year with her...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Australia displace India as top ODI team
Dubai, Nov 23 (IANS) Four-time World Champion Australia Sunday returned to the top of the One-Day International (ODI) Team Rankings, displacing India, after defeating South Africa 4-1 in a five-match series, as per the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Iraqi court sentences Sunni politician to death
Baghdad, Nov 23 (IANS) An Iraqi court Sunday sentenced a former Sunni lawmaker to death on a criminal charge, an official said. "The Central Criminal Court issued today a verdict of death penalty for the former...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Amzon Black Friday 2014: $3.99 Blu-ray Movies
Black Friday 2014 Sales events are underway since Friday with the Amazon Black Friday 2014 Deals Week and the Walmart Black Friday Pre Sale. Walmart matched several advertised Black Friday 2014 deals of competitors on...
Read more on Black Friday Countdown