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Road To The Oscars: Her

As we count down the road to the Oscars, I must be honest… I don’t usually watch or like Oscar Nominated films. It’s not uncommon for there to be a year I didn’t even see a single movie on the nominees list before the Oscars. Some years I don’t even WANT to see a single movie nominated for an Oscar. This year, however, of the films nominated for Best Picture I’ve seen two and plan to see at least two more, if not three. That will put me seeing five of the nine nominees, which is an all-time record, so I decided that, leading up to the Oscars, I’d post about each one I see and why I think they should or shouldn’t win the awards they are all nominated for.

We’ll start with the first one I saw and that is Her.

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I wanted to see Her since I saw the previews for it, so when I started taking classes in a city that actually HAD it (my small town cinema often skips more ‘artsy’ films that they won’t sell a lot of tickets to) I decided to go see it my very first day after class. When I told people I wanted to see it, a lot of people went, “That movie about a dude in love with his computer? That looks so pathetic and dumb.”

…. even if I had EVER thought that, I can assure you, Her is NOT pathetic and dumb.

If you don’t know what it is about, Her is a movie set in the future about a man named Theodore Twombly. For the sake of not forgetting anything, I’ll just give you the IMDB plot summary since I’ve seen a few movies since Her.

Theodore is a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he’s not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS? (From IMDB)

Before we get into the spoiler-filled section, let’s take a look at what all Her has Oscar nominations for:

Best Picture

Her most DEFINITELY has the potential to win Best Picture, in my opinion. This film was beyond anything I have ever seen artistically, thematically, emotionally, and the acting was MIND BLOWING. Joaquin Phoenix honestly should’ve at least been nominated for Best Actor if you want my opinion. He was incredible. This film was moving and richly layered, and I honestly have seen very few movies that I walked out of feeling like it would be with me forever.

Music- Original Score

This film’s score was phenomenal. I cannot express enough how much the score to this film enriched the viewing experience. William Butler and Owen Pallett could definitely be contenders for this award.

Music- Original Song

I don’t really remember this song and honestly I think Frozen has everybody beat in this category (Sorry, Her).

Writing- Original Screenplay

A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Honestly if Spike Jonze doesn’t win this award I will call foul on the voting committee. This is the category that this film is meant to win. This story is beautiful and amazing and the writing is the WHOLE reason why it is so incredible. This is one of the most amazingly written pieces of art that has ever existed, in my opinion.

Production Design

Honestly I don’t know. I can see how this film COULD potentially win that award, but there are also several films up against it that could win it.

Trailer: 

This movie broke my heart. It was beautiful in the most original way, it was heartwarming in the most incredible way, and it was heartbreaking in the most tragic way, yet through all of that, the ending still is NOT tragic. It is bittersweet and filled with hope and you realize that Theodore is in a better place now than he probably ever has been. I won’t fully spoil the movie, but it makes you think of ‘what makes a person?’ that Samantha is so REAL. Samantha IS a person. Yet at the same time, she’s more than a person. She has no body, but she has a mind and a soul. It makes you think about what we all find in love and if we love the right way. It poses questions of judging people by things we may or may not understand the way so many judged Theodore for being in love with an AI. It shows you that love can be different in different ways. It hurts you and heals you and breaks you all over again, and honestly I’ve never seen a more artistically and philosophically wonderful film.

All in all I have to say that this movie was amazing, I would give it 9.5/10 (SERIOUSLY, it was INCREDIBLE), and I definitely say GO SEE IT!

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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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What Makes A Person? Exploring The Ethics of The TechnoFuture In “Almost Human”

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If you haven’t already been watching Fox’s new futuristic Sci-Fi cop drama, you should be!

Almost Human, the newest J.J. Abrams show created by J. H. Wyman, is a show about the police force of the future in 2048 in which the uncontrolled technological advances in America has risen the crime rate by over 400% and, in an effort to meet the rising crime rates, police officers are paired up with androids as partners that are combat-ready.

Detective John Kennex, played by Karl Urban, is distrustful of androids after waking up from a seventeen month coma after his android partner abandoned him in his refusal to leave a fallen human co-worker, which resulted in the man’s death and Kennex ending up having to have an android prosthetic leg. When he returns to work and destroys his first android, he is assigned a more lifelike model: A DRN

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The DRN androids are an older model. They were made to be as human as possible, meaning they have the ability to feel and understand emotions like a human. Unlike the MX model androids like the police force uses, the DRN model androids were most often decommissioned after they developed emotional problems. Kennex’s partner, nicknamed Dorian and played by Michael Ealy (above), is unlike the other police androids in that he has a personality. He has emotions. He even is offended by being called a ‘Synthetic’.

What distinguishes Man from Machine?

One theme that runs throughout the show (so far, it’s only a few episodes in admittedly) is the concept of ‘what is a person’? The MX androids are devoid of any real human characteristics other than appearance, and even that looks synthetic. Though they speak and react like they are thinking for themselves, they are clearly programed based on logic and nothing else. Kennex views them so far from ‘human’ that in the first episode he actually throws his MX android partner from a moving vehicle, facilitating its complete destruction.

This raises the question to the viewers that, if the other androids are just machines, what is Dorian? Is he just another machine even though he has a character and a personality?

In the episode “Skin”, the police force is sent into the world of IRCs – Intimate Robot Companions – which are basically ‘sexbots’. They are a legal trade since IRCs are reported to have decreased the rate of sexual violence significantly, and the IRCs (mostly females) are sold in showrooms like cars. In the course of the episode, one of the IRCs, named Vanessa, asks where her ‘friend’ (another IRC) Vanessa is and if she can see her. Dorian realizes that Vanessa is designed to form a bond with people and to miss them (presumably so that the owner of the IRC will feel wanted). When Vanessa has to be deactivated, she asks Dorian where she’s going and he tells her “to a better place” (something he had learned earlier in the episode from Kennex). Dorian then witnesses her being deactivated.

What Does Understanding Do to a DRN?

The problem with the DRNs was explained as “emotional problems” that made them “volatile”, but it’s easy to understand why this might be so. Dorian, unlike the other androids at the police station, is aware that he is not real. He feels like a person, he has emotions like a person, and he has a personality that is distinctly developed from his ability to understand and process human thoughts and emotions. But he still knows that he’s not a “real person”.

Like with Vanessa, he knows that he too will one day cease to be useful and be deactivated. He says at one point, “I may not have had a childhood, I may not have been born, but I act out of free will, and my memories mean something to me.”

It isn’t hard to understand why the DRNs would have emotional problems when they are aware that, though they feel like a person, they’re not. It is the truest form of dehumanization, to literally not be a human being, but to feel the same as one.

What Other Questions of Ethics Will Almost Human give us?

I’m very interested to find out, actually! The most recent episode touched on the idea of human cloning, which is another TechnoFuturistic ethical debate waiting to be had. I’m very excited to see what other questions of ethics Almost Human will make the audience think about, because so far it has been extremely thought provoking.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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