‘Her’ Revisited: Why Does an AI Need Love Anyway?


Something has been bothering me about Her for a while. When I put together my list of the 10 best movies of 2013, I called Her too speculative to be useful. (Her wasn’t on the list, but I mentioned it in relation to Before Midnight, another movie about love and relationships that did make the list. More on that later.) What I meant is that the movie feels hollow. Obviously Her isn’t really about a human dating an operating system. Obviously it’s using near-future technology to hold a mirror up to the present. Obviously its point is that, surprise, humans need other humans. But why? If all Her really adds up to is the last two minutes of Annie Hall, why bother making it? It’s a fresh coat of paint on a well-worn subject, but the most interesting thing about it—its premise—is abandoned at the end when the AIs leave. I wanted Her to really dig into that premise. Since it didn’t, let’s do so now. Continue reading

What’s Really Missing in “Gone Girl”

Judith Butler may have famously said that gender is performed, but what Gone Girl tackles so emphatically is that, these days, almost everything is performed, but most especially and most oppressively, femininity. It is not merely that modern day women are expected to look good, but that they are expected to be cupcake-baking, soccer-game-cheering mothers while also being suit-wearing, boardroom-leading businesswomen. Women are expected to do everything and look good doing it—and, worst of all, they are supposed to make it look easy. Continue reading

On “Gone Girl”’s Margins and the Dissonance of Economic Crisis

Note: This article is written based on one viewing of the film Gone Girl (2014), and it contains spoilers of both the book and the film. Commenters are welcome to contribute to this conversation with their own observations or, if the case may be, correct observations that I have remembered incorrectly.

Director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn’s new film, Gone Girl, has already produced fervent discourse about its gender politics. Its depiction of men and women doing terrible things to each other has garnered critiques of misogyny (a friend scathingly called it a poster child for Men’s Rights Activist paranoia) and misanthropy. It’s arguably one of Fincher’s bleakest—and oddly, funniest—movies, one that revels in the nastiness of relationships gone awry. Continue reading

Rabbis Get the Short End of the Shtick in “This Is Where I Leave You”

“This is 2014!” sister Wendy Altman (Tina Fey) admonishes brother Judd (Jason Bateman), when Judd thoughtlessly starts to light up in the car in the dramedy This Is Where I Leave You. A similar chronological admonition could be directed at Shawn Levy’s adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel, whose conspicuously post-Jewish consciousness is betrayed by a rabbinic blind spot. Continue reading

‘Click Remove Album’: Apple, U2, and Culture Demanding On Itself

U2_EchoesCommercial

 

“U2’s The Edge smashes his guitar while encased in an iPhone frame in Apple’s new commercial promoting the band’s album, ‘Songs of Innocence.’ Frame grab by author”

 

This article examines Apple’s decision to push U2’s album “Songs of Innocence” to all of its users through the iCloud. I consider this strategy of music distribution as an inversion of the notion of “on demand culture,” instead suggesting it functions more as “culture demanding on itself” through an intrusion into the everyday practice and devices of music listeners. This brief article calls for a better understanding of how individuals and corporations negotiate questions of taste culture and distribution amidst “ubiquitous access” to content and to devices. Continue reading

Film Review: Defrosting Refrigerator Talk from Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight”

Alfred Hitchcock may not have coined the phrase, but it seems only appropriate, given his sizeable girth, that it has become associated with him. “Refrigerator talk,” in Hitchcockian terms, is that which arises when we go to the fridge for a bite after seeing a movie—especially a suspense film or thriller—and are suddenly struck by glaring discrepancies in the film’s plot. “Now wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense!” “How could that have happened?” and similar qualms about narrative inconsistencies or contradictions come back to haunt us in ways the filmmakers likely didn’t intend. If such questions only occur at the refrigerator stage, Hitchcock contended, the film will be forgiven to the extent that it was otherwise entertaining. If the nagging doubts emerge during the screening, however, the film is in trouble. Continue reading