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Now as for starters, I am not a big fan of Spike Jonze's pictures. They come off as too weird or too alienating for many ("Being John Malkovich" anyone?). Funnily, "Her" isn't much of a departure in comparison to Jonze's earlier work, but it is, without a doubt, his most captivating.
Let's be real: "Gravity" was just unreal. Quite possibly one of the greatest shot films ever crafted. Well, after being nearly 1 year late watching this movie, I could say, "Her" would sure as hell won for best cinematography if "Gravity" never fell on our laps. It is a gorgeous movie to behold. Every single shot is a respectful homage to "Lost In Translation" with some "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and with a little Wes Anderson peppered in. Colors pop with soft textures throughout but tiptoed in with a subtle melancholy tone. It works marvelously with its comedic but yet love/heartbreak themes.
But even though the cinematography was vibrant, boy, Joaquin Phoenix plays an absolutely magnetic and nuanced performance. I don't care about his past troubles; this guy's talented. Now I've never seen Matthew's best acting performance in "Dallas Buyer's Club" to rightfully say whether his performance in that was any better than Phoenix's in "Her", but in no way should Phoenix be thrown in the back burner. His performance is a work of art.
But the biggest achievement that "Her" feats is the phenomenal narrative powered by a supercharged screenplay/directing on behalf of Spike Jonze himself. Without a doubt, "Her" is more of a quiet piece so you won't find much dialogue here ala "Lost in Translation", but Jonze doesn't impose this method in a swaggering way -- he portrays it with perfection. Emotions such as sadness, laughter, the sense of hope, the desire of love, and confusion are exceedingly palpable but not so much in a way that it's thrown in audiences faces -- it gracefully settles in, making the movie not so much of a viewing but more of an experience. There's no way these emotions would have been portrayed if Jonze didn't utilize the method that he inhabits with this flick. To put it in one word, the film as a whole is beautiful. It's a film crafted and paced so superbly, there seems to be no wrong note Jonze plays with this film. Bravo, Spike Jonze.
"Her" left me floored. Everything from the melancholy tone, to the symbolic imagery, to the captivating and infectious narrative, "Her" was a huge surprise for me. Without a doubt was "12 Years a Slave" the big winner for best picture, but "Her" comes in at a close 2nd or 3rd for me. Fair warning though: "Her" is a bit unsettling and it will leave people extremely weirded out, but "Her" is downright arresting.