As the opening credits of The Birdcage came and passed on screen I had a realization: I haven’t seen very many Robin Williams movies. Thinking back on the handful that I have seen (many of them seen a very long time ago), I remember them fondly. I don’t really have a segue or continuation to this thought other than I think I’d like to try and watch more of the late Mr. Williams’ films this year.
Despite having many moving parts, the basic premise of The Birdcage is very simple. Gay father and his uber-flamboyant partner need to act like a traditional Reaganistic family for a night when they meet their son’s wife-to-be and her hard right wing conservative parents. Goofs ensue.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t only watch horror movies. Sure, dudes in masks wielding machetes who chop up promiscuous teenagers tickles my fancy some, but every now and again it’s nice to step out of the coffin and experience something a bit different. While I’d definitely call myself a fan of sci-fi, I feel similar about that genre as I do most comedies. I think a movie in the genre needs to be executed impeccably if it’s going to stand solely on the tropes and stylings of genre. A prime example in the comedy genre would be Airplane, a movie that spends literally every frame setting up or paying off on a joke, and every joke sticks its landing perfectly. It doesn’t need compelling characters, narrative, or conflict because the movie can stand alone on the strength of its jokes. My favorite sci-fi movies and shows definitely cannot stand on how “sci-fi” they are. They need something else to synergize with the sci-fi setting. Take Robocop for instance. Unarguably the greatest movie ever made, its political and social satire works with the sci-fi setting, not just along side it. Their power together makes it a great movie. Battlestar Galactica is a political thriller/ drama that just so happens to take place in space and involves evil robots trying to eradicate humanity. The sci-fi (spaceships, faster than light travel, Cylons) does not get people watching it episode in, episode out. The fleshed out characters, their relationships, their struggles and flaws, and how they overcome those struggles and flaws make the show worth watching. For me, sci-fi needs a human element to grasp on to in order to elevate it to something really worth thinking about. Good sci-fi asks questions and pokes holes in convention. A movie that fits this description to a tee, is Her.
Her is Spike Jonze’s fourth feature length film about Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a man going through a divorce who begins a relationship with Samantha, an artificial intelligence operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It sounds like a quirky indie drama, and while it does fall into a couple of the traps of a schlubby-guy-meets-manic-pixie-dream-girl movie, it deftly soars above a majority of the clichés and keeps you on your toes and guessing what will happen next. Spike Jonze is known for making quirky and weird movies, but Her is definitely an accessible film (unlike the last movie I saw starring Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin). I know I’m late to the party for Her, but understandably I was a little overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of praise this movie had going for it when it came out. It seemed almost too hyped. It was winning every award ever, and nothing but perfect or near perfect reviews came spilling out after its release. At the time it felt like manufactured hype or Oscarbait, but now that I’ve watched it, I can safely say…