Academy Advocacy: Don't Forget About Spike Jonze's Spectacular 'Her'
by Joey Magidson
January 8, 2014
We're going to try something a little bit new here at FirstShowing. Namely, I'm going to be getting into a little bit of advocacy. I've spent almost six months now talking about what might get nominated or what could appeal to Oscar voters. Now I'm going to start talking about what should get their attention. Alex Billington has long encouraged me to go this route and now the time has come. I'll be making the case (much like you guys do in the comments section) for certain films and/or performances, starting off with the Spike Jonze directed masterpiece that is Her. Among everything that was released in 2013, there is nothing that I'm as passionate about as this movie, so I'm actually pretty excited to support it. More below!
If it seems like I keep coming back to write about Spike Jonze's Her over the course of the awards season, it's because the film just has that effect on me. Yes, I initially wrote about its Oscar chances here earlier this year, and also doubled back to look at Scarlett Johansson's candidacy here, along with citing it in my list of the Best Scenes of 2013, plus Joaquin Phoenix among my Best Actors of 2013 and Johansson among my Best Actresses of 2013. Now, it's time for me to advocate for the Academy to not forget about the movie when they fill out their ballots.
What Jonze did with Her is nothing short of a monumental achievement. It is not only the best film I saw in 2013 far and away, not only the best film I've seen in several years, not only a legitimate masterpiece in my mind, but it's almost assuredly headed towards a spot high up on my favorite films of all time list (somewhere in the top 20, I'd say). Jonze has crafted something that is just amazing, plain and simple. It's a magical miracle of a movie in every single way you can quantify. From the brilliant writing and direction of Jonze to Phoenix's tender lead performance and Johansson's incredibly amazing supporting turn (not to mention Amy Adams in a plum supporting role), the top of the line talent is doing tremendous work.
Meanwhile, below the line there's wonderful production design from K.K. Barrett, luminous cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema, and entrancing music from Arcade Fire and Karen O, all of which is deserving of awards attention. On just about every level, this is a perfect flick. It's that rare bit of cinema that just grabs you from deep inside, never to let you go. From the first scene of this film right up until the end credits, I was enraptured. I laughed often, was constantly moved, and when the ending came, I had tears in my eyes, tears that didn't stop for a little bit afterwards. This is a beautiful movie. Nothing in 2013 can compare to Her, so this is a perfect place to start off with some Academy Advocacy.
This is a movie that the Academy needs to recognize, and luckily it seems like they will, at least in terms of nominations. Still, that shouldn't be enough. There should be at least consideration for wins, though we'll go one step at a time. This is a special movie, the type of modern yet timeless film that Oscar voters don't always have the chance to cite and/or honor. Especially with the new-ish rules in place for Best Picture that require only 5% of the voters to put your film in first place in order to secure a nomination, the passionate lovers of this movie (trust me, I'm not the only one) have no excuse not to come through here.
Other categories like Best Director for Jonze, Best Actor for Phoenix, and Best Supporting Actress for Johansson are less likely, though not impossible (and certainly deserving). Most likely though, is Best Original Screenplay for Jonze, which on its own would be almost a condolence citation, but teamed with Best Picture would truly show the power and quality of this picture. Throw in potential a technical nomination or two, and suddenly Her has as many nods as a number of supposedly "bigger" contenders. From there, it's possible that the noms could turn into wins.
If I'm being realistic, the win to shoot for is in Original Screenplay. With slightly more conventional fare representing the big competition, voters would be wise to recognize the most truly original script on display in the category. Should Jonze and Her make it in, I'd be in favor of it winning regardless of what I thought of it. Considering how much I love it though, this would be a slam dunk decision. The Academy did give a win in this category to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once upon a time too, so it's possible that this could legitimately happen.
The precursors have been very fond of the movie too, so there's a foundation of support that's in place for Jonze's film to translate to the Academy, So far, it's won over 25 different awards during the precursor season, along with over 50 nominations as well. That's nearly as good as anything else this year not named 12 Years a Slave or Gravity, so that's nothing to sneeze at folks. In fact, it's one of the precursors' real success stories, scoring attention everywhere, from the Golden Globes, to the National Board of Review, all the way to the Producers Guild of America. Most of the time, films that are cited by those three bodies make some sort of showing with Oscar.
Obviously, if I had a vote, I'd almost go down the line for Her. My ballot would have it winning Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Johansson), Original Screenplay, and Production Design, with nominations for Actor, Cinematography, Original Score, and Original Song as well, plus maybe even another Supporting Actress nomination for Adams. Will Her wind up in all of these categories for real? Definitely not (sad as that might be), but it certainly can contend for nominations in all of them, so consider this me doing my part to get the word out there and increase its odds however much I can. Thoughts?