Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

Cannes 2015 – “You never look as ugly as you do in a selfie”


The lineup for the Cannes Film Festival 2015 was announced today in Paris. The festival begins on May 13 with a jury chaired by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Reportage of the announcement has been varied, but the most unique news item concerns selfies. The Telegraph leads its article with the festival’s ban of red-carpet selfies, quoting festival director Thierry Frémaux: “We think it’s ridiculous and grotesque and really slows things down,” he officially declared, adding, “you never look as ugly as you do in a selfie.”

As always there is a wide ranging mix of international films and stars on display. Some outlets celebrate actors, others auteurs.  People zeroes in on the stars in attendance, under the banner “Charlize Theron, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman Headline Star-Studded Festival Slate.” The article goes on to mention Joaquin Phoenix, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jesse Eisenberg, Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek,  Rachel Weisz and others. The Huffington Post, on the other hand, concentrates on “cinema heavyweights including China’s Jia Zhangke, Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino and the United States’ Gus Van Sant.”

No surprise to see the parochial nature of some of the journalism; national interests drive regional reporting. The Guardian sulks, bemoaning the almost total absence of British directors: “Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, about Amy Winehouse, has been selected for a midnight screening, but there are no British directors elsewhere.”

Down Under, news.com.au cheers on Cate Blanchett and Naomi Watts. Strangely, the Aussie site also promotes the out of competition screening of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road” with a photo of Mel Gibson, who originated the role, instead of a photo of Tom Hardy, who stars in this reboot.

Variety notes that “Asia will enjoy its strongest competition presence in some time with Our Little Sister,” a Japanese comicstrip adaptation from Hirokazu Kore-eda; “Mountains May Depart,” a three-part drama from mainland Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke; and “The Assassin,” a long-gestating martial-arts epic from Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien. Cannes 2015 also looks to be a robust edition for Italian filmmakers, with Palme bridesmaids Matteo Garrone (“The Tale of Tales,” a lavish, effects-driven fantasy starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and John C. Reilly) and Sorrentino (“Youth,” toplining Michael Caine and featuring Weisz, Jane Fonda, Paul Dano and Harvey Keitel) duking it out with Palme laureate Nanni Moretti, back with his semi-autobiographical drama “My Mother.”

The official festival poster features Ingrid Bergman this year. Some journalists, such as Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon, are underwhelmed by this design, preferring the style of  posters from the past few years. 2014 presented Marcello Mastroianni, 2013 had a great photo of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, 2012 delivered a striking shot of Marilyn Monroe, and 2011 showed a sophisticated Faye Dunaway. Each one combines text and image in a powerful graphic interplay. Each one epitomizes cinematic glamour; no selfies here. Check them out below: 2014-cannes-film-festival-poster2013-cannes-film-festival-poster cannes-poster-2012-marilyn-monroe_02282012_234555 cannesposterlargecannes_2015

Personality Amplification: HER vs. TRANSCENDENCE

The Wall Street Journal examines HER, and finds that the Artificial Intelligence community is intrigued by the optimistic view of the future presented in the Spike Jonze film. TRANSCENDENCE, coming soon, may offer a different perspective. her-joaquin-phoenix-spike-jonze transcendence-full-trailer-johnny-depp

Above: A rosy Joaquin Phoenix. Below: A darker Johnny Depp.

“Exploring personality amplification through technology is a key concept” in HER, writes Robin Kawakami in WSJ. “In the same way that various gadgets enhance our abilities—whether it’s finding our way around with a GPS or moving objects with machines—an AI might enable us to accomplish certain goals, just as Samantha nudged Theodore toward a book contract.”

The article quotes Stephen Wolfram, “whose Wolfram Alpha drives the artificial intelligence-like component of Siri on the iPhone, thinks that an operating system like Samantha as depicted in the film is not only possible, the technology behind it isn’t that far off… ‘What could you achieve by having an emotional connection to a sophisticated, AI-like thing?’ he said. ‘Can you be the best instance of what you intended to be?'”In this future view, technology is here to enhance us.

Erik Sofge, writing in Popular Science, finds this optimistic vision refreshing: “even if it wasn’t intended as a counterpoint to the collective upswing in robophobia, Her does the job nicely. It presents an AI that feels realistic, in the way that it interacts with humans, and, maybe more importantly, in its complete disinterest in conquering us.” Sofge believes that “robot-related hysteria is on the rise,” pointing to developments such as Google’s recent purchases of robotics and AI companies.

Google, which spends nearly $8 billion per year on research and development, announced today it has acquired DeepMind, an artificial intelligence firm in the UK.  This follows Google’s purchase of 8 cutting edge robotics companies in the last 6 months. The crown jewel is Boston Dynamics, profiled here at Singularity Hub. “The firm’s humanoid Atlas and Petman robots can balance on two legs, walk, and do calisthenics…Beyond the bipedal, the company’s Cheetah robot runs faster than Usain Bolt; their WildCat robot recently took Cheetah’s tricks beyond the treadmill; their robot SandFlea leaps onto tall buildings; and LS3 autonomously follows soldiers across rough terrain, carrying gear and supplies on its back.”

Consider this Boston Dynamics model, the Petman, and then imagine this robot with advanced artificial intelligence:

TRANSCENDENCE, starring Johnny Depp, opens April 17, 2014. This film investigates a different course for the future of human/machine interaction.

TRANSCENDENCE promises to consider whether Personality Amplification is always a positive enhancement. Kawakumi anticipates this issue:

“can an AI-driven agenda aimed at personal improvement actually limit us? Since machines are generally better at predicting a little bit into the future than humans are, Wolfram sees a possibility of people following computer recommendations. ‘A funny view of the future is that everybody is going around looking at the sequence of auto-suggests,’ he said. ‘And pretty soon the machines are in charge.’”

Ultimately, Sofge finds hope in HER:

Being smart doesn’t guarantee malice, or a callous urge to enslave or destroy less-capable beings… Which is why Her, and its version of the Singularity, is so refreshing. Samantha doesn’t lose her charm, or her compassion, even as her intelligence surpasses biological comparison or understanding. In fact, she claims to love us more. The AIs (Samantha is one of many) don’t follow the vicious Darwinian logic that many in the Singularity camp see as a given. The machines become smarter, but not superior. They’re the ultimate intellectuals—far too busy with discourse and theory to even consider something as superfluous as enslaving or supplanting their creators.

Her is a beautiful movie, for Joaquin Phoenix’s stripped-bare performance, its patient direction and plotting, and a host of other reasons that belong in a genuine review. But it’s also a film that understands that AI doesn’t have to be inherently terrifying. Her is smart enough to find beauty in intelligence, whether its modeled after our own thoughts, or ascending towards something much stranger.

The Future is HER

Production Designer K.K. Barrett received a well deserved Oscar nomination this morning for the ‘slight future’ romance HER. For a movie so centered on technology, the film startles by depicting a world in which technology is mostly invisible.


In Wired Kyle Vanhemert makes the case that HER will dominate User Interface design more significantly that MINORITY REPORT. “It’s not just that Her, the movie, is focused on people” he writes. “It also shows us a future where technology …  has receded, or one where we’ve let it recede.” Designer Barrett explains: “‘We decided that the movie wasn’t about technology, or if it was, that the technology should be invisible,’ he says. ‘And not invisible like a piece of glass.’ Technology hasn’t disappeared, in other words. It’s dissolved into everyday life.” Barrett sums up the aesthetic: “The future is much simpler than you think.’”

Simpler for the humans, that is. A smart home that requires no control pads or light switches. No software or hardware keyboards for computers or phones.  “We wanted it to be natural,” Barrett says. The dominant channel for human/computer interface is auditory. Vanhemert points out that “the voice-based UI was … a perfect fit for a film trying to explore what a less intrusive, less demanding variety of technology might look like…Conversational interfaces make everything easier to use. When every different type of device runs an OS that can understand natural language, it means that every menu, every tool, every function is accessible simply by requesting it.” Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, “with his voice-based valet as intermediary, is burdened with even less under-the-hood stuff than we are today… In other words, Theo lives in a future where everything, not just his iPad, ‘just works.'”

The most important design choice in HER is the adaptable personality of the artificially intelligent OS, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. “You don’t want a machine that’s always telling you the answer,” Barrett says. “You want one that approaches you like, ‘let’s solve this together.’…I think it’s very important for OSes in the future to have a good bedside manner…. you can’t talk at someone all the time. You have to act like you’re listening.”

One thing is certain: Designers are listening to HER.

HER, Warner Bros. Written/Directed by Spike Jonze. Produced by Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay.