My takes on…Her, Saving Mr. Banks, and American Hustle

My takes on…Her, Saving Mr. Banks, and American Hustle

Official Site
Her at
Her at
Her at

It’s rare that a science fiction movie gets critical accolades and Oscar buzz, but that’s the case with Spike Jonze’s Her.

Oh, and this isn’t a case of “…is it science fiction or is it not?” It’s one of the purer science fiction movies we’ve had in some time. It is certainly intended to look at the consequences of our science and its technological application, and what that might mean for us humans.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, and thought it was good. My non-geek (but geek tolerant) Significant Other hated it.

Part of that depends, I believe, in how you interpret the “message” of the movie. I’ll avoid spoilers on that, but I think that my SO’s reaction was partially to that, and not to the execution of the idea.

The acting was good: it was the best I’ve seen Amy Adams, in particular. Adams is often asked to portray someone who is somewhat…symbolic. While the role is crucial, I found Amy’s character…er, “Amy”, to be quite believable: not always the case for me with this particular actor.

I was very impressed with the art direction. Set somewhat in the future, the clothes didn’t seem wild and unwearable, but simply what would be unfashionable today. Could you wear what most people wear in Her and have it be unnoticed? Absolutely…that’s generally true with the tech in the movie, even though some of it is quite beyond us today. You might get a sideways look from an observer, but it isn’t like having a light saber or a phaser.

A reasonable looking and yet different future is hard to achieve: I would think we may see some technical Oscar noms for this movie.

The philosophical questions raised by the movie are important. It may engender some good adult conversation in your circle. However, it’s worth noting that this is an adult movie. Often, science fiction is assumed to be designed for kids (many 1950s science fiction novels were shelved with the kids’ books), but this one is definitely not designed for children. The issues wouldn’t be the same for them, and yes, there is sexual content.

I recommend this one, with the reservation that it isn’t for everyone (as my SO proves).

Saving Mr. Banks

Official Site
Saving Mr. Banks at
Saving Mr. Banks at
Saving Mr. Banks at

There are several reasons why, on paper, I should have loved Saving Mr. Banks:

  • I’m a big Disney fan…I was given a share of stock in the company when I was twelve years old
  • My favorite TV show is The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • I have a background in theatre, and can relate to composing the songs
  • I look forward to seeing Tom Hanks in movies


I think the movie suffered from something which happens with a lot of movies when they take on historical figures which we know (particularly, in this case, Tom Hanks as Walt Disney) or for which they have a lot of information (they had tapes of P.L. Travers, among other things). There can simply be a reluctance to stray too far from the truth.

That doesn’t mean that they are afraid of offending someone. It’s just that…the best characters have an inhumanness about them, something that significantly sets them apart from the people we know. When you adhere too closely to reality, you can end up with something that feels somewhat homogenized, even if you include the character’s flaws. There’s something to be said for when the impossible happens.

I think that’s why both my Significant Other and I thought Paul Giamatti’s was the best performance in the movie…and it was excellent. Even if the character was based on a real person, there was no need to play it like that person. Giamatti is always good, but this was stand-out work.

Colin Farrell may have been the best I’ve seen him, and I really liked Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the Sherman brothers (music and lyrics for the Mary Poppins movie, among many others).

The art direction (you can see a video featurette about it in this SlashFilm article by Germain Lussier) is remarkable, and again, I think we could see a nomination for it and costumes.

Still, there was something a bit…stiff about it for me. I certainly didn’t see Walt Disney in Tom Hanks…although people who knew Walt seem to think the performance is accurate.

This is one that I would put into the “sure, go see it” category. It’s worth seeing, but I think it could have been better if the producers had felt freer to use dramatic license.

American Hustle

American Hustle
American Hustle at
American Hustle at
American Hustle at

I’ll say right now that Jeremy Renner deserves a Supporting Actor Oscar nom for his performance in American Hustle. There has been a tendency to cast him in roles emphasizing his physicality since his breakout Oscar nom in The Hurt Locker, and it was really nice to see him in  a nuanced role that he played to perfection.

Overall, the movie shows the strong vision of director and co-screenwriter, David O. Russell. There are a lot of things happening, and it would be easy for something to break loose…to have a 70s hairdo cross the line, or an actor who plays it too much (or too little) like a comedy. That’s not the case, which we can credit to Russell.

Is it a good movie? Yes, and I agree with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which put it into the comedy category for the Golden Globes. It’s not a laugh out loud, slapstick Jim Carrey/Eddie Murphy comedy, but it’s honestly absurd.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments of pathos…there are. I wouldn’t say those sad moments are the main purpose, though: I suppose we could say they are more like tragic relief. 😉

What is American Hustle? Really, it’s a heist movie. It’s based on real events, but quite loosely. I think the opening credits included the line, “Some of this actually happened.” I’m sure the movie is far more entertaining because they didn’t try to stick too closely to reality…the characters sometimes do what makes them better characters, not what honors real people.

My Significant Other thought it was weird, but I said after the movie that I feel sorry for Christian Bale. He puts himself through incredible and clearly uncomfortable things to achieve superior performances. I want to say to him, “It’s okay, wear the fat suit…we know it’s only a movie. Don’t hurt yourself!” That might be just me, though… 😉

Worth seeing? Yes. Likely to get Oscar noms? Yes, many. I could see ten or eleven, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay…and some acting noms.

As to warnings, there is some violence, and…well, let’s say a lot of anatomy on display, although not a lot of nudity.

None to avoid in the three…enjoy!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

One Response to “My takes on…Her, Saving Mr. Banks, and American Hustle”

  1. My takes on…Her, Saving Mr. Banks, and American Hustle | Says:

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