Her (2013) by Spike Jonze : Intimacy

The Lowdown

Her (2013), set vaguely in the future, is the story of a professional letter-writer (Iaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson, Lucy.) Eventually, she and the other computers become too advanced to stay on this plane of existence, and Samantha has to leave him in order to find herself. Phoenix is saddened, but has grown because of their relationship, and peacefully lets her go.

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This is a film all about intimacy. Amy (Amy Adams, Enchanted) struggles to feel connected to her husband, who does not understand her artistic temperament or her work (she makes documentaries.) Iaquin Phoenix’s character is lonely, staying up late in chat rooms with strangers, trying to achieve some kind of closeness. It is only when he and Samantha fall in love that he finds intimacy and is able to feel free.

I have never heard Johansson’s voice so expressive. I believe this is because her whole role is voiceover. Usually, she is boxed in by the expectations that come from being a sex symbol. Here, she doesn’t have to do anything but act, and it’s mind-blowing.


It’s cuddly. Go see it.


Phineas and Ferb: Good, Clean Fun

The Lowdown

I’m sure you’ve heard of them. You’ve probably seen their roller coasters from your house.


Phineas and Ferb is a cartoon about two brothers who build a bunch of crazy, impressive stuff while their sister, Candace, tries to bust them. Meanwhile, their pet platypus, Perry, is actually a secret agent and has to duke it out daily with a wannabe supervillain named Dr. Doofenshmirtz. The family has no idea of Perry’s double life.

Comedy with Integrity

As a dear friend, let’s call her Allie, once put it, Phineas and Ferb is quality comedy. P&F doesn’t settle for the cheap stuff—mean jokes, dirty jokes, shock value etc. Although, there is plenty of ironic fourth wall-breaking. (This thing was the Deadpool movie before there was a Deadpool movie.)

This show holds up as good not coolness or suaveness, or always having what you want, but being kind and capable and making the best of every situation. It has an irrepressibly positive outlook. For example, the boy Candace pines after likes her back, despite her weird, sometimes rude behavior and constant panic attacks. Phineas exemplifies the show’s sincerity (“Look! A sponge and a starfish! There’s gotta be something we can make out of this! Ah! Oh, no, that’s ridiculous!”) while Ferb embodies its competence and sarcasm. And Candace is relatable to any girl who’s ever suffered from anxiety.

It also values quiet people. Arguably the two coolest characters in the show, Perry, who is a semiaquatic James Bond with a conscience, and Ferb, who can build and do anything, barely make a sound. Ferb has next to no lines, to the point that the other characters joke about it, and Perry, being a platypus, doesn’t talk at all. Perry, however, as Allie also pointed out, comes across as a more talkative character because of how expressively he is drawn. When Ferb isn’t cruising in a souped-up alien ship or rapping about a spa, he looks completely blank.

In Summation

Go try it. Even if Phineas and Ferb doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, it will in no way leave you feeling down.

1984 by George Orwell : Futilism and Sexual Frustration

The Lowdown

George Orwell’s 1984 is an iconic work of dystopian fiction. And while the 80s, in real life, brought nothing more sinister than jogging suits, 1984 was prophetic of the increased government surveillance and thought-policing that Westerners face today.

1984 is about Winston, a widower, his struggle to reconcile his humanity with an oppressive government, and his secret love affair with a secretary named Julia. Julia initiates the relationship, passing him a note in the hallway that reads ‘I love you.’ They have never spoken to each other before this. Winston’s wife was a complete conformist, unquestioning of the government’s rule. But Winston is different. He finds himself mired in depression and sexual frustration. Julia gives him a reason to live and a way to rebel. Their opposition to the government is found out, and both are brainwashed into submission. The book closes with Winston and Julia meeting by accident and then parting ways, showing no interest in each other.

Sex = Humanity

1984 equates sex with identity.

At the beginning of the book, Winston is still lucid enough to realize that the government is bad. During a meeting, he compulsively writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” over and over. His own defiance freaks him out; he wants to stay below the radar as much as anyone else. Point is, Winston has no hope. He tries to repress his own thoughts, lest they be found out and Winston executed for them.

One mind alone is no match for the government. It is only through Winston’s physical affair with Julia that he finds courage in himself. He contacts what he thinks is a rebel organization and tries to join the resistance. Granted, he fails miserably because it was really government officials posing as a rebels to weed out traitors, but, through Julia, Winston wakes up enough to try. This kind of resistance against such a huge force is crazy, but it’s through the madness that is love that Winston and Julia wake from dormancy. (And are promptly sedated by the government.)

The government wants to repress attraction and affection between humans. Because of this, Winston’s marriage was full of disconnect and largely abstinent. He recounts one night when he went to visit a prostitute. He says she was lethargic and toothless “but I did it anyway.” He feels horrible afterward, but it’s better than feeling nothing. This is another instance of Winston using his sexuality to wake himself up.


The message is that humanity is hopeless against that which it has created. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster kind of deal. Orwell (who died in 1950) was not an optimistic guy. Shame he never got to see the 1980s. He would have gotten a kick out of Bowie.