Awards Profile: Her

joaquin phoenix herDirected By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Samantha Morton, Sam Jaeger, Luka Jones, Katherine Boecher

Synopsis (From IMDB): A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly-purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

Why It Could Succeed:
After directing three highly-respected films that have reached cult status in their own special way, Spike Jonze’s latest effort has fans of his offbeat style salivating at the mouth. Jonze has passionate movie fanboys, critics, and The Academy™ in his corner, so you know all eyes will be fixated on his newest film, which also marks his solo screenwriting debut. It’s hard to believe that Jonze’s only writing contribution has been on Where the Wild Things Are, since his whimsical style of directing has this writer-director energy to it a la Wes Anderson. Longtime collaborator Charlie Kaufman, who wrote the original screenplays for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, is not working with Jonze on this project, but it’s clear that the revered Oscar-winning screenwriter has influenced Spike Jonze this go-around.

Reading the synopsis, you’re brain automatically thinks: this could be the next Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The sci-fi/romance hybrid worked wonders for Kaufman on the aforementioned film, a film that has since been decreed a masterpiece as well as a cult classic. Especially for younger movie buffs, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind carries such affection because of its ability to modernize the old-school Hollywood romance narrative in a profoundly creative way. Although not a Best Picture nominee (boo!), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind deservedly won the Academy Award™ for Best Original Screenplay, which is the category I’m sure Jonze has his eyes set on most. I believe Jonze wants his writing to be taken seriously by Hollywood and The Academy™, so he won’t just be “that director” who worked alongside the “legendary” storyteller, Charlie Kaufman.

Also, how can you go wrong with this incredible cast? Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Rooney Mara are viewed as the acting elite in Hollywood, and Samantha Morton is one of cinema’s best scene-stealers. I can just envision these ingenious thespians chewing apart Jonze’s screenplay and transfixing us from start to finish without pause. While not likely to be a mainstream success, Jonze’s fourth film and first original screenplay seems destined to be another cult favorite of the film community.

Is Spike Jonze's 'Her' going to be the next 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' or, worse, the next 'Bicentennial Man'?
Is Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ going to be the next ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or worse, the next ‘Bicentennial Man’?

Why It Could Fail:
Other than the fact that Her stars Olivia Wilde? I’m joking, I’m joking not really! In all seriousness, the main reason why Jonze’s filmography is so beloved is because of Charlie Kaufman’s writing. There’s just no two ways about it. While I firmly believe Where the Wild Things Are (non-Kaufman script) is one of the most beautiful adaptations in years, I’m not sure you can convince movie buffs and members of the Academy that the screenplay is as sharp and memorable as Jonze’s Adaptation or Being John Malkovich. Okay, Adaptation perhaps, though I’m sure there will be staunch defenders of the Oscar-nominated film that will state otherwise. Also, Academy members turned a blind eye to Jonze as soon as his collaborations with Kaufman ended. No matter how many “Top 10” lists the critics placed Where the Wild Things Are on, The Academy™ was immune to its charms. It might be impossible for Jonze to get back to the ceremony without the aid of Charlie Kaufman, though I’d love to believe otherwise. Even Wes Anderson — the maestro of quirky directorial efforts — couldn’t break Moonrise Kingdom into the “Best Picture” race. It’s difficult for these writer-directors with an eccentric edge to their films to make the full leap unless you’re Oscar® royalty.

However, the main problem that could befall Her is that critics and movie fans could condemn it for being hugely inferior to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because Jonze is shooting so high with this film to place it at a similar level to his former partner’s magnum opus, there’s so much room for failure if the movie and its story doesn’t sit right with audiences. There is still no U.S. release date for the film, and it looks as though Jonze will try gauging the appeal of his project by unveiling it at film festivals before soundly confirming a theatrical opening date. I’m rooting for Spike Jonze and his pet project Her, but its weak buzz has me worried that it might not see the light of theatrical day in 2013. Other projects this year are attracting the filmgoing community more, so if Her wants to make a splash it better do it soon at an upcoming festival.

Who is playing the "Siri" character? Rooney Mara or Amy Adams? The mystery continues...
Who is playing the “Siri” character: Rooney Mara or Amy Adams? The mystery continues…

Awards Speculation:
Because Spike Jonze doesn’t have Charlie Kaufman on hand to grant him an automatic audience with The Academy™, I’m going to rule out “Best Picture.” There’s not many original works this awards season, so the category I’m most comfortable predicting Her for is “Best Original Screenplay.” Also, whatever buzz this film is receiving seems to stem from Joaquin Phoenix’s lead role in Her. So many, including myself, thought Phoenix deserved to win last year for his astounding turn in The Master, so he’s right at the top of second-tier contenders for “Best Actor” in Her. Amy Adams won’t likely be nominated, especially since she’s probably the one playing the voice of the computer/Siri-like operating system that Joaquin’s character falls in love with (I’m guessing this based on Adams’ top billing on the film’s IMDB and Wikipedia pages). Also, would The Academy™ recognize her work for a fifth time, only to have her lose once more? Even the powers that be can’t be that cruel, right? If any actress is getting nominated, it’s probably Rooney Mara. The PTB love to award an actress for their body of work in the film year (see: Jessica Chastain), and with Side Effects behind her and Ain’t Them Body Saints and the untitled Terrence Malick project all coming up, a nomination for Mara in Her wouldn’t be all that shocking. The high level of competition from more prestigious, Academy-friendly directors this year also means Jonze probably won’t see his name read as a nominee in the “Best Director” category.

Oscar Potential:
Best Original Screenplay (Spike Jonze)
Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix
Best Supporting Actress — Rooney Mara, with an outside shot for Samantha Morton
Best Original Score