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Critical Mass: Everyone has a crush on 'Her'

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With Her recently earning nominations from the writers and producers guilds, Spike Jonze’s oddball romance about a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and his beguiling operating-system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is emerging as a solid dark-horse in the season’s Oscar races. Not only do critics adore it, but it’s played well in extremely limited release since opening on Dec. 20. (It expands wide on Jan. 10.)

Set in an indeterminate near future, Her is the story of sad-sack Theodore Twombly. Recovering from a recent divorce, he works at an L.A. greeting-card company that composes intimate personal messages for loved ones. The women he encounters in his personal life don’t suit him — except for his one platonic female friend, played by a mouse-y Amy Adams — so he can’t help but be drawn to his new OS, a flirtatious and comforting presence who pulls him out of his malaise. “That the OS, which he calls Samantha, has the sultry, pack-a-day voice of Scarlett Johansson only heightens the case for why a man might fall for a piece of software,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “Her soothing voice, awkward stabs at humor, and breathy, eager-to-please laugh are a balm for his wounded soul. She’s a perfect 10 made from 1s and 0s.”

Click below to see what other leading critics had to say before rushing out to see Her: READ FULL STORY

'Her' trailer: Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with Scarlett Johansson's voice -- VIDEO

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“The woman I’ve been seeing… Samantha? She’s an operating system.”

Yeah, so Theodore Twombly’s not exactly Rhett Butler. But in Spike Jonze’s Her, which opens in theaters on Dec. 18, Joaquin Phoenix gives a soulful performance as an introverted man who falls for the voice that organizes his hand-held device. Of course, the voice is Scarlett Johansson, so you can perhaps understand the attraction.

The film’s new trailer is accompanied by Arcade Fire’s “Supersymmetry;” the Canadian band scored the film and a version of the song plays over the closing credits. The music and the visuals can almost make you swoon as Theodore’s falling-in-love montage is missing only one thing — another physical person.

“Is it not a real relationship?” asks his pal played by Amy Adams.

Well… is it?

Watch. READ FULL STORY

Golden Globes refuse to consider Scarlett Johansson's 'Her' performance -- BREAKING

The Golden Globes will not be speaking up on behalf of Scarlett Johansson’s voice.

The vocal performance by the actress in Spike Jonze’s new romantic drama Her has been ruled ineligible by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for a supporting actress bid, according to sources close to the submission process. The final decision came today after an appeal from distributor Warner Bros.

Just last week, the Rome Film Festival gave Johansson its Best Actress award for the film.  READ FULL STORY

'The Immigrant': Marion Cotillard yearns for 1920s American dream -- VIDEO

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The 1920s in America were full of promise, but also a ton of hardship.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than the immigrant experience, and the millions of people that came through Ellis Island in search of a better life. In The Immigrant, one of those huddled masses is Marion Cotillard, whose character comes over with her sister from Poland. Unable to gain citizenship, she becomes a prostitute in the house of Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), “a morose exploiter with a poison soul, who nevertheless loves her in his tormented-sadistic way,” according to EW critic Owen Gleiberman.

The film, directed by James Gray (Two Lovers) and also starring Jeremy Renner, originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Watch the slightly NSFW French trailer below: READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: John Belushi biopic casting rumors; Plus, Alice Eve, more

• A host of young actors are reportedly circling the long-gestating John Belushi biopic. The Weather Man scribe Steve Conrad is set to write and direct and has reportedly met with Emile Hirsch (Prince Avalanche) and Workaholics lead Adam Devine about playing the famed comedian who died of a drug overdose at the age of 33. According to the report, Joaquin Phoenix‘s (The Master) name has also been thrown around. Conrad is also on the hunt for an actor to portray Belushi’s friend and Blues Brothers co-star Dan Aykroyd, and has reportedly met with New Girl vet Nelson Franklin as a possible contender. The Hangover’s Todd Phillips was originally slated to direct the project for Warner Bros., but Conrad will now both write and direct. Shooting is planned to begin in early 2014. [THR]

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On the scene with Spike Jonze, Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, and more at the premiere of 'Her'

The New York Film Festival screened Spike Jonze’s Her – his first solo writing feature — on its closing night, Oct. 12. Jonze, along with cast members Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde, arrived on the red carpet at Alice Tully Hall to celebrate the film’s world premiere.

The movie centers on Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly, a lonely, big-hearted man who falls in love with his Siri-like operating system “Samantha” (smokily voiced by Scarlett Johansson) while coping with his recent divorce. Set in a futuristic version of Los Angeles, Theodore works as a ghost writer for BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, dictating heartfelt missives from loved ones who can’t string the words together themselves. Sensitive and reclusive, he finds fulfillment through his complicated relationship with “Samantha.”

For director Jonze, the premiere was a special homecoming. “The New York Film Festival means a lot to me,” Jonze said before the screening. “This is where I got to premiere my first film, Being John Malkovich.” Accompanied by his family and most of his cast — except Johansson, who “is in the ether with us as she is in the movie,” he said — Jonze presented his highly anticipated film to a full house.

Though Phoenix showed up to the premiere with Jonze, the elusive actor didn’t stop for comments on the red carpet, instead racing inside early. But Mara, who plays a pivotal, albeit small, role as Theodore’s ex-wife, gamely talked about her part and how Theodore’s lengthy, but failed relationship with her character drives his need. “You see our relationship unfold,” Mara told EW. “We’ve been together many, many years, and you see all the stages of it.”

In fact, Jonze was reluctant to cast Mara as Theodore’s heartbreak because she seemed too young for Phoenix. “Joaquin is older than me, but he feels kind of young, he has a young spirit,” Mara said. “When I read the script, it was just so powerful, I loved it so much, so even though Spike thought I was too young, I went after it and convinced him to hire me.”

Kent Jones, the festival’s director of programming, echoed Mara while introducing Her: “[Spike] made a film that, when we saw it, we instantly fell in love with,” he said. Jones added that the selection committee wanted the film to close the festival because it mixed lighthearted humor with deeply haunting themes of human emotion, loneliness, and melancholy.

And with the diverse subject matter covered in Her, Mara said, it’s tough to pinpoint just one lesson from Theodore’s relationships.

“There’s so many thought-provoking ideas, and I don’t think there’s one thing to take away from it,” the actress said, shaking her head. “Every day while shooting it, I would drive home and have a million things running through my head about relationships, about everything; I think that’s kind of what happens when you see the film as well.”

Her opens in select theaters Dec. 18 and nationwide Jan. 10, 2014.

Spike Jonze on his new movie 'Her' -- EXCLUSIVE

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The first trailer for Spike Jonze’s new movie Her was released last week and generated a rush of positive buzz. The film is set in the near future and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a lonely, soon-to-be-divorced writer who buys a new computer operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha is so human and intuitive that Theodore begins to fall in love with “her.”

Prior to the release of the trailer, that description of the plot inspired a raft of Siri jokes, but the tone of the trailer is so full of longing and loss that those flip jibes fall flat once you’ve seen it. Jonze, 43, has not made a film in four years and first conceived of Her while working on his last, Where the Wild Things Are. He spoke with EW about Her and why he wanted to make it.
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Joaquin Phoenix falls for Scarlett Johansson's voice in 'Her' trailer -- VIDEO

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Bad movies can look great in a 150-second trailer. And great movies can’t always be fully appreciated in a brief collage of moments. You simply never know about a movie until you actually see it, so I never let a coming attraction push me too far either way. But… the trailer for Spike Jonze’s Her looks amazing, emblematic of his most original, provocative work, like Adaptation. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a depressed writer whose life changes when he starts using the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system to organize his life. It is a she, named Samantha, and she sounds an awful lot like Scarlett Johansson. As Theodore begins to emerge from his cocoon of gloom — reuniting with his Master co-star Amy Adams — he and Samantha grow closer than you and Siri ever did.

Watch the promising first look at Her below. READ FULL STORY

Cannes 2013: 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' is a seriously sexy French lesbian love story

There’s a first time for everything. At a Cannes showing of Blue Is the Warmest Color, a three-hour French drama about a young woman who falls into a romance that digs its hooks in and won’t let go of her, the audience sat raptly as Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a quietly precocious 17-year-old Paris high school girl, goes to bed with Emma (Léa Seydoux), the painter and Fine Arts graduate student she met at a lesbian bar. It’s Adèle’s first experience with another woman — but ever since the late ’70s, there have been plenty of lesbian-awakening dramas, most of them on the soft and dewy side. In this case, when the sex scene was over, after what felt like it must have been 15 minutes of writhing, moaning erotic hunger, people in the audience burst into whoops of approval and applause — something I have never in my life seen happen after a sex scene. It’s not so much that the audience was being cute, attempting to acknowledge that the scene was “hot” (although yes, it seriously was). What they were applauding was the authenticity: the fact that the heat was real, and thus the heat had become the drama. Very Last Tango, except minus the perversity. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Thomas Anderson, together again...maybe. Plus: a 'Best Man' sequel, Reese Witherspoon

Joaquin Phoenix is currently in talks to join Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, a classic Los Angeles noir set around the time of the Manson family arrest and trial. Robert Downey, Jr.’s name had been floating around the project for a little while, but we’ll be thrilled if Inherent Vice brings The Master duo together again. [Variety]

Reese Witherspoon is in talks to star in a film about the Lost Boys of Sudan – the name given to the over 20,000 boys who were displaced after the devastating Second Sudanese Civil War. Reportedly titled The Good LieMargaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire) wrote the screenplay, and Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) is set to direct. Witherspoon has not had a theatrical release since This Means War, but she can be seen in Jeff Nichols’ (Take ShelterMud, opening in theaters on April 26. [The Wrap]

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