The Anchorman sequel and Spike Jonze’s Her are in theaters in time for the holidays.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Costume designers and production designers must love working on movies that are set in the ’70s and early ’80s. The clothing and hairstyles that were fashionable at the time seem uniquely foul to modern eyes, not to mention the monstrous cars and outlandish interior designs that seemed to suggest everybody was a pimp who lived in a disco. But the very hideousness is a lot of fun to look at, and can generate laughs all by itself. In fact, the Anchorman series of films is firmly predicated on the idea that there’s nothing funnier than dressing modern-day comedians up in the worst of ’70s and ’80s fashion and parading them through the worst-looking of ’70s and ’80s scenery. In the first Anchorman film, this concept was coupled with a parody of ’70s sexual politics—Will Farrell’s Ron Burgundy was the ringleader of a crew of deeply sexist newscasters, which became an organizing idea around which the entire movie revolved. In Anchorman 2:The Legend Continues, which is set in the early ’80s, this lampoon of sexism has been replaced by a lampoon of racism, as Ron Burgundy and his crew find themselves working for a black woman and unable to cope with the idea.
An oft-noted property of modern communications is that they allow people to relate to each other without actually really knowing each other. Many have experienced the phenomenon—the long-distance relationship, carried on by phone conversations or instant message or some other means that eliminates dealing with a physical being. Such a relationship can seem ideal, because, after all, it’s only when we actually have to interact with a real human being that complications set in. It’s part of the human condition to pine for the ideal and thus be perennially disappointed by real people. In a twist on this idea, the film Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and set in the not-so-distant future, imagines a relationship between a man, Theodore Twombly, and “Samantha.” Samantha is a computer-generated personality, but is so lifelike and seemingly perfect for Theodore that he actually falls in love with “her”—she brings him the happiness and love that he has always missed in his real-life, human relationships. He happily relates to her over the phone just as if she were at work or in another city on business—in other words, the same way some contemporary couples relate to each other more satisfactorily over the phone than they do in person. The film raises some interesting questions about human interactions with ever more human-like machines and whether it’s OK for someone to satisfy his need for love and companionship with the aid of artificial intelligence.