Last night I dreamed I checked into an old hotel somewhere in Europe with Françoise Dorléac. It was a dark place with dark wood paneling.

In the hotel room, when Mlle. Dorléac took off her make-up her face began to glow white, uncannily, as though from within — as though she were in the process of becoming a ghost.

I woke up before the process was completed. In retrospect this dream encounter was not scary, just strange and sad.



This film would not have made sense ten years go — now it makes too much sense for comfort. It’s nominally about a guy named Theodore who falls in love with the sultry voice, witty style and consoling charm of his smartphone’s operating system. The tale is set a few years in the future, when the interactive possibilities of a virtual human OS have been extensively developed, but you can recognize the OS here (who calls herself Samantha) as a lineal descendent of Siri.

Falling in love with an operating system has its limitations, obviously — only a fantasy form of sex is possible — but at first those limitations don’t seem so bad.  Samantha has infinite patience, access to most human knowledge and develops genuine insights into Theodore’s moods and character, his man-boy passivity and fear masquerading as sensitivity.


Most importantly, Samantha knows how to “talk through” a relationship — she knows all the ploys and challenges and rewards, all the boundaries to be negotiated . . . and you begin to realize that this “talk” is the relationship, that the relationship’s only substance is this web of clichés that we have all been programmed to export and import on cue.  It’s the kind of self-conscious talk that would make, and often enough does make, even a corporeal relationship bloodless, immaterial . . . an abstract proposition.


Theodore begins to understand this when Samantha introduces him to one of her other “lovers”, a virtual Alan Watts.  This is the equivalent of that moment in a flesh-and-blood relationship when one partner discovers a route to a spiritual awakening which, unfortunately, will require some physical unfaithfulness to go along with it.  (Watts was notorious for seducing his female devotees with highfalutin’ Zen platitudes about “personal liberation”.)


Meanwhile, as the Theodore-Samantha relationship runs its more and more painfully familiar course, Theodore finds himself thrown together with an old friend going through her own break up.  She’s not as brilliant as Samantha, not as perceptive, not as stylish, not as eloquent — but she’s a real girl who needs a real boy . . . a relationship that isn’t created by talking about it, but by doing it.


By the end of this astonishingly wise and goodhearted film, you may feel you’re watching the first meeting of a new Adam and Eve — the boy and girl of the future who will have to rescue romance from the outdated code of standard relationship software, so predictable by now that even Siri will soon be able to imitate it flawlessly.

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People talk too much about relationships. There is really only one question to ask about a relationship — will you go with me? The answer is either yes or no.

Will you go, lassie, go? Will you go, laddie, go?

The rest you can work out along the way.



Jae has been playing excellent poker on this trip. Before today he’d entered three tournaments and cashed in two of them, coming in third both times. He sallied forth on his last day here to try one final tournament — and won the whole thing, earning much crisp cash.

He leaves town a winner.

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There’s been a lot of criticism of Saving Mr. Banks as constituting a glorification of Walt Disney by the company he founded. The implication is that Disney doesn’t deserve glorification, and only gets it here through corporate puffery.


This is nonsense. Disney was one of the greatest artists, or artistic impresarios, of the 20th Century. He supervised the creation of some of the most sublime passages of cinema in the medium’s history. Here’s James Agee on some of the early Disney cartoons:

Do you ever happen to see any of the Silly Symphonies by Walt Disney? On the whole they are very beautiful. A sort of combination of Mozart, super-ballet, and La Fontaine . . .

The comparison with Mozart, with whom Agee associated Disney in other writings, is not farfetched.


Disney also revived Victorian spectacle theater, which had indirectly given birth to the movies, in his theme parks, creating, or recreating, one of the most vital if under-appreciated art forms of our time.

And Disney had balls bigger than those of any studio executive of his time. He was willing to take creative and financial risks that would have turned his peers to jelly. He certainly had balls bigger than anyone running a studio in Hollywood today, or ever likely to again.


Did Disney have a kind of middlebrow sentimentality? Sure. It was the middlebrow sentimentality of the audience that he, and most artists in Hollywood, sought to please. He still manged to create magnificent art within that limitation, as Dickens had before him.

Think what you will about Saving Mr. Banks — I found it fairly entertaining and occasionally moving — but don’t use it a pretext to patronize the genius of Walt Disney. One person of such genius in Hollywood today could redeem American popular movies.

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