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Every Spike Jonze Film Ranked

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Movies of Spike Jonze always arrive as an ocean of emotions, a tide of traumas, surge of solitude, cave of confusion. On that island of insecurities, there lives a castaway, whose story is sadly funnyFrom creating music videos to making a futuristic video game with a character that curses like a motherfucker, Spike Jonze has come a long way. In his brief filmography, he has proved that his dark, occasionally satirical humor gives you a strange kind of happiness. One that cannot be explained. One that you like to keep to yourself. On his birthday we look back at all his films ranking them from good to the best. 




4. Where the Wild Things Are [2009]

Where the Wild Things Are is not Spike Jonze’s best work but even then it is one of the best films of 2009 which went completely unnoticed. Where the Wild Things opens with the rambunctious but imaginative little boy named Max who wears wolf costume and chases his dog, plays snowball-warfare game. Max experiences loneliness which emotionally troubles him to such an extent that he starts behaving like an animal wearing the wolf costume and demands to be fed by his mother who has invited her boyfriend. He, then, flees home and take a boat to a new place, Wilder one.




Director Spike Jonze collaborates with screenwriter Dave Eggers (Away We Go) in the adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book of the same name that taps every palette of children’s emotions quite empathetically. Jonez has beautifully crafted each of the seven monstrous creatures having a big head but metaphorically reflecting Max’s personality. Max first runs into Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) who is busy crushing everything in the forest. Max empathize most with Carol, probably because Carol is in secured and yearns to be loved. Jonez perfectly blends the melancholy with exuberant fun and fills the screen with the riot of colors. The way character of Max has been fleshed, it seems as if Max Records (Played the character of Max) was left on the sets to wander his own wild imagination and captured them oblivious of camera presence which rendered the emotions of 9 years old come alive. What is, even more, applause worthy that all the seven actors voiced for creatures have not merely lent the voice to the character, but they made it so palpable that you can instantly get the frame of their mind upon their first spoken word. And that is a rare feat, my friend.




3. Her [2013]

 

‘Her’ is set in a not so distant future with humans as its core subject. Instead of focusing on the future, the film emphasizes on the future of the human behavior in a technically advanced society. Theodore Twombly [Joaquin Phoenix] is a professional letter writer, who writes personal letters for his clients. is a lonely man who is also pretty much socially awkward. He is soon going to get a divorce and one can’t say that he is a particularly happy man. 




To distinguish this science fiction from any other Sci-Fi film, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema deliberately eliminated the color Blue while filming it. As a result, the film looked exactly how Spike Jonze wanted it to be; a romance with a subtle hint of Science Fiction. But not only does the film succeeded to not look like a Science Fiction, it doesn’t feel like one either because there is some excellent writing by Spike Jonze, that is totally about humans and their submissiveness to technology.

People send letters to their loved ones but they don’t have time to actually sit and write them. In a way, Theodore knows the recipients of the letters more than the clients themselves. In another scene, when Theodore wanted to do some kinky chat, he instantly receives a partner through one of the many services of the future and as soon as he came, he didn’t hesitate to hang up. He plays games with a highly advanced computer called Alien Child, he falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system personified through the voice of Samantha [Scarlett Johansson] and his most insightful conversation happens with the charismatic woman inside that Operating System, which by the way are as beautiful as the innocent and heartfelt conversations between Jesse and Celine in Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy. The film constantly throws in how the society has paralyzed as far as human interactions are concerned. 




In a scene when Theodore and his wife Catherine [Rooney Mara] meet to sign the divorce papers, he reveals that he is dating an operating system Catherine rips him apart. “You always wanted to have a wife without the challenges of actually dealing with anything real and I’m glad that you found someone. It’s perfect.” She says before leaving. Her words of anger pretty much exposed what Spike Jonze gracefully wanted to portray.

2. Being John Malkovich [1999]

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Translation: The film is about Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), a lonely puppeteer who discovers a portal in his office into the head of John Malkovich in this bizarre Charlie Kaufmann penned surrealistic comedy. There’s something about a Charlie Kaufman story which is very uniquely Charlie Kaufmann-esque. The story has a strangeness to it which is both, oddly charming and occasionally off-putting. The film does not have likable characters. They are dingy and terrible people. But they are tightly wrapped under a cloak of one of the most complicated and original stories in recent times. Spike Jonze’s dark humor comes into play, hitting you on your head with original non-cliched images. The film pushes you into a muddled up outlook of desperation, virtual realities, and sexual fetishes. But doesn’t give you a shovel to make your way. In Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, there is a secretary on the 7 and a half floor who believes everything and everyone is messed up. There are puppets and there are puppeteers. But who decides as to who rules the world? Who is in control? Who isn’t?




1. Adaptation [2002]

A writer is a parasite that feeds on books. The abstruse relation between book and screenwriter, who adapts it into a movie, is similar to that of flower and its pollinating insect. In Jodorowsky’s Dune, the filmmaker says that while making a picture, the screenwriter must not respect a novel, the same way a man cannot respect his wife if he wants to have a child with her. He must tear her clothes apart and rape her, but with love. This is precisely what Kaufman does in Adaptation. He rapes the source material to produce his own child.




 

After staggering success of Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze reunited to make a movie about flowers. Kaufman was assigned a job to adapt Susan Orlean’s non-fictional novel ‘The Orchid Thief’, a verbosely vapid account of a toothless guy who found his passion in orchids. Charlie breaks every rule of screenwriting by using multiple voice-overs, by putting himself into the script, and turns this flowery movie into a twisted fun ride. The movie, which was supposed to all about the grandeur of orchids, abruptly shifts its focus to reflect the personal and professional insecurities of a writer.




Adaptation raises many questions, the most conspicuous being, “How much of this is real?” The screenplay is credited to Charlie and his (imaginary) brother Donald Kaufman, making Donald the only non-existing person in the history of Academy to receive a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The powerhouse star cast includes Nicolas Cage, playing the double role of Charlie and Donald, Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean, the author of the book. The contrast between earnest Charlie and commercial Donald pertains to the dual personality of the writer, one who is prepared to take risk and other who plays by the pre-set rules of Industry. Despite loose third act, with his wacky ingenuity, Kaufman manages to turn a cold piece of literature into a highly inventive and entertaining cinema.

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