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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Up In The Air

I was having a hard time thinking of an opening for this review (probably why I don’t do this for a living… yet), so I thought I’d read what Roger Ebert had to say, as I respect his opinions a great deal. I was pondering making a comparison to The Messenger because both that film and this one feature characters who travel around and give people bad news. It seemed like a good intro. So I was both slightly annoyed and slightly pleased to read Ebert making the exact same comparison in his review of Up In The Air. On the one hand, I don’t want to see like I’m just parroting him, so now I’ve got to come up with another opener. On the other hand, it’s cool to know we’re operating somewhat on the same wavelength. But all that being said, I’m about 150 words into this post and I still haven’t started reviewing yet. So, take two…

Jason Reitman’s newest film Up In The Air doesn’t quite live up to the abundant hype it has generated, but, helped along by a trio of great performances, it comes pretty close.

George Clooney fits perfectly for his role as Ryan Bingham, a man hired by large corporations to fly around the country and fire people (excuse me, let people go). It’s a life lived perpetually on the road. He has no time for meaningful relationships, and no real plans for the future aside from the hope of one day collecting 10 million air miles, which he then has no particular intention of using. This probably sounds pretty dreary but thanks to some very quick and polished editing, the scenes of Bingham checking out, packing, going through security checks, boarding flights and renting cars are almost dizzying to behold.

Despite his dedication to efficiency, it’s clear from the outset Bingham has no sense of a greater purpose in life. He’s going nowhere in a hurry, happy with his job and his lifestyle. And as we see in a scene featuring a cameo by J.K. Simmons, he is most definitely good at what he does. There’s a lot more to it than simply booting former employees out the door, and the film does a good job of showing that. These scenes are some of Clooney’s best as he skilfully moves from blunt dismissals to words of cautious encouragement depending on the reactions of the people he’s been brought in to handle.

The scene with Simmons is one of many in Up In The Air featuring a performance by a great actor in a small role. Among others in bit parts are Jason Bateman, Sam Elliott and Melanie Lynskey, just to name a few. Using fine actors like these for peripheral roles seems a bit of a waste at first, but ultimately what it means is there are no weak links in the cast. There’s never a scene dragged down by a poor line reading and the script is solid, so the film moves along nicely.

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Nearly 2010 and still so much to see…

So 2009 is at an end (more or less). It’s almost time to roll out another top 10 of the year list. I’ve already got a preliminary list ready to go, but there are a number of films from this year I still want to see.

Most prominent on my still-to-see list are Up In The Air and A Serious Man, both of which have been on the receiving end of some pretty lofty praise. I’d also like to check out both Precious and The Messenger at some point. I’ll probably hold off posting a top 10 until after I’ve seen these four. I plan to see Up In The Air over the Christmas break, but the others will have to wait for DVD. So much like last year, it’ll probably be around the Oscars before I get my list up.

The good news is I have a bunch of other stuff to check out in the mean time. I’m hoping to see Avatar, Ponyo, Thirst, The Informant!, The Brothers Bloom, Extract, The Girlfriend Experience, among many others if I can. The reviews for most of these have been less than enthusiastic but I’d like to give them a shot. Also still to come this year are The Lovely Bones and Sherlock Holmes. Again, both films have gotten some pretty bad early reviews. But you never know.

I don’t think there’s much point in posting my early top 10, although it might be good to do it for posterity so I can check later and see what makes the cut in the end. But no, instead I’ll hint obliquely. You know, so as to heighten the anticipation! Or not. Whatever. All I’ll say for now is my list currently consists of two war movies, two horror movies, two sci-fi movies, three comedies, and a drama.

Aside from falling far behind on 2009 releases, I’m still watching other movies when I get the chance. I recently took in Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing, both for the second time. Both films are from the Coen Brothers, and both are pretty solid. I don’t want to say too much more because I might end up doing a longer review for one of them a bit later on. I will say that watching these films again got me even more excited for A Serious Man. The thing I love about the Coens is their consistency. I’ve seen nine of their movies and while some were better than others, I’ve definitely liked everything I’ve seen.

And I shall close out what will likely be my last post of the year on that random aside. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!