Tag Archives: Jason Bateman

Up in the Air

Flight of Fancy

Maybe it’s the big screen TV, maybe it’s life’s complications, but I don’t get out to the movie theatres much anymore. I usually get to see films right after they hit the DVD market, in the comfort of my own home. It’s more convenient, the food is better, the bathrooms are cleaner and if anyone does dare to talk or let their cell phone blurt out an obnoxious ringtone, I can pan back and replay what I missed.

But I sacrificed all that to catch Up in the Air the other day (no food, no bathroom need, some talking and yes, an idiot’s ringtone). I like George Clooney – he’s the Cary Grant of his era – and the cast was peppered with the likes of Jason Bateman (wonderfully smarmy again), J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Zach Galifanakis and Danny McBride. It was entertaining and thankfully didn’t follow the typical Hollywood plot paths, but I’m not certain it was anything more than just a good day at the movies.

The plot centers on Clooney, whose character is a corporate terminator, hired by firms to downsize their employees. Comfortable in his non-existence, his Ryan Bingham is happy to eschew the real world as he pursues his singular goal of racking up a million air miles, with the occasional speaking engagement and harmless fling along the way. He’s very good at handling people one-on-one but we quickly learn that his script for these encounters is as pat as his presentation for his yet-unwritten self-help book “What’s in Your Backpack”.

Life then decides to intervene. He meets a woman who might be his soul mate (a wonderful Vera Farmiga), his company is about to use web conferencing to replace personal travel, and he’s about to get in a little deeper with a family he’s all but ignored during his adult life. Most of the events find him hitting the road with the new business school graduate (Anna Kendrick) to show her the ropes in an effort to convince her that technology can’t replace human contact. Ironic, since the only human contact Bingham has is with the people he’s firing.

Without spoiling the plot, these diversions are played well for the most part, avoiding the usual clichés and in some cases surprising you with the turns taken. By the end of the picture, each of the three major characters is affected in some way, but perhaps not changed. As a viewer, I felt the same emotional distance; I observed behavior but never felt like a participant.

Interestingly, director Jason Reitman interviewed unemployed people about their reactions and feelings – reportedly more than one of the cameo interviewees is a real person – in an effort to shine a light on what is a tough time in the nation’s economy. Not certain he succeeded there; while some segments are powerfully poignant, others are played for almost comic relief. And I think that might be my overall problem with the picture, too – what is he shooting for?

Up in the Air isn’t a feel-good picture, but then again it is in a way. It’s a drama with comedic elements, but also a comedy with some very pensive relationships and scenes. But does it ever…I dunno…move me in a big way? I was entertained, but I don’t think anything resonated after I left the theatre

Best Picture? Boy, I don’t know. I’d like to think the best picture of any year is more important, grander, more epic. (Then again, American Beauty wasn’t exactly Citizen Kane.) And when I look back at their respective years, I still think his most recent directorial efforts (Juno and Thank You for Smoking) hold up pretty damn well. Stranger things have happened.

Up In The Air at IMDB.com

National Society of Film Critics Awards

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part One

It’s a guilty pleasure, I must admit. And when both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards occur over the same weekend, well…that’s a lot of couch time. And snack food. (And snarky observations).

Independent Spirit Awards

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...no caption could do this justice.

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...brilliant!

  • Eric Roberts Is The Man
  • Emily Deschanel is pretty hot in Bones, but Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) is even hotter.
  • It’s hard to think of Woody Allen as “independent” when everyone else in the room seems to have financed their movie on a relative’s Visa card. But although $15 million (Vicki Cristina Barcelona’s budget) is an unthinkable fortune compared to Frozen River’s $1 million, it’s still a pittance in an industry where you would have to dig even deeper just to pay a Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon to ruin your movie.
  • Someone has to explain “business casual” to Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • I don’t know what Rosie Perez is doing career-wise, but her amicable smack-down of Penelope Cruz should be in her highlight reel.
  • Ditto Penelope Cruz’s story about Woody Allen
  • The “musical numbers” for the Best Picture nominees might be an idea stolen from Billy Crystal, but since the Academy isn’t letting Billy Crystal host the Oscar telecast, I’m glad to see these guys picked up the ball. Which of course, leads to…
  • Rainn Wilson Is The Man.
  • Michael Bolton can be the punch line of a joke that is funny and has nothing to do with his singing, and he can be a good sport about it.
  • Jason Bateman and Ellen Page need to take their act on the road.
  • Is there anyone more comfortable in his own skin than John Waters? Then again, he’s probably comfortable in yours, too.
  • IFC likes awards shows without interruption of any kind – commercials, censors, or otherwise. AMC has editors (and presumably, viewers with more sensitive ears).
  • Steve Coogan is no Ricky Gervais, but then, who is? Nice job, mate.
  • If you didn’t already think Charlie Kaufman was one odd dude based upon his screenplays, listening to him speak should seal the deal for you.
  • I know why Mike Myers wasn’t there last night.
  • The only thing that would have made Melissa Leo‘s acceptance speech better was if she gave a shout-out to the cast of Homicide.
  • Nothing would have made Mickey Rourke‘s speech better.

Full list of winners here.

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