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Hal2001 12-23-2009 12:00 AM

Jason Reitman's Up in the Air
"Up in the Air" finally goes nationwide today. Here's my review:

Briare Rabbit 12-23-2009 12:48 AM

Isn't this spam? Like madcore spam- pages and pages of spam.

Hal2001 12-23-2009 01:14 AM

A few weeks ago, when I started just posting links to the published versions my reviews, I asked the admins to let me know if they had a problem with it. I haven't heard any reply, nor have the links been taken down, so I assumed they didn't have a problem with it. As I said before, having posted reviews for over a year now, I like to think people know I am not a spammer. It's just that with all the places I post my reviews, this is a great time-saver.

QUENTIN 12-23-2009 04:57 AM

At the least, post your review here (as you always had previously) and include a link to your site. Just linking to your site, even if you're not a spammer in the traditional and malicious sense well... is kinda spam.

Reckoner 01-03-2010 07:17 PM

My review:

Up in the Air - There’s a certain air in American filmmaking occurring at the moment – one that I truly find to be somewhat reminiscent of the American filmmaking of the 1970’s. For both that era and the one we are living today, filmmakers are using the country’s social and economic turmoil as ways to ever-expand their canvases and to layer their work with more dark, hard-hitting, visceral and resonant themes. Just as the issues of the 70’s such as the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam crisis, and the economic downturn paved way for social apocalypse and gave artistic inspiration for directors such as Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola to paint raw depictions of the state of their country (Network, Taxi Driver, and Apocalypse Now being the more powerful examples for each director, respectively), the issues of today such as the Iraq War and the jarring economic crisis are paving way for a similar turmoil and a similar inspiration for today’s directors. This year bodied forth two films that truly stood out in their resonant representation of a modern America and its festering dilemmas. One was a riveting depiction of our situation in the war in Iraq in Katheryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. The other is a hybrid of comedy and drama, romance and melancholy in what may as well be the definitive portrait of America’s present economic crisis: Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air.

It’s one of the most talked about films of the year, and for good reason. Up in the Air is a film of almost immediate empathy, demanding our attention and surrendering us to its relevance. The film is, first and foremost, a well-rounded character study. Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizer constantly leaping from one side of the country to the other only to give hundreds of employees the news they fear most: they’ve lost their job. Ryan is a man without a home (though an airport or a hotel room suits him just fine), a man long-since detached from his family, and a man devoid of any sort of love or passion. For him, this sort of detached, roaming lifestyle is the true key to happiness. He preaches his philosophies with motivational speaking sessions entitled “What’s in your backpack?” – his own personal guide for people to realize the true enormity of the material and personal aspects of their life and how better off they would be without them. These philosophies all seem frighteningly tangible for Ryan until two out-of-the-norm happenings occur simultaneously. On the one hand, his job becomes threatened by the evolution of technology once an ambitious young colleague seeks to revolutionize the company by practicing terminations via computers, and on the other, he suddenly strikes a connection with his female counterpart.

Ryan’s character arc becomes one of simultaneous levity and melancholy, an honest portrait of a man who, layer by layer, grows out of his seemingly content lifestyle in order to make up for lost time, be it by reconnecting with family or attempting to settle down, only to find just as many painful hurts as there are joys. Writer/director Jason Reitman’s screenplay, adapted from the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn, beautifully unveils it’s the very subtle, albeit all-so-vital awakening of its protagonist while exploring an acute awareness to today’s times (technology’s rising upper-hand on several corporations and in personal lives in general) as well as brave treading into philosophical territory. It’s a film that, in these times, dares to ask the notorious “what’s the point of it all?” question, but without any intention of being existential, but rather to overcome the banality of living a conformist lifestyle by seeing the appreciation and beauty of the people around us and the passions inside us, as beautifully depicted in one particular scene in which Ryan consoles his sister’s dubious fiancé on the eve of their wedding.

But is it ever too late to change? Is it ever too late to start anew? Those questions may as well be tragically vital to not only the protagonist of the film, but also to the employees in which he breaks the news to and to today’s working people in general. There are various occasions throughout the film when Harry is breaking the unfortunate news to the soon-to-be let go individuals where he tries to console them by saying that all the great artists who were the masters of their craft started out in the same situation and that loosing their job should only be a mere beginning as oppose to an end. This can either be seen as faux optimism that comes out of sympathy, or maybe just legitimately appropriate advice. Either way, it all comes down to what happens when we loose what is considered to be the bedrock of our lives. Careers may as well be the most prized possessions of the twenty-first century, and without them we are, realistically speaking, merely devoid of any identity or sense of respect in society. Ryan acknowledges this and believes that a person’s true identity lies within what they perceive of themselves and what truly makes them happy.

The film is absolutely suffused with bravura filmmaking all around. The screenplay is razor-sharp and filled to the brim with deeply relevant themes, rich characterization, smart dialogue, and an admirable range of philosophical facets. The acting is glaringly natural. George Clooney carries the film with incredible poise in a beautifully subtle, restrained, and oftentimes-melancholy performance that undoubtedly displays the actor at the top of his game. But it’s Anna Kendrick who’s the true scene-stealer, delivering a surprisingly versatile performance that is by turns vibrant, energetic, and comedic and poignant and emotional. But the film’s true achievement is Jason Reitman’s sure-hand as a director. Reitman handles the material with immense confidence and, even more so than his previous works, employs an acute sense to crafting the tone of the film without it ever feeling manipulated in any way. The result is a beautifully crafted hybrid of hard-hitting humor and stirring drama; a film that isn’t afraid of telling it like it is and how it’s about it.


Monotreme 01-12-2010 01:05 PM

(Jason Reitman, 2009)

Although he's only made three films and has only been active for the past half a decade, it really feels like Jason Reitman is finally getting his due, as if he has been around for years and only now is starting to be taken seriously. Sometimes, success is immediate and actually just becomes hard to live up to – like in the case of Quentin Tarantino, or George Lucas who both burst onto the movie scene with much loved and well-received debuts. But every once in a while, there will be a case in which a director will produce a number of films and be active for years before he receives and sort of mainstream or industry recognition. Paul Thomas Anderson had four movies under his belt before he brought the world There Will Be Blood in 2007, and along with it critical praise, box office success and a whole pile of awards and nominations. It took Clint Eastwood two whole decades before he was finally recognized as a definite talent when he unleashed Unforgiven in 1992. And just this year Katheryn Bigelow, after a potent career spanning three decades, is finally getting her due thanks to The Hurt Locker. Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan are the two prominent names that come up in discussions of new directorial talent that has emerged during and truly been a product of the last decade, but now, as it nears its close and a new decade is upon us, I think that Jason Reitman has proven to the world that he deserved to be inducted into this limited club. Thank You for Smoking was a film that built up considerable acclaim but mostly in retrospect; Reitman's sure-handed direction in Juno was overshadowed by Diablo Cody's screenplay but now, with Up in the Air, Reitman has not only produced what is in my opinion the best film of 2009, but as producer, writer and director, can finally take full credit for it.

A major part of what makes this film so successful and effective is its simplicity – and watching it, one is surprised at just how incredible simple it really is. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Reitman does not employ fancy cinematography, visual flair, eccentric music, gimmicky storytelling, or any particularly noteworthy or conspicuous elements to tell his story. It is a very simple and straightforward film – what makes it remarkable is the extraordinary depth and richness that simplicity conceals. First and foremost, the film serves as a resonant and fascinating character study. In the vein of the greatest character studies, Reitman portrays and explores every nook and cranny of the man that is Ryan Bingham: and he is quite a fascinating character indeed. We are introduced to him as a man who lives what can be described as a life of complete freedom: he calls no place home except the skies; he finds such purely joyous pleasure in the details of hotel rooms, car rental services, airport security procedures, efficient packing and travel, membership cards and loyal customer clubs and frequent flier miles. We glimpse his closet at one point and see that he has at most three or four shirts. His apartment, which he spends less than a few days at a time in, is completely bare. Most importantly though, Ryan has no major human connection in his life: not with a romantic partner, not with his co-workers, and not even with his own family. But while most of us would look at such a life as quite miserable, Ryan couldn't be happier or more content with his choice: he is good at his job and he likes doing it, he revels in the freedom his lifestyle affords him. He is so proud of this lifestyle that he even gives motivational speeches about it, in the form of a simple but effective metaphor of carrying around a backpack weighed down by things such as possessions, obligations, relationships, and how lighter and easier it would be to carry it around if it were to be emptied of all that excess weight.

But Ryan is thrown off balance when technological advances threaten to ground him for life, and when he meets two women who enter his life: the first is a young, fresh-out-of-college employee who is partnered with him on the road so that he can "show her the ropes"; the second is a free-wheeling woman whom he meets on the road and sees as his counterpart: free from responsibility, reveling in her success and her "exclusivity" in the form of various membership cards which the two excitedly compare. Most importantly, though, she seems interested in only the most fleeting and casual of human connections, but as their relationship develops, Ryan seems more and more interested in something serious and seems to think that their relationship is headed in that direction. If Reitman treats Ryan's character and the events in his life with utmost maturity and profundity, he manages to find an even more reflective and meaningful resolution: he avoids simple and one-dimensional solutions and provides us with one that is far more thought-provoking and multi-faceted, in which some aspects of Ryan's life and his relationship with his friends and family change, while others end up being too late to change. It is a fascinating, resonant and really significant study of the human condition, what is important in our lives, what abstract terms such as relationships, family, love, freedom, and all these other ideas mean to us as individuals, and so much more.

Another aspect that cannot be ignored in the film is its relevance to current events. The economic crisis that struck the world the past twelve months hovers over the film all throughout, and some of the film's most powerful and poignant scenes depict Ryan at work, letting people know that they are being laid off and seeing the different and varied reactions people have. Some vent anger. Some lash out. Some simply sob, quietly. Some explain that they don't know what they will do now, that their career not only serves as an important part of their identity, but also that they have no way to support their family now. What makes these scenes so poignant, though, is the fact that Reitman interviewed actual recently laid-off individuals and included their real-life testimonies in the film. A particularly harsh scene unfolds when Ryan and Natalie arrive in Detroit, and he advises her to be firm because they have been "hit really hard lately". Natalie takes the reins and goes through a really heartbreaking and difficult notification; she looks down at her clipboard and crosses him off her list, and sees that she has maybe fifty more people she has to lay off. The expression in her eyes, as she knows that each session will be as intense as the first one is one of the most affecting moments of the film. Ryan's relationship with his own job is also a crucial part of his own character study, and a direct extension of the notion that the job is a part of the man. Perhaps the fact that most of his human interaction involves him delivering terrible news and retaining a professional emotional distance directly fuels his lack of human interaction in his personal life.

All the depth and resonance in the character study would be worthless had the performance not carried it, and in this case, the film is among the best of the year. George Clooney delivers what may be the finest performance of his entire career: like in Michael Clayton from two years ago, Clooney proves that he shines the most when he is playing in a meaningful character study; in this case, the role even bleeds into Clooney's own celebrity status, and some of the lines between Ryan and Clooney's eternal bachelorhood and irresistible charm are quite blurry. It is such an accomplished performance in which Clooney coasts from totally charismatic and hilarious to really evocatively emotional, from moments of pure, half-smile charm to others of meaningful resonance; few actors show such range, and in this case, comparisons that many critics have been making with the classic actors such as Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart are more than appropriate. Clooney's two female co-stars also deliver some of the best acting in any film this year, and their appearance in the film will hopefully put both of them on the map. Vera Farmiga, who was most impressive in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, finally seals herself as a prominent and major acting talent in Up in the Air, and delivers a deliciously subtle and really sublime performance. But the scene-stealer title goes to Anna Kendrick, who, like Clooney, manages to craft a completely full-fledged and three-dimensional character via her quirks, her speech patterns, her characteristics, her behavior and her relationship with Ryan who couldn't be any more different than her. It is a more showy performance than her more subtle co-stars, but it is equally as effective and should hopefully make a star out of the young Kendrick.

With Up in the Air, Reitman proves that a truly great movie can be made with nothing more than great performances and good writing. Reitman does not employ visual gimmicks, untraditional storytelling techniques, or any other such prominent elements that make some of the best movies ever made as good as they are. Watching Up in the Air, I didn't get the feeling that I was watching something really groundbreaking like I did when watching There Will Be Blood two years ago, which shook me to the core. Up in the Air didn't feel like something revolutionary or important as I was watching it; the cinematography is good but not particularly showy, as is the editing. The design and look of the movie are all pretty standard, rooted in reality and not flashy. The musical score is effective as are the song choices; but again, the soundtrack doesn't particularly stand out – which is why the fact that this movie is so resonant and deep and meaningful is all the more impressive. Three elements in the film do particularly stand out, though. The first is the performances which, like I mentioned, are career highs for all involved, and just totally full-fledged and fascinating and incredible pieces of work. The second is the screenplay that, while fairly straightforward, conceals so much multi-layered depth and significance and is written so well, the dialogue simply jumping off the screen with such vitality and exuberance. It is a film that works on so many levels; it is at once hilarious and genuinely funny and intelligent while at the same time genuinely and poignantly emotional and dramatic. It is at once a multi-faceted character study and an important testament to the current economic climate of our world. It is enjoyable, charming, funny, touching, thought-provoking, poignant, moving and all in all just one of the most full-fledged and genuine cinematic experiences of the year. The third is what brings it all together, what takes a fairly simple premise that could be so easily underplayed by any other director but that brings out everything that makes the movie as good as it is, and that is the director, Jason Reitman. Building up a strong reputation with his past two films, in his third effort, Reitman brings everything together, and directs the film with such focus and maturity and confidence, completely devoid of irony or preciousness and serves to create what is, in my opinion, the best film of the year.

RATING: 9/10.

Frosty_86 01-12-2010 04:22 PM

I finally got to see it today and I absolutely loved it. The acting was fantastic, same with the writing and the directing. Jason Reitman is one of the best working filmmakers today. The movie felt so honest, there was a lot of little things about the movie that felt real, there wasn't a lot of melodrama and shit like that. I say it's the best movie of the year and Im pulling for it come Oscar time.

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