January 11, 2010

"Up in the Air"

Here's the opening of my review in Taki's Magazine of Up in the Air:

Until the Underpants Bomber tried to blow up Flight 253 over Detroit, the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar was widely assumed to be Up in the Air. Indeed, before the Christmas Day incident reminded everybody of how much they hate business travel, the dramedy—in which George Clooney plays a travel-addicted corporate consultant who gleefully flies first-class around the country to fire people—let Hollywood feel, for once, relevant: The Motion Picture Industry Responds to the Unemployment Crisis!

Why would Academy Awards exist if not for self-congratulation?

Up in the Air has been widely celebrated for being the first movie to refer, tangentially, to the economic downturn in the mere 29 months since subprimes crashed in August 2007. The film doesn’t actually have much of interest to say about losing your job (other than it helps to have family), but at least the movie mentions it.

Modern Hollywood requires so many lunch meetings before a deal can be put together that it can only attain economic topicality by procrastinating through an entire business cycle. This adaptation of Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel (which is set in the booming 1990s) wound up being worked over, on and off, by writer-director Jason Reitman (2006’s Thank You for Smoking) throughout the last decade.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

27 comments:

sj071 said...

"Up in the Air has been widely celebrated for being the first movie to refer, tangentially, to the economic downturn in the mere 29 months since subprimes crashed in August 2007."


Translation:
The Secret Speech - On The Cult of American Dream (|Official 21st Century version)
N. Khrushchev

kurt9 said...

"up in the Air" sounds like a silly movie. I have traveled a lot on business and I can't stand what they call "airworld". I have enough "airworld" in my actual life. Its the last thing I need to see a movie about. I Love to travel to different places, but I despise the process. I especially don't like sitting on a plane for 16 hours (like a flight from Singapore to Portland) at a time.

I cannot imagine anyone who actually likes the airport shuffle itself.

Anonymous said...

O.T. Good-bye Eric Rohmer.

Anonymous said...

Nice review, Steve. I completely agree. I found there was no real weakness in the directing or writing, but the movie was just somehow boring.

However, I don't think that Hurt Locker was completely apolitical. I felt it had a pro war message in the character of Jeremy Renner. He was a man who "loved really only one think", that is, the rush of defusing bombs. Translation: "there exists a version of low class Southern white man who loves to be at war, so don't feel sorry for the troops".

Peter A said...

"Up in the Air" will probably be more effective the more dated it gets. I think the movie works OK as a parable about being careful about getting what you wish for and the dangers of living your life too rigidly. It fails as a work of realism, and like "Juno", quickly falls apart if you treat it as a topical commentary on our time because it's not set in our world.

Or alternatively you can see the movie as pure nihilism.


None of the characters seem to end up happy or fulfilled. None of the laid off people ever get new jobs as far as we can tell. The little sister marries an irresponsible moron, the older sister is haggard and beaten down by life, Alex is so unhappy with her married life she's cheating all the time, it's not even clear how great life's going to be for little Ms. Cornell at her San Francisco private equity job. The film is a bummer. In the end maybe Reitman really does think living a life of constant escapism is the best way out.

wmhde said...

Hurt Locker:
agree with previous comments.....the war is not really hard on some White Southerners.....they revel in it

Anonymous said...

I eagerly await Whiskey's 8000 word missive somehow tying this movie into Israel's inalienable right to self-defense, Avatar and Titanic's unprofitability, and how letting women choose their own mates leads to the inevitable fall of civilization.

Anonymous said...

Why are you calling him the underpants bomber? Why not call him the panty bomber?

Anonymous said...

How about we call the recent would-be bomber the 'sui-diaper bomber'.

Ray Midge said...

I too was kinda underwhelmed by it once I saw it, at least in comparison to what I was expecting given how it award-hyped. Looking back, I think it was as simple as the fact there was no big conflict. All the characters' emotions, even the protagonist's, stayed largely in the resting-pulse zone.

That aside, what it offered was still enjoyable. Likable characters (especially the junior female exec). Nothing offensively stupid. Pleasant.

David said...

The movie was slick, glib and well-paced . . . a bit of like Ocean's 11 in the corporate world. It could certainly be interpreted as nihilistic, but it had some poignant moments.

I also enjoyed Anna Kendrick's performance as the fresh-from-college, know-it-all, humorless PC witch. It was quite a nice performance, and she almost stole the movie from Clooney.

Anonymous said...

Someone said: "I felt it had a pro war message in the character of Jeremy Renner. He was a man who "loved really only one thing", that is, the rush of defusing bombs."

I took that scene to mean that he loved only his son, and was tired of his wife.

I don't buy the idea that "the war is not really hard on some White Southerners.....they revel in it"

That's simplistic at best, stupid at worst. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "sweeter after difficulties".

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Is there anybody alive over the age of 25 who likes to fly from Omaha to Detroit as much as Clooney’s roguish antihero does?

One of my co-workers does (not that exact route, but "Airworld" generally). He friggin' lives for it. It's kind of a game with him - he likes to see how much he can finagle out of the airline. Upgrades (you'd have thought "free drink" was a code word for oral favors from the stewardesses), entry to the preferred lounge (which is kinda nice), free tickets for getting bumped from overbooked flights.

Nice guy, but really annoying to travel with.

DCThrowback said...

As usual Steve, your reviews pull pieces of things together that I don't necessarily see when I watch the movie. Of course, when I left the movie, I thought Vera Farmiga's rear end was the highlight. Anyways, I love forwarding your reviews to folks to give them a different perspective...they are normally better read when after watching the movies anyways, as opposed to guys like Ebert whom I prefer to read before movies.


@ Anon - re: Jeremy Renner's character, the EOD guys I know and work with LOVE the opportunity to blow stuff up. I've always thought I wish I could be that enthused about my job that I would willingly do it anywhere and under any condition. Agree that applying it to all "southern males reveling in it" is foolish. Besides, to be EOD, you have to have a GT score of at least 118. I don't know how that translates to IQ, but my guess is it's at least the median white IQ?

Anonymous said...

Someone responded to my comment about Hurt Locker.

Gee, maybe I did misinterpret the scene. I thought that he went back to re enlist after that scene with his son, meaning that he couldn't stand the monotony of domestic life. Why was he trying so hard to get himself blown up all the time if so devoted to family?

I just stated what I thought the pro war message of the movie was, but I certainly don't agree with it personally. Couldn't be more opposed, in fact. I feel that the whole current unemployment situation is either contrived or a perfect storm to keep a steady flow of low class whites available for the middle east conflagration.

David said...

> A 48-year-old heterosexual man with Clooney’s charisma would be Executive Vice President of Sales, dealing only with high-level customers <

It's not 1990 any longer, Steve.

David said...

Peter A said

> you can see the movie as pure nihilism.


None of the characters seem to end up happy or fulfilled. None of the laid off people ever get new jobs as far as we can tell. The little sister marries an irresponsible moron, the older sister is haggard and beaten down by life, Alex is so unhappy with her married life she's cheating all the time, it's not even clear how great life's going to be for little Ms. Cornell at her San Francisco private equity job. The film is a bummer. In the end maybe Reitman really does think living a life of constant escapism is the best way out. <

Nihilism? You mean realism, don't you?

Mark said...

I liked the movie more then you did, but one thing I noticed was the similarity to an old Cheers episode when Norm's job becomes firing people. He is good at it because he becomes so emotional that the employee getting dumped is sorry for him. Eventually, he gets used to giving the axe and has to fake emotion and he is done. I hadn't read the book but I wondered if Hollywood Reitman had that old Cheers episode in his head. Flying George Clooney around the country to fire people seemed like an expensive way to cut costs for his customers. The part that I didn't buy was Clooney's love interest. I guess I live a sheltered life but would a mother with young kids really act the way she did.

Anonymous said...

Or alternatively you can see the movie as pure nihilism.

It could certainly be interpreted as nihilistic, but it had some poignant moments.


You guys have no idea what you're up against:


Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues
By Jo Piazza, Special to CNN
January 11, 2010 8:06 a.m. EST
cnn.com

...A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film.

"That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted.

A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar'"...



BizzMarq posted
avatar.typepad.com

BizzMarq: whenever i listen to the soundtrack, i get lost in the world of Pandora and its AMAZING qualities. The night scenes in the movie were just breath-taking and made me wanting more and more of it.

did anyone else feel kinda depressed after watching avatar? like something in your life was missing or that you felt alone and that Pandora was the place that could heal all this for you?


YoungGunner posted
avatar.typepad.com

YoungGunner: I felt exactly the same way u commented...


Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible.
12-26-2009, 11:59 PM
avatar-forums.com

Zoconno [Hunter]: I recently read on the Avatar TypePad Blog, that people are becoming depressed because of the movie. People are realizing that the dream can't actually come true. I was trying to start a thread where people gave ideas on how to cope with it...

Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible. Part 2
avatar-forums.com

Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible. Part 3
avatar-forums.com

Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible. WEBSITE.
avatar-forums.com

green mamba said...

I found this movie to be entertaining and well-written, with fine performances all around. Seeing it without having read much about it beforehand, I was surprised by the way the plot developed and found it refreshingly unpredictable. The one plot turn I didn't buy was revelation about Vera Farmiga's character toward the end. It seemed like typical Hollywood gender-twisting and a bit of glib, forced tragedy. *spoiler alert* I mean, how many women with a husband and children at home can actually jet around the country working and having affairs?

Peter A said...

" I guess I live a sheltered life but would a mother with young kids really act the way she did."

I can tell you from personal experience that you live a sheltered life.

David said...

>how many women with a husband and children at home can actually jet around the country working and having affairs?<

You might be surprised.

wonk berry foo said...

Reitman ought to be called Treitman.

albertosaurus said...

The reason George Clooney is credible as a happy frequent flyer is because he's so short. Clooney is probably no more that 5'10" (the Celebrity Height website says 5'10.5") See here.

I used to fly all over the country too. I always hated it. Of course my cheap Beltway Bandit consulting firm made us fly coach. Full size men are just too big for the public airlines. I used to say. "I'm not afraid of flying. I'm afraid of flying coach".

A few decades later and I was employed as a "hatchet man". I laid or otherwise removed excess people and contractors. The principal quality you need for this kind of task is the appearance of sympathy. You must be tough but appear sweet and understanding. Clooney would be good at this I would imagine.

I will definitely see this movie but that will be a couple months. I only go to a physical movie theater to see 3D movies. I saw Avatar. A year or so ago I also went out to see Beowolf.

Anonymous said...

"...he's so short. Clooney is probably no more that 5'10"

Since when is 5'10" short? Last I heard, that was the average male height in the U.S. (Of course, it's almost certainly lower now with the influx of indios.)

Udolpho.com said...

I think Steve's review is filled with great insights about Up in the Air, and the book does sound interesting, but I did think the movie was decent. Probably not Best Picture, but it's not infantile twaddle like Avatar either. I ignored the hinky stuff about Clooney's job firing people and focused on the romantic subplot where Clooney gets kicked around much more than you'd expect. There was something to that.

David said...

>Since when is 5'10" short?<

Dunno. I'm 40ish and about that height, but every white man under 35 whom I know is at least 6'5". Better nutrition?

The only 5'10" white men around here are Scots-Irish (no, real Scots-Irish) age 35 +. (I'm English descent.) It seems to be generational here in East TN USA.

I was average height in my day; almost none of my white peers were taller. Nowadays the youngsters are astonishingly tall, just freakin' giants.