Sunday, January 10, 2010

“Up in the Air” – A tip for travellers (and part 2 of the Christmas Trifecta).

One of the keys to creating a good movie is presenting something that the audience can relate to. Typically, this is done through character development and other times it is done with storylines. “Up in the Air” manages to do it with both characters and story. Maybe that’s why the film has been nominated for six Golden Globe awards, though this is the type of movie that always gets nominated for awards, regardless of entertainment value.

And while we’re on the subject, can we please stop awarding movies and television with anything until someone defines the criteria for nomination? I looked up some of the other nominations and it seems like they aren’t even considering most movies anymore. Serioulsy, Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep are competing against themselves in their respective categories for best actress in a drama and comedy. I’m not advocating Megan Fox, but I’m sick of Meryl Streep getting nominated for every freaking movie she’s in. She always plays the same character; how is that worthy of attention?

Sorry, I got off track (breathe…), we’re here to talk about “Up in the Air.” I was saying how relatable the movie is and that is what makes it so good. George Clooney plays Ryan, a guy whose job has him travelling almost non-stop. His company is hired by other companies to fire/lay off employees. By the way, it’s disgusting that these types of companies even exist. There’s a special place in hell for these spineless bastards that don’t have the balls to fire their own people. Anyway, Ryan loves his isolated lifestyle, his goal in life is to rack up ten million frequent flyer miles, and he gives seminars in which he tells people to dump as much baggage from their lives as they can, including family and friends. He calls the seminars “the empty backpack,” which he lives himself as much as possible.

I know what you are thinking, this movie sounds incredibly depressing. You aren’t necessarily wrong, as there are also several different scenes of Ryan and the new girl, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), firing people. Luckily, the movie is more about Ryan slowly tossing out the isolation and opening himself to more “baggage,” as he would say. The biggest of these changes is meeting a fellow business traveller, Alex (Vera Farmiga). The two of them both start out wanting the same thing, casual sex with no strings attached, and schedule trysts as their two respective schedules will allow. As he is teaching Natalie the ins and outs of firing people, as well as why her idea of firing people via webcam will never work, she is teaching him that life sucks if you have no one to share it with. Without giving too much away, his relationship with Alex teaches him that his empty backpack theory is both right and wrong.

As far as relating to the film, I particularly enjoyed this movie because I relate to the travelling, as I have travelled quite a bit for my job in the past three years. The best parts of the film are when Ryan is teaching Natalie how to travel efficiently. This should be something almost everyone should pay attention to regardless of the reason they are travelling (seriously, all of you people who turn into functional morons at airports should pay attention here).

First, he forces Natalie to buy a new bag, one that doesn’t need to be checked. While repacking, he throws away roughly half of her stuff, including a large pillow that she has packed. This is a great lesson as only children under the age of twelve should need pillows. Then, he shows which security line to go through, based on the people already in line. She comments that this is stereotyping and he replies with basically “so what? We all do it.” I love this part because everything is says is true. Don’t get behind old peopl,e because they always forget at least one piece of metal on their persons. Don’t get behind people with children, especially when they have strollers, because the strollers NEVER collapse on the first try. Get behind Asians because they travel very light and very efficiently. With the exception of the Asian part, I am always scanning the security lines for hazards. In addition to old people and children, I’m also looking for the people who have multiple bags and have a look on their faces like they’ve never been to the airport before. Maybe it’s just the amount I have travelled, but most of this stuff seems like common sense. When I travel, I’m wearing shoes that come off easy (usually with the laces already untied), my coat is already in my hands, I don’t wear belts with dinner plate-sized belt buckles, and the only things in my pockets are my wallet and boarding pass.

Finally, (this next thing wasn’t in the movie, but I feel it needs to be said) please do not stand up immediately after the plane lands. You are not going to get off any quicker and I don’t want your ass right in my face for the fifteen minutes it takes everyone else in front of you to deplane. If you are one of these people, I’m warning you that you may or may not get stabbed in the back of the knee with a mechanical pencil (they don’t take those from you in security).

Besides the fact that this movie can teach you a lot about travelling, it’s worth watching for the human story. If you don’t relate to the travelling aspect (how could you not?), you should be able to relate with at least one character in this film, be it an isolationist, eternal optomist, constant traveler, or even one of the people who lost their job (these were all people who actually lost their jobs recently). Just be thankful you still have a job and remember, you’re not the only person on the friggin plane.

Rating: This movie is worth every penny. Just ask when they are going to start awarding frequent moviegoer points.

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