As part of an obsession: Up in the Air

Up in the Air (2009) by Jason Reitman

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I just scrolled through the list of nominations for this film – and Anna Kendrick sure made an impression with the critics and the audience with this movie.

I didn’t watch it at the movies but on DVD. Movies about the oh-so-important crisis of men usually take a backseat on my to-watch list and, yeah, I’m aware that there’s a slim chance that I might miss a good movie that way – it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Up in the Air http://teaser-trailer.comRyan Bingham (George Clooney) earns his money with firing people – that’s the service his employer provides. He travels to different locations throughout the U.S. and informs employees that they are let go because the employers are too chicken to do it themselves. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is an ambitious young woman who wants to help cut costs for the company Bingham works for by grounding everyone and having the work done via computer.

Ryan isn’t happy about this because he likes to be on the road – or rather: in the upintheair3air. He has the aim to reach 10 million miles of flying, and then there’s the lovely Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) who leads a life similar to his and whom he can only meet and connect with in the realm of life without boundaries.

I like this one – I don’t love it, though. The three leads, as presented on the poster, are the real appeal of it. They work so well together. The writing is good, the conversations feel real, close to heart. Just look at the scene with the three of them talking in the entrance hall of the hotel. It’s probably one of the most captivating scenes in any movie in which the protagonists just talk.

The reason I don’t love the movie are the conventions that are being upheld. Natalie is 23 and has her life planned – and this life includes moving to Omaha for a boyfriend, wanting to be married with kids as fast as possible and having a career. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, she breaks apart. I am aware that this is a critique of a system that tells women to be exactly like that – but is it recognized as a critique? When Natalie lectures Ryan about his relationship to Alex and later turns out to be right – that he’s lonely and secretely in love with Alex – doesn’t that validate her convictions about love rather than criticize them?

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And did Ryan really have to turn out to be sappy and secretely unhappy, instead of the cool guy he’s on the surface? Hollywood is the greatest promoter of LOVE. The undying, the one true, the happily ever after LOVE. It is not possible for Ryan to just be casual about Alex – the way she is casual with him – he has to be in love. I’m not saying that Alex isn’t a worthy object of admiration – she’s a captivating character, I found myself falling for her – but Ryan’s love for her becomes too much of a convention. Because we expect it – the movie makers would argue, because we want it to happen. But really, is it so bad for a upintheair6main character to be alone and happy? Hollywood makes single people, people who rather live alone, feel bad about themselves. And it makes me sound like a total loser because I promote this way of life. I may not agree with Ryan’t whole philosophy of the empty backpack but I do believe there are people who like to live that way, want to live that way. But Hollywood tells us in a million ways each year that this is wrong, that everybody needs somebody to love (not just Hollywood, the music industry is probably second in line).

Up in the Air promotes this point a little too vehemently, too. And the only consolation is that Ryan doesn’t get what he wants. Alex is unavailable. And he’s back in the air where he suddenly doesn’t want to be anymore. He ends up the victim of society’s expectations. But it doesn’t feel like a critique of the system, it points at Ryan and tells us: look at this poor sob, he waited too long, he wasted his life frivolously, and now he will never find love.

And that is just wrong.

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Comedy in Crisis

Horrible Bosses (2011) by Seth Gordon

Bridesmaids (2011) by Paul Feig

Maybe it’s just me but I hate comedies of late. Simply, because I don’t think they are especially funny. Most of the time, I have enough after the trailer and don’t wanna see more because I did not laugh at anything in the trailer – and we all know they pick the funniest scenes for the trailer (I am going to stop writing trailer now). So, these last few years I have watched a lot of horror movies because they make the better comedies.

For some inexplicable reason, I have become obsessed with Jennifer Aniston lately (I don’t know why but it is not necessarily out of the ordinary since I get obsessed with actresses sometimes and get over them… it’s not usually somebody that has been around for so long, though, and I never liked Friends and always liked Courtney Cox much better, so, that is the surprising part…) and this is why I wasn’t too disappointed when my favorite movie theater showed Horrible Bosses in the sneak peek last night. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t have watched it if it hadn’t been for the sneak peek but I have thought about it – simply for the sake of Jennifer Aniston.

And it is not not funny. It has it’s moments, definately. But it also has a lot of this-is-so-not-funny-why-is-everybody-else-laughing-moments. Because sometimes people laugh because they know they are supposed to laugh despite not finding something funny. For example, there is this scene where two of the main guys argue about who would get raped more in prison – each wanting to be the one who gets raped more… This is not funny at all. Seriously, makes one (that is me) wonder if men are not being raped enough (which I wrote for provocation’s sake not because I believe it). But I laughed along with everybody else before I stopped myself, looked around, shook my head (at myself). I said it is an example, and it really is an example for the kind of jokes that we are presented with in comedies these days… there were also some gay quibs that I could have done without, as every buddy movie has to have those.

In my opinion, there is something wrong with comedies – maybe not even lately but for some time now. They are either romantic (straight) comedies I have absolutely no interest in because, well, they are heteronormative and all the same, or they are, I don’t know what to call it, maybe adult comedies with an annoyingly great amount of jokes about excrements, body fluids, and dicks.

No wonder, I haven’t watched comedies in so long…

The sad part is, I love comedies. My favorite movie of all times is a comedy (The Philadelphia Story, 1940). The 30s and 40s produced witty comedies, they were sexy in a way, you would almost call innocent today. Romantic comedies of today try to immitate that style but it is more often smothered by the “love story.” I want to blame There’s Something About Mary for this – as I see it – crisis in comedy. It may not have been the first that had me completely grossed out but it was probably one of the most successful. I mean, yuck!

I really wish that I could say that Bridesmaids which I have watched on Tuesday and deliberately was an example of a more intelligent form of humor. It wasn’t. I liked it, yes, but I have felt a kind of desolation, a discontentment with it after I left the movie theater. It has a great cast and some great messages, yes, but it has also some really disgusting barfing and such… I wonder, do you really appreciate that in a comedy? Really? Well, I don’t. And as I said, maybe it is just me. There were parts of both movies, Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses, that I liked but overall I left the movie theater wanting to punch someone in the face – and I am a friggin’ pacifist, y’all!

I am aware that not all movies that are funny have the sort of excrement humor in it that I hate – but those that are called comedies usually have. Or they are the other kind that I hate, romantic comedies – I don’t know which are worse.

So, where does that leave me and my love for comedies? Nowhere, I am afraid. As by today, I will again ignore everything that is supposed to a “comedy” and will once again concentrate on horror movies. And I will probably get some more 30s and 40s comedies – screwball and sophisticated alike. What else is a person to do to get her laughs on?

The Invention of Lying – and the birth of all religion

The Invention of Lying (2009) by Matthew Robinson and Ricky Gervais

So, I went to a mystery movie preview last night (that’s when they don’t tell you the movie you are going to watch – it’s less expensive and fun if you do not happen to come across a film with an actor you abhorr, i.e. Tom Cruise). I did it the first time and I must say the concept actually scares me. Back in the days I dreaded going to the movies without knowing what I was going to watch, especially when I was meeting someone. I always wanted to make sure beforehand that I would not be coerced into something I didn’t want to watch. Consequently, going to a movie where I didn’t even know what I was going to watch while already having paid for the ticket is close to a heart attack for me. Just imagine what would happen if I came across a really bad movie.

But I got lucky (with the movie, you perverts!). I remember having seen the trailer once which did not make much of an impression, I guess. But the movie… I mean, just like the next person, I love an English accent and Ricky Gervais certainly has one. But it was not only him, it was the idea:

Imagine a world where nobody can lie – and then there is this average guy who suddenly can. And he tells people lies not only to gain something from it but sometmes just to make them a little happier… a good guy, mainly. Of course, his ability also makes him rich and popular. A fellow we all could be because we would do it for others as much as ourselves…

I loved that the main character sometimes stumbled, that he makes the right decisions when to lie and when not and that he learns when he errs. In the beginning, for example, he tries to lure a woman into bed by telling her the world was going to end if she didn’t have sex with him – and, of course, she believes him – but that was a mistake since she is so hysteric and focused on saving the world that he fakes a phone call with someone to tell him it isn’t necessary anymore – the world is once again save. I also loved that the woman was played by Stephanie March…

Speaking of the cast… we have Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, and Rob Lowe in the leads – and then some: Tina Fey (hilarious), Edward Norton, Jimmi Simpson (as representative of Coca Cola), Jason Bateman, and Philip Seymore Hoffman in small but wonderful roles.

It is interesting to note that before Mark (Gervais) starts lying there seems to be no religion whatsoever. Then he tells his mother about an afterworld while she is dying where everybody gets a mansion and meets all there friends and loved ones. As the nurses and doctor hear it, too, there is an uproar in the community and finally the whole world as Mark invents the “Man in the Sky” who talks to him only and told him about the afterlife. It is really wonderful to see how the people are willing to believe in a higher power that gives them mansions and want to condemn the same power for letting babies die of Aids. A woderfully thoughtful comment on religion.

The movie does not dwell too long on the newness of telling the truth in every situation – it is funny in the beginning but would have been tedious if it was the only thing the movie was about – but rather follows the plot early on. Of course, the plot is about boy meets girl (Jen Garner) and how he is supposed to get her when she wants the best compatible mate to have beautiful kids with, i.e. Rob Lowe. But it is charmingly done and of course, his love-interest comes around (though I think it a little insulting that women seem to only be able to make up their minds at the wedding, in front of all their loved ones… it’s been done often enough now, don’t u think?)

Okay, I liked this one. It’s a comedy that actually deserves to be called comedy.