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Copernicus Calls UP IN THE AIR ...'the film to beat for Best Picture this year'!!

UP IN THE AIR is the film to beat for Best Picture this year. But to call it Best Picture is to diminish it. Best Pictures come at the whim of a fickle Academy that makes choices that don’t always stand the test of time. UP IN THE AIR is a rarer bird – the kind of film that announces that there is a new important director on the scene – one for the A-list. Jason Reitman has already shown promise with his previous efforts, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, and JUNO. But promise isn’t the word for UP IN THE AIR – it is something closer to mastery. On the surface, UP IN THE AIR is the story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who lives a rootless existence as a kind of corporate hitman. When companies can’t muster the fortitude to fire their workers themselves, they outsource the job to the outfit Bingham works for. He technically has a home base in Omaha, Nebraska, but he spends most days on the road in hotels or in airports hopping from one job to the next. Bingham celebrates his unfettered lifestyle – he’s always on the move and doesn’t have any serious relationships to tie him down. He even gives motivational speeches on the side extolling the virtues of simplifying your life and seeking enlightenment on the road. Complications ensue when Bingham starts hooking up with fellow traveler and kindred spirit Alex (Vera Farminga), and when his boss, the always-great Jason Bateman, forces him to take the rookie whiz-kid Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who may eliminate his own job, on the road. The easy way out here would be to set up the title character as the one who needs to change. But does that mean he should aspire to settle down and become an adventureless American suburbanite? Reitman, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sheldon Turner (significantly deviating from the novel by Walter Kirn), builds an intricate character study out of this tension. The characters face interesting dilemmas for which there are no easy answers, and nobody does exactly what you expect. While the not-quite-traditional narrative would make the film at home in the art house, there are plenty of crowd-pleasing touches. It is simultaneously funny and heartbreaking, and with a perfectly balanced performance as a confident, yet vulnerable loner facing the listlessness of middle age, Clooney shows why he’s best leading man working today. Ryan Bingham is Jack Kerouac seen through a dark mirror – the beat seeker has morphed into a corporate road warrior, and national chains have homogenized much of the distinctive cultural landscape. Massive title cards… CHICAGO…. DETROIT… ST. LOUIS (featuring beautiful, hypnotic flyover shots of each city), are required to tell each destination apart because at ground level they all look the same. This is not dwelled on as a bad thing – the lead character has a near-ritualistic approach to travel, and is proud of his brand loyalty to Hilton and his nearly ten million miles on American Airlines. In fact the two are corporate sponsors of the film. Tarted up in perky greetings, lavish rewards, and chain uniformity, everything seems just so. However, like the main character, the façade may be impeccable, but the inside is hollow. The subtext is clear – here brand loyalty, faux friendship, and artifice have replaced legitimate personal connections. And the primacy of global business efficiency over human-scale needs is a recurring theme. UP IN THE AIR captures the economic zeitgeist in the anger and anxiety of dozens of workers fired through little fault of their own. Some lash out spectacularly, some cry, some take it as it is disingenuously sold – as a new opportunity for personal growth. Reitman apparently put ads in newspapers asking people to be interviewed on camera for a supposed documentary about the economy. He had them fired on camera and asked them to react either how they had actually reacted or how they wish they had reacted. The resulting montages devastate with the ring of truth that it would be impossible to deliver had they been traditionally written and acted. In fact, it seems the track sung over the end credits was written by an out of work musician who sung it into Jason Reitman’s answering machine. These undercurrents give UP IN THE AIR an unsettling resonance. It may ultimately be looked upon as the definitive portrait of 2009 America – one that is full of hard-working, well-meaning people, but who live in a society that is financially devastated, shallow, adrift, and ultimately impoverished by faith in corporate empires. A brilliantly executed, witty character study starring George Clooney is what is going to put asses in the seats this holiday season. But the larger picture stuffed into the cracks is what will give the film real staying power. From now on Jason Reitman won't be known mainly as Ivan Reitman's son -- Ivan had better get used to being referred to as Jason Reitman's dad.

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:17 a.m. CST


    by Breal

    I watched "Bride Wars" on HBO Tuesday night. The final scene takes place one year after Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway make up after getting into a huge fight about having their weddings on the same day. Turns out that Anne Hathaway ends up marying Kate Hudson's brother, and both Hathaway and Hudson are PREGNANT. They even have the SAME DUE DATES (March 5 or 6, I think).

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:24 a.m. CST

    You watched Bride Wars?

    by V'Shael

    While it's not a pain that I have personal familiarity with, I can only offer my sympathies sir.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:30 a.m. CST

    I expect MASSIVE talkbacker hate momentarily

    by BadMrWonka

    Juno sucks! Clooney is overrated! blah blah blah...<p> face it assholes, some non-comic book movies are good, too.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:31 a.m. CST

    I don't know...

    by wampa 1

    ...but it sure smells good!

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:32 a.m. CST

    No surprise there, Clooney never disappoints

    by slone13

    Even when his movies aren't the best.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:34 a.m. CST

    I haven't seen anything yet.

    by Nice Marmot

    But Precious gets best picture. Call up Vegas. . . .

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:36 a.m. CST

    Clooney never disappoints...

    by StatelyWayneManor

    ...visions of him smirking through Batman & Robin come crashing in.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Im really looking forward to this

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Thank You For Smoking was genius.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:54 a.m. CST

    saw this at L.F.F.

    by notspock2

    Not sure about it winning best picture at the oscars, but was definitely the most fun and the best picture i saw there...

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 9:58 a.m. CST


    by Waspo

    That movie seemed unfinished and almost unwatchable upon repeat viewings. I maintain that The Dark Knight is one of the best movies of the decade. Heck anytime I get a chance to watch The Dark Knight I have to force myself to quit watching. Juno, I have to force myself to watch, but this movie Up in the Air seems really good.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10 a.m. CST


    by slone13

    <p>I had no problem with Clooney in Batman & Robin. In fact, he was probably the best part.</p> <p>I'm sticking with my whole "Clooney never disappoints" statement. And that includes stuff The Facts of Life and Return of the Killer Tomatoes, too.</p>

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:08 a.m. CST


    by StatelyWayneManor

    Clooney's mullet in Facts O' Life & the hotness of Karen Mistal in ROTKT proves you might be right.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:10 a.m. CST


    by Nice Marmot

    Don't forget Roseanne.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:37 a.m. CST


    by kjl451

    The Sheldon Turner draft I read was one of the best scripts I've read in a long time. I can't wait to see how the film turned out after Reitman did a re-write.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:03 a.m. CST


    by offensivename

    It's not that Clooney was bad in Batman & Robin. It's that he was completely miscast as Batman. I was 16 when they made that movie and when I heard the casting news, I said to myself and anyone who would listen, "Batman doesn't smirk." Clooney is a decent actor and a likable guy, but he has two expressions: smug and dumbfounded. They serve him quite well in movies like O Brother... or Syriana, but they don't fit the character of Batman. I'll grant you that Batman & Robin was a terribly scripted and directed movie and it would have been just as awful with Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer in the lead. But the fact that the lead actor didn't fit into the role he was assigned certainly wasn't the best thing about it.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:13 a.m. CST

    "ultimately impoverished by faith in corporate empires."

    by natecore

    LMFAO @ believing offering products people want to buy is the equivalent to being "impoverished." Now if you want to talk about gov't and said corporate empires working together to distort the market and bring corporatism to America then go ahead, but give me a break w/ complaining about buying cheap toiletpaper at Wal-Mart.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:13 a.m. CST

    by SaluteYourShorts

    I'd take Clooney over Bale any day. But all in all, Batman Forever is still the best Batman film ever made. That overrated Dark Knight borefest doesn't hold a candle to it. If Nolan was smart, he'd cast Carrey as the Riddler again.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Yeah, I didn't mind smirking Batman at all

    by slone13

    After 2 very "serious" portrayals by Keaton and one that was completely devoid of any emotion at all from Kilmer, "smirking" Batman was fine with me. Frankly, I wish Batman smirked MORE. I grow weary of his constant brooding darkness. He's a frickin' billionaire. Lighten up a little, Bats!

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:43 a.m. CST

    I hope

    by SaluteYourShorts

    The next Batman film features Robin. Only Robin. And Alicia Silverstone. As long as they CGI her lips to line up with her mouth.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:45 a.m. CST

    Clooney can disappoint...

    by HarryCalder

    ...he backslid a bit in "Men/Goats" but I place some of that blame on the director's shoulders. Regardless, I've been looking forward to this flick for awhile; heard an NPR interview with someone who really does this for a living not too long ago... fascinating.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:46 a.m. CST

    "Chicks dig the car..."

    by HarryCalder

    Clooney? Best Batman? For realz?

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Once again corporate America is skewered

    by johnnyangelheart

    by corporate Hollywood. I'm drowning in the irony, folks.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:18 p.m. CST

    Another Cloony flop

    by BoRock_A_Boomer

    He needs to be euthanized.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:21 p.m. CST

    Jason Reitman

    by Series7

    We get it, you hate america. <P> His next film is about the misunderstood but funny pedophile.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Um...has anyone seen The Accidental Tourist?

    by uncleduke78

    I saw Up in the Air a month ago and I am sorry, it is a complete ripoff of The Accidental Tourist. But, Tourist is better because it's main character isn't so obviously flawed, but more real. I don't get this. It's not even that old.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:26 p.m. CST

    I tire of hearing about "corporate empires"...

    by Phimseto

    ...while the government gets a pass, and I don't mean one side of the aisle or the other. "Bringing home the bacon" is as disaterous to the country and economy as corporate tomfoolery.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:27 p.m. CST

    St. Louis

    by copernicus

    The movie was shot in 5 cities, and I know most of it was in St. Louis. Obviously it does not matter where you shoot if the point you are making is that things look the same everywhere. The director has a choice what to shoot and show on screen, and it is clear he was being deliberate.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 12:30 p.m. CST

    This movie just looks like

    by Series7

    Typical Clooney doing that, OHH I know what its like to be a middle class person...but he doesn't and niether does Rietman. His dad probably did. The movie looks as empty as the character Clooney is trying to potray. <P> Also Cloondawgs speech over the first trailer makes it sound like Fight Club for the over 40 crowd.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 1:09 p.m. CST

    I love how not one person can still tell me what this is about

    by Glory_Fades_ImMaxFischer

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 1:13 p.m. CST

    "Up in the air" doesn't have a title character, other than air

    by lavatory love machine

    pay more attention to what you write

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 1:43 p.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    if you are bothered by movies that don't fit into a BOLD TEXT TAGLINE, just stick With Bay and Emmerich, and let the rest of us watch real movies.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 1:45 p.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    just because you have a bug up your huge Rush Limbaugh ass about Clooney's politics, doesn't mean that he makes flops as a rule. his average box office is $50 mil for fuck's sake.<p>if you think this film won't make money, you're delusional.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 2:05 p.m. CST


    by Series7

    DUDE! He totally did! <P> its about "the economic zeitgeist in the anger and anxiety of dozens of workers fired through little fault of their own." <P> I mean LITERALLY DOZENS! upon a couple DOZEN more workers, maybe 2 more dozen's on top of that, but no more. Have been fired this year. I feel bad for those couple dozen of people.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 2:07 p.m. CST

    shades of Accidental Tourist?

    by oisin5199

    sounds like some similar themes.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 2:13 p.m. CST


    by Series7

    Anyone pandering and getting upset about people hating this film and saying OHHH GO WATCH MICHEAL BAY FILMS OR THE NEWEST FRIEDBERG and SELTZER COMEDY OR WHY DON'T YOU WAIT FOR KATSUHITO ISHII's NEW DRAMA TO DROP! <P> Shut the fuck up. Neither Jason Reitman nor George Cloondawg are some fucking far superior film makers. Neither of them make movies that are extremely deep or that intelligent. I would say any 5 minutes of Ghostbusters is funnier, deeper and far better then anything the money from that movie has allowed Reitman Jr to poop out.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 2:19 p.m. CST


    by supercowbell5THECOWBELLHASSPOKEN

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Soooo since

    by Series7

    Cloondawg played Batman as if Batman was gay, does that mean all of his characters from every movie he's been in, is gay?

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 3:16 p.m. CST

    WOW From Reitmans Tweeter

    by Series7

    Just watched the last fifteen minutes of Juno... man, I did do a good job on that. <P> 11:46 PM Nov 16th from web <P> I bet thats how all the great introduce themselves. Hell my name is Micheal Bay I directed the best movie ever about giant Robots. Reitman is the fucking Micheal Bay of crappy indie wannabe movies.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 3:46 p.m. CST

    "ultimately impoverished by faith in corporate empires."

    by AsimovLives

    Best description of the American Dream gone wrong i ever read in here. What is happening in today's america, and by consequence in the rest of teh whole world, IS THE CONSEQUENCES of the American Dream which was dreamt a bit too hard by some and who took it to it's logical conclusion. The dream of some is the nightmare of the many.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST

    I wanted

    by I am_NOTREAL

    The Hurt Locker to be the film to beat for Best Picture this year...shoot...this will be much more popular.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 4:51 p.m. CST

    AICN Favroite phrase "BEST PIC OF THE YEAR"

    by lockesbrokenleg

    So far they slapped it on Watchmen, Up, Trek, District 9, 9, Men who stare at Goats, etc.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 6:59 p.m. CST

    The Messenger is better

    by MacReady452

    I haven't seen either movie yet but I already know that the Messenger is the better movie, or the Oscar will go to some "pube counting" bore of a movie like An Education. Fuck the Academy. Hhhhmmm, think i found my new screen name.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 8:27 p.m. CST

    It's been a poor year for film

    by Boxcutter

    Nothing outstanding for me, but I like the sound of this and The Messenger. Liked the following a lot: The Hurt Locker, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ponyo and District 9 was a great ride.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:24 p.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    not sure if you were referring to my comments up there, but I Wasn't saying anyone that doesn't like this film (which hasn't even come out yet) is a Bay or Emmerich devotee. I was responding specifically to Glory_Fades_ImMaxFischer, who (as you noticed) seems to be able to read like 4 reviews of films, and still have no idea what they're about. he needs a tagline synopsis. this is the same guy who's spent like a year whining about every aspect of AICN, and yet, is here every day. so I think making fun of his dumb ass is fair game.<p>that said, Clooney has made some pretty interesting and thought provoking movies. Goodnight and Good Luck? Solaris? Syriana?<p>hell, even his silly movies are better than most. Ocean's 11, Out of Sight. mind.

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:40 p.m. CST

    UP IN THE AIR- what happens to Cobra against BIG LOB?

    by GibsonUSA Returns

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 10:48 p.m. CST

    UP IN THE AIR sums Cloony's career.

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • Nov. 19, 2009, 11:09 p.m. CST

    does Clooney play himself

    by animas

    like in everything else he has done?

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 1:19 a.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    god comments like that are so fucking boring...not everyone is a chameleon. clooney's range is just as good as a lot of famous actors. you ever see gene hackman play not-gene hackman? does that mean he's a bad actor?<p>find a something new to whine about.

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 5:50 a.m. CST

    Best Picture

    by nobletoast13

    If there is any justice it will be won by 'IN THE LOOP'. Best film ive seen all year.

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 6:47 a.m. CST

    Buy a ticket for my media!

    by JackRabbitSlim

    It will show you how shallow and soulless other products really are!

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 6:54 a.m. CST

    Difference was Hackman wasn't continuously proseltyzing an agend

    by JackRabbitSlim

    And please - Clooney putting on ten pounds for his role in Syriana didn't exactly impress me. He's Dean Martin with *slightly* more acting talent. "Where's my next GQ cover, bitch?"

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 11:08 a.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    once agian, no one seems to be able to divorce Clooney from his politics.<p>he's made a few political films, but they've all been pretty thoughtful. he's not Michael Moore. the only overtly political movie he did was narrate a documentary about aid in Darfur. you call that proselytizing? (that's how you spell that correctly, by the way)<p> Clooney fully knows that he's our generation's Dean Martin. the difference is, he uses that clout to get some more interesting movies made that would never get financing without him. look at Up in the Air. if you get a B-list actor in this, you lost maybe half the budget, and maybe not as many of the amazing supporting cast sign on. and is this a "Dean MArtin" role? fuck no! it's about a guy filled with alienation because he's a grown man-child with no family who's constantly on the move. sound like anyone?<p>Clooney is not Johnny Depp, but he is at least challenging himself. the sad truth is that he's always going to be hated in the talkbacks for two reasons: he's an unabashed liberal, and he's good looking.

  • Nov. 20, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST

    does this job really exist?

    by Jack D. Ripper

    I am looking forward to this, but I wonder, does this job actually exist? Is there really someone who goes around downsizing people? Because especially in 2009 it seems like an awfully unnecessary position, and totally should be something most places could just do in-house.