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This week:
Up in the Air

Filthy says:
"Come fucking fly with me."

I like going on planes. It has its hassles, sure, with all the security and getting sat next to some alpha male who thinks the measure of a man's worth is in how much of the armrest he can claim for himself. Airports suck, and the booze is way overpriced in the lounges because they know you can't buy enough travel-sized cough syrup in the gift shop to get loaded. The chairs in the airport aren't La-Z Boys, either, which they should be. And every seat should come with a butler and have a toilet built in. That's just common sense.

Still, I like going on planes. For one thing, it still feels pretty fucking swank. In the old days, flying was a big deal left to martini-swilling playboys, international spies and ladies spray painted gold. Now, there are tons of flights and they hardly cost more than a keg of domestic beer. That's still more expensive than the bus, though. I hear snooty assholes bitching all the time about the low-class of air passengers these days. Those complainers have probably never ridden the Peter Pan overnight from Denver to El Paso. They have no point of comparison. To me, a sweaty fat guy in short-shorts whose nose whistles when he breathes looks like the God damn King of Luxembourg compared to sitting next to a hairy, greasy, lady smeared with her own shit. Hell, most everyone who flies is way classier and prettier smelling than me.

I also like planes for the same reason that George Clooney in Up in the Air likes them: you are untethered, free from all the anchors of a daily, pointless existence. You may be on your way to another pointless existence, but at least it's a new one and its pointlessness has yet to be revealed. If you're traveling, you are not weighed down by the people and obligations you've committed to. Plus, you can order porn in your hotel room, eat shitty, greasy food and not feel guilty. When you're sitting in one of those uncomfortable plane seats, you can tune out everyone around you, listen to music on your headphones, look at lousy products in crappy catalogs and crank the seat way back into the kneecaps of the guy behind you. Your space is yours.

I like flying a few times a year. Clooney likes flying all the time. In Up in the Air has been home a total of 43 days in the last year. He has a job where he goes to failing companies with gutless bosses and tells the employees they're canned. He also makes motivational speeches about how nice it is not to have any emotional ties. I don't know how those work, exactly, but he seems to find darkened conference rooms every now and then where a couple dozen saps are sitting and waiting for him to tell them how to live. What the fuck? Can't they get Dr. Laura on the AM? He aspires to write a book about his philosophy of isolation and he hopes to keep traveling so that he never grows roots.

The company he works for, however, has other plans. They are going to use the Internet to fire people and keep people like Clooney locked away in cubicles in Omaha, Nebraska. The idea is the child of Anna Kendrick, a young hot shot with an elm tree up her ass who has no idea of how devastating it is to get fired. As a side note, I do. I have a lot of experience with getting fired and it's awful. The only way to make it palatable is to start crying and see if they'll give you a bunch of free shit, like gas cards and coupon books. I once got a box of free highlighters and it made me feel better for three weeks. Anyway, Clooney is paired with Kendrick for a road trip so she can better see what it's like to fire someone and how best to simulate it via the Internet.

On the road, Clooney has a girl he fucks, Vera Farmiga. She's also a frequent traveler who likes the untethered road life almost as much as him. They coordinate their schedules for screw dates and text message each other about when and how to jerk off. You know that Clooney's starting to take it too seriously when he invites Farmiga to his sister's wedding in Wisconsin.

Up in the Air wants to make the point that no man can remain isolated. It's too damn lonely. It wants Clooney to be miserable without an anchor or a place called home. As the story moves along, I realized the story expects that we feel the same way and it does little to convince us that someone can be happy without family and friends. Instead, screenwriters Jason Reitman (also the director) and Sheldon Turner (from a novel by Walter Kirn) put Clooney through the paces. At first he loves being single and footloose. Then he decides he really likes Farmiga, and he lets Kendrick, in all her uptight nervousness, convince him there is something to not being alone. By the time the movie gets to Clooney advising his future brother-in-law that marriage is a good thing, it's dipping its toes in schmaltz. Later, when Clooney abandons the stage in the middle of the most important motivational speech of his life, it's swimming in the shit.

As with all pulpit ditches, Clooney does it for love. He rushes to Chicago to see Farmiga, only to discover his fuck-buddy has a complete home life with a loving husband and kids. For her, the road was an escape from real life, and not real life itself. I don't have a problem with that message, but I don't see where Up in the Air earns the conclusion that nobody can be happy forever on the road.

Clooney has spent years perfecting his lifestyle and shedding relationships. He barely knows his sisters, as he says and they must repeat. I figure that in all that time, in all those motivational seminars and in the book he wants to write, he has considered his life before. I'm not saying I don't think it's incredibly shallow to want nothing more than elite frequent flier status out of life. I'm just saying that most people have even lesser goals. And many have no goal in life. For a couple minor incidents to change him feels more expeditious than sincere.

The movie looks fantastic, breezy and sharp, winging about. It always has a sense of place and sharply defines its locales. It reminded me in ways of the Talking Heads song Big Country (but not the Big Country song Big Country). The first half of the movie is quite good and hits rare false notes. Particularly, Kendrick's character feels a bit obvious. But Farmiga takes off her clothes and looks fantastic that way. Her character is vague and elusive, yet self-confident like we rarely get in movie women. That is, until her real life is revealed. To me, that was the most obvious way it could go down. Clooney is Clooney. He mostly goes through the movie working on his Cary Grant impression. I guess it's good, just that by the second half of the movie he's not asked to provide any genuine emotion, just sort of transform from self-confident to this sort of, "Uh, gee, now I'm not so sure," character that will be satisfying to everyone who agrees with the movie's hypothesis.

Personally, I ain't so sure. I bet Clooney could have been happy forever on the road. And those of us who haven't tried it probably shouldn't e so god damn sure we know better. Three Fingers for Up in the Air.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times

The Princess and the Frog is "Beautiful... music, magic, light and laughter everywhere!"

Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel is "a crowd pleaser... heartwarming. Solid family entertainment!

Filthy's Reading
Jeff Kinney - Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Listening to
David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything that Happens will Happen Today


I am Alan Partridge