Archive for January, 2010


up in the air

January 30, 2010

     A few years ago, I noticed several films that I saw either in theaters or on dvd in which a man with a wife, family, good job, and beautiful home destroys everything because he simply isn’t satisfied and decides to also have an affair or to commit adultery just once.  Two clear examples everyone might know would be Fatal Attraction and A Simple Plan, but I know there are several more.  With Up in the Air, women have now received a chance to exhibit the same characteristic, though I’m sure I’m not correct in citing this as the first example.

     I just saw the film last night, and I’m sorry I can’t recall the name of the actress with whom George Cloony’s character has the affair.  But after meeting him in a hotel lounge, telling him about her sexual exploits (including in an airplane during an afternoon regional flight), they proceed to his room where they have sex at least twice that night, and then agree to keep meeting in various cities whenever their paths cross.  Since he’s alone and always traveling, he assumes she is too.  But he eventually learns his mistake.  The difference here is that the portrait of the woman is much narrower than that of any men who fulfill this role.  The woman here seems to be completely fun-loving and unbothered by her behavior.  We are never given any suggestion of why she feels a need to behave this way, lying, cheating, and living a secret life, one that could destroy her husband and family.  Therefore, despite the fact that we have a portrayal of an independent professional woman, who also could be a “good” wife and mother, the depiction seems quite narrow.  The fact that her behavior indicates some kind of problem:  feelings of inadequacy, unfulfillment, compulsive and addictiveness, isn’t suggested.  The myth that such behavior can be that of a happy and carefree individual is allowed to continue instead.  Perhaps it’s the fantasy of writer, director Jason Reitman.  The idea that a beautful, smart, professional married woman might still want to get it on with whatever man she can, that she’s still “available” seems more of a male fantasy than a feminist representation to me.

    The film is still somewhat compelling in its presentation of current American life with hundreds losing their jobs, families falling apart, or simply facades for deeply problematic behavior.  Clooney’s character also seems supremely self-confident and happy with his lack of a permanent home (too much so) until half way through the film.  But even then, his inability to let anyone close to him, his failure to have a true relationship with his sisters, and his job helping employers screw their employees never bothers him much.  These aren’t so much the qualities of someone who needs therapy, apparently, as of someone who just needs to find the right person to have a lot of sex with.  And then, he shouldn’t have made the mistake of caring for her because everything was going well until he did. 

     This film is receiving a lot of acclaim, and maybe others have a different reading of it.  Please share one if you do.


mlk films

January 28, 2010

I had hoped to see some of the films today, 1/28, but unfortunately had other problems to take care of.  The weather slowed my travel time to campus as well.  But, please let me know what you learned from the film you saw and what you thought of how the film was produced.  Hopefully, I’ll still get to see one of these and join the discussion.


sherlock holmes, broken embraces

January 6, 2010

Over the holidays, I’ve been to the theater for these two films.  Our family went to Sherlock Holmes as this year’s Christmas movie, and the theater was packed.  We saw it a Loew’s Waterfront, and the theater was large and comfortable, which was the best part of the experience.  Everyone involved in the creation of this film should be embarrassed.   What Guy Ritchie produced was nothing more than Holmes as a super-hero, and Watson joins him.  Holmes’s analytical skills become almost secondary to his fighting skills, which are all simply choreographed and special effects.  The CGI in this film is especially annoying.   We always realize that we’re simply looking at computer images rather than actual settings.  Especially in the climactic shot of Holmes and the female lead sitting on the partially constructed bridge.  We realize that they’re only sitting in front of a blue screen, or green screen, whatever.  I had hopes for the film when Holmes visited the villain in prison and the villain tells him that the two of them together will be creating the future.  But that never happens.  There’s no complexity in these characters at all. It’s simply good versus evil and good wins.  Big surprise.  Maybe, since the entire production was all surface, the villain’s meaning was that Holmes and he together were producing this garbage that is now going to dominate American commercial movie screens.  In other words, it’s working in a self-reflexive way.  That’s really the great evil here to me, and millions of people are buying it.  But, if that’s the case, and it may be, this film simply represents everyone involved thumbing their noses at all the viewers.

On the other hand, Mary Ann and I got to see Broken Embraces during our post-Christmas trip to Philly.  We went to a nice theater, the staff was friendly, and the price was only $6 each.  We didn’t realize that the city supports half-price night every Wednesday at all theaters and free parking (which I learned about after feeding $4 to the meter).  The theater was only about half as big as the one where we saw Holmes and only about half full.  Still, it was a good size crowd for a very cold night.  For the film, these  were characters we loved even though all of them are significantly flawed.  They struggle with their weaknesses and don’t always overcome them.   But the beauty is in their struggles, and Penelope Cruz is great, as are the rest of the performers.  I realize I’m getting far too much into cliche here, but I waited too long to write about this.  One key difference is in the self-relfective element.  This film is about a director who’s gone blind, and the action in the film takes him back to a project he had directed fourteen years earlier.  So there are many references to filmmaking and great international films.  The emphasis is on the value of film as all the characters learn from it.  They might react in destructive ways.  But those reactions aren’t the filmmaker’s responsibility.  The blind director has turned to writing scripts for his living and he envisions a screenplay about Arthur Miller, who had a Downs syndrome son whom he ignored for most of his life.  Then, while taking questions from an audience one night, Miller’s son came up to him on stage, hugged him, and said he forgave him.  The choice of forgiveness rather than revenge thus also becomes a major theme.  It may not be Almodovar’s greatest film, but it was a great movie experience.